From the Viewsroom

The UK has reached an impasse

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on September 28, 2019

Flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain.   -  REUTERS

The stand-off between Boris Johnson and a divided Parliament has thrown Brexit, not to mention British governance, into turmoil

Britain’s latest high-stakes confrontation in the Brexit saga began when 11 Supreme Court judges unanimously struck down the government’s extra-long Parliament closure. The shutdown, said the judges, was to prevent lawmakers from debating or blocking Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s bid to pull the UK out of the EU by October 31, with or without a Brexit deal. Dashing back from New York, Johnson the next day in Parliament flayed the judgement as “wrong” and dared the Opposition to table a no-confidence motion against his Conservative government. Since Johnson leads a minority administration, this might seem reckless. But he’s hoping to goad the Opposition into forcing an election before Britain’s scheduled EU exit date. The Opposition’s refusing Johnson’s bait precisely because they want to force him to ask the EU for a Brexit extension — Johnson’s declared he’d rather be “dead in a ditch” — and avoid a no-deal exit, which experts say would be economically calamitous.

Britain’s Parliament iss often described as the “Mother of Parliaments” and model for democracies worldwide. But now, it’s toxic pandemonium, with the Conservatives commandeered by a right-wing pro-Brexit clique and Labour seized by the far-left that wants to steer the Britain on a totally different course. An election’s almost certain to be called next month and that’s when Johnson is betting success will finally be his — as polls still put him ahead of Labour. But the country is so divided by Brexit that even pollsters aren’t sure which way voters will finally go. Lawmakers voted earlier this month to require Johnson to seek a Brexit extension rather than leave without a deal, but it’s unclear he’d comply. So far, Johnson’s presented no concrete proposals to break the Brexit impasse and EU officials dismiss his stated desire to get a deal as window-dressing. Even if Johnson seeks an extension, there’s no certainty he’d get it — it would need unanimous approval from the 27-nation bloc. Whatever happens, Johnson’s move to cast himself as a populist Trump-style leader, free of all legal and political restraints and answerable only to the “will of the people,” means we could be seeing a very different style of UK politics in years to come.

The writer is an Editorial Consultant with BusinessLine

Published on September 28, 2019

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