Shortcuts / 13 December 2019

UPDATED – Brexit (Part 2)

Since the UK Election we’ve updated this episode of Squiz Shortcuts. It now covers Brexit – post Johnson becoming Prime Minister. Starting with bit about him, his Brexit plan, what happened in the election and how it impacts Brexit.

Boris Johnson became PM of the UK on 24 July 2019. Who is he?
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Shambolic in appearance and prolific in the media, Johnson’s upbringing, connections, Eton and Oxford education and ambition saw him succeed early. And despite (or maybe because of) his interesting private life and dabbling writing and journalism, Johnson is one of the UK’s most recognisable pollies. A former Mayor of London, he eventually became the Foreign Secretary under May. 

What’s his enduring position on Brexit?
He was the leading spokesman for the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign for the 2016 referendum. And despite his position as a Cabinet Minister in the May Government, Johnson became one of the main underminers of her effort to secure an agreement with the EU and the UK parliament. His position, and the position of other conservatives, was that May had given away “too much too easily”. And as we know, that all ultimately ended her prime ministership. Johnson’s position on Brexit has also strained relationships within his family, with his brother, sister and father all on the record for opposing his view. 

What is his Brexit plan?
Most of it is the same deal made by former PM Theresa May – that is, the UK will abide by EU rules until the end of 2020, pay an estimated £33 billion exit bill, and guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and vice versa. What’s changed is the treatment of the Irish border with Northern Ireland – that was the big thing Johnson worked to change to ease Brexiteers’ concerns that the UK could be trapped by EU trading rules indefinitely under the ‘Northern Ireland backstop’ arrangement that was negotiated by former PM Theresa May. Put simply, it’s a plan to have Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) leave the EU customs union (which is the EU’s uniform system for handling imports and exports) alongside the rest of the UK. But it would stay in the European single market for goods (which facilitates the free movement of goods and services between EU nations). The Northern Ireland Assembly would get to approve the arrangement and then vote on it every four years. The proposal seeks to deal with Brexiteers’ concerns that the UK could be trapped by EU trading rules indefinitely under the ‘Northern Ireland backstop’ arrangement that was negotiated by former PM Theresa May.

Johnson got this plan through the European Union – so why is the UK going to an election?
Johnson couldn’t get the UK Parliament to agree to his timeline. So he was forced to write to the EU to ask for an extension to the Brexit date, which has been granted until 31 January.

But it’s important to keep in mind the numbers in the UK election. Theresa May was forced to form a minority government after the 2017 election. And not long after Johnson took the leadership of the party, a number of Conservative MPs either left or were booted from the party. What that means is certain defeat of almost any vote in the Commons. So Johnson wants to reset, and give himself a chance of getting the votes so he can crack on with Brexit and the government’s other plans.  

So, after getting the numbers to get the proposal through, there was an early general election in the UK on 12 December. 

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