Posted on November 12, 2018
Unrest surrounds UK Government’s Brexit policy and equally importantly, their strategy to deliver it?
The Conservative Government are both in turmoil and near crisis. Both sides of the Leave debate are ‘unhappy’ with the Chequers plan and this division is tearing the party apart. Party politics and egos continue to dominate, with Boris Johnson predictably calling for ‘mutiny’ from one side of the divide whilst his lesser known brother has resigned Cabinet as Transport Minister from the other. In resigning, Jo Johnson called for any deal to be put to the people. The coming days will be instructive as to the continued sway of No 10 Downing Street. If more government ministers resign in the face of an aggressive stick and charm offensive from No 10, the PM’s hold on her Cabinet will be further questioned. Indeed it appears likely Prime Minister May will postpone putting her Brexit plans to Cabinet this week as there remain too many dissenting voices within her Ministerial team. Prime Former Education Minister Justine Greening has said May’s Brexit plan has no chance of getting through Parliament. And we would judge at this stage, she is right. Without a majority in Government and the Democratic Unionist Party propping up May unlikely to support any deal which gives Northern Ireland special status within the Customs Union or Single Market, May is almost certain to come up against a road block in Parliament.
The Labour Party are in no better place. They too, like the country are split. The centrist Labour shadow Brexit Minister, Kier Starmer has been openly contradicting Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn by stating that Brexit can be stopped.
But the UK is still mindful that anything that the UK may/may not agree is still part of the negotiations with the EU and still needs sign off from EU Member States. Canada will remember how CETA was held up by Wallonia, so marshalling all Member States to agree will require a huge diplomatic offensive on its own.
Why is every one so displeased?
On the Brexit side, the hardliners are furious and will not be rolled over in any deal which ties the UK in any form to the EU. This is especially true for any deal which would restrict the UK’s ability to execute further external trade deals. Any links to the customs union, single market of any form and/or the supremacy of the European Court of Justice sticks in their craw. And these Brexit leaders and middle England will not go away, irrespective of any cost – social, economic, reputational and in terms of national security. Events in Italy in the coming days, which are likely to include the EU imposing a fine on the Italian government for overspending will only embolden Brexiteers as they point to EU overreach into Italy’s domestic affairs.
Northern Ireland continues to be a significant barrier to a comprehensive deal as well. The so called ‘backstop’ which would keep Northern Ireland in the customs union, albeit on a ’temporary’ basis remains to be resolved and the Irish Government have their red lines too and are now firmlly across the table in the negotiations as far as the Brexit side is confirmed.
On the Remain side, there continues to be a push for a political crisis followed either by an extension to Article 50, i.e. a postponement of the exit process, and/or a second referendum. Any and all or none of this might happen. The cards have all be thrown up in the air, with more variants that you can shake a stick at. How it will all fall is still uncertain.
The EU has indicated that without a political breakthrough in the UK and an agreement on Northern Ireland, the likelihood of a sign-off Brexit EU-UK November summit look slim to non existent.
The coming weeks will be crucial. But bringing the country back together again, socially and reputationally remains a dream. Neither side are in the mood to back down and are increasingly in direct conflict with each other. In a somewhat troubling signal of how far things have fallen, Tobias Ellwood, Defence Minister has publicly stated the British Armed Forces are on standby to support every scenario.
The country remains totally divided.
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