It’s been a little more than five months since a majority of Britons voted in support of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. Despite that June 23 decision, the government of Prime Minister Theresa May seems no closer to having a clear policy on Brexit, other than noting that the result will be honoured and the nation will withdraw from the 28-member bloc at some stage and in some fashion. Whether that withdrawal is a “hard” or “soft” Brexit is not so much in the hands of the London government, but more in the political minds and hearts of the other 27 members.
While May faces a December Supreme Court case over allowing members of parliament a vote on the referendum result, she is intent on sticking to a timetable that would see London trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — the only means of leaving the European Union (EU) — and setting the clock ticking on a negotiation period that would last up to two years. The kernel of the legal case is that it took an act of parliament to take Britain into the EU, therefore it requires one to take it out, rather than an executive order of the British prime minister and her cabinet.
For all of the political uncertainty over the actual process of separation, as with any breakdown in a long-standing marriage, comes a financial cost. Philip Hammond, May’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, laid out the United Kingdom’s budget statement last week. Brexit has left a £122 billion (Dh559 billion) hole in Westminster’s coffers and its debt as a ratio of its gross national product will rise to 90 per cent. Yes, Britons have spoken: But they’ll also be paying the price.