By Mia Dipaola
Two years after the Brexit referendum and six months until Britain is set to leave the European Union, the United Kingdom is more divided over Brexit than ever. Prime Minister Theresa May spent much of the summer attempting to iron out a plan to leave the EU, ultimately culminating in the Chequers plan.
Back at home, Mrs. May’s Soft Brexit plan has many opponents, including some within her own party, The Irish Times reports. While the Chequers plan is opposed by the Labour MPs and some MPs from Mrs. May’s Conservative party, they are not united in the reasons for their dissent. The Labour Party is still holding out hope on remaining in the EU, while some right-wing Conservatives would prefer a hard break. The Irish Times has also reported that if Chequers is defeated, May’s place as party leader will likely come into question.
Mrs. May’s Chequers plan has given rise to splits within her own cabinet. According to The Sun, disagreements over the Soft Brexit deal led to the July departures of former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary David Davis, vice-chairs of the Conservative Party Maria Caulfield and Ben Bradley, and ministers Steve Baker and Robert Courts. Mr. Davis believes that up to 40 Tory Members of Parliament will vote against the Chequers plan, Independent reports. Additionally, Mr. Johnson has become one of the most outspoken critics of Mrs. May’s proposed deal. If Mrs. May were to be ousted from 10 Downing Street, Mr. Johnson would likely be the first to throw his name into the ring for PM, The New York Times reports.
Further adding to the chaos, there have been calls for a second Brexit referendum. The Sun has reported that at the September 20 EU leaders’ meeting, held in Salzburg, Mrs. May was encouraged by Maltese and Czech leaders to hold a second Brexit referendum. This news comes in the same week that Reuters reported that London mayor, Sadiq Khan, is calling for a second referendum. Mr. Khan, a member of the Labour Party, has joined other members of his party in making such a demand. While it is not an official stance on the Labour party platform, most of the support for another referendum, if Mrs. May’s negotiations with the EU fall through, comes from Jeremy Corbyn’s party. However, Mr. Corbyn currently is not in favor of a second referendum himself. With the Labour party’s annual conference set to occur next week, there will be a renewed pressure on Mr. Corbyn.
However, the most pressing issue may not be opposition to Chequers in the UK. Before Parliament can vote on the Brexit plan, it must first be approved by the European Union. Mrs. May received bad news from Brussels on Thursday. According to Business Insider, the EU has told Mrs. May her Brexit plan “will not work.” At the September 20 meeting held to discuss the progress of Brexit negotiations, it was unanimously agreed that allowing the UK to stay in a single market for goods would be unacceptable. Chequers likely will not even make it back to the UK to be voted on. The Economist reports that Brussels believes a Brexit agreement will be finished by December. With the UK set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019 with, or without a deal, there is a little time for disagreements.