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Brexit – What to expect next

Since his election as leader of the UK Conservative Party and therefore ascension to the role of UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has pushed the UK further towards the cliff edge when it comes to Brexit, as he set about implementing his campaign pledge- that the UK will leave the EU on 31st October with or without a deal.

Firstly, Johnson cleaned out his government cabinet, replacing supporters of remaining in the EU or those in favour of Theresa May’s Brexit deal with hard-line Brexiteers. Accompanying this, he wrote to the UK civil service instructing them to make preparations for leaving the EU without a deal its “top priority” and provided an extra £2.1 billion in funding to make this happen.

His next step was to send his new Brexit negotiator, David Frost to Brussels with the message that the UK would not sit down with the EU until they opened the withdrawal agreement and removed the “anti-democratic Irish backstop”, which the EU has continuously rejected, considering the Backstop essential for solidarity with Ireland and for preserving the integrity of the EU single market.

EU-UK relations therefore remain locked in a stalemate, leading to the increasing prospect of the UK crashing out of the EU.

It is anticipated that there will be moves over the coming weeks within the UK Parliament to block this hard Brexit either by forcing the UK Government to request an extension to their EU membership via amendments to legislation (a motion on restoring the Northern Ireland executive expected to be introduced to the House of Commons on 4th September is being eyed as a potential avenue) or by winning a motion of no-confidence to bring down the Government.

With a working majority of just one vote, which includes several pro-Remain conservative MPs who have indicated that would abstain or vote against the Government to prevent a no-deal Brexit, it is a real possibility that either option would have the necessary support.

The major question however is what happens then.

Pro-remain MPs have hinted that they would attempt to form a caretaker government, simply for the purposes for requesting a delay to the UK’s exit date before holding an election. Alternatively, it would be possible for Johnson to remain in office (it is a convention, not a rule, that a Prime Minister resign after losing a vote of no confidence) and delay an election until after 31st October.

The EU and Ireland meanwhile must play a waiting game, until after this parliamentary showdown and the outcome is clear, before it can make its next steps. Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive