‘NEW DEAL’ TO BREAK BREXIT DEADLOCK
22, May 2019
Prelims level : International Mains level : GS-II Governance, Social Justice and IR
Why in News:
- A “new deal” for Britain’s departure from the EU, offering sweeteners to opposition parties in her fourth attempt to break an impasse in Parliament over Brexit.
- Three years since Britain voted to leave the EU and almost two months after the planned departure date, Ms. May is mounting a last bid to try to get the deeply divided Parliament’s backing for a divorce deal, to leave office with some kind of legacy.
What is the issue:
- “Republic of Ireland” is an independent country that is an EU member, while “Northern Ireland” is an autonomous territory within the UK.
- The UK and Ireland are currently part of the EU single market and customs union. So products do not need to be inspected for customs and standards.
- But after Brexit, the two parts of Ireland could be in different customs and regulatory regimes, which could mean products being checked at the border.
- The UK government does not want this to happen and the EU also does not want any hardening of the border. However, the current Brexit provisions, which include leaving the customs union and the single market, make this very difficult.
- In this backdrop, the backstop is an arrangement to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland. The arrangement allows the flow of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This is only in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.
What are the challenges ahead?
- The EU is less likely to ensure that the backstop will not indefinitely lock Britain into a customs union with the EU.
- But that would necessarily limit London’s freedom to make trade deals with third states.
- Logically, Brexit supporters oppose this, whose prime motive is to regain sovereignty. Besides, deep differences persist within the Conservative and Labour parties on the terms of exit they must obtain from Brussels.
- There is also increasing clamour for a second referendum from remainers in the two parties.
- These groups view the uncertainty as symptomatic of a flawed Brexit project.
- They say the citizens should be enabled to make a more informed decision, given the mounting evidence on the economic impact of Brexit.
- But this view had, nevertheless, to be balanced with the consideration that the majority of MPs have resolved to respect the June 2016 referendum.
- In any case, a reversal of the 2016 Brexit result is not a guaranteed outcome.
- Given all these, an extension of the exit date seems the least controversial among many other alternatives for Ms. May for now.