You can easily tell when you’re on a British TV station, they are always talking about Brexit, the exit of the UK from the European Union. It’s without doubt the most discussed, examined and debated issue in Britain, to the point of being obsessive.
Almost two years ago the British people voted in a referendum to leave the EU, i.e. to carry out Brexit. But, since then there have been interminable negotiations with the EU, internal splits within British parties, UK elections, parliamentary maneuvers, resignations galore, and finally as the deadline for the actual Brexit looms, successful agreements. And at the same time, as those who oppose Brexit and those who think the UK-EU agreement reached will not be a clean break or a “hard Brexit”, there have been calls for going back to the beginning and having another referendum. Oh, no, how boring!
Since Theresa May became PM when anti-Brexit Conservative leader David Cameron resigned, she has struggled manfully with this issue. She even called an election to gain support, but unfortunately for her she lost support. However, she was saved by the small Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that formed a coalition with her Conservatives. But, then there is a sting in the tail, as soon as May revealed the outlines of the Brexit terms at a meeting at her official residence Chequers, she has been dogged by an even greater split within her own party.
And when the official papers for the Brexit terms (585 pages) and the expected relationship between the UK and EU after Brexit (26 pages) were published this week, a veritable explosion occurred. Three Ministers resigned, the former Brexit Minister himself opposes the agreement, and the DUP decided not to support the terms of Brexit. Part of the reason for this is that the Irish Republic (Eire) is in the EU, and Northern Ireland (and Scotland) voted against Brexit, while the rest of the UK voted for it. Then the issue of the Eire-NI/UK border became crucial, since no-one wants it to be a “hard” border, but if Eire is in the EU and NI is out, how can this be managed. Also, the issue of Gibraltar came up between Spain and the UK, but this has been finessed by agreeing to discuss any future changes with Spain.
Today Boris Johnson, former FM of the UK, who resigned because he wants a “hard” Brexit, spoke to the DUP at their conference in NI, and they gave him a strong welcome. But, Theresa May stated last week that the current agreement is the only one available and is the best that Britain can get. But, it must now be voted on and approved by both the British and the EU Parliaments. If it fails in either, then there will be NO Brexit agreement and Britain must leave the EU without an agreement. This would cause massive chaos. The hope is that the majority, even those who oppose some aspects of this agreement, when push comes to shove, will vote for it rather than risk a no-agreement Brexit.