If you’ve been paying attention to the news in the past few days, you may have noticed that the seemingly never-ending Brexit scenario in the United Kingdom has taken yet another surreal term, with the news that new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has won permission from the Queen to temporarily shut down Parliament in the build-up to the United Kingdom’s projected exit date of October 31st. Financial markets have reacted badly to the news, with the British Pound falling by a full 1% against the dollar, and opposition politicians in the country are in an uproar, threatening to topple the Government with a vote of no confidence as early as next week. So what’s actually just happened, and why?
The United Kingdom has been attempting to leave the European Union since a referendum on ongoing membership of the EU during the summer of 2016. At that time, David Cameron was Prime Minister of the country, and it was generally assumed that the British public would vote to remain in the Union. Their decision to leave – by a narrow margin of 52% to 48% – caught the British establishment off-guard. David Cameron resigned immediately, and was replaced by Theresa May. Her time in office was dominated by the Brexit debate, and her attempts to negotiate an exit deal that would be acceptable to politicians and the public.
As you’ll already know if you follow politics, her attempts were unsuccessful. The losing side of the referendum has never accepted defeat, with allegations of Russian interference, unlawful election spending by the Leave campaign, and misuse of data from Cambridge Analytica – all factors that will be familiar to anybody who follows American political news. May did agree on a deal with Europe, but it wasn’t palatable even to members of her own party. After multiple failed attempts to have her deal ratified by her party, May was forced to tearfully resign from her post after barely three years in power in July.
Who Is Boris Johnson, And Why Is He Shutting Down Parliament?
After three years of protracted and angry debate, the British public has largely become entrenched into one of two camps: Those who want to leave the European Union regardless of whether a deal can be agreed or not, and those who want to stay in the EU despite the result of the referendum. When May was forced to resign, Boris Johnson was elected party leader by members who believe he will do whatever is necessary to get the country out of the EU by October 31st. By becoming party leader, he also became Prime Minister.
As there is now little time to agree on a deal with the EU, leaving without a deal may be the only way he can make good on his promise to honor the proposed date. His issue is that the majority of politicians within Parliament are opposed to leaving the EU without a deal. He and his advisers believe that other politicians may use the time between now and the end of October to plot against him, and seek to delay the date of Brexit further until an agreement can be reached. To avoid that, he has sought to suspend Parliament for five weeks from the middle of September and thereby minimize the opportunity for politicians to co-ordinate a strategy to frustrate his own plans.
It’s important in all of this to note that Johnson denies that he’s shutting Parliament down for this reason. He says that the proroguing process, as it’s known, is a procedural matter which will allow for a new Queen’s Speech to take place, and therefore a new Parliamentary term to begin. While a Queen’s Speech is overdue, many feel that the timing of the suspension is designed to frustrate those who are opposed to his plan, and cut down on debating time.
Why Don’t People Want A No Deal Brexit?
That depends on who you listen to. Those who support the idea say that a clean break is exactly what the country needs if it is to have complete freedom to set up its own independent trade agreements away from the EU, and is the most desirable form of Brexit available. There are those – including prominent Leave campaigner Nigel Farage – who will not accept any form of Brexit, and maintain that any arrangement that maintains British ties to Europe wouldn’t constitute a ‘real’ Brexit.
To those on the other side, a No Deal Brexit is economic suicide. Without any pre-existing arrangements, British exports and imports would be subject to large tariffs within the Eurozone, and there have even been warnings of potential food and medicine shortages. Without any means of accurately predicting the implications of leaving without a deal, critics feel that doing so would be akin to taking the entire British economy and gambling with it as if Johnson were placing a bet on a gambling site or it’s related casinos. In mobile slots, there are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of possible outcomes to any bet, and only a few which leave the mobile slots player in profit. Given the cultural phenomenon that Brexit has turned into we’re surprised that no company has created a mobile slots game based upon it, but to those economists who believe in the metaphor, it’s a gamble that nobody in their right mind would take.
What Happens Now?
Nobody – not even those who have lived and worked in the field of British politics all their lives – can truly say for sure. Johnson has critics in his own party who have indicated that they would vote against their leader in a vote of No Confidence in the Government, and that could come as early as next week. Under British law, though, there’s no requirement for a Prime Minister who has lost such a vote to resign. Johnson could simply refuse, and the resultant legal wrangling would persist past October 31st – by which time the UK would have automatically left the EU without a deal.
It’s also possible that the EU will ‘blink first,’ and agree to renegotiate the existing deal. The EU has little appetite for the UK to leave without a deal – as it would also do political and financial harm to their union – and so despite their prior insistence that the deal cannot be renegotiated, they may now change their stance if they believe there’s no other option.
British politics, to the external observer, has been a source of rich entertainment for several years now, and all signs point to it building to a crescendo as the Brexit saga finally approaches an end.
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