An American's Guide to Brexit

I've only lived here since June of 2018, but many of my friends in the USA have asked me about Brexit--what exactly is it about? What is my opinion of it all?

First, I don't proclaim to be any sort of an expert, and honestly, there are so many ins and outs and daily about-faces, that I think it is very difficult to summarize Brexit, even for locals. 

But I'm finding the whole subject immensely entertaining--absolutely more intriguing and a lot less frustrating for me than to follow politics in the USA.   And where I tend to be non-political in the USA, here in the UK, I'm definitely a Remainer (someone who doesn't want Brexit to happen).

So, here's my take on Brexit, including some Brit humor on the subject. (so please do scroll to the bottom for a laugh or two along the way!)

(above photo Credit Peter Brookes for the Times)

There is a series of tweets by @hugorifkind that sums up Brexit in 10 tweets:

  1. The thing is, the best way to understand Theresa May’s predicament is to imagine that 52% of Britain had voted that the government should build a submarine out of cheese.
  2. Now, Theresa May was initially against building a submarine out of cheese, obviously. Because it’s a completely insane thing to do.
  3. However, in order to become PM, she had to pretend that she thought building a submarine out of cheese was fine and could totally work.
  4. “Cheese means cheese”, she told us all, madly.
  5. Then she actually built one.
  6. It’s shit. Of course it is. For God’s sake, are you stupid? It’s a submarine built out of cheese.
  7. So now, having built a shit cheese submarine, she has to put up with both Labour and Tory Brexiters insisting that a less shit cheese submarine could have been built.
  8. They’re all lying, and they know it. So does everybody else. We’ve covered this already, I know, but it’s cheese and it’s a submarine. How good could it possibly be?
  9. Only she can’t call them out on this. Because she has spent the past two years also lying, by pretending she really could build a decent submarine out of cheese.
  10. So that’s where we are.
political cartoon 2016--Bob

How did BREXIT  start? History 101

First of all, it's important to know that Britain has been part of the European Union for over 40 years.  As a single market, goods and people from all  28 countries in the EU can move around freely as if they were one country. The EU has its own parliament, laws and currency. (Britain still uses the Pound, and does have some special customs exemptions). 

All the talk about Brexit started back in 2013, when Tory candidate for Prime Minister David Cameron promised an in-or-out of  EU vote if he were to be elected. When he was elected, Cameron called for a referendum, believing a vote would end all talk of leaving the EU and that the vote would fail. But on June 23, 2016, 52% of British voters opted to  leave the EU. Referendums are not binding, but Cameron promised he would follow the result, so he resigned as PM.

The Tory party then unanimously voted Theresa May as the new Prime Minister.  May was originally in favor of remaining in the EU, but she said she would stand behind the referendum vote. One month after she became PM, she announced a snap general election. She hoped that the outcome would  strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations, but the result was the opposite, the Tories lost seats and she was forced to enter into  a coalition government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), in order to remain in control of Parliment.

On March 29, 2017, May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, spelling out the “divorce” process, and giving exactly 2 years for the EU and UK to agree to the terms of the split. The timeline ends Friday, March 29, 2019. A European court has ruled that the UK can decide to halt the process and stay in at any time up to the end. The date can also be extended if all 28 EU members agree. 


So where we are right now?

Theresa May negotiated a deal with the EU, (as spelled out in a 585 page withdrawal agreement), but the problem is that nobody is particularly happy with it. (She didn’t really consult with any of the other parties when she agreed to it)

On January 15, 2019  Parliment voted on  May’s deal and it had a crushing defeat, the largest of any in parliamentary history. But then, the following day, she survived a vote to oust her. Since nobody really wants the PM job right now,  no-one really wants to oust Theresa May.  Jeremy Corbyn, who is head of the opposition Labor party, is her harshest  critic, but has remained on the fence as to what to do.

Now Parliament, the ministers, and the Prime Minister are all split as to whether a new deal should be negotiated, whether to leave without a deal, or whether to call another referendum. And it seems that the EU is unwilling to re-negotiate.  Did I mention that the UK has to pay £39 billion in the divorce settlement? 

Meanwhile, the headlines are all focused on what will happen on March 30, 2019.  With less than 2 months until the official Brexit date, what happens if there is no deal? The 310 mile border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would become the border between the UK and the EU. But no-one wants a hard border, thus all the discussion of the “backstop” safety net to ensure there is no hard border.  The police and border patrol are now making plans to deal with a potential crisis. There are travel advisories, and companies leaving or threatening to leave the UK. The NHS is stockpiling medicine, and food retailers have warned there will be shortages of fresh produce. And this is mid-February.

Similarities with the USA?

In the initial 52%-48% vote, those in the cities voted to remain, and those in rural areas voted overwhelmingly to leave. Some of the issues centered around immigration, and the Brexiteers claimed that without Brexit,  the UK would be overcome by immigrants who would take jobs away from UK residents.  

The political parties have not, until very recently been open to voting across party lines, and Theresa May only recently reached out to leaders in the other parties to get their views and support. 

Does any of this sound familiar to my USA friends???

Image result for brexit famous cartoons

BREXIT EXPLAINED…….simple innit?
By Joel Williams for Ink tank

David Cameron made a promise he didn’t think he’d have to keep to have a referendum he didn’t think he would lose. Boris Johnson decided to back the side he didn’t believe in because he didn’t think it would win. Then Gove, who said he wouldn’t run, did, and Boris who said he would run, said he wouldn’t, and Theresa May who didn’t vote for Brexit got the job of making it happen.

She called the election she said she wouldn’t and lost the majority David Cameron hadn’t expected to win in the first place. She triggered Article 50 when we didn’t need to and said we would talk about trade at the same time as the divorce deal and the EU said they wouldn’t so we didn’t.

People thought she wouldn’t get the divorce settled but she did, but only by agreeing to separate arrangements for Northern Ireland when she had promised the DUP she wouldn’t. Then the Cabinet agreed to a deal but they hadn’t, and David Davis who was Brexit Secretary but wasn’t said it wasn’t what people had voted for and he couldn’t support what he had just supported and left.

Boris Johnson who hadn’t left then wished that he had and did, but it was a bit late for that. Dominic Raab become the new Brexit secretary. People thought Theresa May wouldn’t get a withdrawal agreement negotiated, but once she had they wished that she hadn’t, because hardly anybody liked it whether they wanted to leave or not.

Jacob Rees-Mogg kept threatening a vote of no confidence in her but not enough people were confident that enough people would not have confidence in her to confidently call a no confidence vote. Dominic Raab said he hadn’t really been Brexit Secretary either and resigned, and somebody else took the job but it probably isn’t worth remembering who they are as they’re not really doing the job either, as Olly Robbins is.

Then Theresa May said she would call a vote and didn’t, that she wouldn’t release some legal advice but had to, that she would get some concessions but didn’t, and got cross that Juncker was calling her nebulous when he wasn’t but probably should have been.

At some point Jacob Rees Mogg and others called a vote of no-confidence in her, which she won by promising to leave, so she can stay. But they said she had really lost it and should go, at the same time as saying that people who voted Leave knew what they were voting for which they couldn’t possibly have because we still don’t know now, and that we should leave the vote to Leave vote alone but have no confidence in the no-confidence vote which won by more.

The government also argued in court against us being able to say we didn’t want to leave after all but it turned out we could. May named a date for the vote on her agreement which nobody expected to pass, while pretending that no deal which nobody wants is still possible (even though we know we can just say we are not leaving), and that we can’t have a second referendum because having a democratic vote is undemocratic. And of course as expected she loses. Some people are talking about a managed no-deal which is not a deal but is not no-deal either.
Thank goodness for strong and stable government.

And that about sums up Brexit!


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