“Brexit means Brexit and we're going to make a success of it,” said the United Kingdom’s (UK) former Prime Minister Theresa May during her first speech as a prime minister at the Conservative Party Conference in 2016. Since then, it has been May’s mission to deliver Brexit to the citizens. May has constantly been living on borrowed time and now that time is up. Her recent resignation makes it obvious that she was never able to pull through. Now, the UK is met with a new prime minister with stronger plans for the nation. However, regardless of who succeeds May, Brexit will continue to cause headaches and remain a controversy for a great number of people.
As UK’s second female prime minister, May was hyped by her staff as the 21st-century reincarnation of the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher—the former Prime Minister of the UK. Now, May’s legacy is one that is infamous for its many failures. Her biggest failure would have to be her inability to deliver her initial promise to see UK leave the European Union (EU) on time, in good order, and with a reasonable plan for future trade. Besides that, she also built a negative, unsympathetic public image through her cold response to the Grenfell issue as well as the Windrush scandal. As a result, May’s legacy is unfortunately dominated by failure, so much so that typing “Theresa May” in the Google search engine is followed by the word “failure.”
May spent a solid 18 months of her time as Prime Minister negotiating a divorce deal with the EU, hurting a number of cabinet ministers in the process. Her plan, however, was not that receptive as it did not present a clear and permanent outlook on the UK’s customs and trade arrangements. So, when she presented her big plan on January this year, it was rejected by a staggering 230 votes. Since then, she tried again twice, only to fail again. As a last measure, she attempted to talk with the Labor Party, which advocates a soft Brexit. However, even this effort failed to accomplish anything that would allow her to proceed, and she was eventually forced to abandon plans for a fourth vote.
All About Brexit
Simply put, Brexit is shorthand for the UK’s split from the EU, changing its relationship in many important aspects like trade, security and migration. Ever since the idea of Brexit was brought up, the UK has constantly been weighing the pros and cons of membership in a European community of nations. In 1975, the first referendum on membership in what was then called the European Economic Community was held and on June 23, 2016, an ill- defined Brexit won 52 percent of the entire vote. However, even after almost three years of debate and negotiation, the next step has not been taken yet.
The reason why Brexit is the subject of such controversy is because UK’s biggest source of foreign investment and most important export market is Europe. Also, membership in the bloc has helped London solidify its position as a global financial center. This makes it easy for major businesses to threaten to leave the UK because of Brexit. All in all, the government has already predicted that its economy would shrink four to nine percent within 15 years if it were to go ahead with Brexit. Because of this potential danger, the Brexit process has been bedeviled by the same divisions that led to the referendum in the first place.
▲ Former Prime Minister Theresa May giving her resignation speech, Provided by the TIMES
Following Theresa May
Following May’s resignation, Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt competed with each other for the new UK Prime Minister position. Hunt and Johnson both took part in two head-to-head debates where both candidates said they intend to leave the UK by October 31, with Johnson more likely to push through a no-deal Brexit. A no-deal Brexit would mean that the UK would be split from the EU without agreements made on their future relationship. Hunt claimed that it would be “very serious” if the no-deal were to be necessary, and said that he had a ten-point Brexit plan to avoid that outcome. Nevertheless, Johnson won the race and has currently started his reign as the new Prime Minister of the UK.
Johnson’s new cabinet saw 17 of May’s former ministers getting being fired or stepping down.
“We are now committed, all of us, to leaving the European Union on October 31 or indeed earlier - no ifs, no buts,” said Johnson in his first speech as Prime Minister, reiterating his determination to take the UK out of the EU. He also assured the EU citizens that they would have “absolute certainty” of their right to live and remain in the UK. He also said that the newly appointed Chancellor Michael Gove would make plans for a no-deal Brexit a top priority, making sure that the UK will still pull through should the original plan go wrong.
Future of Brexit?
What business owners across the UK and the EU should be fully aware of is that a no-deal Brexit is still a distinct possibility. Despite very real warnings about what this decision could do for the economy, Johnson seems intent of pulling the UK out of the bloc with the EU. A no-deal Brexit would mean that border checks could be re-introduced, transport and trade between the UK and the EU could be severely affected, adults may not be able to drive in EU countries freely without a special driving permit, and it would mean no transition period. As of now, however, Johnson is working fervently to establish a new deal that would not lead to a no-deal Brexit and asserted that the chances of the no-deal would be a million to one.
While some still think that Johnson may be overestimating his abilities, he seems to be the UK’s best bet for Brexit. This will prove to be a pivotal moment in the UK’s history that will affect not just the UK but the rest of the EU. While it may be tempting for business owners to ignore the difficulties that might approach, turning a head from Brexit will not make the issue go away. Despite Johnson’s words, businesses of all sizes should consider taking steps to prepare for a no-deal because Johnson is sure that the withdrawal deal is dead and this means that Brexit will pull through —deal or no-deal. One thing is for sure: the UK is in for a long fight that will, at all costs, end on October 31 which is said to be the new Brexit deadline.