By - Makinde Ebenezer
Three years after the popular Brexit referendum, many still wonder what Brexit means for the citizens of the United Kingdom and of course the European Union. Since the referendum three years ago, the United Kingdom has dominated global news majorly in the context of Brexit with different political developments that have often exposed Brexit referendum as ill-thought out. Firstly, David Cameron, the prime minister that organized the Brexit referendum was himself a staunch advocate of the UK remaining in the European Union. Consequently, he announced his resignation after majority of UK citizens voted for the country to leave the EU. The referendum was like a vote of no confidence in the prime minister himself who had confidently expected Britons to vote YES (remaining in the European Union).
Secondly, the fact that the majority of Britons voted NO (leaving the European Union) did not mean that leaving the EU was what Britons in their respective national groups wanted. In fact, Brexit as the voting revealed was more of England and Wales. For example, Scotland and Northern Ireland largely voted to remain with 62.0% and 55.8% respectively. Thirdly, it was after Britons had voted to leave the EU that many of them began to take an interest in the activities of the EU, especially in relation to the relationship between the EU and the UK. Many people in the UK did not know much about the European Union and its institutions before Brexit.
All these developments perhaps explain the difficulty faced by Prime Minister May in negotiating Brexit deal with leaders of the EU. In the context of this difficulty, after three years in Downing Street, Theresa May announced her resignation and regretted her failure to deliver Brexit to Britons.
Politics of Brexit
On June 23, 2016, UK citizens voted to leave the European Union with 52% votes for leave and 48% votes for remain. Brexit was supposed to bring an end to about four decades’ relationship between the UK and 27 European countries in the EU. The European Union is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries including the United Kingdom. The EU is one of the pacifist institutions that was created after the Second World War (1939-1945) with the understanding that countries that trade together are less likely to go to war. Since the UK joined the Union in 1973, much of the country economic and political policies has been influenced and determined by the EU. The EU operated like a single market allowing commodities and citizens of member states to move around each of these countries as if they were one country.
Though no single reason could be attributed to the rise in agitation for Brexit, many Britons over the years have expressed their distrust in organizations like European Union. The “leave” group campaigned more generally on issues like sovereignty and immigration. There was the general fear among Brexiters that the UK was losing much control to the EU and that decisions that affect the UK must be made in UK and not in the EU. Those who voted for “leave” also argued that leaving the EU will allow the UK to regain control over its immigration and borders, though migrants into the UK are mostly non-Europeans and laws guiding their activities are within the jurisdiction of the UK authorities. Many supporters of Brexit also saw many economic opportunities if UK leave the EU, though antagonists of Brexit have largely warned of its negative economic consequences for Britons. They believed that the idea of free trade and free markets that will be occasioned by a finalized Brexit deal will give the UK the opportunity to explore large amount of available markets. They hope to be able to freely engage in economic activities with other non-European countries which will in the long run benefit the economy of the United Kingdom.
However, since three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, political leaders in the UK represented by the former prime minister, Theresa May, his cabinet members and members of parliament (MPs) have failed to unanimously accept the withdrawal agreement reached between the UK and the EU. In other words, the withdrawal agreement (a legally binding document that sets the terms of UK`s dissociation from the EU) entered into by Theresa May and the EU has been on three occasions rejected by the UK parliament who are required to sign it before it became binding on the UK especially.
Brexit Under Boris Johnson
The inability of Theresa May to make the UK parliament to sign the agreement she reached with the EU was instrumental to her resignation on June 7, 2019. Following her resignation, Boris Johnson was elected the leader of the Conservative Party which conferred on him the post of the prime minister.
Boris Johnson is a staunch supporter of Brexit and was instrumental to the achievement of Brexit during the 2016 referendum. He once served as the Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016 and as Foreign Secretary between 2016 to 2018. His emergence as the PM of Britain has been identified to mean Hard Brexit for the UK which means a total separation from the EU and a return to an agreement that existed before the country’s entrance in 1973. The prime minister, Boris Johnson had said he was ready to defy “doubters” and “doomsters” by taking the UK out of the EU by October either deal or no deal. Indeed, Boris Johnson has been said to be another Donald Trump and he appears to be living up to that standard. He has been identified with many controversial point of views in the news media which include the use of racist terms. However, unlike Trump, Johnson has a more liberal view of immigration. He is in fact a pro-immigration.
But what will happen to Brexit under Boris Johnson? On many occasions, the prime minister has maintained that a “no-deal” Brexit is not his plan A. Nonetheless, he has promised to go ahead with Brexit even if it means no deal. Firstly, Boris has been insistence on the removal of the Irish backstop as part of the withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK. Of course, the Irish backstop is one of the major contending issues that have complicated the finalization of Brexit. The EU and of course, the Irish government as well as the UK government wanted no hard border (no removal of the Irish backstop) in Ireland which the former PM, Theresa May was unable to convince the MPs to agree to since majority of the MPs wanted the introduction of hard border in Ireland (removal of Irish Backstop). But since Boris Johnson is insistent on the removal of Irish backstop, it remains to be seen how he plan to convince the EU to allow that without encouraging hard Brexit.
It is therefore unlikely that the UK will leave the EU with a deal under Prime Minister Boris. What is however more likely is the fact that the UK will finally leave the EU on October 31. According to Boris Johnson after he became the prime minister, “the people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts.” He thereafter pledged to leave the EU on October 31 “no ifs, no buts.” He has promised to do in three months what Theresa May could not do in three years- lead the UK out of the European Union either forcefully if possible. With Boris in control, it is becoming very likely that Britain will leave the EU without a deal.
The point is that Boris Johnson is to face the same problems that the former MP, Theresa May faced among which include a very divided parliament especially on Brexit withdrawal agreement, uncertain Britons who are no longer sure whether they still wanted Brexit or not. Considering the fact that even the EU has claimed not to be interested in reopening the withdrawal agreement reached with the UK government under Theresa May it is very likely that a no-deal Brexit is the likely deal. No-deal Brexit means that all relationships and ties between the EU and the UK will be served immediately. This means that economic trades between the UK and EU member countries would be affected at least in the interim. No-deal Brexit has been identified to be inimical to economic prospect of the UK but staunch advocates of the hard Brexit saying “no-deal” will actually benefit the UK as it will allow the country to engage in trade deals around the world without the current restrictions brought about by their decades-long ties with the EU.
What does Brexit mean for the African Continent?
The instinctive feeling is that Brexit has nothing to do with the African continent, that it is simply a western issue. However, in an increasingly connected world, Brexit albeit indirectly has implications for the African continent, more so, a Brexit under Boris Johnson. The current prime minister of Britain, though not a hardliner like Trump has been identified with racist terms including some unremarkable comments about the continent of Africa. He once referred to Africa as “that country” in what many commentators referred to as blunder rather than a condescending comment on the continent of Africa.
However, the African people, especially the youths, are a bit sceptical about Boris Johnson- a man who was instrumental and spearheaded the successful campaign for Britain to leave the EU, Brexit which he has been elected to oversee. It is being prognosticate that Boris Johnson`s Britain will be much more difficult to enter for immigrants, even though there are enough evidence to suggest that the prime minister is a pro-immigration unlike Donald Trump his lookalike.
Brexit, as its antagonists argued will affect the economic prospects of the UK. However, it has been said that other countries including African countries will be affected in this regard. For example, as revealed by David Hornsby for The Conversation (the conversation.com), 20% of South Africa’s trade exports destined for the EU go through the UK and the decision to leave the EU by the UK will have significant financial implications for South Africa. With Boris Johnson as the PM, UK`s relationship with the African continent will likely ebbed.
Also, since most of the trade arrangements of the UK with the African countries were negotiated through the EU, most of them will have to be discontinued or renegotiated when Britain finally leave the EU especially if it is a no-deal Brexit. South Africa, which is the UK ‘s largest African trading partner will bear the most of the negative consequences of Brexit when it’s finally happen. Brexit also mean that Nigerian economy will be affected. Nigeria is the second largest trading partner of the UK in the continent of Africa. Not only will Brexit affect trade between Britain and the African countries, it will also affect foreign aid and foreign direct investment that enters into the continent.
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