Can UK end the Brexit uncertainties and move on?

June 21, 2019 10:12
Boris Johnson, who could become next British prime minister, has vowed that he will take Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31 despite the lack of a deal on the way forward. Photo: Reuters

Britain remains trapped in Brexit uncertainties. Following the departure of two prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May, the country is again looking for the next candidate for the top job.

Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and a former mayor of London, is currently the frontrunner for leadership of the Conservative Party as it awaits an urgent rescue.

In the party leadership contest, over ten candidates would go through initial screening by some 312 Conservatives in the Parliament. All the party members would then choose from among the final two candidates.

Those eligible to take part, from the screening of candidates to the voting process, constitute only a tiny fraction of the population. In other words, there is no such thing as a ‘civic nomination’.

There are warnings from the public that a "black box operation' witnessed three years ago in the party leadership contest should not be repeated.

Back then, what happened to the final candidates was that one of them decided to leave, while the other candidate was appointed without the need for voting.

This time, it is hoped that the process can be seen as more open and transparent. Moreover, because the Conservatives do not form a majority in the Parliament, they will only be able to lead the government if they can win an alliance with parties in Northern Ireland.

A major fault of Theresa May was her dubious political judgment. Earlier, she had called an early election. This led to the loss of majority votes in the Parliament, and also the decline of her popularity. With less bargaining power, May’s proposed withdrawal deals with EU were repeatedly rejected in the Parliament.

Many British politicians have argued that May has failed to make any significant contribution to the UK.

Her most memorable quote was ‘Brexit means Brexit’. However, this is yet to be realized given the ongoing controversy.

For those who are keen on a clean break, they insist on all the benefits from regaining the control. As for the anti-Brexit supporters, they feel the situation will not improve regardless of whether Britain will remain part of the EU or not. Neither side can convince the other.

Most British citizens, when asked, say they are tired of the situation, and are keen to see a conclusion of some sort, and then move on.

The Parliament has rejected May’s Brexit proposals, and at the same time they have voted down the option of leaving EU without a deal. This certainly puts the country in a tricky situation.

A candidate running for the prime minister election has urged the Queen to intervene and stop the Parliament meetings, so that the government can implement the next steps on its own.

Some critics fear this will damage the existing political system and foundation. Others, however, argue that the Brexit issue has exposed the current system’s inability to handle the deep divide in UK society.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 17

Translation by Jennifer Wong with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former Secretary for Home Affairs