Senior politicians in Britain have so mismanaged the Brexit process of leaving the European Union that it is hard to see the country retaining its reputation as a leading force in world affairs. The situation is a mess. Those in the government simply cannot agree amongst themselves just how they want to leave Europe.
Their elected leader, Prime Minister Theresa May, and her team of Cabinet members and administrators have been negotiating with their European counterparts for two years, and the millions of British pounds and euros that have been spent could well have been distributed more productively.
The plan that May presented to Parliament in December would have been defeated had a vote gone forward, but European Union leaders now say that is the only plan they will approve; Britain must take it or leave it. The latter is the choice of the hard-line “Leavers,” or Brexiteers, as they are often called, who want to distance themselves from any connection from Europe.
This entire fiasco will cost Britain significant world business and its 60 million citizens much anguish. With political opinions on the subject hardened on all sides, and March 29 looming as the date when Britain is scheduled to leave the ER, there appears to be much left work to do before any agreement is approved, and not much time to do it.
These are the three most likely alternatives at this point:
(1) Britain simply leaves the EU without any agreement between the parties. Known as the “no deal” option, this is the most predictable outcome, and surely the most destructive of any alternative.
The EU has warned its 27 member countries that they should begin to prepare for a “no deal” outcome, for which EU leaders have already both set the rules and put in place procedures and time limits for trade with, and travel to, Britain.
The British themselves have sent out 140,000 letters to all the businesses within their borders urging them to prepare for a “no deal” result on March 29. They have also urged food and drugstores to build up stocks in the event of a “no deal,” which would leave the 300-mile Irish border with Northern Ireland free and open.
In that scenario, with no border security, EU migrants would have easy access to Britain through Northern Ireland. The Irish government has stated it does not intend to pay for hard customs or passport facilities. Such free access to Northern Ireland would be completely unacceptable to Brexiteers and the DUP Paisleyites in Northern Ireland.
The “no deal” alternative is also being used by Theresa May to threaten her opposition since no one reasonably wants the chaos that would result. Still, this option is possible as we have seen from all the unsuccessful negotiations.
(2) Another vote by the British people on whether or not Britain should leave Europe. Practically no one believes that, given the turmoil over the last two years, the British public would want to reaffirm the first vote. There are a small number of members of Parliament who prefer this option, but May has stated,” a second vote would do irreparable damage to the integrity of the UK.” Still, there are many businesses whose leaders fervently wish for another vote.
(3) Prime Minister May uses her power and influence to win Parliamentary approval for an acceptable agreement. This would have to include EU concessions that are not on anyone’s public agenda as of this writing.
No matter what happens, Britain’s reputation across the world has been badly damaged. Where once, it could be said that the sun never sets on the British Empire, now they are in a struggle to keep the sun high over Falkland Islands and Gibraltar.