Brexit back to square one

Editorial | Mary Ma 11 Sep 2019

The British Conservative Party is in danger of collapsing as loyal Tories defected to the opposition during those parliamentary votes blocking a no-deal Brexit, and rejecting Prime Minister Boris Johnson's repeated calls for a snap election in mid-October.

But who cares when there's something else of greater urgency.

Following the swift passage of a bill opposing no-deal Brexit in the House of Commons and House of Lords - in time before the current parliamentary session was prorogued - the dash toward a so-called worst-case scenario was halted, for now at the very least.

Just like the situation in Hong Kong, the British crisis is far from over. The impasse seems to have become forever.

Prior to the votes blocking an immediate hard Brexit, the pound strengthened a little from a decade low after the opposition gained traction.

Surprisingly or not, the pound recovery stopped as soon as Labour Party chief Jeremy Corbyn had his day, following the successive blows suffered by Johnson during his first week in parliament in the role of prime minister.

Worries were immediately replaced by a sense of frustration. The concern was that, while a no-deal Brexit may have been stopped, little has changed since Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, was forced out of No 10 Downing Street.

After so many years and months since the original 2016 Brexit vote, it's the British public's common desire to see a quick end to the impasse one way or another, so that companies can start moving ahead - either with a soft-Brexit plan or a hard Brexit contingency.

Indecision is making life hard, with employers having no idea what to do.

A banker based in Canary Wharf recently told my friend [not the friend of my buddy's friend] he was more concerned about the impasse than a hard Brexit.

Even with a hard Brexit, he's confident life would return to normal, although it may spell difficulties in the beginning.

Furthermore, he's optimistic London would survive as an international financial center, since while many Germans speak English, few people around the world speak German - which makes relocation to Frankfurt unrealistic.

Between a snap election in mid-October and a new law disallowing a no-deal Brexit, the former should be preferred as it would at least open the way to end the impasse that currently leaves nearly everyone upset.

A snap election would give the new government or coalition a new mandate, substituting the 2016 referendum.

If a snap poll was to be held, neither Johnson nor Corbyn would be elected straight away, in view of their parties' devastating defeats in local elections for the past year, which revealed how fed up voters have been with the two parties' uncompromising positions on Brexit.

It's difficult to say if Remain-advocate Liberal Democrats would ascend to power in a snap poll. The educated guess is that the party would increase its seats significantly to become a substantive force in the parliament, holding the balance of power.

With a new mandate, the deadlock could be solved quickly. The legislation pushed by Corbyn blocking a no-deal Brexit prolongs the pain.

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