Theresa May's resignation makes Brexit impasse more chaotic

May 28, 2019 18:59
British Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down on June 7, after failing to deliver Brexit. Whoever succeeds her will find it extremely hard, if not impossible, to renegotiate an exit deal. Photo: Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she is stepping down on June 7, and the race among the Tories to succeed her has begun.

Former foreign secretary and leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson is widely tipped as the most likely to become the next prime minister.

According to a British bookmaker, the latest betting odds on Johnson being the next PM stand at 6/4, way ahead of his major rivals, Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove (9/2) and former secretary for exiting the European Union Dominic Raab (5/1). 

Johnson is seen as the overwhelming favorite because he has remained highly popular among the grass-roots Tories, with a public poll showing nearly 40 percent of his partymates endorsing his bid for PM, as compared to just 13 percent for Raab.

But even if the Conservative Party manages to vote Johnson into office by the end of July, it doesn’t necessarily mean the United Kingdom would be out of its Brexit woes anytime soon.

May has failed to facilitate a consensus within the Commons over Brexit, but at least she was able to reach across the aisle and communicate with other political blocs throughout the negotiation process.

In contrast, Johnson has been notorious for being imperious and keeping his own counsel, which makes him pretty unpopular among his fellow MPs, thereby raising considerable concerns that the ongoing partisan gridlock within the British Parliament could even deepen under his leadership.

A spokesperson for the president of the European Commission has reiterated that it won’t negotiate another exit deal with Britain or make any further concessions. As such, the prospect of renewed talks between London and Brussels, which Johnson has continued to pitch, is basically nil.

As a hardcore Brexiteer, Johnson probably wouldn’t mind leaving the EU without a deal if Brussels refuses to reopen Brexit talks.

But based on the past voting records of the Commons, the majority of MPs, including quite a number of Tories, are actually against a no-deal Brexit.

That said, Johnson could risk triggering another vote of no confidence and losing his job as PM if he insists on pressing ahead with a no-deal Brexit in order to please the Brexiteers.

If such a scenario happens, it would very likely mean further mayhem for British politics.

That being said, in our opinion, as long as British politicians remain blinded to the principle that politics is the art of compromise, it will be hard to resolve the current Brexit impasse and there will be no end in sight for the Brexit woes no matter who is in charge at 10 Downing Street.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 25

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal