Brexit has been a consistent point of contention in the U.K. for the last two years. graphic by Conner Maggio

Across the Pond

A comprehensive timeline of Brexit; how it started and where it’s going

The Brexit process came to a grinding halt last Friday with Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal failing for the third time to pass the House of Commons. With no backstop in place, there remains only a week and a half before Britain crashes out of the European Union, and it looks next to impossible that a deal can be arranged.

Britain’s current dire circumstances stem from before the June 23, 2016, referendum to leave the European Union. The idea of exiting the European Union gained serious momentum in the waning years of Prime Minister David Cameron’s tenure. The United Kingdom has always possessed a precarious relationship with the EU, as it has historically with the rest of the continent itself, and Conservatives in recent years gained electoral ground by bashing the unifying European body.

Citing the money given to Brussels (the seat of the European Parliament) each year, policy and law dictated outside London, and immigration coming from predominantly Muslim populations, David Cameron was pressed by his own party to consider leaving the European Union. Rather than confront the issue in Parliament, the Conservative leader instead punted the issue to a public referendum.

The election itself is a story on its own and was embroiled in the 2016 presidential election, as seen by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leaders like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson stumping for Donald Trump. Armed with a misleading multi-leveled social media campaign (in conjunction with Cambridge Analytica, the subject of ongoing investigations concerning collection of data) and the infamous National Health Service bus, the “Leave” faction faced off against “Remain” proponents, Prime Minister David Cameron and numerous celebrities, including J. K. Rowling and John Oliver.

But UKIP claimed victory when the votes came in, and with 52 percent, it was decided that Britain would be leaving the European Union. David Cameron proceeded to resign, and the country expected Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage to take the helm. Both declined and also reneged on promises they made once Brexit took place (including that the money going to Brussels would instead go to the National Health Service). Britons were stunned and Theresa May emerged as the new prime minister to lead Britain out of the European Union.

What the British people did not anticipate was how ineffectual May’s cabinet would be at negotiating with Europe. May promised that the U.K. could negotiate a soft border with Ireland, keep Scottish independence in check, ensure stability for EU workers and have an advantageous deal with the customs union. Literally laughing in his response, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Union, backed by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel, promised that Britain would not leave with a deal that gave all the benefits of being in the European Union without having to participate, both financially and legally. He made good on his vow, and May repeatedly came back from Brussels lamenting to her Conservative Party that Europe had all the leverage.

In June of 2017, wanting to garner further support, May called a snap election to gather more MPs. Instead, she lost a substantial number of Conservative members in Parliament, realizing that public opinion was turning against her. Her problems only compounded when London, the financial and commercial center of Europe, suddenly found the corporate entities that made it so leave for Paris, Berlin and Dublin. Panicking, Conservative leaders turned their anger on May, claiming that her ineffective leadership had allowed Europe to walk all over her. The truth was that Europe dictated all the terms to May because, outside of the financial capital London possessed, and began to lose, Britain no longer provides any substantial economic attraction for Europe.

This takes us to November 2018, when Theresa May announced her negotiated deal to the public. Her deal guaranteed a soft border with Ireland, workers’ and immigration rights for EU workers in the U.K., a close relation to the European customs union and a massive buyout to leave Europe. She presented her deal before Parliament on January 15, and, with a historic defeat of 432-202, the result was catastrophic.

Conservatives, angry at the idea of further Muslim immigration and having a close relationship with Europe, vehemently attacked May’s deal, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a vote of no-confidence (although still refused to back a second Brexit referendum), Scotland began to move toward another independence referendum, Ireland prepared for the return of the Troubles and the military began stockpiling food and medicine for the crash out of the EU Although May survived the no-confidence vote to retain her seat as prime minister, the public outcry became clear. May returned to Brussels, and Europe informed her that the deal would not change. She needed to convince her own party to back it.

She tried proposing the deal a second time, and that too failed by a significant margin in February. Jeremy Corbyn finally began backing another public referendum to determine whether Brexit was the way to move forward, and polls shifted drastically in favor of remaining in the EU. May ignored the public, arguing that a second vote would undermine democracy, while simultaneously proposing her deal for a third time. May managed to extend her deadline from March 29 of this year to April 12, but on Friday, her deal once again failed, even with a desperate promise that she would resign.

Currently, Theresa May is attempting to get a nine-month extension, but without all other 27 EU member states agreeing to it, it is more than likely that Britain will not be granted that luxury. Calls for another referendum are becoming overwhelming and the chaos is beginning to ensue across the Atlantic. The economic consequences are already being felt with the British stock market tanking. The ball, as it has been for the last three years, is back in Europe’s court, and the European Union is not looking particularly amenable to a power that claims it no longer needs the Continent.

Post Author: Andrew Noland