The whole country is awaiting the long-overdue Brexit withdrawal bill.
Since Britain’s 2016 European Union referendum revealed the majority’s desire to leave, many have long-anticipated and speculated as to the UK’s actual departure since the original deadline passed. But it seems, after nearly four years and three extensions, the moment has finally arrived.
Shortly into the New Year, the Prime Minister’s withdrawal bill won 330 votes to 231 in the House of Commons. For the Conservative Party, who consist of leavers, the passing of the bill not only signifies a victory in Parliament. It’s a momentous breakthrough, as a new deadline was secured for Brexit. On January 31st, the UK will finally leave the EU.
Clearly, Boris Johnson could achieve what his predecessor, Theresa May, could not. But why is that? Is Johnson hiding a bigger brain under all that straw-like hair? Do people take him more seriously because he’s a man? Do Boris bikes and buses have something to do with all of this? I’ve decided to take it upon myself to unpack and to try and answer how on earth Britain got to this point, and why it took so long. To do this, we must start from the very beginning.
David Cameron, the one who started it all. Cameron, if you don’t remember, is famously known for holding the 2016 EU Referendum. Essentially, he is the one that got the country into this mess. (He is otherwise known for that pig scandal that happened during his university days.) Interestingly, Cameron never wanted to leave the EU. But he ended up holding the referendum anyway because he promised voters that he would if he was re-elected as prime minister. Cameron gambled with politics for his own political gain, knowing that feelings of nationalism had been building up as far back as 2012. Even though he won, he ended up resigning. What a waste of time, right? At least he left behind the legacy of dooming the country down a path in which it could never go back from! Enter Theresa May, with her awkward robot dance she did that one time. Followed by Johnson, hanging on a zipline waving Union Jack flags.
May, if not running through fields of wheat, failed to negotiate a deal for Brexit. She was backed into a corner in which she had to appease the Democratic Unionist Party, the Scottish National Party, as well as Eurosceptics and Europhiles in both Labour and Tory parties. Because of all these conflicting demands, negotiations kept stalling, no one was happy, and the past three and a half years were a nightmare. Like Cameron, she thought it would be better if the UK remained in the EU. But unlike Cameron, she dropped the ball. Twice. Even though she was left to clean up his mess, she dug herself into an even bigger hole by first prematurely triggering Article 50 on March 29th, 2017. As it formally starts the countdown to arrange a deal, and leave by the deadline (exactly two years later), Britain at this point didn’t even have a consensus on whether they wanted a ‘hard’, ‘soft’, or ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
Within the withdrawal bill, however, it seems the UK has now opted for the riskiest option: ‘no-deal’. Outrageously enough, Johnson chose to not have the negotiation period extended past December 2020. This means the country only has eleven months, from its departure date, to organise a deal with the EU. May could not get it done within two years, could her successor do it in less than a year? It is possible, given that he has one less obstacle than May.
Johnson is backed by a new Parliament, consisting of a passionately pro-Brexit, Conservative majority. May, on the other hand, lost the majority for her party when she called a snap general election that they were also not ready for — just ten days after issuing Article 50. Because of her hasty strategy, she was forced into a coalition with the DUP. If you don’t know who they are, they represent the interests of Northern Ireland. The problem is, they definitely do not want a hard border anywhere. But they must also leave the EU, as they are still a part of the UK. You’re probably thinking: this whole scenario sounds completely difficult! It is, which is why May ended up resigning.
While May inevitably doomed herself with her rash decisions, her successor doesn’t seem to have this problem. Yes, Johnson’s decision to have a deal arranged by the end of the year is also rash. Yet it still gained success because of the bold statement it made to his surrounding Eurosceptics. Namely, that Brexit was inevitable and impending, despite the delays. Somehow, Johnson has found a way to simplify (or just ignore) the issues that made Brexit so complex. Now that we mention it, his decision to remove protections of workers’ rights and child refugees, to be dealt with in a separate legislation, shows his main priority is to ‘get Brexit done’, and worry about the rest later. This is shoddy work, yet he has made far more progress than was ever made before.
Unlike Cameron and May, Johnson has made his desire to leave the EU unambiguous and public. He even wrote articles back in his journalistic days about how the EU is a ‘bureaucratic monster’. Is this why his withdrawal bill was easily pushed through the House of Lords? Simply because he shares anti-EU sentiments with his anti-EU Parliament? Apparently so.
Maybe too, we can consider his charisma. May struck many in the country as an awkward character that tried too hard at times to be ‘relatable’. But Johnson very easily embodies the buffoon that, despite his flaws, you chuckle endearingly over when watching a video of him on Facebook. He somehow radiates confidence as a leader despite his bumbling mannerisms. Maybe it’s the warmth of his voice that makes you think he’s level-headed, or perhaps because he plies members of the public with cups of tea. We can go so far as saying that he seems much tamer than his straw-haired counterpart in America, Donald Trump. But it seems that for Brexiteers, they have finally found a figurehead to lead them out from the darkness, and into the light.