Brexit is shattering Britain's political landscape
Britain’s shambolic advance towards Brexit (its scheduled exit from the European Union) continues to be both eventful and messy.
Last week, a group of seven MPs from the Labour Party announced at a press conference they were leaving the party to set up "the independent group". The group is all in favour of a second referendum on the Brexit issue yet they spent all their time at their presser talking about how the Labour Party "was anti-semitic", and how the party leader Jeremy Corbyn was "unfit to govern" and posed a threat to the country’s national security. MP Chris Leslie actually claimed that the party had "been hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left".
Shortly afterwards, an eighth Labour MP announced she was joining the group and two days later three Conservative ‘remainer’ MPs (in favour of remaining in the EU) announced that they too were joining the group. This grouping (eleven MPs till Wednesday), has created chaos in terms of the parliamentary vote and now there are actually rumours that the Prime Minister might call a snap general election very soon.
The reasoning for such a move is that a clearer picture might emerge of support in the parliament for the government’s trade deals in a post-Brexit scenario, but the problem is that however this or any new parliament might vote on any trade agreements, the basic issue of Brexit will remain unresolved. The situation in the country today has changed since the result of 2016 referendum where 51 percent of the electorate voted to leave the EU after an immensely xenophobic and leading Leave campaign (which also violated election law in several instances). The economic implications of leaving Europe are now becoming apparent with factory closures, business relocating elsewhere and uncertainty over medical supply chains, intelligence sharing and so on.
Just last week Honda announced that it would close its manufacturing plant in Swindon in 2021 which would bring a direct loss of 3,500 jobs and a loss of thousands more in the supply chain. The British inventor James Dyson had announced some weeks ago that he would be relocating to Singapore which would also mean the loss of many more jobs in Britain, while financial services professionals say that most of their big clients have started the process of relocating, a large number of them to countries like Ireland or the Netherlands.
Food prices in the UK have already gone up and there is uncertainty surrounding the supply chains of medicines and medical equipment. According to some reports, British doctors had even encouraged some patients to stock up on their medication to avert a medical crisis in case of shortages or gaps in the supply process.
The sense of looming insecurity and chaos was last month sharpened by law enforcement officials revealing that in the absence of various information sharing agreements and access to common data bases that EU members enjoy, tackling international criminal gangs and individuals would be very difficult for them.
But despite the chaos, all the PM can do is keep parroting the refrain that her job is "to deliver Brexit to the British people", and to achieve this all she appears to do is keep going around in circles. In all this chaos, the opposition, the Labour Party, has failed to call for a second referendum, probably because to do so would lose them votes in their traditional heartland in the north, where most areas voted to leave the EU.
So would a general election change anything? Would it be better to have a general election or to have a second referendum? Or both? As parliamentary splits and divisions continue, Britain seems to be propelled further and further towards the position of having to ask for an extension to the Article 50 deadline. According to the EU law, this cannot be done unilaterally and the European Council would need to consider and decide upon the request. The EU leaders seem rather fed-up with Britain’s Brexit drama and indeed more than a little offended by the whole project and Britain now seems to have lost any goodwill it might once have enjoyed in the Union. But even an extension would not provide clarity: it would just postpone everything without actually determining a specific course of action.
The main thing missing is clarity and direction: Britain’s journey towards Brexit is looking increasingly like a tumultuous and rocky journey to an unknown destination.