Tuesday 15 October 2019

From red lines to Trump: 10 of the maddest Brexit moments

Theresa May gets a kiss from her husband Philip John May. Photo: Getty
Theresa May gets a kiss from her husband Philip John May. Photo: Getty
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

IT’S been 1,009 days since the Brexit referendum. The UK was supposed to leave the EU today but that’s now been delayed. Here are 10 of the maddest moments in the whole chaotic saga.

1 The Brexit Vote Itself

Most pundits were flabbergasted by the result of the Brexit referendum itself. The first result in was Gibraltar that tiny piece of British territory on the Southern tip of Spain. It voted 96pc to Remain in the EU but it was very much a freak result. The writing was on the wall when it was announced Sunderland voted to Leave by 61pc and the other constituencies started to roll in. Despite Northern Ireland, Scotland and London voting to Remain, UK was on the path to leave the EU.

2 The Tory Leadership Race

David Cameron’s resignation as prime minister sparked a bad-tempered Conservative Leadership contest. The favourite to succeed him, Boris Johnson ultimately didn’t run. Michael Gove who had supported Mr Johnson announced his own bid but was eliminated in the second round of voting. He later denied stabbing Mr Johnson in the back. It came down to Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. Ms Leadsom withdrew leaving Mrs Mays as the last contender standing.

3 'Brexit means Brexit' and setting ‘red lines’

Mrs May had promised that “Brexit means Brexit” and she set out her vision on how it would play out in her January 2017 Lancaster House speech. She set out red lines that that have restricted her ability to negotiate since announcing that Britain would leave the Single Market and Customs Union. Allowing more wriggle room may have helped here later.

4 The disastrous UK general election

Mrs May lost her majority in the House of Commons in June 2017 after her disastrous decision to hold a snap general election. It left her relying on the support of the DUP to stay in power which has made passing the Brexit deal all the more difficult.

5 The “bulletproof” backstop

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the UK government’s commitment to avoid a hard border in Ireland as “politically bulletproof” in December 2017. He may have jumped the gun on that with the so-called backstop – which hardline Brexiteers and the DUP oppose - causing much of the misery in the process of reaching a deal since.

6 Trump's pro-Brexit interventions

Donald Trump was supportive of Brexit while he was still running for President in 2016. He said the UK would be “better off” outside the EU and has since indicated he wants an early trade deal with the UK. Brexiteer Nigel Farage has made much of his friendship with the US President. Mr Trump has been openly critical of Mrs May’s approach to the Brexit talks, most recently during Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Oval Office meeting in March.

7 Coveney, Ross and the border

In January this year the Irish Independent revealed how Tánaiste Simon Coveney warned Transport Minister Shane Ross not to discuss the possibility of border checks in Ireland in public for fear "that all of a sudden we'll be the Government that reintroduced a physical border on the island of Ireland". It came after Mr Ross bungled a question and their subsequent private conversation was caught on tape.

8 “Special Place in Hell”

In February European Council President Donald Tusk questioned if there is a “special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan”. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who was with him at a Brussels press conference at the time noted Mr Tusk would get in “terrible trouble” with the British press for the intervention. He wasn’t wrong.

9 Theresa May’s bizarre conference appearances

At the Conservative Party conference in 2017 she suffered the indignity of being handed a P45 by a prankster and coughed and spluttered through most of her speech. Last year she danced on stage to the tune of Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’, poking fun at her own awkward dance moves during a trip to Africa.

10 Westminister Chaos

Mrs May cancelled a vote on her Withdrawal Agreement at the last minute in December. It subsequently failed to pass two House of Commons votes as the clock ticks down towards Brexit. There have also been failures to pass indicative votes that there would be a second referendum; that Britain would stay in the Customs Union; or that there UK would leave the EU without a deal. There was another vote on the withdrawal agreement today and again it failed to pass. Last night Newsnight’s political editor Nicholas Watt asked one UK Cabinet minister why the vote was being held if it won’t pass and the response was: “f**k knows. I’m past caring, it’s like the living dead in here.”

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