Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a very long time since we’ve given you an update or explainer on the United Kingdom and the Brexit situation. There are numerous reasons for this, chief among them being the fact it is all moves too quickly and is almost impossible for anyone but the most dedicated politicos to get their head around.
Also, most of it is stuff like this. Very British guys shouting about things, Britishly:
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) September 3, 2019
But now, given it seems to actually be hitting a genuine crisis point, let me run you through where we are. As simply as possible. I want even the biggest deadshits reading this to be able to semi-fluently talk about the situation in the UK at a party before everyone gets back to the most important conversation topic right now: Flume eating ass.
So, without further ado.
I don’t even know what Brexit is! Help!
Back in 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the supranational economic-political entity which comprises 28 member states. It was something of a surprise at the time, to say the least.
Fast forward to 2019 (and three prime ministers later) and the UK still has not left the EU. Turns out no one really thought very hard before the Brexit referendum about how the nation would extricate itself from a political and legal framework as complicated as the EU, and clearly no one has figured it out since.
What’s the problem? Why can’t they just leave?
Funnily enough, there’s a lot of legal argy-bargy to work through on something like this – which, I might add, has never really been attempted before. It’s totally new territory, and it’s scary.
Not helping matters is the fact there’s been a paralysing tug-of-war between three broad factions in UK politics.
Firstly, there are those who are angling for what’s called a ‘no-deal Brexit’. They don’t think the UK needs to make any special deal or agreement with the EU to soften the blow of Brexit, and they’re pretty sure the the nation will survive perfectly fine if it just leaves.
Then there are those who want to honour the referendum result, but think it would be far better if the UK found some sort of agreement with the EU to preserve certain aspects of the membership, to maintain stability post-Brexit.
Then there are the Remainers, who think Brexit is titanically stupid regardless of the referendum result. They want a second referendum, and they assume their fellow Brits will vote to remain this time. Then eeeeverything will go back to normal (It won’t.)
OK, tell me one huge problem with Brexit.
Wow! The perfect question for something I was going to say anyway.
It’s something called the Irish backstop. I won’t go into the history of the country, but I will say something which is hopefully obvious: the peace process between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is pretty tenuous.
One thing keeping things relatively chill over there is the fact the shared EU membership means there is an open border between the two states – you can stroll from Ireland to Northen Ireland with ease.
If the UK leaves the EU, that could put the border in jeopardy, which would be very bad. Look, just watch Derry Girls on Netflix, you’ll get it. Suffice to say: the Irish backstop has caused a lot of Brexit grief.
Tell me another huge problem with Brexit.
Uhh, it’s entirely possible the country will run out of food. That’s certainly on the table.
What’s going on now, then?
All of it has come to a head, basically.
The new prime minister Boris Johnson promised he was going to sweep away the Brexit paralysis of his predecessor Theresa May and make shit happen by October 31 – a tremendously short deadline. He left no-deal Brexit very much on the table if the EU didn’t play ball by that date.
Almost no one thinks Boris will be able to negotiate anything with the hard-ass bureaucrats of the EU before that date, so basically that’s a promise for a no-deal Brexit.
A lot of MPs on all sides of the aisle, including in Johnson’s own Conservative Party, think no-deal Brexit is a really bad idea. As such, the PM last week tried to ‘prorogue’ – i.e. suspend – Parliament, to stop a possible insurrection of MPs trying to delay the Brexit deadline.
Everyone hated this. In fact, people marched on Buckingham Palace to protest the Queen approving Johnson’s request, which is wild.
People are literally marching on Buckingham Palace. Honestly incredible pic.twitter.com/APQRBfrb9s
— William Kedjanyi (@KeejayOV2) August 31, 2019
Johnson’s ploy didn’t quite work. Today, Parliament voted 328 to 301 to seize control and debate a bill which would forbid the United Kingdom from leaving on October 31 without some sort of plan or deal in place. About 20 Conservative MPs voted in favour. Here’s their general vibe:
For the first time in 14 years as an MP I voted against the Conservative Party whip. That whip has now been withdrawn.
If tonight’s motion had been lost, a no deal Brexit would have been almost inevitable. Probably not a good career move but the right choice.
— David Gauke (@DavidGauke) September 3, 2019
Wow, so Brexit is blocked?
No, the MPs voted to debate the bill. They haven’t passed anything yet, and they have a vanishingly small amount of time in which to do so.
But it’s still a tremendous blow to the prime minister, who has essentially lost control of both the Parliament and his party. Boris has now issued a very testy statement – here’s some of it:
Let there be no doubt about the consequences of this vote tonight.
It means that parliament is on the brink of wrecking any deal we might be able to strike in Brussels.
Because tomorrow’s bill would hand control of the negotiations to the EU.
And that would mean more dither, more delay, more confusion.
And it would mean that the EU themselves would be able decide how long to keep this country in the EU.
He concludes by threatening to call an election:
I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop the negotiations and to compel another pointless delay of Brexit, potentially for years, then that will be the only way to resolve this.
Boris has other problems on this front: one of his MPs actually completely defected to the Liberal Democrats, reducing his parliamentary majority to… zero. He has no majority.
Britain is completely broken, right?
Image: Getty Images