Brexit resignations

| Murad Muradov | 19-11-2018, 08:55

On Thursday, 15 November 2018, two junior and two senior UK ministers (the latter being Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and International development secretary Penny Mordaunt) resigned in a sign of protest to the latest Brexit deal plan announced by Prime Minister Theresa May; they declared it weak and strongly unfavourable for Britain. It was then widely speculated that a vote of no confidence would be triggered soon but it somehow hasn’t happened yet, surprising many observers. However, the stalemate within the Conservative Party and the Parliament as regards Brexit, gets even less manageable, reducing the already frail chances for a deal to pass soon, even more.

The current standstill is so severe primarily because Brexit is not merely one of many political issues. It became the issue that cuts across decades-long ideologies and networks, and moreover, position on Brexit itself can be contingent not only upon rationality considerations and ideological beliefs- it is often shaped by politicians’ target audience, their personal popularity concerns and tribal allegiances. The majority of the current Conservative MPs are known for having been remainers during the referendum, and they have been bound to play it down since there is now a consensus in the Parliament that challenging the referendum’s legitimacy would undermine democracy and parliamentarism. This means they have to argue for the solutions they probably believe to be wrong, in contrast to a group of start Brexiteers, who, despite being a minority, sound more convinced of what they are doing. There is the Labour Party that had a huge momentum in 2017 following a series of disastrous decisions by the government but hasn’t been unable to fully capitalize- but its leader Corbyn declares that Brexit cannot be undone, failing to capture the disgruntled electorate. On the other side, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who resigned in June this year, has been unexpectedly silent despite all the claims that he would wage a full-fledged war to replace the Prime Minister. 

Faced with a dire need to take a decision that would be anyway unpopular and would exert a decades-long impact on the whole country, major power brokers still keep it paralyzed in a deadlock. They likely perceive Theresa May as the last anchor of order and fear that her resignation and an ensuing bitter leadership contest within the Tories would throw Westminster into a total disarray. This can explain the unlikely longevity of Ms. May at Number 10. She may well hope to outlast its enemies if she manages to muddle through with the current conundrum until the ultimate Brexit time (29 March 2019) when the prospect of looming chaos may trigger the Parliament to put aside “Britain first” and agree to Brussels’ conditions- or the angry electorate, demands a new referendum.

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Murad Muradov

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