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Intra Party Conflict among the Conservatives and the Future of Brexit

by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum

The conflict became public when Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary in Theresa May’s cabinet resigned from the position he held. The two differed over the latter’s Brexit policy. Boris, who had been Mayor of London and an active supporter of Leave campaign, has been at odds with Theresa May’s vision of Brexit for quite some time and he never concealed from the public eye what he felt about the Lady Prime Minister as well as the ongoing negotiations over Brexit.

He never hesitated to give his comments about the PM and called Mrs May’s proposals for a post-Brexit customs partnership as “crazy”. Later, he told donors of the Conservative party that the PM should show “more guts” in talks with Brussels and suggested US President Donald Trump could do a better job.

He continued his onslaught over the PM’s Brexit handling and said the “dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt”. He stated in his resignation letter that the PM was leading the UK into a “semi-Brexit” with the “status of a colony”. He resigned hours after the resignation of David Davis, the Brexit secretary.

Mrs May’s reaction to these resignations was a sort of showing regret and surprise. Elaborating her response she said the deal agreed by the cabinet after their “productive discussion” at Chequers would “honour the result of referendum” and allow the UK to “take back control of our borders, our law and our money”.

The replacements were quickly announced; Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary replaced Boris Johnson while Matt Hancock was made health Secretary. Similarly, Dominic Raab, the housing minister, was declared as the replacement of David Davis. Raab, a 44 year old lawyer by profession before becoming an MP, is going to take over day-to-day negotiations with EU’s Michel Barnier.

The European Commission has declined to comment on the change of personnel, saying it would continue to negotiate with “goodwill” to try to secure the agreement on the terms of the UK’s exit and future relations.

Then came the resignations of the vice chairs of the party, that is, Ben Bradley and Maria Caulfield. The Intra Party conflict became so vivid that it tempted US President Donald Trump before his UK visit to say that the UK is “somewhat in turmoil” and it’s “up to the people” whether Theresa May stays as prime minister.

Theresa May’s new cabinet, with replacements after a string of resignations, has reached to an agreement on the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brxit. The salient features of this agreement are summarised below:

  • The UK will “maintain a common rulebook for all goods” with the EU, including agricultural products, after Brexit.
  • A treaty will be signed committing the UK to “continued harmonisation” with EU rules – avoiding friction at the UK-EU border, including Northern Ireland.
  • Parliament will oversee the UK’s trade policy and have the ability to “choose” to diverge from EU rules, “recognising that this would have consequences”.
  • “Cooperative arrangements” would be established between EU and UK competition regulators.
  • “Different arrangements” will be organised for services “where it is in our interests to have regulatory facility”.
  • A “joint institutional framework” will be established to interpret UK-EU agreements. This would be done in the UK by UK courts and in EU by EU courts. But, decisions by the UK courts would involve “due regard paid to EU case law in areas where the UK continued to apply a common rulebook”.
  • Cases will still be referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as the interpreter of EU rules, but “cannot resolve disputes between the two”.
  • The borders between the UK and EU will be treated as a “combined customs territory”.
  • The UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, but charge EU tariffs and their equivalents for goods which will end up heading into the UK.
  • A post-Brexit UK would be able to “control its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world” without causing border disruption. This avoids the hard Irish border, and removes the need for “backstop” arrangements to be put in place before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
  • The agreement says it will end free movement of people “giving the UK back control over how many people enter the country”.
  • A “mobility framework” would be set up to allow UK and EU citizens to travel to each other’s territories, and apply for study and work.

This is, however, not a final Brexit deal. This is an agreement on the UK’s preferred way forward as negotiations with European Union about the future relationship reach a crucial stage.

The incumbent UK’s foreign secretary Mr Hunt, visiting the US recently said in an interview that Boris Johnson could be the future Prime Minister because he’s already “changed British history”. He also lavished praise on Donald Trump’s foreign and economic policy during a visit to the US capital. How strange that the US President who is facing impeachment in his country is being lavishly praised by the UK’s foreign secretary. About his predecessor Mr Hunt said: “Well Boris is someone i would never underestimate. This is a man who has changed the course of British history through his campaigning for Brexit. I don’t agree with him on everything, but, you know, who knows for the future?”

Boris has alienated other senior Tories with his recent column mocking the burqa – with Theresa May calling on him to apologise. Boris Johnson has a long history of giving foul remarks. His comparison of burqa-clad women to inanimate objects such as letterboxes raised a fury not only without but also within the Conservative party. The PM Theresa May demanded of him an immediate and unqualified apology. He has not yet apologised.

In an article published in the Guardian, an ex Met police officer Dal Babu wrote: “As a former police officer, I’ve seen how hate crime rises when politicians make judgements about the Muslim community.

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