Brexit: U.K's pending divorce with the EU

The politics of the United Kingdom has entered a chaotic, if not entirely dark, phase. Prime Minister Theresa May has announced, in the wake of her inability to deliver an acceptable formula for Brexit, that she would step down on June 7. Her colleagues in the Conservative Party remain deeply divided over the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated with the European Union and have rejected three times her attempts to get it passed in Parliament. That agreement is, in principle, based on the notion of the U.K. leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, the termination of residency and work rights of EU citizens in the U.K., and a two-year transition period to consolidate new bilateral modalities. This compromise didn’t fly with the ruling Tory lawmakers because the Brexiteers of the party feel it concedes too much to the EU and yet remains bound by the bloc’s rules. Simultaneously, pro-EU lawmakers are firmly against a hard Brexit, or no-deal Brexit, and prefer to keep alive the close economic ties to the continent that have been in place since the U.K. joined in 1973. The last straw that made Ms. May’s resignation all but inevitable, came from the opinion polls for the European parliamentary election — matched this week by the results — predicting a landslide victory, at the Conservative Party’s cost, for the freshly minted Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage.


The selection of Ms. May’s successor is a relatively straightforward issue at this point. Leading the pack of contenders is former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has reiterated his commitment to seeing the U.K. quit the EU on October 31, the current deadline, regardless of whether a deal is agreed upon or not. Others include former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who supports leaving the EU on “WTO terms”; Environment Secretary Michael Gove; and former Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom. The more complex issue is whether the Conservative Party’s next leader can devise a universally acceptable compromise formula that minimises the economic and social pain inflicted on individuals, corporations and the national psyche. The available options are difficult and few: an orderly exit with a deal (unlikely given that Ms. May has allowed the opposition to the only deal that Brussels has signed off to crystallise); a no-deal exit (an economically and legally painful outcome but quite possible); an election or second referendum that might reverse the 2016 decision to leave the EU (possible but unclear if this could happen before the October 31 deadline); or a further extension of the deadline beyond the date (an event that some consider likely). No matter how the politics of this troubled nation turns, it is the resolution of Brexit as a struggle between nativist impulses and the existing liberal order that the world is watching.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 5:32:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/pending-divorce/article27278412.ece

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