Brexit – who’s in charge?

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Boris Johnson is in an unenviable position. In the past week, he has suffered no less than three consecutive defeats at the House of Commons, something which is unheard of in British political history. Those defeats included two particularly critical votes – one which prevents Johnson forcing a no deal Brexit, and effectively forcing him to get parliamentary consent on any way forward on the 31st October, being Brexit day; and he also lost a vote which required a two-thirds majority to push ahead for a snap election. In short, this severely constrains the Prime Minister’s ability to move forward, and grants a huge victory to the hotch potch coalition of Remainers, soft Brexiteers, and the Parliamentary Opposition.

Where does this go from here? That’s a very good question. At the moment, it seems as though PM Johnson will seek to get another vote in front of the Parliament on Monday which requests a snap election. However, from a political strategy perspective, this seems rather odd. Johnson knows that the only way in which such a vote could pass is if the Labour party support it. Given that they are currently trailing in the polls by around 10%, Labour know that the timing is not ideal for them, and it makes little sense for them to support such a move.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government members
EPA-EFE/Hollie Adams

But it could be that Johnson is playing 3D chess here. In knowing that Labour is unlikely to support a snap election at this point, he could be seeking to portray them as obstructionist, and forcing a no deal Brexit on the country. In addition, the Prime Minister can seek to further sway public opinion by saying that Parliament’s actions are tantamount to an overreach of their powers, and restrain his ability to make decisions as the Prime Minister. Appealing to public opinion is one of the few options that he has left, as the clock is ticking.

As far as Westminster is concerned, they have achieved their objective – prevent a no deal Brexit, and force the government to seek their approval on any Brexit deal. Negating Johnson’s attempt at a snap election made sense, from their perspective, in order to ensure that there are no further complications to Brexit beyond what has already occurred in the past few years.

Going forward, the situation is rather complex. Barring a change of heart by the Labour party, it’s hard to see Johnson’s request for a snap election taking place. Were it to take place, it would certainly clarify the political situation in the UK, and give people a chance to show who they want representing them in Parliament as well as running the country. However, it would also run down the Brexit clock considerably, leaving little time for the next PM, be it Johnson or Corbyn, to effectively deal with the EU and the deadline in enough time.

What happens now? In short, a no deal Brexit remains the highest likelihood, barring an act of good will from Brussels and Britain’s European allies. But patience, and time, are running out.

Matthew Bugeja is Ci Consulta’s GeoPolitical Advisor for Corporate Dispatch Pro

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