Herald: Much of a deal about Brexit

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Much of a deal about Brexit

16 Mar 2019 05:14am IST
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16 Mar 2019 05:14am IST

Two months later nothing has changed. Britain is in a state of flux. With days to go before Brexit becomes a done deal, the British parliament voted against the new exit deal, against a no deal exit and finally to postpone the exit. MPs in a series of votes on Thursday first voted against a second referendum, then very narrowly to postpone the date of the exit, and finally voted to request EU to delay the exit. It depends now upon Brussels to agree for a change in date, for it has to be a unanimous decision of all the member States. If the European Union does not agree to a change in date, Brexit may still occur on March 29. 

During the debate on the first vote, Prime Minister Theresa May’s appeal in the House of Commons to back the revised deal or risk no Brexit at all did not help change the minds of even the MPs who are supporting her government. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rejected the deal saying the Prime Minister had not achieved a single change to the withdrawal agreement. She lost the vote by a margin of 149. She had lost the January vote by a margin of 230. A day later the no deal was voted out by a margin of 49.

Backing the deal was important as that would lead UK to exit the European Union this month end, but still have till December next year to reach a permanent trade deal with the EU. Having voted against the deal, Britain is now in a state of flux. The EU has not been too keen on a postponement of the exit, and May has to go back to the union seeking another agreement and another date.

Worse still for Britain, it stares at the possibility of a general election – it would be the third in four years and the second due to Brexit. Though the situation is far from clear at the present moment, Corbyn is pushing for it and the deep wedge in the Conservative party is not helping the Prime Minister stay strongly afloat. 

May’s has been a series of bad decisions. After taking over as Prime Minister from David Cameron who quit after the Brexit vote, May called a snap election less than a year later, saying she wanted a stronger mandate to push her Brexit deal through. The election saw the Conservative party she leads going from a majority government to a minority one and having to depend on Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to get a working majority. 

Resignations of ministers, defections from MPs and the loss of the Brexit votes has further undermined May’s leadership of the party and the country. A bruised and scarred Prime Minister leading the party into an election, as the future of the country with the European Union hangs in balance is not a scenario that will bring cheer to the Conservatives. May, on surviving a leadership vote in December 2018 had said she would not lead the party in 2022, but had not ruled out leading it in a snap election. But then, if there are no elections, can May still continue occupying No 10 Downing Street and leading the country after the setbacks she has suffered? 

For the thousands of Goans in the UK, many of them holding Portuguese citizenship documents, the vote against the deal is not good news. Under the terms negotiated, EU citizens living in the UK, were to retain their residency and social security rights after the exit, and that citizens who take up residency in another EU country during the transition period (including the UK) will be allowed to stay in that country after the transition. This may still be retained in a new deal, but there is a lot more that could happen until then.

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