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Conservative Pressure Causes Brexit Delays

By December 21, 2017December 26th, 2017No Comments

Last week saw the end of first stage negotiations between the European Commission and the British Government which will eventually lead to ‘Brexit’; the agreement finalising the divorce of the United Kingdom and the European Union.

In their summit meeting late last week, the closure of this first stage of the negotiating process was shrouded in ambiguity; the definitive details are still yet to be ratified by the Heads of States and Governments at the European Council. As has been repeated time and again since the start of the process, the specifics are not fully known, only the general outline. One certainty though was the three major questions that were on the negotiating table, upon which the committee deemed necessary to reach a concrete decision before moving on to the next phase of the negotiation process: the amount to be paid by London to Brussels for miscellaneous reimbursements of money received from the Union; the border dispute between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (which Dublin demanded would not be settled by means of a physical barrier); and the burning question regarding the legal status and rights of European citizens residing in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, even during the first phase of the negotiations, the U.K has for some time now expressed its impatience at the pace of the process, as well as its eagerness to begin negotiations, formulating the for some time now technicalities of this complex and intricate dossier as soon as possible.

Such a stance is not surprising: Britain has always looked at the process of European integration as an essential commercial opportunity. Indeed, less than two years after its creation, the U.K had already decided upon joining its European neighbours; the process, however, would take a decade and a half to materialize, eventually joining alongside Ireland and Denmark on the 1st of January 1973. It served to define a constant: for the United Kingdom, European integration predominantly signifies free trade.

It was in fidelity to this postulate that Britain always appealed for Brexit’s business dossier to be one that would give the highest priority and undying attention to the island nation. After all of this, it is now time to start the negotiation process, which, among other equally important issues, will have its central axis revolving around trade policy, especially for Mrs May’s government. It seems then that despite the mists of confusion and foggy outlines of important decisions, the most difficult period of negotiations is yet to be overcome. More complex even for the Council of the remaining EU members than deciding on the price of the UK’s final ‘breakaway invoice’, not expected to fall too far short of 50 billion Euros. A difficult decision indeed.

For this rather complicated and near-paradoxical negotiating period, it is the United Kingdom which finds itself in a situation of increased difficulty and apparent disadvantage. A few days after reaching an agreement with Brussels on the closure of the first phase of the negotiations, Prime Minister May suffered a resounding and heavy political defeat at the hands of her own Westminster Parliament, after her party agreed to abandon the pledge to enshrine the exact date that Britain will leave the European Union in law. The prime minister had originally planned to make March 29, 2019 the legally binding date of Brexit in a move that pleased those in favour of a harder Brexit. However, on Wednesday the UK government bowed to pressure from Conservative rebels to amend the EU (Withdrawal) Bill so that ministers will be able to delay Brexit with the EU’s consent if necessary. Referred by opposition to the measure as ‘watering down’ the Brexit plan.

The compromise amendment was accepted on the government’s behalf by Brexit minister Steve Baker and then approved by the House of Commons by 319 votes to 294.

With May being characterised throughout the political operation as someone with a profound misunderstanding of the events she has been dictating, this is an unmistakable demonstration that Brexit continues, in Her Majesty’s land, to be a fractured and disruptive issue.

Until this ‘final date’ then, it seems there’s plenty of water still to flow under the Thames’ bridges…


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