Johnson faces long Brexit road ahead after loss

Parliament votes down snap general election before suspension begins

Photo courtesy of Flickr

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost his majority in Parliament on Sept. 4, after several members of his Conservative Party defected from his coalition government and were subsequently purged from the party.

The loss prompted Johnson to call for a snap election  (an election that is called earlier than what was scheduled) in a move to rebuild his lost majority. The snap election was soundly rejected by Parliament on Tuesday morning, as the measure received only 293 of the 430 votes needed to trigger new elections.

On Aug. 28, Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth to suspend Parliament for five weeks, a move to which the queen agreed and which went into effect on Monday.

This scenario, known as a “no deal” Brexit, would mean the U.K. would exit the EU without any agreements in place pertaining to customs, immigration or trade, all of which currently enjoy freedom of movement inside the European Union (EU).

The suspension leaves lawmakers who are opposed to a “no deal” separation from the EU scrambling as they will only have two weeks after reconvening to negotiate a deal or ask for another extension.

The EU has said that it will no longer grant extensions for the U.K. government to move forward with plans to leave the economic union, citing “political chaos” in the country.

In 2016, the U.K. held a referendum on whether or not to remain a part of the European Union. 52% of voters voted to “leave” and 48% voted to “remain,” in a process that has become known colloquially as “Brexit.”

Three years after the referendum, the U.K. has not yet left the EU, despite the numerous deadlines set by the Union and extensions negotiated by Johnson who was appointed in July.

Johnson has stated that the U.K. will leave the EU on the current Oct. 31 deadline regardless of whether Parliament agrees on a series of laws that would legally define the U.K.’s relationship with the EU.

On Sept. 4, Parliament passed a law that would effectively bar Johnson from going forward to leave the EU in a “no deal” scenario. The law, which went into effect on Monday, mandates that the U.K. ask the EU for another extension past the Oct. 31 deadline, despite the EU having already said they will no longer extend the deadline.

A “no deal” scenario has economists worried and markets anxiously watching the negotiations in Parliament. Many financial institutions have already left London and moved to Germany to protect assets that would become frozen should a “no deal” situation occur.

Such a scenario may have important ramifications for the border between Northern Ireland, a part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, an independent republic that shares an open border with the U.K. Prior to this arrangement, the hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic was a site of severe political and social tension, and checkpoints along the border were often the target of violence.

A “no deal” Brexit would restore the hard border on the island, a possibility that raises concerns about the return of violence.

 “Leaving the EU would affect my family back in England. It would make everything more expensive, and it would make it more difficult to travel to the rest of Europe,” sophomore Eve Polywka said, who is from the U.K. “When I visited over the summer, too many people either didn’t care or didn’t vote because they lost faith in the structural integrity of the system.”

High-ranking members of Johnson’s Conservative Party in Parliament have resigned because they disagree with Johnson’s decision to ask for the suspension and call for snap elections.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has also stated that he will step down before the Oct. 31 deadline.

By Sebastian Agular and Ryan Kambich | Guest Writer and Staff Writer