Multiple UK Resignations Over Brexit Crisis, No Clear Path Forward
On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned from the cabinet of Prime Minister Theresa May. He was the third minister to quit his job within 24 hours.
On Sunday, Minister of Brexit Affairs David Davis and his deputy Steve Baker tendered their resignation. Davis did not agree with May’s decision to maintain ties with the European Union (E.U.), arguing that May gave too much away, too easily
In his resignation letter, Johnson slammed May’s proposal for maintaining trade ties with the E.U., which many are calling a “semi-Brexit”, and claimed that Britain was headed toward “the status of a colony”.
“Brexit should be about opportunity and hope. That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt,” the resignation letter stated.
Just a day after Johnson’s resignation, May appointed Jeremy Hunt, ex-health minister, as the country’s new foreign secretary. In contrast to his predecessor, Hunt voted to remain in the bloc in the 2016 referendum.
Johnson’s decision to quit was made a few days after May announced she had settled the dispute regarding the agreement to leave the E.U. Britain has less than nine months to form a cohesive plan for leaving the E.U. before Britain secedes Brussels on March 29, 2019.
Former Conservative politician William Hague said the wider the gap in the cabinet is (regarding how Britain leaves the 28-nation bloc), the more likely it is Brexit will fail.
The main problem for Brexit hardliners who want Britain to entirely exit the E.U. is that they do not have a concrete solution on how both sides will conduct trade after secession, Hague added.
Ministers who want Britain to entirely abandon the E.U. are called “romantics”, while those who still want to maintain ties with the bloc’s members are being called the “realist” group.
Three Factors That Play a Role in the Overall Plan to Leave
There are three factors that are holding up any plan for the U.K. to leave the E.U. bloc entirely. First, there is no political majority in the U.K. parliament since the referendum. Given this situation, a unanimous decision regarding Brexit is almost unlikely.
Second, British’s business interests cannot be separated from the bloc’s existing members, as whatever happens will impact business, especially automakers such as B.M.W., Jaguar and Airbus.
In 2016, 43 percent of Britain’s goods and services were exported to E.U. members, worth 240 billion pound sterling. Britain is also the main destination of foreign investment among the E.U. member states. The investment from the E.U. in Britain reached $56 billion per year, a report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said.
Third, is the border issue with Northern Ireland. Should Britain follow plans to entirely withdraw from the E.U., Belfast will likely demand economic autonomy so it can still remain an E.U. member.
Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, wants its parent country to stay in the bloc. The E.U. has allocated 2 billion euros in subsidies to Belfast for six years until 2020.
If Britain leaves Brussels, Northern Ireland will be caught in the middle between Britain and the Republic of Ireland, which could be bad for the economy. A leaked British government document estimated Belfast’s growth would decline by 12 percent over 15 years if no agreeable trade deal is made.
Hague cautioned that Davis and Johnson’s resignation will trigger a second referendum or weaken London’s position in negotiations with Brussels. But, both ministers’ resignation will not affect the Brexit deadline, which is March 29, 2019.
Now the E.U. is waiting for May’s position on whether she wants to follow Brexit hardliners’ path of exit or try to maintain a relationship with the E.U. despite leaving the organization.