Stumbling Towards The Brexit
There's no real plan and nobody appears to know what waits on the other side, but the United Kingdom continues to meander towards Brexit.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is hitting back on critics of her Brexit strategy:
Theresa May pledged she would not be “pushed into accepting compromises” on the Brexit plan agreed by her Cabinet in July that are not in the U.K.’s national interest.
In a bullish op-ed for the Sunday Telegraph ahead of the full return of the U.K. parliament she repeated her commitment to leaving the EU on March 29 next year and to fend off calls for a second referendum on the eventual deal.
But she hinted that the government’s proposal for future immigration arrangements with the EU would give the bloc’s citizens special access to the U.K. in return for better trade terms — something that would infuriate many Brexiteers in her party.
“Provisions for limited mobility arrangements are commonplace in other trade agreements. In the same way our proposed ‘framework for mobility’ is simply a way of supporting a trading relationship,” she said. But the prime minister added that “unfettered access to the UK” and the country’s benefits system would end.
May said that a no-deal scenario would be difficult for both sides and it was the government’s duty to prepare for it. “For some sectors there would be real challenges for both the UK and the EU. But we would get through it and go on to thrive. So we will be ready for a no deal if we need to be,” she said.
Also writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the former minister and Tory backbencher Nick Boles came out against the Chequers plan and what he predicted would be the “humiliation of a deal dictated by Brussels.”
Boles, who described himself as an “instinctive loyalist” who had never voted against the government, backed Remain in the referendum. He has previously supported the prime minister’s approach to Brexit.
From the Op-Ed itself, which is behind a paywall but you can gain full access by signing up for a free account):
Our White Paper proposals are a good deal for Britain. They will allow frictionless trade in goods and agricultural products, protecting the jobs that depend on just in time supply chains. Unlike alternatives, they will not allow the break-up of our precious Union; nor will they undermine the Belfast Agreement with a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
They will protect the shared security capabilities that keep us all safe. But they will end the vast payments to the EU budget so we can fund our long-term plan for the NHS. They will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, take us out of the Single Market, the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. And they will take us out of the Customs Union so we can secure new trade deals around the world.
They will also end freedom of movement – and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Provisions for limited mobility arrangements are commonplace in other trade agreements. In the same way our proposed “framework for mobility” is simply a way of supporting a trading relationship. With our Brexit plan, the era of unfettered access to the UK – and our benefits system – will be over. Britain will finally control its own borders.
We want to leave with a good deal and we are confident we can reach one. But, of course, there is still a lot more negotiating to be done. So it is only responsible that we have also spent time this summer preparing for a “no deal” scenario, just as the EU have done too. As the head of the WTO has said, no deal would not be the end of the world, but it wouldn’t be a walk in the park either.
For some sectors there would be real challenges for both the UK and the EU. But we would get through it and go on to thrive. So we will be ready for a no deal if we need to be. And I will not be pushed into accepting compromises on the Chequers proposals that are not in our national interest.
All of this comes, of course, as May is under increasing scrutiny due to a Brexit process that appears to be taking a lot longer than supporters of the “Leave” side of the 2016 referendum believed it would be and to the fact that many of the complications from that process are proving harder to resolve than previously promised. One of the most difficult issues that apparently was completely ignored by the “Leave” representatives, for example, was the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which, thanks to the fact that the U.K. and Ireland are, at least for the moment, both still members of the European Union, Once Brexit becomes official, the freedom of movement that British and European citizens have enjoyed between their respective borders would come to an end and, absent some sort of agreement, this would apply to the Irish border just as it would apply to the United Kingdom’s international airports, shipping ports, and, of course, the train and automobile traffic from the Channel Tunnel. With respect to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, though, there are fears that it could reignite the religious and ethnic strife that once plagued the region and ruin the peace that has held there for the better part of two decades.
Added into all of this is the fact that the current status of Brexit negotiations seems to have turned against May and her government, and that it’s not at all clear that the entire idea of leaving the European Union to begin with. Two months ago at the beginning of July, May lost both her Brexit Minister and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson over disputes regarding the speed of the Brexit process, a development that not only put the Brexit plan in doubt but also put a cloud over May’s political future that still has not lifted. Meanwhile, a survey released early last month showed that support for leaving the European Union, both among the general public and among Members of Parliament, had changed radically over the previous two years and that there may now actually be a majority of Britons who support remaining in the European Union.
Taking all this into account, May is obviously finding herself in a difficult position. The result of the 2016 referendum, as well as the current political climate inside the Conservative Party, make it next to impossible to back away from Brexit no matter how hard it is proving to be to negotiate a deal that isn’t going to cause some harm to the British economy and some kind of trouble in Ireland. At the same time, the actual public consensus for Brexit appears to be falling apart. Were circumstances different, this would be easy enough to deal with, but the current political climate in the United Kingdom does not bode well for a rational resolution of this dilemma, especially since the main opposition party is in the middle of a leadership crisis all its own. Given that, it seems clear that the U.K. will continue to stumble toward Brexit with no real plan and no idea of what waits on the other side.