Tuesday 23 July 2019

Editorial: 'Three years on from Brexit vote, confusion still reigns'

'Irish people have endured much Brexit uncertainty over the past three years.' Stock photo: Yui Mok/PA
'Irish people have endured much Brexit uncertainty over the past three years.' Stock photo: Yui Mok/PA


Boris is the only one who can beat Boris now, we have been repeatedly told, as the job of UK prime minister has been whittled down to just two contestants and the decision is left in the hands of 160,000 British Conservative Party members.

So, we have learned that a late-night heated dispute between Mr Johnson and his partner resulted in the police being called. The potential new prime minister's neighbours appear to have acted correctly in calling the authorities in response to a potentially difficult domestic situation.

But the neighbours' subsequent foray into the media with what they knew, and indeed what they actually recorded, will continue to be a focus for debate. There appear to be some opinion poll returns suggesting that the incident is not helpful to Mr Johnson's election chances, and that his rival, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, has benefited.

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We must, of course, remember that the British Conservative Party members - largely made up of middle-aged to elderly men in the south of England - will decide who becomes the next anchor tenant in No 10 Downing Street. They will surely make up their own minds about a dispute between a man and his partner in due course. This election comes just as the UK and the rest of the EU crosses the three-year mark since Brexit happened. On this day three years ago, the United Kingdom citizens, and those all across the EU, awoke to the shock news that voters had opted by 52pc to 48pc to end their 40-plus-year membership of the world's biggest trading bloc.

The confusion and uncertainty has persisted since then. We have had a general election in the UK two years ago which delivered a hung parliament. In the next few weeks our nearest neighbour will move to a third prime minister since the Brexit result landed early on June 24, 2016.

Boris Johnson has availed of the issue to play himself into a position close to becoming the leader of his country. What happens after that remains a matter for conjecture. The ruinous prospect of a no-deal end to all this remains very real.

Both the European Union and the United Kingdom remain stuck on very entrenched positions.

Brussels insists that the deal given to outgoing PM Theresa May last November remains the only option. The two contenders to succeed Mrs May - Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt - remain adamant that they will not shrink from a no-deal Brexit if the EU does not reopen Mrs May's deal which failed three times to get the necessary approval of the UK parliament. Since no-deal is the default position, the threat is very real. It would require doing absolutely nothing for that to come about.

We must remain hopeful that the political leaders in the UK and across the EU will never be so idle and negligent to allow such a thing to happen. But you can never be sure in politics.

Irish people have endured much Brexit uncertainty over the past three years. Ironically, these years also saw the return of prosperity after a vicious recession which had been with us since 2008.

Irish Independent

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