Since becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom this summer, Boris Johnson has vowed to take his nation out of the European Union (EU) come what may by the end of this month. Now, that solemn pledge certainly looks untenable as members of parliament at Westminster on Tuesday defeated his government’s plans to rush through legislation on the Brexit deal he had reached with the EU last week — a parliamentary defeat that makes a three-month delay almost entirely inevitable.
Johnson has said that he will push for a general election to break the deadlock, but a move to overturn the UK’s fixed-term election legislation (that sets preconditions on the calling of such a national ballot) may not be easy.
The reality is that Britons voted in June 2016 to leave the EU. Now, 40 months later, the mandate of that referendum has yet to be fulfilled. In voting to leave, did they choose to do so with or without an agreement? In an orderly or disorderly fashion?
Right now, the EU is considering the UK’s request for a three-month extension, a request that Johnson was mandated by law to send to Brussels as a result of the British parliament tying his hands through its passage of the Benn Act. That legislation was enacted last month to avoid a no-deal crash-out scenario that would inflict serious economic damage on the UK and EU nations and result in a return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The British now find themselves in the position of having a government that cannot act as it lacks the numbers, and a combined opposition that is united only in their opposition to thwart Johnson’s Brexit plans.
In normal times, the only logical course of action would be for parliament to be dissolved and for a general election to follow. But these are not normal times — as the majority will of the House of Commons lies in the power of the combined opposition.
The reality is that Britons voted in June 2016 to leave the EU. Now, 40 months later, the mandate of that referendum has yet to be fulfilled. In voting to leave, did they choose to do so with or without an agreement? In an orderly or disorderly fashion? Leave the EU but remain in a customs zone?
Or rip up the agreement that brought peace and prosperity to Northern Ireland?
The fact that those questions remain unanswered now points to the rush to judgement during that referendum campaign. But two agreements have been reached with the EU over these 40 months to resolve those questions. The sooner this Brexit mess is over, the better for all.