The United Kingdom’s decision to depart from the European Union continues to roil the politics of the UK, and the specifics of what a departure will actually mean continue to be quite uncertain.
On Sunday, January 28, President Donald Trump told Piers Morgan that he would have negotiated the exit of Britain from the European Union “differently” from the way Prime Minister Theresa May has. He said “I would have taken a tougher stand.” Morgan did not press him for details.
A more diplomatic President might have declined Morgan’s invitation to second guess the government of an allied sovereign nation. But the world is everything that is the case (and nothing that isn’t).
Meanwhile, Pierre Moscovici, Europe’s Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Union, seems to be tempting the Brits to change their collective mind and stay in the EU after all.
As these two examples show, the messy process by which Britain is extricating itself from the EU continues to elicit a lot of reaction, within Britain and without, amongst its negotiating partners in this matter and … not. Heck, there even seems to be considerable diversity on this matter amongst members of the cabinet.
Left Wing View
Within Britain, the division for and against on Brexit (or just “Leave” and “Remain”) continues to break down pretty neatly along right/left lines. One common view on the left there is expressed on twitter by John Latham , “I voted Remain … but if we are to leave I’d like to think we’d at least do so competently.” Instead, he says, Britain faces “an absolute mess.”
Chuka Umunna, a Labour MPO and the frequent author of tweets, says that Labour is devoted to retaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union. “The only way to do both is by continuing to participate in both if we Brexit.”
One of the concerns of Labour is the likely change in the nature of the British economy. Professor Patrick Minford has argued that over time, if Britain did exit the EU, “we would mostly eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing and hi-tech.” That would be an important change, but one that “shouldn’t scare us,” Minford says.
Minford’s explanations of that point, contrary to his intentions, have fueled the Remainders, who say that this illustrates why “the [more industrial] North has now swung behind Remain.”
Right Wing View
The basic conflict within the ruling Conservative Party now concerns the creation and duration of a transition period. Negotiators have focused on a two year transition, during which little will change in trade relations across the Channel.
The Secretary for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, has complained that this may amount to remaining in the EU “in all but name,” and thus would mean abandoning the mandate of the referendum, to Leave.
David Vance, who describes himself as a member of the “alternative news media,” is among the many Brit Conservatives who have expressed the sentiment of Villiers, which may also be the sentiment behind Trump’s comments, in tweet form lately. Vance says that PM May is working “to slowly grind down our Brexit expectations to the point where the actual Brexit is meaningless.”
During the last national election, the Conservatives ran precisely as the party that can get a good Brexit deal. Their party’s website said, “Getting the Brexit negotiations right is central to everything – our economy, our finances, our position in the world.”
A fair (and some would say a generous) observation is that getting this right remains a work in progress.