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Brexit – Events Shaping British Politics

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Baskar Sundaram

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10th Sep 2019

An insight in to how Brexit is disrupting the political landscape of the country

The UK joined the EU in 1973. Known as the European Economic Community back then, EU envisaged a political and economic union that allowed free trade and free movement of people to live and work in country of their choice. If Brexit goes through on the dotted line – 31 October, UK would be the first member state amongst the 28 European countries to withdraw from the union.

There were multiple reasons why talks for leaving EU gathered steam within the country – UK is a net contributor to the EU which means that it is paying for creating a level playing field for the weaker economies in the union. Another bone of contention was migration as the country witnessed an unusually high levels of migrants coming in from various old Soviet bloc states after joining the EU. The blue-collar workforce was not particularly delighted and started looking at Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party as the savior. Then there was discontent on the right of migrants to claim welfare benefits in the country, which the then PM – David Cameron was trying to rescind. The unexpected electoral victory by the Conservative Party in 2016 paved the way for a referendum in the country as the Tories have traditionally been the most skeptical towards Europe.

The country went to vote on 23 June 2016, to decide whether it should leave or stay. Leave won by 52% to 48%. Although not an overwhelming majority, it set the tone for Brexit. The conservative party was now helmed by Theresa May and delivering an agreeable Brexit was one of her biggest agenda. Under her leadership, UK and the EU agreed a deal in November 2018 and Brexit was scheduled to happen on 29 March 2019. Despite repeated attempts (three votes), Mrs. May failed to bring a consensus to the house, facing aggressive opposition even from members of her own party. She even tried to join hands with the leader of the opposition and head of the Labour Party – James Corbyn, in a bid to save the Brexit deal.

Perhaps the single greatest fixation in the Brexit narrative is the issue of Britain’s only land border with the EU which is essentially an invisible line dividing Ireland, another EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. Theresa May and the Irish PM – Leo Varadkar were not keen on putting up checkpoints at the border which would have been seen as detrimental to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Failing to deliver Brexit cost Mrs. May her position as the PM.

The current PM – Boris Johnson has said that he will work towards drafting a better deal; however, he has also said that he is ready to lead a no-deal Brexit. In case of no-deal, Britain’s ties it’s with biggest trading partner – the EU are likely to suffer a backlash. Amidst all the commotion around Brexit, Mr. Johnson decided to prorogue (suspend) the Parliament from 10 September for more than a month. With the 31 October deadline looming, his decision created controversy. While the government is insisting that the prorogation is entirely constitutional and customary for a new administration, the opposition believes that Mr. Johnson is trying to crush debate and let the country float towards a no-deal Brexit. Mr. Johnson also passed resolution towards an early election; however he didn’t get the two-thirds of MPs to vote in favour of it. He is now scheduled to approach EU on 17 October with a new deal, one which he would have to then get past his own parliament. Interesingly, 11th Sep Scotland Court ruled prorogation is unlawful.

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