United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, cancelled the Brexit vote that was scheduled to be held in Parliament on December 11th. Parliament was to vote on the Brexit Withdrawal Treaty formalized at the end of November between the UK and the European Union (EU). The vote was cancelled since Members of Parliament (MPs) voiced their displeasure for the deal, signaling to May that defeat of the vote was inevitable. In cancelling the vote, Ministers and MPs are urging May to seek new assurances from Brussels; however, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, says the agreement is not up for renegotiation. The Brexit vote has not been rescheduled and the longer the process is drawn out, the closer the March 29th Brexit deadline comes.
Within the UK and the EU, many are voicing their displeasure at the cancellation of the vote, with it being seen as another delay in an already arduous process. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn blasted the Conservative government, saying it does not matter when the vote is held, as the fundamental flaws in the deal persist. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said the cancellation is an act of pathetic cowardice. Within May’s own Conservative party, hardline Brexiteers triggered a no-confidence vote. Hardliners have felt the Brexit treaty is too soft and will inevitably keep the UK subservient to EU rules and regulations. May managed to survive the no-confidence vote on December 12th, winning out by a vote of 200 to 117, and she will now remain as party leader for the following year at least as per party policy. Additionally, European Parliament representatives have expressed the bloc’s frustration with the British Prime Minister and have begun preparations for a no deal scenario, which could risk the country sliding toward a national crisis.
May and UK officials have been negotiating with the EU for months leading up to the Brexit vote, determined not to face a no deal scenario. The legally binding treaty was finalized by the UK and EU officials at the end of November. Following this, all 27 EU leaders agreed to the treaty where it was then passed for ratification by the UK. The treaty addressed three significant issues with Brexit citizens’ rights, the divorce fee, and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Firstly, EU and UK citizens dwelling outside their home jurisdiction will have their rights safeguarded. Secondly, the UK has agreed to pay a divorce fee of 39 million pounds, which many believed could have reached 100 million, covering its contribution to the EU budget until 2020. Lastly, the EU proposed that Northern Ireland remain in a single market and customs union as part of the so-called backstop, which is an insurance plan that kicks in if future trade talks fail to avoid a hard border. This means the whole of the UK will remain in the EU customs union, while Northern Ireland would follow single market rules. The final point is where ratification by the UK has broken down. If the agreement cannot be ratified by the UK there are only a few options left for May including, a postponed Brexit date, a second referendum, a softer Brexit similar to the relationship Norway currently has with the EU, or potentially a no deal divorce. May has taken a firm stance against these options and her only hope is assurances from the EU to appease her critics at home and have the vote pass through Parliament.
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