Brexit Impasse

Photo Source: Al Jazeera

Written by Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront


It has been three years since Britain voted to leave the European Union. However, as a pending Brexit looms, amidst parties trying to lock horns, during May 23, 2019, election, and European election, there may be some real consequences, which Britain could face. 

As of now, the callous and slothful ways of the politicians show a deepening political discord. There is little lucidness regarding when the eventual Brexit would occur.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed to meet the 1922 committee of Tory Members of Parliament once more. It might also propel her to provide final action on Brexit in the coming time. The rules for a new leadership contest, however, within the conservatives might remain unchanged. Quite recently, in December 2018, several Tory MPs had tried to oust May, but they cannot challenge her for a year, at least. However, all these clauses can change, in the prospective meeting, of the 1922 committee of Tory Members of Parliament.

May has already failed three times to get an approval for the Brexit deal from the parliament, that she had brokered with the EU. As of now, a roadmap has been chalked out for her departure. It is possible that Theresa May will go after the Brexit deal is done.

Britain’s two leading political parties – Labour and Conservatives have also met several times to find common grounds on Brexit impasse, but no clear blueprint has been agreed upon. May’s deputy, David Lidington had quite recently commented that the talks between the two parties had been mostly ‘difficult’, but ‘constructive’.

Labour Party wants the UK to be part of a customs union, but Tories are against any agreements that would halt the country to make its own trade deals. It is quite probable that there will be a second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill 2017-2019, a future bill that will oversee the withdrawal of United Kingdom and European Union in domestic law, before the European elections, and May 23, 2019, election. A second reading will allow the legislation to pass the first big parliamentary hurdle, on Brexit, that has remained, ever since the referendum, in June 2016.

To stop May’s proposals, Labour has been campaigning against her for quite some time. Her authority has declined, ever since she tried to find a compromise deal, her critics allege.

George Osborne, the former Tory chancellor told Sky that it was time for Theresa May to quit her chair: “Eventually the party has to confront the truth,” he said. “It needs a new leader, a new agenda, it needs to win over supporters who have disappeared and make an appeal to urban, metropolitan Britain that has turned its back on the Conservatives.”

Tory strategists are also of an opinion that if they can't go forward with drafting Brexit, they might not win the next election, perhaps. If any sort of hard border with Ireland prevails, Tory strategists believe that Britain could be trapped with Brussels, for a customs union, that they clearly don’t want.

Brandon Lewis, the Conservatives chairman, also thinks that they might not do well in the upcoming European elections. Under Corbyn, the Labour, on the other hand, has vowed to act as a good mediator between Remain supporters and Brexiteers. Through Corbynism, Labour has also improved in opinion polls, in recent times, as he is looking for ‘alternative arrangements’ to ensure an open border with EU.

British political commentators believe that if the Brexit doesn’t pass the deadlock, a second referendum is inevitable, as a large number of people will revolt for it.

As of now, there are hardcore supporters of Brexit inside the Conservatives lobby, that include European Research Group, that want the Brexit to pass, without any compromises. Not to forget the newly formed far-right Brexit Party, having a mercurial rise in polls, led by Nigel Farage, which recently got corporate donations of around £1,00,000. He is confident that he will win the European elections, but his sceptics also believe that he will lose badly.

A poll published by UBS Global Wealth Management found out that forty-one per cent global investors believed that Brexit would have a positive impact on the local economy. Twenty-four per cent held a neutral viewpoint over Brexit. In a report, the firm had also urged British investors to expand their portfolios internationally. Currently, the rise of ‘zombie firms’ present a risk to the British economy. Conversely, there are some academic forecasters who believe that the British economy will get three per cent poorer, over the long term. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) believe that the long-term loss after ten years, compared to staying in the European Union, would be equivalent to around  £800 per person, per year.

Pressure has been mounting on Theresa May, due to her incertitude, that has also impacted her respect within her cabinet.  The absence of finality on Brexit has bestowed a maximum uncertainty in the regional political lobby, projected by the media. Of late, British politicians have become full of prejudices and racism. Conservatives have been charged with making Islamophobic comments, while Labour has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Last year, a special UN rapporteur had said that Brexit debate is making people vulnerable to ‘racial discrimination’ and ‘intolerance’. The Asian community is accused of inculcating gang culture, and British society has been nostalgically perceived as white. The economic environment has suffered, too. Britain does very little trade with some of the world’s largest food product exporters.

According to ONS, Britain imported 70 per cent of its food, worth £30.4 billion from the European Union, until 2017. Currently, the US, China and Mexico dominates key global export food markets. Britain might look at China, Mexico and Canada for a large number of commodities such as beer, apples, crab, lobster and pears. However, promoting trade with these countries might harm the interests of local British farmers, due to cheap imports. Signing new trade deals, might take some time, and even if Britain leaves the EU, and Customs Union, the policymakers need to find a solution for the immediate future – short-term policy.

Matt Kilcoyne, a trade expert at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “Diversity of imports is the ultimate food security. If crops fail in one part of the world, imports mean we can all keep eating. It's meant life is both more secure and more affordable. Those who oppose the UK having a more independent trade policy, and support preserving a protectionist bloc on the continent, should explain why they want to drive up the cost of living, keep choice low and scuttle a key benefit of Brexit.”
If Britain becomes eager to trade with major trading countries such as China, in a post Brexit scenario, the country could become a major advocate within the West for China’s interests.

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