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Opinion

Uneasy Brexit: the UK's battle with the EU might last for decades

Poul F. Kjaer on Brexit and the UK's snap elections

Poul F. Kjaer on Brexit and the UK's snap elections Photo:

On Tuesday, October 29, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom voted to hold snap elections on December 12. President of the European Council Donald Tusk received a letter with a recommendation to continue Brexit talks until January 31, 2020.

The politicians made the decision after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official request. Despite privately asking to refrain from changing the Brexit date, Johnson sent Tusk a letter agreeing to the new terms on October 28.

Boris Johnson is known for his uncompromising position on Brexit. Currently, he stands for snap elections on December 12.

As Poul F. Kjaer, Professor at the Copenhagen Business School, told “Apostrophe”, the elections might fail to bring Johnson a victory, all the while deepening the UK’s internal problems. The country is risking getting a parliament without the absolute majority. Due to its imperial ambitions, London now has a crisis that’s destroying the state and might end with an even stronger EU integration.

Boris Johnson had faced the choice between trying to pass his EU agreement through the parliament – despite the high stakes – and having snap elections. He seems to have chosen the latter. Thus, the Prime Minister is likely to find himself in a vulnerable position, as the Brexit Party will seek to attract his voters, stressing that “Brexit is not done”. On the other hand, the population has grown weary of Brexit, and Johnson will be the one to promise “to get it done” if elected with a majority. The situation is rather critical for the Prime Minister and his career.

The old two-party system in the UK has seen its end, making it extremely difficult to predict the election’s outcome. The opinion polls drastically differ from one another. Even if one were able to predict the number of votes each party receives, due to the “first-past-the-post” electoral system it is still unclear who’ll win in any given constituency. If Boris Johnson does not win an outright majority, he is politically finished. The Prime Minister, however, is known for being a gambler and a very good campaigner.

In my opinion, the most likely outcome is a “hung parliament” - the one where no party has an absolute majority. In this case, the state might end up with the same problem it has now, without a majority to approve any of the possible Brexit solutions.

The first thing to notice is that neither the conservatives nor the labour MPs are particularly thrilled, as the liberal democrats and the Brexit Party are likely to cut a chunk of their votes. The two establishment parties are not in for the desired win. While the conservatives are highly likely to receive the most votes and potentially a majority, Boris Johnson needs a comfortable majority to reach a final agreement with the EU – all the while ignoring the most radical “Brexiters” in the party. It will be very difficult to make that happen.

Brexit will not end for at least another decade. While the UK might get its formal Brexit after the elections or on January 31, there will still have to be negotiations on the new permanent EU/UK relations agreement, which is most likely to contain much of what is now being covered by the EU membership. As such, the battle regarding the UK’s relationship with the rest of European states will continue to serve as a defining point of the UK politics for years to come.

Strategically, the EU might even benefit from the Brexit crisis. It is not truly a crisis for the EU but rather a crisis for the UK’s political and constitutional system. Furthermore, Brexit relies on the idea of returning to the (imperial) past, which no longer exists. It happened due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the UK’s place and power in the world. Thus, my long-term prediction is that in 20 years from now the UK will be even more integrated into the EU than it is today.

On the topic of security, Brexit signals that the EU needs to speed up the development of a common defense and security policy, as the UK (Brexit) and the US (Trump) are no longer reliable partners. This will put Hungary and Poland under a stronger pressure, as they are now the only ones of the 27 member-states to oppose further integration.

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