29 March is fast approaching. With only a few weeks left before the deadline for Britain leaving the EU, with or without a deal, it’s a good time to see where we are on the Brexit debate. For those that haven’t been following the story, in 2016, David Cameron held a referendum on whether Britain should Leave or Remain in the EU. Characters like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage spent days campaigning that Britain should leave the EU because it was undemocratic, the UK was forced to take in immigrants that they did not want, and that the EU was an undemocratic institution. They also argued that the UK should be free to seek trade deals outside the economic bloc that forms the world’s largest economy and that the UK should reclaim sovereignty by leaving the EU.
And then against all the popular wisdom, they won. by 53%. It was a slim majority but a majority none-the-less and in it’s wake, David Cameron resigned and elections were held ushering Theresa May into office. Soon thereafter, Britain triggered Article 50, the article that governs nations leaving the EU. Under the article, any member has 2 years to decide how they will leave the EU and negotiate an agreement to do so.
Theresa May spent 2 years between London and Brussels working with EU negotiators on how Britain can leave the EU. The process didn’t include Parliament until she presented the deal last November. The first vote on the deal was scheduled in December but was canceled until January when she finally divided the house.
The House of Commons did not agree to her deal.
The Brexit deal as negotiated is complex. There’s required payments and a promise of negotiating a free trade deal. There’s also the Irish backstop because there is a problem between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is apart of the UK and Ireland is staying in the EU. The EU (and Irish citizens) do not want a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. They have created a provision that will allow things to remain as they are in Ireland but it is deeply unpopular because the arrangement only ends when there is a fresh agreement between the UK and the EU.
Here’s an easy way to understand the deal:
So Where Are We Now?
Right now, because the consent of parliament and the royal assent is required, Britain could leave the EU on March 29th without a deal. This is commonly called No Deal Brexit. Which means that there would be a hard border in Northern Ireland, a hard border for trucks and trade moving between the UK and the EU and tariffs under the World Trade Organization rules which are based on the General Agreement of Trade and Tariffs. Right now, members in the House of Commons are proposing amendments to the deal but the EU has repeatedly stated via John Carl Juncker that this is the only deal the UK is getting. How May is going to create conditions for a successful vote and work with an EU negotiator that has taken a hard line is not clear. Right now, the pathway forward is not clear. In Prime Minister’s Questions she has stated that she is listening to members and trying to find a way to fix the unpopular backstop in Northern Ireland and find the 200 or so votes she needs for passage in the House of Commons. However, there are also calls for a new referendum for all British citizens to vote on the deal as currently agreed between the UK and the EU but that would require an extension of Article 50. There are also calls to cancel Brexit entirely.
Here’s an easy way to track the current options:
And that is where we currently on Brexit. There is 6-7 weeks to figure out either how to get the deal passed, find another solution, or leave the EU with no deal in place which will most likely cause chaos worldwide.