Brexit thus far – Round 1 to the EU

It has been 8 months since the referendum and it is a good time to reflect upon what has occurred in the interim period as it pertains to Brexit. The multidimensional impact of Brexit has led to internal disputes within British political parties, and the government attempting to explain their position on Brexit which remains somewhat unclear.

Theresa May had upon becoming Prime Minister had suggested that she hoped ‘to forge a bold new positive role’ for Britain. She than on September 4th ruled out a points based immigration system. Suggesting that it was not a silver bullet that could tackle the immigration problem. This being a system that was favoured by most Brexiters. More pressure was put on the Conservative government has Hollande proposed that Britain should Trigger Article 50 as soon as possible. However, this was at a time wherein May had just come into power and the Conservative government was not clear on a negotiation strategy or how to proceed with Brexit due to the differing potential scenarios. The initial period of May’s government was marked with uncertainty.

The Conservative government then decided to announce at its annual party conference held on October 2-5th 2016 that it aims to trigger Article 50 by the end March 2017. This placed more pressure on the government as it was still unclear on what type of Brexit will be pursued or Britain’s future position in the World. This was all exacerbated by the sharp dip in Sterling which reached an all- time at $1.22 post Brexit.  Moreover the EU suggested that if Britain wished to retain access to the Single Market it will have to concede on immigration policies led to more pressure mounting on the government to make clear its position on the type of Brexit it will seek.

May who had reiterated that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ addressed the matter clearly in her speech on 17th January 2017 She stated that the government would not seek access to the Single Market  if it had to concede on immigration. This was a vital moment in the entire Brexit matter for two interlocking reasons. Firstly, it has committed the government into pursing a hard Brexit with limited access to the Single Market to retain control over immigration policies. This has effectively ended a major aspect of negotiations prior to them beginning as Britain being cut out of the Single Market could make negotiations easier. Moreover, with Britain’s complete rejection of Single Market it has clearly given the EU the advantage as the matter progresses. Furthermore it is clear that negotiation strategy for Britain will be erected upon Freedom of Movement. This is also an area where both Cameron and May failed to understand the importance of Free Movement to the EU, which is free movement of labour is an essential building block of the European Union. On a domestic political level by the Conservatives taking such a firm stance on Brexit. May has stayed true on attempting to deliver on Brexit. By doing this she has also throttled UKIP as the Conservative Party seem committed to a hard Brexit.

Furthermore the Supreme Court Ruling took most of the Brexit debate. The Supreme Court refused the Government’s appeal on the 24th January 2017 and gave MPs a say on Triggering Article 50. This made Brexit a political matter once more, and complicated matters with the traditional issue of party management. The Conservative’s lone rebel being Ken Clarke meant that it was less of an issue for the government to pass the Bill.

However, the Labour Party under Corbyn has been plagued with internal dispute since the referendum result. Days after the referendum Hilary Benn was the first to resign which prompted another 47 Labour MPs to resign. The matter was worsened as despite a vast number of Labour MPs campaigning to remain, Corbyn imposed three line whip to support the government’s bill and eventually the Bill to Trigger Article 50 was passed. This was despite some Labour rebels. Corbyn and Labour feared that had they rebelled, there seats would be vulnerable to UKIP candidates in a future general election. The European issue has been a historical problem for the Labour Party, and this is one of the worst positions Labour has found itself. Moreover, with an ineffective opposition the Conservative government can act more authoritatively.

Thus far matters regarding Brexit have not yet fully crystallised with the government still trying to get to grips with what the country actually voted for. It is clear that Freedom of Movement is at the heart of the Conservative government’s thinking. However, there are still many matters for the government to overcome. Firstly the Brexit Bill will now be scrutinised by the House of Lords, whom some have already indicated their willingness to rebel and frustrate the government. While from a Community perspective there are also many concerns. This namely comes in the form of general elections due to be held in both France and Germany. Depending on the results of both elections negotiations for Brexit could take on another complexion.