Editorial

Brexit dithering

| Updated on April 15, 2019 Published on April 15, 2019

Britain’s inability to pick a Brexit option is hurting its economy — and the world’s

It would be nice to believe that Britain has been carefully walked back from the Brexit cliff-edge and now has a chance over the next six months to reach a rational decision on its future relationship with the EU. But the reality is that the powerful forces at work over the last two years remain unchanged and Britain could spend the next six months in futile debate and at the witching hour — the half-year extension ends on Hallowe’en — could find itself still mired in crisis. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who’s been unyielding in her mission to implement the 2016 Brexit referendum, will continue to push the agreement she reached with the EU, even though the House of Commons has already rejected it multiple times. Simultaneously, Brexit diehards in the form of the Conservative Party’s ultra-right European Research Group will seek to ensure Britain makes a complete EU break and thwart every compromise effort.

Still, the six-month delay does appear to raise the likelihood Britain will move towards either a customs union or a softer Brexit form. But even that is uncertain and depends on the ruling Conservatives and Opposition Labour coming to an agreement. Even now, Britain faces a head-spinning array of options from an EU customs union to a ‘No Deal’ which would be a hammer-blow to Britain’s economy. Then, there’s the deal May has already struck with the EU that Brexiteers reject due to the so-called Irish Backstop which could tether Britain to the EU forever. Alternatively, there might be a renegotiation of Brexit though the EU has already dismissed that. Beyond those, there are other possibilities including an election that might be forced if the ERG feels May is going for softer Brexit options or a second referendum for which public momentum has been building strongly. Or, there’s what many Remainers — or ‘Remoaners,’ as they’re nicknamed by their Leaver counterparts — fervently hope: that the Article 50 legislation which set in motion Britain’s exit could simply be revoked.

May no doubt would have already had her deal if it weren’t for the irreconcilable Irish Backstop problem. Put simply, the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement between the Irish and British governments mandated open borders between the Irish Republic and UK’s Northern Ireland province. Naturally, if Brexit happens, there must be border controls between Britain and the EU trading zone. A crack amongst ardent Brexiteers emerged last week when senior political correspondent Peter Oborne, “flipped.” He said he now believed Brexit would be disastrous for Britain. Oborne pointed to Japanese firms like Sony that have moved from Britain and Honda shutting its plant. Crucially, top Japanese banks like Nomura and Daiwa also are moving, threatening London’s standing as a global financial hub. Oborne added many other Brexiteers were rethinking their positions and, hence a “long pause” was needed. Oborne sounded a note of sanity in a cacophony of discordant voices. But it’s unlikely many heard him.

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Published on April 15, 2019
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