Caroline Hilgers, BA International Relations and Social Anthropology
After the historic vote on Theresa May’s withdrawal deal in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, 15 January, the future of the UK and Brexit is more uncertain than ever. May’s devastating defeat of 432 votes against her deal was ironically celebrated by hard Brexiteers as well as Remainers. The Prime Minister subsequently faced a vote of no confidence the next day, put forward by the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. Usually, after experiencing such a defeat, a resignation would be expected, yet, May managed to survive the vote of no confidence and remains in office. The no-confidence motion was defeated by 325 votes to 306. However, all this takes us no closer to understanding the direction or the nature of Brexit, which is due to happen on the 29 March 2019.
“Shortages in crucial products such as medicine as well as an exponential increase in tariffs on agricultural goods have already been predicted in such a scenario.”
What are the options at this point in time and what are the risks for EU citizens living in the UK, British nationals living abroad, businesses, and tourism? For many the most dreaded outcome would be a no-deal Brexit, meaning the UK would leave the EU on the 29th March without a transition period. This would have tremendous consequences, turning the UK’s borders into hard borders overnight. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is what has made the negotiations around Brexit so heated and would be the riskiest aspect of a no-deal Brexit. The Good Friday agreement, which currently ensures a smooth passing of people and goods between the Irish border would be endangered by a hard Brexit. Furthermore, international borders between crucial trading routes with countries such as France and the Netherlands would be marked by chaos in the case of a no-deal Brexit. In preparation for such an event, the Department for Transport issued a practice run to estimate any delays that could be caused. Recently, 89 lorries were sent from Manston Airport in Kent to the important trading harbour Dover to simulate the 4.000 trucks that pass through daily. This test run was deemed unrealistic in a case of an actual hard Brexit, as Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association claims. The large number of lorries passing through to Calais would have to endure custom checks, delaying their journey by approximately 3 hours. Shortages in crucial products such as medicine as well as an exponential increase in tariffs on agricultural goods have already been predicted in such a scenario.
However, all of this is not set in stone in any way and even experts are divided in terms of their predictions of what is next to come. Some deem a no-deal Brexit is highly unlikely, while others claim it seems like the only solution at this point. The alternatives to a no-deal Brexit all leave multiple endings in sight. Jeremy Corbyn seems to be hoping for another general election, whilst other Labour MPs are pushing for an extension of Article 50 or a second referendum. With a matter of days to spare until the UK is supposed to leave the EU, May is still scrambling to find an alternative deal as she insists that there will be no extension of Article 50. It is unclear at the moment how an exit on 29 March will be possible, as the EU maintains that major amendments to May’s deal are off limits. Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council sees at this point of time an extension of Article 50 or no Brexit are the only feasible options: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”
It seems there will be another few weeks of political turbulence waiting for a breakthrough to occur.
Image Credits: Creative Commons