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Theresa May`s Brexit: An Uneasy Deal

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B.A. Sciences poliitques, membre de®

In 2016, British people voted at nearly 52% to leave the European Union and Prime Minister Theresa May is committed to deliver Brexit. Therefore, Britain is expected to leave the Union in 2019. The end of European Union law in the United Kingdom might be the biggest constitutional moment since the English Civil War and the English Reformation according to British historian Kate Williams. In view of the 2016 referendum result, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the withdrawal process with Brussels. This implies that negotiations between both parties could take up to two year to get a comprehensive withdrawal agreement. The outcome of these negotiations was the withdrawal agreement that allows the U.K. to give up its E.U. membership while maintaining some social and economic connections with the E.U. Thus, the withdrawal agreement is a well-balanced deal that takes into accounts several elements of the Conservative government`s demands. Nevertheless, there is no parliamentary common support for this withdrawal agreement.

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         In early 2019, British Prime Minister Theresa May introduced a deal to the Commons that was rejected by all parties, including her own political party. Therefore, the Prime Minister fails to settle a deal which could allow the U.K. to leave the E.U. in an orderly way. The deal was rejected by the Commons with only 202 votes in favour and 432 votes against the deal. This was the biggest defeat in more than a century for a government in Parliament. This reveals there is no common ground that could settle the Brexit question. Nevertheless, parliamentarians did their job which is to hold the government to account. For instance, several MPs stopped respecting the party line; they decided to vote on several Brexit deal`s amendments in respect of their personal values rather than on party lines.

         Nevertheless, the withdrawal agreement is a well-balanced deal that could leave the Union in a very orderly manner by taking into account all the different aspects of the outcome of ending this special relationship between the U.K. and E.U. Consequently, Teresa May`s deal with the E.U. is neither a hard Brexit nor a soft Brexit; the deal tries to please every M.P. Still, the deal was not well received by both the Remainers and the Brexiteers. Prime Minister May fails to deliver a deal that can be accepted by a majority of people. Furthermore, the Prime Minister tried to cherry pick while negotiating the deal; she hoped to get the best deal for Britain and Northern Ireland. Even though, the E.U. did not like this approach, but the supranational organization still suggests a deal that respects May`s priorities. On the one hand, Prime Minister May succeeds to get a deal based on her principles about future relationships between the E.U. and the U.K. Nonetheless, no one is happy about the deal on both sides of the English Channel. Political editor Laura Kuenssberg told BBC on November 25, 2018: ¨that no one is truly happy, but this is a decent deal, and this is the only one on the table.¨ She added that Theresa May holds better than people expect…she kept going…¨ Theresa May did not stop to carry on her Brexit negotiation’s in her way despites several cabinet resignations and some popular disappointments about how she manages the Brexit issue.

         In addition, the withdrawal agreement covers several social, economic, and diplomatic areas in order to allow the U.K. to leave the Union. For instance, the deal suggests that there would be an end of free movement between the U.K. and the E.U. Nowadays, every E.U. national can move, work, study, and visit any E.U. member without any restriction as long as his or her national passport is still valid. This deal aims at having a better control over British borders. Britain wants to choose newcomers based on their skills and education. This deal allows the U.K. to define its immigration rules by itself. The May government wants the nation to be more sovereign by enacting alone its own laws. Thus, the European court system will no longer influence Britain. Therefore, if the Westminster and European Parliaments ever ratify this deal, Theresa May says that the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland will be more sovereign and prosperous by signing treaties with other nations by itself.

         Additionally, some U.K. regions are affected by the deal in different ways. Spain gets a veto right over any British European deal affecting the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. This means that the E.U. cannot interfere into Gibraltar`s affairs without Spain`s approval. This part of the agreement is essential because any British withdrawal will affect this British territory. Gibraltarians are totally against the Brexit project while being deeply loyal to the U.K. They live right beside the Kingdom of Spain and they travel back and forth between Spain and Gibraltar. Several people cross the Spanish and Gibraltar border every day to work, study, and go shopping; thus, the British withdrawal could be catastrophic for Gibraltar. However, Prime Minister Theresa May argues that Britain will always safeguard Gibraltar’s interests. Moreover, the deal illustrates that there will not be any hard border between Northern Ireland, U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. Thus, Northern Ireland remains in the E.U. common market and customs union. This special treatment for Northern Ireland aims at ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement be respected. Nevertheless, the DUP and several Conservative Brexiteers are strongly against the Northern Ireland`s backstop. Nevertheless, the withdrawal agreement takes into account some of the complexity of the British territorial sovereignty and recognizes the need to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement which ensures peace in Northern Ireland.

         Moreover, May`s deal ensures some stability for the British economy. Britain wants to keep some frictionless trade with the European Union. The deal reveals that Britain and the E.U. will try to get a single customs territory for different economic sectors such as: services, investment, and some other selected economic sectors. Still, E.U. fishermen will have to pay tariffs if they fish in British waters. The U.K. wants to get back its sovereignty over territorial waters; British fishermen want to get exclusivity over these fishing areas. As well, this international proposal suggests that the U.K. will not be able any enact legislation that lowers social, environmental, and labour regulations such as working hours. Therefore, the U.K. and the E.U. want to make sure business and labour sectors enjoy some stability after March 29th, 2019.

         Nevertheless, the deal was rejected by the Westminster Parliament in January 2019; thus, the May government has to find a way to get a deal ratified by the Westminster Parliament and the European Parliament. Consequently, many people supporting the European Union are in favour of a second referendum. As a result, this could reverse the Brexit process and Britain could keep its E.U. membership. However, Prime Minister May does not want to have any other referendum on Brexit. As a result, there are three main options after the Westminster Parliament`s rejection of May`s deal which are: renegotiate a new deal, but this option had already been rejected by the E.U. The second option is to leave the Union without any deal which could drastically hurt the British economy. As well, there is the option of having a new referendum or a national election in order to get a fresh start to solve the Brexit issue. This is likely that Theresa May will try to re-introduce her deal to Parliament at some time in the future with some amendments hoping that Westminster finally ratifies this new version of the withdrawal agreement.

         Finally, Brexit is very challenging for legislators because this is the most complicated constitutional change that the nation has faced in decades. However, Brexiteers greatly exaggerated the benefits of leaving the European Union. Thus, this approach discourages people and such exaggerations could reverse Brexit through a second referendum. Nonetheless, the latter is highly unlikely because Prime Minister May rejects the second referendum option. Besides, Britain might have a no deal Brexit because MPs cannot agree on any deal with Brussels. Besides, no one really knows what would happen in the event of a no deal Brexit; therefore, some experts expect that riots in the Kingdom might be triggered. For that reason, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 2, might be evacuated from the national capital along with members of her family in case of a no deal Brexit. This scenario might affect several British institutions and Her Majesty`s Armed Forces might be called to bring back order on the island.


February 8, 2019


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Yannick B. Vallée
par Yannick B. Vallee

Yannick B. Vallée est un politicologue, diplômé de l’Université Bishop's (Lennoxville, Québec, Canada), détenteur du baccalauréat en science politique. De plus, il a un diplôme d’études collégiales en Techniques administrative (option : marketing) de Champlain St. Lawrence College, au Québec. Il s’intéresse... (Lire la suite)

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