The United Kingdom government is on the verge of “collapsing.” As a parliamentary system, this could mean new elections or major leadership changeups. Conservative Theresa May might just regret taking on the role of Prime Minister. She assumed office with the herculean task of withdrawing the United Kingdom from the European Union. Efforts for an amicable break have thus far been plagued with bickering and choices that no one seems ready to make. Now, as her troubles mount, key officials are abandoning her administration.
First, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis resigned after he felt May gave too many concessions to the European Union. Davis was frequently referred to as the “Brexit Secretary.” Now, Boris Johnson is following Davis out the door, likewise upset over May’s handling of Brexit.
As of now, the United Kingdom remains in the European Union until March, 29 2019. This gives negotiators less than a year to come up with a plan for withdrawal. With the United Kingdom’s deep economic ties to the European Union, withdrawal would have a dramatic impact on the economy.
In fact, a hard, cold-shoulder withdrawal would likely have a disastrous effect on the economy, sending the UK plummeting into a depression. Manufacturers would lose a huge customer base, as would London’s many financial services firms. The UK doesn’t fare well for such a hard break with the EU, but so far negotiations have offered little headway.
Over the weekend, May got enough support from her divided cabinet to push through a framework for negotiations that contained some concessions to the EU. The plan also sought to establish a common market that would facilitate trade between both the EU and UK.
Under May’s deal, the UK and EU would establish a de facto customs union and common market. The EU has previously stated that any common market must include the free movement of goods, people, capital, and services. So far, Brexit supporters have balked at the free movement of people. Indeed, combating the free movement of people was one of the main reasons many supported Brexit in the first place.
Unsurprisingly, many analysts thought that the UK’s deal didn’t offer enough to the EU and would likely be rejected. Yet for Johnson and Davis, it already went too far, leading to their resignations. Now, May’s already tenuous hold on parliament looks all the more fragile. If the EU rejects May’s framework (likely), she may lose even more support.
The Brexit troubles come just over a year after May’s failed bid to increase the number of her supporters in parliament. Last year, May gambled that her Party and supporters could expand their presence in parliament and thus dissolved the government to hold elections. However, instead of gaining she lost 13 seats and her parliament majority.
Many thought May’s stint as P.M. was over but she managed to maintain her grip on office. The most recent opinion polls show that support is declining for Brexit with only 40 percent wanting to leave, versus 45 percent who want to stay. In late June, protesters took to the streets demanding another vote.
Still, another Brexit vote seems unlikely at this point. Then again, if pro-Brexit government officials can’t be convinced to support a moderate deal, May or whoever’s in charge might hit the redo button to prevent an economic crisis.