Does anyone remember Nigel Farage? He led the UK Independence Party and the ‘leave’ EU vote — along with his last minute ally Boris Johnson who hoped to push himself up to prime minister. Farage is still around as a Member of the European Parliament representing south-east England, a job soon to be redundant when Britain leaves the EU. Boris is still in parliament … and still unlikely to be prime minister.
In the meantime, there is no clear majority for any deal in the British parliament. A major sticking point is Northern Ireland, an integral part of the UK. Leaving the European customs union would mean a border in Ireland separating the north from the rest. This is anathema to the Irish who have become used to living with an open border. The Northern Ireland MPs in Westminster will vote as a block against any deal that does not maintain it.
But the majority of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives want out of the EU customs union. Hence the deal she came up with, which was to make the Irish Sea a border. It meant leaving Northern Ireland in the customs union (i.e. an open border) and the rest of Britain outside. Unfortunately for her, a parliamentary majority including the opposition Labor party were against such a customs division within the UK that might also in the future bring Northern Ireland closer to Europe.
One of the principal motivators for Farage’s UKIP and its allies is seldom discussed. It has much in common with the reason for Donald Trump’s wall, and it was the reason the first British politician meeting the newly minted. President Trump was Nigel Farage. Trump had in mind his prospective wall, and after winning the ‘leave’ vote Farage had the English Channel; both barriers for the unwanted: Escapees from the chaos (often US caused as in Honduras) in Central America in one case; southern and eastern European migrants in the other after the EU embraced these new countries.
The desperation of many of these migrants forced to remain on the Mexico side of the US border was poignantly evident in a documentary broadcast on March 12 by the Public Television network on its evening PBS Newshour program. The processing slowdown engineered by this administration, blamed on lack of staff, has caused waiting times in months. Little children have to beg during the day and single mothers sell themselves at night for families to have food to eat.
After losing the vote on the deal she had negotiated, Ms. May brought forward a vote on a no-deal exit. Amended to a no-deal ever, the motion was defeated, as was a subsequent one on a simple no-deal; this time by an even larger majority. The day following, she actually won a vote: the government won a motion to ask the EU for a Brexit extension from March 29 to June 30, if the May deal passes next week. Otherwise they will have to request a longer delay.
How fractious the issue is, was evident. Half of Mrs. May’s Conservative Party voted against her including eight ministers; a Labor Party amendment for a second Brexit referendum was voted down 85 to 334 after many labor members including some shadow ministers voted against, tendering their resignations as a result. Parliament and the country are split on the issue.
Meanwhile, Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the EU Council, announced he is in favor of a long extension and will ask EU leaders to consider it. Also Germany is in favor of a soft Brexit. Perhaps the one million Poles now in Britain and Germany’s exports have something to do with it.
Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.