The United Kingdom’s government change in July has not been without controversy. Newly appointed Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, recently asked the Queen to suspend Parliament ahead of the October 31st Brexit deadline. Johnson’s government is determined to prevent the Brexit deadline from being pushed back yet again, as had been the case during Teresa May’s government. The Prime Minister’s opposition have expressed concern that the deadline will pass without a Brexit deal. While Johnson is willing to let a no-deal Brexit happen, his opponents fear that it will disrupt the fragile stability on the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border and plummet the UK into economic turmoil.
Under Teresa May, the Brexit deadline was extended twice, but patience ran out when she continued to fail to negotiate a Brexit deal. Boris Johnson campaigned on leaving the EU, with or without a Brexit deal. In his latest attempt to prevent an extension, he asked the Queen to suspend Parliament. This effectively would prevent Parliament from pushing back the October 31st Brexit deadline. “The Queen agreed to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament” until October 14th, just a few weeks before the deadline (Sant and Chappel). In suspending Parliament, Johnson gives them almost no chance to reach an agreement, even though a majority of Parliament is against a no-deal Brexit. Johnson claimed that the reason he had suspended Parliament was so that he could formulate his agenda, however, many feel that he has overstepped his power and intentionally attempted to prevent Parliament from performing its duties (Sant and Chappel). In fact, on Tuesday, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that this move from the Prime Minister was unlawful. Luckily, this means that Parliament will have the opportunity to work out a Brexit deal with the EU, although their time is running out.
A deal likely will allow British and EU commerce to continue while the two negotiate a future agreement on trade. Without a deal, tariffs and restrictions would impair the ability of the UK to conduct business with its EU counterparts. This has serious implications for businesses, who will likely struggle with the added difficulty and costs. Beyond these tariffs and restrictions, there is uncertainty about possibly even more devastating consequences to the economy. Some fear there will “be a broader collapse in business and consumer confidence, hitting demand and investment” (Menon). In Scotland, the Brexit referendum did not gain much headway. In fact, 62 percent of Scotland had voted to remain a part of the EU (Ross). If the UK does leave the EU, many feel that the Scottish will vote for Independence from the UK. Still to be worked out is the fate of the many British citizens living abroad in EU countries. Also uncertain is the status of EU citizens living in the UK. With so many issues still to be worked out, it would be unwise for Johnson to allow the UK to leave the EU without an agreement.
A potentially more dangerous consequence of a no deal Brexit would be a hard border. When the UK leaves the EU, they will be leaving the single market and customs system that benefits the Union’s countries. Currently, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, as members of the EU, have a soft border, which allows businesses and people to interact with one another. Without a Brexit deal, a hard border could test the relative peace that has existed between the two. The Good Friday Agreement, which ended the turbulent period of Northern Irish history known as “The Troubles”, created a nearly invisible border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which had been a point of contention throughout the conflict. In the Brexit negotiations, Brussels and the UK had been able to agree upon a solution, the Irish Backstop, to prevent the Irish border from becoming a customs checkpoint. In this agreement, the UK would have remained part of the EU customs union until a permanent solution had been agreed upon. Teresa May’s government had largely relied on the Northern Irish vote to keep her position as Prime Minister. After proposing this Irish Backstop, support for her government drew thin because Northern Ireland citizens saw this as pushing them closer toward Ireland and away from the UK (Specia). After being replaced by Johnson, he decided to withdraw the agreement to an Irish Backstop, almost guaranteeing that the country will go through Brexit without a deal.
This step by Johnson is a serious miscalculation. Leaving the EU without a deal would seriously strain the British economy. Additionally, Johnson is forgetting to think about what this means for relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Considering the fact that a majority of Parliament does not want to leave the EU without a deal, Johnson may not only be hurting his country, but also his own chances at staying in power. If the UK exits the EU without a deal, will Johnson be able to stay in power?
Menon, Anand. “Don’t Buy the Bluff. Here’s the Truth about No-Deal Brexit | Anand Menon.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 3 Sept. 2019, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/03/no-deal-brexit-crashing-out-uk-europe.
Ross, Elliot. “Is Brexit Worth Scotland’s Independence?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2 Aug. 2019, www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/08/scottish-independence-and-brexit/595234/.
Sant, Shannon Van, and Bill Chappell. “Queen Will Suspend U.K. Parliament At Boris Johnson’s Request.” NPR, NPR, 28 Aug. 2019, www.npr.org/2019/08/28/754990771/britains-prime-minister-asks-queen-to-suspend-parliament-ahead-of-brexit-deadlin.
Specia, Megan, and Benjamin Mueller. “What Do Ireland and Northern Ireland Want From Brexit?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/world/europe/ireland-northern-ireland-brexit-backstop.html.