AFTER A shocking 51% majority vote in 2016, the British public decided that the United Kingdom (U.K.) would leave the European Union (EU) under a Conservative Government to become an independent country, free to make its own rules, trades, and immigration policies. Set to leave by March 29,2019*, the U.K. frontrunners have sat down with the EU 27** Leaders to negotiate a deal to ensure that Britain leaves with security. Two years later, the only thing to show for these monthly negotiations is the humiliating rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chequers Deal***: a proposal that both Remainers and Leavers deem a weak compromise, and is not the Brexit that was originally promised.
The public’s naivety
From the start, the British public was sold the idea of a complete break from the EU, with stricter borders and the ability to grow their economy through new trade deals.
What the Chequers Deal proposes is more of an alliance between the EU and the U.K., with Prime Minister May bending to accommodate the EU, rather than cleanly breaking away as promised. So, it is hardly surprising the public is distressed over the way Brexit is shaping up to be not what was originally sold to them.
The lead up to the vote was a blur of mad advertisement, one that sold the utopian idea of “a Britain free of EU control.” And the public, unsatisfied with the current political agreement, voted to leave, pressuring the EU into realizing that the U.K. was willing to take drastic measures to spark change.
The fact is, the public was not properly informed of what Brexit meant. With campaigns that agitated the public’s fears about immigration control and promised to provide solutions that would better the U.K.’s immigration policy, voters were under the impression that these issues would be the main points of focus for deal negotiation. And when the advocators who made these promises retracted their statements after the vote had taken place, the public was obviously left stunned.
Where does this leave the public, who voted for one misinformed ideal, but is ultimately ending up with something completely different?
Furthermore, with the exit deadline looming closer, a No Deal scenario seems increasingly inevitable, and leaving the EU without a deal renders a high level of uncertainty. According to a recent report by The UK in a Changing Europe, an Initiative that conducts research into the relationship between the U.K. and the EU, the Pound could drop drastically, tariffs may make trade more difficult, and resources such as food and medical supplies could be in shortage. It ultimately boils down to one thing: in the eyes of the public, the government is failing to ensure that the U.K. does not fall into the trap of a No Deal.
No trust within
Instability is present in every nook and cranny of the Brexit ordeal. Prime Minister May, leader of the Conservative Party, faces objection at every turn: not just from the public but ironically within her own Party as well. Conservative members do not support her push for the Chequers Deal, as they believe it is a betrayal of the Brexit that was originally endorsed to the public and would be a compromise in favor of the EU. Prominent Conservative members were so adamant that her plan would fail that they abruptly resigned. Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, one of the figure heads who campaigned for Brexit, left claiming that he could not follow where the deal was heading. David Davis, Former Brexit Secretary who oversaw the negotiations, stepped down publicly on July 8 as well, stating that the Chequers Deal was “giving away too much and too easily.” How can the public trust that Brexit will be successful if not even the founding fathers of the campaign can?
When it comes to the EU 27 side of negotiation deals, the public fears that any proposal will be met with rejection. Because the EU holds the power when it comes to negotiations, they have no reason to concede to the demands of the U.K. At the Salzburg meeting on Sept 20, European Leader Donald Tusk’s rejection statement called the Chequers Deal “a good and brave step.” Twenty-four hours later, Prime Minister May announced: “I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The U.K. expects the same.****” This lack of “respect” from the EU can be perceived as patronizing and undermining of the leadership of the British Prime Minister.
Government parties opposing Brexit are now calling for a second referendum, hoping to avoid leaving the EU entirely. If a deal is finally agreed upon or a No Deal is imminent, they argue that it should be presented to the public, allowing them to decide whether it is the right deal for the U.K. It gives power back to the people, who feel as if they have been kept outside of Brexit plans by the government.
After two years of bad communication, threats of an uncertain Post-Brexit U.K., and the general downfall of the economy, the public is better informed about the disadvantages that come with leaving the EU. With the votes being so close in number in the last referendum, there is a possibility the U.K. could rejoin the EU if a second vote were to be held. However, what if the tides haven’t turned? The U.K. would still face a post-Brexit future outside of the EU, with remaining uncertainty over whether the deal can provide economic stability. French President Emmanuel Macron also told Peoples Vote U.K. the EU would welcome the U.K. back if a second referendum was held.
However, each new development sways public opinion like a pendulum. One minute they are happy to hold another referendum, the next they admonish the idea. Brexit remains in an untenable position; whichever solution is presented faces resistance from one side of the ordeal. In this case, Prime Minister May has provided a solution and chosen to stand by it, much to the disagreement from bothsides.
According to the Daily Mail U.K., both Remainers and Leavers argue that turning to one of the other two deals, a Hard Brexit (the plan which was originally voted for) or a Soft Brexit (an even more conciliatory version of the Chequers Deal) could result in a more straightforward negotiation process.
Perhaps the Brexit deadline will be delayed. Negotiations have come to a standstill, and with only five months remaining until the U.K. is officially planned to leave the EU, it does not seem as if a stable deal will present itself in the foreseeable future. However, with the Pound falling fast, and the recent revelation that the U.K. is penultimate on the EU Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth league, it would be unsafe to delay Brexit for another year. This uncertainty not only affects the lives of British citizens in the U.K, but also British living abroad, and Europeans living in the U.K.
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With Prime Minister May’s insistent push for the Chequers Deal and her inability to negotiate for the Brexit that was promised, the public’s sense of hesitation when looking towards the future has intensified. They have lost trust in the figureheads of Brexit who were unable to deliver their promises, and are now putting pressure on the government to save them from the sinking ship that previous leaders have abandoned. However, they have made their bed. Now it is time to lie in it and face the facts — whether that is a No Deal U.K. or a future under the thumb of Europe again.
*Including a 21-month transition period
**EU27: The EU Leaders are the heads of state of the 28 European countries (excluding the U.K.) who form the European Council. They hold the authority to approve proposed Brexit deals.
*** The Chequers Deal: A proposal that lays out the U.K.’s Brexit plan. It agreed to sign up to a Common Rule Book on goods and stay within the EU Single Market, remaining under the economic umbrella of the EU. However, it demanded that the U.K. should have the freedom to start new trades, mainly with China and the US.
**** Video statement on The Guardian U.K. online