The Brexit Imbroglio

Last Updated: Friday, 8 November 2019 (19:46 IST)
- Inderesh Kumar Jain

1. It is an amazing corner that the Brits have painted themselves into. A brief run upto the current state of affairs smacks of a tragedy of comic proportions ; pardonthe incongruity and the obvious dichotomy here, but frankly the flawed hypothesisleading to the referendum in 2016 and the subsequent nuclear fallout are events which I am sure the UK will well wish had not occurred.
2. The very postulation that the EU Council was an invidious ogre which was intent on monopolizing the life of the ordinary citizen of the UK, quite obviously does not
stand scrutiny.
 
3. The UK controls 98% of its budget (Catham House Study); it has also supremacy /sovereignty from Brussels which include the NHS, taxes, pension benefits,education, defense and foreign policy. The UK has enormous rebates andinvestments that are part of the treaty of accession to the EU which came intoeffect in 1973. The EU is its largest trading partner and it is known that the likely impact on the GDP per capita of the UK will be in the negative to an extent of almost 3% in the long term. Also this has already had a largely deleterious effect on household incomes. As one looks to the vagaries of the political climate prevailingin the UK, one needs to look as to how it came about that an impasse has resulted.
 
4. Boris Johnson took over from Theresa May in Jul 19 and based on his professed hardline leanings proceeded to try and push for a Brexit by 31 Oct 19. His attempt to prorogue the Parliament in Aug 19, effective up to between 09 and 14 Oct 19 was opposed; the matter went to court ; the High Court of Justice and the Outer House of the Court of Session ie the English and the Scottish Civil Court of the first instance ruled that the matter was not justiciable. On an appeal, the Supreme Court of UK ruled that not only was the matter justiciable but the
prorogation was unlawful, and therefore the Order in Council ordered the prorogation to be negated. On 25 Sep 19 the House of Commons reopened and after returning from the UNGA session in New York, Boris Johnson is reported to have stated, that he thought that the Supreme Court ruling was wrong, and he was severely criticized for it.
 
5. Having expelled 21 MPs from his party (04 Sep19), for favouring a bill in which Parliament took control of the agenda of the House, Boris moved even further away from a parliamentary majority, which in any case he had lost earlier. The House then moved and voted into law an act which would force the PM to ask for an extension of the fixed date of 31 Oct 19 , for leaving the EU, in the event an approval by Parliament of a withdrawal agreement was not forthcoming.
 
6. Earlier, a motion moved by the PM for holding an early election, under the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, was defeated; this was another attempt by the government to thwart the entire process of scrutiny by Parliament of the divorce deal (withdrawal agreement) and probably a tactical manoeuvre to pressurize the MPs to accept the likely deal which the government would be bringing up.
 
7. On 19 Oct 19, the ‘new’ Brexit deal negotiated by the government with the EU was put to vote and was cleared for a second reading but subsequently lost the vote for the time frame in which it was to be debated and passed in parliament (a total of three days for this to happen was proposed by the government) and the UK would then be prepared to leave the EU by 31 Oct 19. This government time line was defeated by 322 to 308 votes. Parliament obviously asked for more time to scrutinize and bring in the necessary amendments, which the MPs thought were necessary. This was so because the common sense of Parliament was that a piece of legislation, as important as the withdrawal agreement, which was to have such an
important impact on the lives of subsequent generations, needed a more thorough
and detailed analysis.
 
8. In the mean while following a meeting held in Brussels, the EU27 have agreed in principle give an extension to the UK for the Brexit date upto 31Jan 2020; making it the third extension given. This has been described by Donald Tusk as the ‘flexitension’ allowing the UK to leave the EU before the deadline if approved by Parliament.
 
9. Boris Johnson had asked Jeremy Corbyn for support for a general election to be held on 12 Dec 19, but Corbyn insisted that for this to happen, the ‘No- Deal’ optionmust first be off the agenda.
 
10. It has also been reported that the Lib Dems, the SNP and the DUP may favour analternate route to the general election by an amendment to the Fixed Term of Parliament Act. Any proposal under this act for a general election to be held requires this to be ratified by 2/3 strength of Parliament ie 424 members. Should however this act be amended for a general election to be held as a onetime measure, in December 2019, then a simple majority may be able to swing this in favour of the election. This may be supported by the Lib Dems, the SNP and the DUP as some reports have it. This is however contingent upon the fact that the “No-Deal” option is abrogated and the government agrees to the extension of 31 Jan 2020 as offered by the EU27.
 
11. A large percentage of MPs probably recognize the fact that this current Parliament, deadlocked as it is, with a minority government in power, may not be the requisite platform to deliver the will of the people, which after a grueling three years at the grind, may now have been flavoured by a change of heart, considering that so much information on the pros and cons of Brexit is now available. A very piquant situation indeed where on the one hand Brexit is the destined end result of a referendum of 2016; after the facts of the ‘case’ came to light and the likely economic challenges that the UK will in all probability face after Brexit is put into effect, came to be made public, the mood as it were, has undergone a dramatic change and the political space is now tinged with caution and circumspection, and to take the leap into abyss is an enterprise that very few want to be responsible for. This is irrespective of the fact that the political rhetoric is getting extremely confused with frequent changes in the stance of political entities.
 
12. It has also been frequently asseverated that Boris Johnson has always been extremely opportunistic and has been frequently trying to play one against the other to cover up for his shortcomings and his unwholesome ambition. Having lost more motions in the House of Commons than any new Prime Minister, within such a short time of having taken over, he is playing the ‘people versus the Parliament’ card or blaming the opposition or the MPs for his sins of omission and commission.
 
13. The sticking point has always been the ‘IRISH BACKSTOP’, which refers to the Good Friday Agreement between the Irish Republic and the UK in 1998 and the open border between the North and the Southern part of Ireland. An abrogation of this agreement on the open border will automatically result in case Brexit is put into effect; unless of course Northern Ireland in some way continues to be part of the customs union with the EU or finds some alternative for the border between both parts of Ireland to remain open. This open border signaled an end to the decades of violence in Ireland and any attempt to convert this into a hard border will result in a return of the old animosities and bloodshed, which is not acceptable to almost all parties except probably the ‘Hard Brexiteers’. This is an extremely complex and if I may say, a rather mordant situation that the he Brits have got themselves into. Unless pragmatism overtakes petty Brexit chauvinism, the British may find themselves greatly diminished as a nation, who at one time boasted of an Empire on which the sun never set.
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