Georgia Shepherd gives us a detailed run-down of the recent events in the Brexit debacle.
You’d have really thought by now that we would actually have a clue what on earth is going on with Brexit. But we really don’t. With the supposed “do or die” 31st October deadline looming, here is a rundown of everything Brexit.
Following Boris Johnson’s election as leader of the Conservative Party back on 24th July 2019, the ongoing Brexit saga has reached a new level of uncertainty and political drama.
It was never going to be an easy ride for Boris, faced with a wafer-thin majority and a polarised Parliament. But elected on the mandate of delivering Brexit by Halloween, Boris set his heights high. However, it all started to go wrong following the reaction to the prorogation of Parliament, which stated that Parliament would shut between 9th September until 14th October. But as we all now know this was declared unlawful by Lady Hale and her spider brooch on 24th September, resulting in the speaker John Bercow recalling Parliament for 11 am the next day.
But before Parliament was progued, an emergency debate was granted and MP’s passed a new law – introduced by Labour MP Hilary Benn – designed to stop Boris Johnson pushing through a no-deal Brexit on 31st October. Under the ‘Benn Act’ Boris Johnson was required to request a three-month Brexit delay by 19 October. This was shunned by Boris and many in the Tory Party who consequently refer to the bill as the surrender act. They argue that it severely weakened their negotiating position with the EU.
However despite the Benn Act, before the crunch EU summit in Brussels on 17th and 18th October, the EU and the UK reached a second deal. This was seen as a huge win, with the ‘backstop’ being renegotiated and a new arrangement agreed in regards to the Island of Ireland. But the DUP critically opposed the deal as it gave Northern Ireland a different status to the rest of the UK in regards to their relationship with the EU.
Well, even if the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was to pass in the near future, our negotiations with the EU are far from over.
The opposition to the new deal was evident in the somewhat anti-climatic ‘Super Saturday’, which was hyped to be the day that the UK Parliament would vote on Britain’s future. Although, this fell apart following the pass of The Letwin Amendment, which withheld approval of the deal until the legislation to enact it was safely passed. This made the ‘Benn Act’ watertight by forcing the Prime Minister to request a postponement of Brexit until 31st January.
Despite being forced to request a delay, Johnson pressed forward with his ‘Withdrawal Agreement Bill’ in Parliament desperately trying to keep to his promise of October 31st. The second reading of the bill was passed on 22nd October with a majority of 30, astonishing for a Government with a majority in the minus forties, and the first time a Brexit deal had reached the threshold of support in Parliament. It was looking incredibly promising for the Prime Minister until the proposed programme of three days was crushed in Parliament. This was an incredibly quick time frame to pass a momentous piece of legislation, which Theresa May allowed almost two months for. Consequently, Boris Johnson pulled the legislation, halting it in its tracks, leaving us in complete uncertainty.
So where are we now? Boris is desperately trying to get a general election, it seems he’s slowly come to the realisation that the only way he will be able to smoothly pass his Brexit legislation is with a strong Parliamentary majority. This is painfully familiar to Theresa Mays reasoning behind her strong and stable slogan of the 2017 general election. However, thus far the opposition party have twice refused to hold an election until no-deal has been taken off the table. Following the Letwin Amendment, the likelihood of a no-deal is pretty much impossible, but Jeremy Corbyn is digging in his heels and changing the goalposts of what is defined by no-deal. With many, particularly those in the Labour party, arguing that no-deal is a likely prospect at the end of 2020.
Moreover, many from the opposition are refusing to agree until the EU has agreed a delay, but the EU is seemingly holding off considering a delayed date and closely watching developments on the UK side. It’s almost inevitable that the EU will agree to an extension until the 31st January, it’s seen as the least political option and the EU want to be seen as playing ball, as a no-deal would be a catastrophic outcome for their member states. However Emanuel Macron is seeking a shorter extension just until mid-November in an aim to put pressure on Parliament to push through the deal, but this is highly unlikely. The EU is anticipated to propose a flex-tension, meaning that we could leave the EU before the end of January, but it’s likely to also be extended beyond. More “dither and delay”, as Boris would call it.
With recent shocking developments, many are asking themselves – will this Brexit saga ever end?
With Boris motioning a vote for a general election to be held on December 12th, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalist Party will agree to an election but on December 9th, arguing they want it on their terms. This marginal change proposed date change is likely to favour the Liberal Democrats as they are likely to do well in an election the sooner the better, but it’s also thought that more students will be at University on the 9th than the 12th. It’s envisaged that we will see the general election date agreed in the coming days, well if there is even one. With a two-thirds majority required in Parliament to call a general election, it’s hard to see it passing without Labour party support, who remain vigilant against it.
With recent shocking developments, many are asking themselves – will this Brexit saga ever end? Well, even if the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was to pass in the near future, our negotiations with the EU are far from over. We are only in the first step, agreeing how we leave the EU, dare I say that this was supposed to be the easiest. Agreeing our future relationship with the EU is a whole new kettle of fish. So even if we were to leave the EU on 31st October or 31st January, we’d be having talks with the EU at least until the end of the transition period in 2020 and that’s if that isn’t extended too. So is a 2nd referendum really the answer? Well, I’d say simply not. If those Remainer MP’s were fortunate enough to secure a peoples vote which then voted leave again, it’s a struggle to envisage Jo Swinson enforcing that democratic vote on the commons floor. And if we voted to remain, it’s hard to imagine Nigel Farage and his Brexit party going away anytime soon. It could be argued that it is simply going to reignite the stark divisions across the country and on dinner tables across the UK.
I would love to be able to predict the future of Brexit (oh boy would I make a lot of money), but unfortunately the only thing I am certain of is its uncertainty.
Editor’s note 28/10/19: The Brexit deadline has been extended on a flexible basis to 31st January 2020.