Brexit: Who is in control?


By the end of March, it will have been two years since Prime Minister triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. While Mrs May has often insisted that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on March 29th. Events in recent weeks have shown that it is not going to be that straightforward. The humiliating defeat suffered by the government in January on the Withdrawal Agreement was the first in a string of events that have made Westminster more unpredictable by the day.

The creation of the Independent Group has seen 11 MPs leave both major parties, and so has contributed to a radical change in the positions of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, as they look to dissuade further Parliamentarians from jumping ship.

The Labour leader had previously stated that the result of the 2016 EU referendum should be respected, but announced at Prime Minister’s Question Time last week that Labour “will back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a disastrous no deal outcome”.

Labour will back a public vote

Government policy has also had to shift radically in light of pressure from pro-European MPs. On 12th March, the Commons will take a final vote on a Withdrawal Agreement tabled by the government. Should that fail, two votes regarding the possibility of ruling out a no deal Brexit and requesting to delay Brexit respectively are scheduled for the following two days. Calling for these votes was a major concession from the Prime Minister, indicating her lack of authority when it comes to dictating Brexit policy to her MPs. 

The country’s exit from the EU has accentuated the uncertain nature of Westminster politics

Hardline Brexiteers are horrified at the prospect of such a delay, with Jacob Rees Mogg saying that “My suspicion is that any delay to Brexit is a plot to stop Brexit.” However, it’s not only the likes of Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson who are seeking to defy the Prime Minister. The resignation of Environment Minister George Eustice, considered a moderate Tory Brexiteer, is a telling sign of how divisive this change of policy is in Mrs May’s party. This resignation will be a concern for a Prime Minister who has always wanted to keep both Leave and Remain Conservatives on side, but with the prospect of another defeat of her Withdrawal Agreement, it seems as though alienating the right of her party is the price to pay to avoid a no deal scenario that most MPs strongly oppose.

Alienating the right of her party is the price to pay to avoid no deal

With May and Corbyn’s willingness to sacrifice both the unity of their parties and their previous stands on Brexit policy, the country’s exit of from the European Union seems to have accentuated the uncertain nature of Westminster politics. What is certain, however, is that the political drama of recent months is only going to intensify in the next few weeks.

Photograph: Pixabay 

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