On January 9, the House of Commons (the lower house of the British Parliament) voted to pass Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “Brexit deal”.
While it must still pass the House of Lords and gain the Queen’s approval, it is almost certain to do so. This means that after more than 3 years of tension and postponement, the UK is finally ready to leave the European Union.
Let’s revisit the tumultuous history of Brexit and the role Johnson played in achieving it.
Boris Breaks The Deadlock
On June 23, 2016, the people of the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union. The split was planned for March of 2019, giving the UK what seemed like plenty of time to pass laws about how it would happen.
Prime Minister Theresa May proposed an agreement to dictate the country’s future relationship with the EU, but lawmakers in Parliament voted it down. Read more about the disagreement over May’s deal here. May was forced to postpone Brexit to prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a deal. In May of last year, she resigned as Prime Minister, triggering a “leadership election” to choose a new leader.
On July 24, the ruling Conservative Party selected Boris Johnson, a successful but controversial politician, as the new party leader and Prime Minister. He promised that under his administration, the UK would leave the EU on October 31 even if Parliament did not pass a deal. However, many lawmakers wanted to prevent a “no-deal Brexit” for fear that it would cause economic problems for the UK.
When the new deadline came, Parliament passed a law forcing the government to postpone Brexit yet again. A frustrated Johnson called for a general election in order to resolve the disagreement in Parliament. In the election campaign, his Conservative Party campaigned on a simple promise - to “Get Brexit Done”.
The slogan worked - in the election on December 13, 2019, Johnson’s party won its largest majority since the 1980s. With reliable support in Parliament, Johnson was able to win support for a Brexit deal, finally resolving the crisis.
What Happens Now?
If all goes as planned, the UK will officially exit the EU on January 31, becoming the first-ever member state to do so.
However, the process of Brexit is not over yet. The deal establishes another two-year transitional period for the UK and EU to work on new agreements related to trade and foreign relations. Many people in the UK are worried that more tension and deadlock await their country in the future.
Another concern is that the results of Brexit will cause discontent in the different regions that make up the UK. Scotland, where a majority of people voted against Brexit, is against leaving the EU, and many Scots are calling for Scotland to become an independent country. People in Northern Ireland are furious about the Brexit deal (which economically “cuts off” Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK), and some have speculated that it might eventually leave the UK and unite with the rest of Ireland.
The next few years will determine whether Brexit brings the UK the prosperity and unity its supporters hope for.
Sources: BBC, Euronews, CNN, NYTimes, foreignpolicy.com