Britain’s vacant PM spot has major implications for drawn-out Brexit negotiations

Image Source: Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Anna Day | @anna_day_

Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation today, June 7, has left a vacancy for the top spot in British politics.

Since Ms May’s announcement to resign on May 24, the competition amongst Conservative politicians lining up for the role has been defined over Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without a withdrawal agreement.

Of the eleven potential Conservative Party candidates, six have said that they are willing for Britain to leave the EU ‘cold turkey’ if no withdrawal deal can be agreed upon.

Last week Boris Johnson, a prominent contender for prime minister, said Britain would leave the EU on October 31 “deal or no deal”, adding that a second referendum on EU membership would be a “very bad idea”.

Other candidates and political commentators believe that leaving the EU without an agreement would cause economic and political chaos, as consumers, businesses, and public bodies would be forced to abruptly respond to changes.

Negotiating the parameters of the withdrawal agreement has been the ultimate downfall of now departing Prime Minister Ms May.

“It is and always will remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit,” Ms May said in a statement from Downing Street.

Delivering the Brexit deal has been Ms May’s top priority since becoming prime minister following the June 2016 referendum, where the British Public voted to leave the EU.

Ever since the June 2016 referendum, Britain has been trying to settle a withdrawal agreement with leaders from the EU.

The problem is UK politicians don’t like the deal set out by the EU and have rejected the agreement three times in the British Parliament.

Roadblocks of the withdrawal agreement have delayed the Brexit departure from March 29 to the new deadline on October 31.

The biggest sticking point for the withdrawal agreement is the border between Northern Ireland, which is a part of the UK, and Ireland, a member state of the EU.

Currently, goods and people flow freely between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Under a provision of the withdrawal agreement known as the ‘backstop’, this arrangement would continue even if the UK and Ireland did not reach a long-term agreement by the end of 2020.

The ‘backstop’ provision is aimed at avoiding the construction of physical barriers on the border by keeping Britain, and particularly Northern Ireland, tied to some of the EU’s rules.

Many of the politicians who voted against the proposed agreement fear that this ‘backstop’ provision could leave Britain permanently beholden to the EU.

On Wednesday the Conservative Party announced rule changes to the leadership contest that would hasten the competition between the final two candidates for the position of prime minister.

The Conservative Party said candidates must declare at least eight nominations from fellow Conservative MPs by next Monday in a move that will knock out some of the lesser known hopefuls, The Guardian reports.

The five most likely candidates for the job include Mr Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom.

 

Boris Johnson

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Image Source: Sky News

Former foreign minister Boris Johnson is a frontrunner in the race for the next prime minister.

“No one sensible would aim exclusively for a no-deal outcome. No one responsible would take no-deal off the table,” Mr Johnson wrote in his weekly column for the Daily Telegraph .

“We will not be forgiven if we do not deliver Brexit on October 31,” Mr Johnson told a leadership husting on Wednesday.

“We need to realise the depth of the problems we face. Unless we get on and do this thing, we will be punished for a very long time. There is a very real choice between getting Brexit done and the potential extinction of this great party.”

Michael Gove

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Image Source: Politico

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said at the husting on Wednesday that the Brexit deadline of October 31 is “arbitrary” and said he is prepared to delay the UK’s exit from the EU to gain a good deal.

Mr Gove said that as prime minister he would allow EU nationals living in the UK to apply for British citizenship free of charge.

If chosen as the next Tory leader, the BBC reported that Mr Gove would remove the requirement of EU citizens to provide proof of their right to be in the UK, and in doing so eliminated the “settled status” scheme.

Currently, EU citizens who wish to remain in the UK must apply for settled status by June 2021 in the event of a Brexit deal, or December 2020 in the event of no deal.

Jeremy Hunt

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Image Source: BBC News

Jeremy Hunt is the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and originally voted to remain in the EU.

Mr Hunt is willing to leave the EU without a deal in order to deliver on the referendum vote.

“My position on this hasn’t changed at all. I’ve always said that in the end, if the only way to leave the European Union, to deliver on the result of the referendum, was to leave without a deal, then I would do that,” Mr Hunt said during a speech on Monday.

“But I would do so very much as a last resort, with a heavy heart, because of the risks to businesses and the risks to the union.”

Dominic Raab

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Image Source: Metro

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab refused to support the withdrawal agreement in parliament and said he would prefer to leave the EU without a deal.

Mr Raab told the leadership husting on Wednesday that he would extend parliament until after the October 31 deadline in order to force through a no-deal Brexit, The Scotsman reports.

Currently, the House of Commons is due to break for summer recess in July.

Andrea Leadsom

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Image Source: The Times

Andrea Leadsom came close to scoring the Prime Minster position against Ms May in 2016, but withdrew after criticism when she suggested she had a greater stake in the future of the country because she was a mother while Ms May has no children.

Ms Leadsom told the BBC this week that she will not attempt to renegotiate the “dead” withdrawal agreement and instead would pursue a managed ‘no deal’ if Conservative MPs back her as the next prime minister.

Ms Leadsom also said she would pass legislation to protect EU citizens but also attempt to secure side deals based on the withdrawal agreement to keep goods moving.

This is a suggestion the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has explicitly ruled out, The Guardian reports.

Following Ms May’s official resignation on June 7, a new prime minister tasked with delivering Brexit is expected to be announced by the end of July.

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