It's been an eventful few weeks – better described as trauma – surrounding the Brexit vote. First we had the double resignation of both the Brexit Secretary and Foreign Secretary in early July. That was followed Prime Minister Theresa May's release of her Brexit “white paper,” and Donald Trump’s outrageous visit to the U.K.
Trump pushed May to go for “hard” or “No Deal” on Brexit, rather than sticking with a soft, incremental approach that would allow for freer movement of E.U. citizens. Conflicts over Brexit have left experts and laypersons alike unsure of what the final results will look like.
“I think the likelihood of a No Deal Brexit has now risen, given recent events, but it’s by no means the most likely outcome,” Professor Anand Menon, director of U.K. in a Changing Europe, told Occupy.com. “Everyone realizes that a No Deal Brexit outcome would be bad, but this is a negotiation, and in negotiations both sides usually try and scare the other side. In a sense what’s going on here is a game of chicken between the U.K. and the E.U.”
Menon believes the Irish border issue is key in the delays over Brexit. Ireland remains currently divided, with Northern Ireland part of the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland independent. “The Irish really do not want No Deal… I think Theresa May is only saying what anyone who understands politics would say – that the U.K. isn’t going to voluntarily cut off part of itself because the E.U. is telling it to,” said Menon, who is skeptical about the possibility of a second Brexit referendum.
“I don’t think it’s likely we’ll have a second referendum because of the time pressure and the enormous uncertainty about what that referendum should ask people. There is no longer a significant majority in parliament in favor of any Brexit outcome. And in this case, public opinion seems to reflect parliamentary opinion: the public is divided, too.”
Richard Brooks, a spokesperson of For Our Future's Sake, said he is concerned by what he sees as the unrealistic aims of the government’s white paper on Brexit.
“Clearly the Government's white paper is coming apart at the seams,” he told Occupy.com. “Having taken two years to get to some kind of agreed position on Brexit from her government, Theresa May's deal [eroded] in two days.
Like Menon, Brooks was unsurprised when Johnson and Davis left their positions earlier in the month. “Boris Johnson's Brexit odyssey has always been about one thing: Boris Johnson,” he said. “Both him and David Davis simply jumped ship when HSM Brexit looked like it was about to hit the rocks. When the previous biggest champions of Brexit openly say that Theresa May's Brexit isn't delivering on what was promised in the 2016 referendum, that obviously massively undermines the Government's credibility.”
Nonetheless, Brooks holds out some hope for a second referendum – or even perhaps a snap election. “No one is happy with Brexit, parliament is deadlocked and the only way out is a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal,” he added.
“Anything is likely in this parliament. This minority Tory-lead Government doesn't have consensus on what to order for dinner, let alone the answers to the biggest crisis in British politics. Any new government would still have to deal with the intractable knot of Brexit.”
Professor Angie Hobbs, a Brexit expert and professor of Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, said:
“I always thought that when the going got really tough, the architects of the Brexit referendum would disappear. The official Leave campaign offered impossible and contradictory things. I think David Cameron thought, rather complacently, that he could end decades of war over Europe within the Conservative party by offering a referendum. He didn’t consider the possibility of losing and thus triggering Brexit. He didn’t campaign at all well, and it hasn’t healed anything.”
Hobbs said she believes May might have been glad about the departures of her Brexit and Foreign Ministers. “She probably thought when David and Johnson resigned, ‘Oh good, that’s two of my biggest critics gone,’ and I think she’s hoping their replacements are going to be a little bit more pragmatic and a little bit more centrist."
Hobbs remains convinced that Trump’s visit to the U.K. was triggered by concerns over Brexit. “I’m fairly sure that Trump’s visit to the U.K. was a result of him talking to the Leave campaigners,” she said.