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Brexit Mired Stalemate Leaves Conservatives a House Divided

by Nazir Tabassum

David Davis, the Brexit secretary resigned from Mrs May’s cabinet stating, “I won’t sell out my country”. He was followed by Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary. Steve Baker and Suella Braveman have also quit the government. Before the resignations it was understood a leadership challenge against Theresa May was imminent with letters calling for no-confidence vote piling up.

Letters are said to have been lodged with Graham Brady, Chairman of the influential 1922 Committee. Mr Davis was praised by Tory MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said he would oppose Mrs May’s Brexit proposal. Conservative Mp Peter Bone supported Mr Davis decision, stating: “David Davis has done the right thing, a principled and brave decision. The PM’s proposals for a Brexit in name only are not acceptable”.

The Labour did not remain quiet over the situation. The party chairman Ian Lavery criticised the government over the ongoing confusion surrounding Brexit. He said: “This is absolute chaos and Theresa May has no authority left. The Prime Minister is in office but not in power. She cannot deliver Brexit and our country is at a complete standstill, while the Tories indulge in their leadership tussling. We cannot go on like this. Britain needs a functioning government”.

The Prime Minister is seeking to gain support for her plan and quell backlash from Brexiteers over her soft Brexit model. Mrs May faces a major test within the House of Commons and potentially a fractious meeting with MPs and peers in coming days.

The Cabinet supported the Prime Minister’s “third way” model for the future customs arrangement with the EU following Brexit. The option was heavily criticised by pro-Brexit members of the Cabinet.

There is a growing speculation that Mrs May’s plans may spark a leadership challenge by pro-Brexit Conservative MPs. A leadership contest could be triggered if 48 Conservative MPs formally submit letters to the 1922 Committee.

Theresa May and her MPs, who have been working late night to keep a tight lid over the torn loyalties, have started moving to the summer recess. Yet there is one group in the bitterly divided Conservative party that appears to be emboldened and continues the next fight. This group is called Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group (ERG). The group is leading the fight inside the Tory Party for a clean break with Brussels.

Commenting on the activities of this group, Nicky Morgan, the former Education Secretary said: “they are a single-minded pressure group within the Conservative party who have had little regard for any long-term damage they cause the party for decades now. They are our version of Momentum”.

Brexiteers like Boris Johnson must realise that past British successes were based on creating alliances, not breaking them up. What will be Britain’s standing in the world compared to other nations after Brexit? Boris Johnson claimed in his resignation speech that after a full-throttle Brexit, Britain would be in a good position to become “one of the greatest independent actors” on the world stage. He feared only a failure in the necessary will power and self-confidence “to believe in this country and what it can do”.

But what can this country really do? How far will this greater independence outside the EU be real rather than nominal? Will strength of will in pursuit of self-determination make much difference when we will always be holding a weaker hand of cards than our neighbours?

The imbalance of forces is heightened every day in the Brexit negotiations, and there is no reason why this should change in our favour after we leave. Following the publication of Government’s White Paper, it is now clear the Chequers agreement cannot deliver the clear Conservative manifesto pledge to leave the single market, the Customs Union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in anything but name. The return of control, as David Davis said, “is more illusory than real”. The agreement would oblige the UK and the EU to adopt a “common rule book” for trade in goods. All trade deals require some kind of agreement on standards, but this is different.

So, for as Boris Johnson’s resignation, he’d planned it with painstaking care; right down to the smallest details. Twenty-eight years before him, in front of a dumbstruck Commons, Geoffrey Howe had made a resignation statement so damaging that it precipitated the fall of Margaret Thatcher. Boris Johnson too strode in to make his own resignation statement – and plumped himself in the exact same seat Mr Howe had chosen.

Stanley Johnson, Boris’s dad, backed his son’s decision to resign as foreign secretary and predicted that he could still end up as prime minister. He insisted that his son’s academic record at Oxford University should mean he would have little fear about running the country.

“A man who’s been Brackenbury Scholar at Balliol [College] can surely handle being PM”, Stanley Johnson told Radio Times. He reiterated that his son had not necessarily blown his chances of succeeding Theresa May by walking out of government. He said: “It’s a mess. Anyone who came forward and said they would deliver a real Brexit would stand a very good chance of being heard in the country as a whole. Stop faffing. We are leaving. Full stop.”

Although Stanley Johnson backed Remain in 2016 Brexit referendum, he argued that his son had little choice but to stand down after his view of the Chequers agreement emerged. Boris Johnson’s resignation statement was widely viewed as putting down a marker for a later leadership bid.

His (Boris’s) successor, Jeremy Hunt, cautioned that the Russian President would “rejoice” if the UK crashed out of the European Union without reaching any kind of agreement. During a visit to Berlin, Mr Hunt directly appealed to German leaders: “Without a real change in approach from the EU negotiators, we do now face a real risk of no deal by accident.”

The Commons Home Affairs Committee, in a report, said; Theresa May’s decision to rule out European Court of Justice Jurisdiction and the “rigid” approach to negotiations by Brussels has contributed to a risk of the UK being locked out of EU databases, losing access to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and having a reduced influence in Europe. The report said a no-deal Brexit would be “the most unthinkable outcomes” and without contingency plans “the safety of UK and EU citizens will be put at serious risk”.

Both Brussels and No 10 have demanded efforts be stepped up to prepare for such a scenario as the threat of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement grows. Theresa May ducked a question from the public about whether a no deal Brexit was “inevitable”.

Though Theresa May is still holding on after narrowly winning a Commons vote, the party as a whole stands divided and she has not exhibited her prowess so far to keep the unity intact as a shrewd negotiator.

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