One year on from the public’s historic vote to Leave the European Union, negotiations have only just begun and MPs are still arguing over whether to actually go ahead with Brexit.
On June 23rd, 2016, the British people defied the Prime Minister, the President of the United States, and the odds laid down by the betting agencies and the pollsters to vote decisively for an end to membership of the Brussels bloc.
17,410,742 ballots were cast for Brexit – more than have been cast for anything else in Britain’s history – clearing the establishment-backed Remain campaign by well over a million.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) June 22, 2016
But whilst many are celebrating what Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage dubbed ‘Britain’s Independence Day’, almost no progress has been made. Even the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, yesterday poked fun at the formerly Remain-supporting Theresa May for taking nine months just to sign the letter confirming the activation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, officially kicking off the departure process.
Formal exit talks, meanwhile, were barely commenced in time for Friday’s anniversary. Whilst the prime minister is attempting to stick to her declared position of a “Clean Brexit“, which would take Britain out of the EU’s Single Market and associated Customs Union, it is by no means clear this will be achieved in practice.
Remain campaigners in the upper echelons of the Tory Party, particularly the leader of its Scottish wing, Ruth Davidson, and the chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, are thought to be angling for a so-called ‘Soft Brexit’, which would preserve many of the obligations of EU membership.
Europhile Tory backbenchers have also been revealed as collaborating with the Liberal Democrats. Many in the Labour Party, too, are seeking to establish a narrative of the recent general election result, in which the Tories lost their slim parliamentary majority, as a rejection of a so-called “Hard Brexit” – even though well over 80 per cent of MPs were elected on manifestos which promised an end to end Free Movement.
84% of #GE2017 voters backed parties pledging an end to Free Movement/leaving the Single Market.
Huge endorsement for a clean Brexit! pic.twitter.com/KtVrn1skGa
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) June 9, 2017
This uncertainty has given many EU leaders hope that Brexit may yet be thwarted, with Bettel teasing that, “Maybe during the procedure of divorce [Britain] will say ‘we love you that much that we are not able to conclude that divorce’” and Brexit will not go ahead.
The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said “The EU was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve” when asked if it was possible Britain might stay in the bloc after all.
“So who knows? You may say I am a dreamer but I’m not the only one,” he added, quoting the famous song in which John Lennon invites listeners to “Imagine there’s no countries”.
Billionaire mass migration advocate and global political player George Soros, too, has predicted that a fresh round of elections during the lengthy exit process could kill Brexit: “If all went well, the two parties may want to remarry even before they have divorced.”
— Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) March 31, 2017
Politicians who do want Brexit to go ahead say they are facing an uphill struggle, predicting fierce resistance from Remain MPs egged on by Tony Blair, George Osborne, and other wealthy figures outside Parliament.
“Labour and all the others will fight us line by line, in committees, on the floor and in the Lords, for months and months on end. It will be utterly bitter, trench warfare.”