Brexit - the final week

15 oct. 2019 English Section
VLAD DOBREA (translated by Cosmin Ghidovean)
Brexit - the final week

After two years of heated discussions, controversies and high-level resignations, the Brexit saga seems to be nearing the end. The outcome of the UK is decided this week, with laborious discussions being scheduled between the British officials and those of the European Union, in an attempt to reach an agreement on the "divorce". 17 before the exit from the Eurobloc, UK PM Boris Johnson seeks to convince the European officials concerning exit of the UK from the EU bloc, on October 31st. On November 13th, Johnson presented his political platform during the traditional speech of Queen Elizabeth the 2nd - which marks the beginning of a new parliamentary session.

London and the EU have been cautious on Sunday about their chances of divorcing London amicably, and intense negotiations over the past weekend in Brussels have failed to make any major progress on the key issue of the Irish border after Brexit.

"There is still a lot to do" in order to exit the deadlock, said Michel Barnier, chief-EU negotiator in charge of Brexit said.

Boris Johnson made a similar statement, and he said that a Brexit deal is still possible - a scenario which he prefers, despite the fact that he says he would be ready to take the country out of the EU without a deal - but that "considerable work remains to be done".

A European diplomat confirmed, according to the AFP, that "no major deal has been made" on the matter, and hinted that London might make some concessions. "If the British government is looking for a solution, it needs to act fast. Time flies", he said.

The European leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday in Brussels, in a summit being described as a last chance for a painless EU. At the same time, the meeting which will take place in a few days can turn into a third postponement of Brexit, which would extend the uncertainty concerning the path the UK might take after 46 years under European tutelage.

London and Brussels can't seem to reach an agreement on how to avoid, after Brexit, a reimposition of a physical border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a EU member state, and thus keep the peace on the island, which has been faced with several decades of violence.

After the Brexit plan which he presented in the beginning of October was rejected by the Europeans, Boris Johnson has made new proposals to his Irish peer Leo Varadkar, last Thursday. But few details have been revealed concerning the manner in which London and Brussels would intend to overcome the persistent points of contention concerning the implementation of border controls and a right of veto given to the Northern Irish authorities through that mechanism.

According to information in the press, London has proposed that Northern Ireland would form a customs union with the UK and be part of customs area with the EU. That is unacceptable both for the EU, as well as for is Northern-Irish ally of the UK minority government, the DUP unionist party.

If a deal is reached, Boris Johnson will also have the difficult task of convincing the Parliament, divided between the supporters of those in favor of keeping close ties to the EU and those in favor of a clear break.

Deputies, who have rejected three times the deal concluded by former PM Theresa May with the EU, will be meeting in an extraordinary session on October 19th, which is potentially decisive concerning Brexit, for the first time on a Saturday since he Falkland war in 1982.

"In comparison to the British Parliament, an Egyptian sphinx is like an open book", said the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

Absent a deal by Saturday, a law passed in September requires Boris Johnson to postpone by three months. The conservative leader however rules out that delay, after Brexit has already been postponed twice after the June 2016 referendum. He did not say how he could go around that law.

That request for postponement must be approved unanimously by the other member states, a request which it would be judicious to approve if it were made, said Juncker.

The political crisis is so deep in the UK, that early elections in the coming months are unavoidable.

The idea of "Brexit" has a longer history than it looks like

In 1975, a referendum for the exit of Great Britain from the European Economic Community was held under the labour government of Harold Wilson. The outcome of the referendum was overwhelmingly in favor of the UK staying(67.2%). With that favorable consensus, the governments (both the conservative and labor ones) which have followed have continued to reinforce the partnership between the UK and the European Community. But reservations have continued to exist.

1979 was the year when the UK refused to adopt the European Monetary System, as well as the famous speech held by Margaret Thatcher, the longest lasting British prime-minister of the 20th century, in Bruges, where she expressed her skepticism about the European project.

With the year 1992 and after huge financial losses, Great Britain leaves the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, a day known as "Black Wednesday".

One year later, the British government ratifies the Maastricht treaty, a fact which symbolizes not just an economic union, but also the adhesion to a wider ranging political project. Also in 1993 the Euroskeptic party UKIP is born (UK Independence Party).

Membership to the European Union is once again tested between 1994 and 1997. The Referendum Party, financed Sir James Goldsmith, had several attempts to shape up the possibility of a new referendum, but the party failed to get any seats in the Parliament following the 1997 general elections. The party dissolved and then many of its members joined the UKIP - the party with a similar agenda. In 2014, the UKIP got 27.5% of the votes in the European Parliament elections, and delegated 24 members in the Parliament. However, domestically, following the 2015 general elections, the UKIP only managed to get one seat in the British Parliament. The UKIP focused on socio-economic factors and feelings of marginalization and alienation perceived by a part of the British electorate.

Following pressures from the UKIP, as well as from within his own party, Conservative PM David Cameron decides to hold a referendum on Britain's exit from the EU, setting the date of June 23rd, 2016 - an opportune moment for the beginning of the pro- and anti-Brexit campaigns. Both Nigel Farage, as well as Boris Johnson start campaigns that rely on immigration, economic growth, welfare, etc.

The results of the referendum of June 24, 2016 show that 51.9% of the citizens who voted have decided that Great Britain to leave the European Union. David Cameron resigns on the same day, and Theresa May, member of the Conservative Party and supporter of staying in the EU takes over the executive power.

The climax is reached on March 29th, 2017, when Theresa May calls for Article 50, and the United Kingdom officially notified the European Council of its intention to leave the EU. The European Council adopted a statement concerning the notification from the UK.

"We regret the fact that the UK will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process which we will have to follow. (...) In these negotiations, the EU will act in a unified manner, and will protect its interests. Our first priority will be to reduce to a minimum the uncertainty caused by the decision of the UK among our citizens, our companies and our member states", the text in question shows.

Two years after the signing and sending of the letter by the government of Great Britain to the president of the European Council, the negotiations period was marked by one first interval (March 2017 - March 2018) of negotiations and then a second one (March 2018 - present day) where the uncertainty concerning Brexit went from deadlock to unlocking and vice-versa, without the agreement negotiated and approved during that second interval being approved by the Parliament in London.

On July 24th, 2019, Boris Johnson takes over the helms of the Government in London from Theresa May, after she has presented on June 7th her resignation after she failed to convince the British MPs to support a Brexit deal.

Queen Elizabeth the 2nd read in her speech the priorities of the Conservative government led by Boris Johnson, starting with the exit from the European Union on October 31st, a new deal with the bloc and a number of internal reforms meant to garner support from voters in preparation for the potential early elections.

The speech and its notes contain 20 new draft laws, including those necessary for the implementation of a Brexit deal.

"The priority of my government has always been to ensure the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union on October 31st", the queen said. "My government intends to work for a new partnership with the European Union, based on free trade and friendly cooperation".

Some of the government's plans include a new post-Brexit immigration system, reforms in the area of criminal reform, changes in the healthcare system and the promise of additional public investments to stimulate economic growth, according to Agerpres.

In a written statement accompanying the speech, Boris Johnson said: "People are tired of stagnation, deadlock and they are waiting for change. And they don't want to wait any longer to see Brexit achieved".

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