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THE NEVERENDING STORY
From pipeline battles to trade wars, the global economy has weathered its fair share of turmoil in recent years, but those pale in comparison to what’s playing out across the pond. Uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s impending Brexit from the European Union is set to roil international markets (newsflash: it already has) in large part because nobody can agree on, well…pretty much anything. Keep reading to find out how we got here, where things are headed and what this continental
clusterf**k drama means for you.
SHOCK THE VOTE
It was June 2016 and in addition to being smack in the middle of a U.S. presidential campaign (that we’re still recovering from) it was also the month of the historic Brexit referendum in which U.K. citizens voted 52% in favour of leaving the EU — a move that was largely driven by concerns over British sovereignty and fears about immigration. The unexpected “yes” result sent shockwaves around the globe (and spelled the end to PM David Cameron’s career) as countries grappled with how the 28-nation EU would move forward without its most powerful player. Even people who voted in favour of withdrawal admitted to being stunned by the outcome, with some expressing serious “Bregret” over their ballot in the hours immediately following the vote. (Worse were those who voted for it without really understanding what it meant. Way to go, people.) Unfortunately, referendums have consequences (duh) and the world is now hurdling towards a post-Brexit reality come March 29, 2019 – and all the uncertainty that goes with it (like we need more of that).
UNFOLLOW THE LEADER
Overseeing Britain’s withdrawal from the EU has been no cup of tea for the current U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. In addition to fending off attacks from political opponents who have accused her of bungling two years of Article 50 negotiations, May has faced pushback from members of her own Conservative party which culminated in a confidence vote on her leadership right before Christmas (she survived by a margin of 200–117). The biggest turning point, however, came this past Tuesday when U.K. lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against Theresa May’s EU-negotiated Brexit deal by a humiliating margin of 432–202, making it the most lopsided defeat for a sitting government in modern British history. But May’s no good, very bad week didn’t end there. U.K. Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn wasted no time pouncing on the wounded government, tabling another no-confidence motion in the minutes following the defeat. While lawmakers ultimately voted to keep the Conservatives in power (thereby averting a general election in the midst of a major political crisis), it was just one more hurdle the embattled PM had to endure in recent days.
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
On top of proposing a 21-month transition period to hammer out a free trade agreement and secure a permanent economic relationship between the U.K. and EU, May’s 585-page deal that went down in flames last week included terms of a financial settlement with the bloc and outlined the rights of citizens whose lives stand to be directly impacted by Brexit (read: U.K. citizens living in the EU and vice-versa). One of the most contentious parts of the plan was the “backstop” proposal to keep the border open between the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU) and Northern Ireland (part of the U.K.) until a permanent trade pact is worked out. Supporters saw it as a way of avoiding a return to a “hard border” (i.e. checkpoints) between the two sides — while opponents viewed it as a way for the EU to continue exerting control over the UK post-Brexit.
BLIMEY! WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
It’s a great question with no easy answer. Here are just some of the plausible options on the table now that the government’s deal has been defeated:
- Thank U, Next: PM May has until Tuesday to come up with “Plan B” (read: a slightly altered version of her plan that was rejected last week). Chances are it will meet a similar fate as the last deal and if that happens, parliament may try to….
- Delay, Delay, Delay: Speculation is mounting that Britain will request a Brexit extension beyond the March 29 deadline. One sticking point? Such a delay would require unanimous approval from the EU’s remaining members — all 27 of them. If that doesn’t pan out, Britain could be in for…
- Another Referendum: May and her government are staunchly opposed to a do-over, but some MPs think another vote may be the only ticket out of this mess. Still, it’s unlikely to happen which leaves the U.K., the EU and the world facing the real possibility of a…
- “No-Deal” Brexit: Nobody wants to see this happen. Leaving the EU without a deal would impact everything from trade and travel to everyday tasks like buying groceries (seriously, some chains have started stockpiling canned goods) and cause unprecedented disorder that would surely reverberate around the globe.
Suffice to say these are uncharted (international) waters and nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Between the U.S. and the U.K., Canadian politics are looking downright boring (or at least they were until China came along… but that’s a story for another day).