The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019. It was little more than two years ago that Britain voted to leave the EU after its first referendum ever. On March 29, 2017, Britain invoked the famous Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, starting the process of Brexit. Earlier this week at an EU summit held in Salzburg, Austria, Theresa May ended up returning home empty-handed and bitter. So far, not much progress has been made, and the EU is in no hurry to grant a lucrative deal to the UK, even though there are only six months left before the deadline. The biggest obstacle to reaching any deal at the moment is the controversy surrounding the issue of having open Irish borders. The European Council’s president Donald Tusk has rejected any idea of allowing Britain to cherry-pick and the French President Emmanuel Macron made it explicitly clear at the summit this week that pro-Brexit politicians were “liars”, who had misled their country.
It seems like a formidable task now for the British prime minister to get any deal which would satisfy the members of parliament of her own party back home. The Labour party is equally divided on the issue. Will Britain get a hard deal, a soft deal or no deal, is a question looming large in everyone´s mind.
The process is far more complex than expected by those who voted to get Britain out of the EU. A metaphor used these days is, “taking UK out of EU is like taking the egg out of the omelette that is already made”. So intricate is the process that it is not entirely incorrect to imagine that the EU leaders are under no circumstances interested in awarding a deal to Britain that would be as attractive as when it was a member of the EU.
This can also be regarded as a clear reminder to the remaining 27 members of the EU that leaving the Union will have tough repercussions, if they try to take the same path as UK, for reaching a lucrative economic deal. So the bottom line is that Britain will not get the deal that it actually aspires to. This is surely going to affect Britain’s economy, the world’s fifth-largest. The EU countries on the other hand, if Britain were to remain a member of the EU, would constitute the largest economic block in the world.
Many Britons who voted to remain would like to testify that it is one of the worst decisions ever taken, jeopardizing the economic situation of the country. The political chaos in Britain is so entrenched that Theresa May would find it very difficult to sign a Brexit deal which the Members of Parliament will approve. At the moment there is literally no consensus, and any deal would end up getting rejected.
In such a dismal scenario, with such a deadlock, with March 29, 2019 approaching soon, the uncertainty is getting people out in the streets. During the summer, 1,00,000 people marched through the streets of central London demanding a second referendum. Polls are showing that nearly 40 percent of the population now want a second ballot. Britain’s former PM Tony Blair, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, many other Labor MPs, pro-EU Conservative Party members, the MPs of the most EU-enthusiastic party, the Liberal Democrats, are warming up to the idea of a second referendum instead of ending up with a no-deal situation.
In the meantime, the EU leaders could address the issue of migration and eurozone reforms, which was a major cause of people voting for Brexit. It is still possible to avoid seeing the most expensive divorce case of Britain crashing out of the EU without any deal in 2019.
Justine Greening’s fair proposal to resolve the present enigma sounds pragmatic. She is one of the former cabinet ministers, and the following are the three options she has proposed, which ought to be given to the British people before a final deal is made: Vote to stay in the EU, vote to accept whatever deal Theresa May brings home with the EU, or leave the EU with no deal whatsoever.
Giving three options for a referendum will be an unprecedented move, but leaving the EU will have enormous consequences, too. In the post-World War era, the EU has emerged as not only a well-functioning example of economic co-operation but also as a project of shared values such as democracy, human rights, liberty, gender equality and racial equality.
The European Union has promoted the above mentioned values and increased the trade with countries respecting those values. A united EU and Europe is in Britain’s interest, and by remaining in the EU, it would be possible to mitigate the frustration of the Irish and Scottish populations, who might want to leave the UK to join the EU anyway.
The first referendum was a romantic adventure, the second would force the Britons to get pragmatic and help them see things in a proper perspective. Divorce can be avoided, and saving this marriage is, after all, not at all a bad idea.
Holding a second referendum is a better option than holding an election as that may not change anything significantly. People in a healthy democracy sometimes deserve a second chance to come to the right conclusion.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
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