Brexit: What’s Happening Now?

By Savannah Green (CMC ’20)

One of the more prominent topics in the news recently has been the current standing of the Brexit negotiations. Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative (Tory) Party, has been the front woman for the negotiations on the British side. Unfortunately, she is quickly losing her credibility, as she nearly missed a vote of no-confidence in recent weeks. A vote of no-confidence entails the P.M. receiving a simple majority vote (currently 158 votes) against them keeping their leadership position. If the vote were to have passed, Theresa May would have been required to step down as P.M. once the Tories had chosen a new leader. The Tory Party had 117 no-confidence votes against May,  putting her on thin ice, especially with the March 29th deadline for a deal approaching quickly. The skepticism over May—and Brexit negotiations overall—has grown rapidly over recent weeks. With or without Theresa May as Prime Minister, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the governments of the EU and UK will come to a compromise.

If the United Kingdom is unable to strike a deal with the European Union before the set date, the outcome will be a no-deal Brexit. Many agree that this would be the worst outcome for both sides, increasing tensions and frustrations after several proposed deals have been struck down. Without a deal, the UK will lose 40 trade deals spanning 70 countries they are currently involved in with the EU, as well as the citizen resident agreement already is in place with the EU. That means that, as of 11:01pm on March 29, 2019, every British citizen in the EU and EU citizen in the UK will be considered undocumented. Likewise, these trade deals will disappear instantly, which many agree will create large shortages in food, medicine, and other necessities. All types of industries across the UK will suffer almost immediately, with the Bank of England warning of the worst recession Britain has seen in over 100 years.

Even with this information, some MP’s appear optimistic about a possible no-deal Brexit. If the governments are able to strike a deal, the UK will owe the EU 39 billion pounds and will have to implement the new rules agreed upon. Some MPs believe that it may be more beneficial to keep the severance money and take the loss of trade and current connections. Although this does not address the immediate consequences, these MPs trust the UK’s ability to cultivate connections with trading partners in a timely manner after the split. Luckily, the UK has been preparing for a no-deal Brexit since last year. They have begun to recreate trade agreements with countries like those they are involved in with the EU. Although these agreements are not yet signed officially, they should go into effect almost immediately, lessening the blow to the British economy.

A large debate regarding the current deal has been centered around the Irish backstop. The backstop is the border that lies between Ireland (a member of the EU) and Northern Ireland (a portion of the UK). There is not currently a border or checks of any kind in the region, since both abide by EU regulations. The idea of the backstop instead of a hard border is to create less chaos between the two countries and keep Northern Ireland on the same regulations as Ireland. However, the British MPs worry about the indefinite nature of such an agreement. Keeping Northern Ireland tied to EU regulations automatically forces the UK to remain under EU control with little possibility of later change. It remains unclear whether the UK Parliament will be able to look past this in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

If the EU and UK can unite to avoid a no-deal Brexit, there will be a transition period in order to implement new changes, while a no-deal Brexit will preclude such a period. Lawmakers and citizens alike understand the extreme nature of the situation, but it is beginning to look highly unlikely that a deal will be struck in time. Citizens and companies throughout the UK have begun to prepare for the worst-case scenario—a crippling recession that may affect countries across the world. Unfortunately, time is running out while Brexit remains in limbo, at least until March 29.

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