Although Parliament has officially broken up for the summer, the debate about Brexit continues to heat up as MPs head for their summer holidays. The current momentum appears to be moving towards the Chancellor’s position of accepting the need for a transitional phase after Britain’s formal exit from the European Union. This transitional phase could see Britain stay in the Single Market and Customs Union for a limited time period as the final stages of a trade deal are negotiated and business adapts to the new environment.
This apparent change in direction and policy from the Government is a direct consequence of the recent General Election. It is wrong to claim, as some do that the result of the General Election was an uprising against Brexit, but it is also wrong to claim the Government can continue as if nothing has changed. The new parliamentary arithmetic does impact on the type of Brexit the Government could hope to get through Parliament. This indicates the Government is going to have to compromise.
The benefits of a transitional phase are clear. It ends the prospect of a cliff-edge Brexit and reduces the danger of a ‘no-deal’ solution, and in doing so limits the possible economic consequences. This level of compromise would appease some of the more moderate Remainers in Parliament. It would also help provide businesses with clarity, whilst accepting their argument that they will need time to adapt to the new climate. Furthermore, the additional time period could be vital in thrashing out the final details of a satisfactory trade deal between Britain and the EU.
This gives clear ground to ‘Remainers’ but may worry the ‘Brexiteers’. Therefore, in order to highlight the referendum deal is being respected, then there must be a clear end date to the transitional phase when Britain formally cuts all ties with the European Union. A transitional phase cannot be used as an excuse to stay in the European Union indefinitely. A transitional phase which ends before the next General Election which is scheduled to occur in 2022 would appear to most a sensible time limit, which gives the Government time to deliver on their Brexit promise and for business to adapt.
A transitional phase will not please everyone. The most ardent Remainers will never accept the referendum result, while the most extreme Brexiteers will reject the need for any negotiations with the European Union. However, this sort of agreement could appeal to moderate Brexiteers and Remainers who want to make Brexit work. With the evidence showing this is where most of the population lie, expect this solution to gain more and more traction in the immediate future.
Britain’s projected exit from the European Union has taken another twist. High Court judges have ruled that Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 without the backing of Parliament putting at risk the government’s planned timetable for Brexit. The decision will be challenged by the Government but unless the appeal is successful, Theresa May could be forced to change her plans.
This ruling will not stop Brexit. Some pro EU campaigners point to the large majority in the House of Commons of Remain MPs but fail to grasp the changed climate. The country in a huge democratic exercise has now voted to leave the European Union and the campaign is over. Although many MPs are unhappy with this decision they understand the ramifications of overturning the will of the British people and will accept the result and vote for Article 50.
On the 23rd June, Britain voted to leave the European Union. That much is clear, that debate is over. However there were many different reasons as to why voters took this decision. Issues such as immigration have taken precedence in the post-mortem but there were other reasons as well. There was nothing on the ballot paper which spelt out what Britain’s new relationship would be with Europe and it is right this is discussed and debated.
In this country we live in a parliamentary democracy. It was Parliament who voted to bring about the referendum and it is Parliament who should sign off on the deal, sealing the will of the British people. The government should not be forced to reveal their whole bargaining hand before Parliament but should highlight their general direction. This way Parliament can carefully scrutinise the government’s plans and ensure that the British people gain the best possible deal.
The reality is this is a situation which could easily have been avoided. At no stage would Parliament have defeated the government on this and Theresa May could have prevented this outcome by including Parliament in the process. Brexit was never going to be smooth, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be this difficult. This will be interpreted as a setback for the government but could be the reminder they need that they cannot bypass Parliament and that Parliament could actually be useful in this process.
The move by Russia to normalise its relations with Turkey was unexpected. However, it makes perfect sense when one considers Russia’s foreign policy strategy is focused on outmanoeuvring the US and Europe over the refugee and Syria crises.
The tension that had until recently dogged relations between the two nations had been caused by the downing of a Russian jet near Turkey’s border with Syria on 24th November last year. One of the most significant links between this incident and the normalisation of Russo-Turkish relations is that a repeat is now highly unlikely. The strengthening of ties between the two will allow the Russians additional freedom to conduct airstrikes in Syria. Russia is thus in a considerably stronger position to advance its own aims and those of Bashar al-Assad, something which the US and Europe do not want to see.
The significance of Turkey in the current refugee crisis cannot be ignored either. There are approximately 2.75 million refugees currently in Turkey. Russia, like ISIS, has utilised the crisis to destabilise the domestic and foreign affairs of the US and Europe. The normalisation of ties with Turkey will give the Russians increased influence over the fate of the millions of refugees resident there. This spells bad news for a Europe that is already being strained at a political and societal level by both this crisis and Brexit. The EU’s aim of expanding will also have been set back by the normalisation as Turkey had a significant interest in one day joining the EU. It is now highly doubtful that this will happen anytime in the short or medium term future, and once again shows the ease at which Russia is able to outflank the EU at a diplomatic level.
Normalisation of relations with Turkey was nothing short of a masterstroke from Russia. It shows that they are still a force to be reckoned with on the world stage, whilst decreasing the likelihood of a solution to the refugee and Syrian crises and the instability in the EU being found. Should the isolationist and unstable Donald Trump capture the White House later this year, Russia’s work to ensure that it becomes one of the dominant powers in Eurasia will be frighteningly close to fruition. The need for greater cohesion and purpose within the EU, and for the West in general over the refugee and Syria crises has never been greater.