Monday, February 26

What could December’s vote mean for Brexit



Just when you thought it was safe to drink mulled wine … they’re back.

The same politicians who ruined most of 2019 with Brexit chaos are determined to wreck Christmas by calling a snap general election on December 12.

But before, in the name of your sanity/human rights/Strictly Come Dancing, you tune out completely, you should know just how important the election is for the future of Brexit.

If you care about when, how or if the UK leaves the EU, you should vote and here’s why. It won’t have escaped your notice that Leavers and Remainers have been at war since the 2016 referendum result.

Boris Johnson surprised everyone by agreeing a fresh withdrawal deal with Brussels earlier this month.

Reminder: this ‘stage one’ deal only sets out the terms on which the UK leaves, such as border checks, the divorce bill and length of the transition period, and does not sort out trade. The ‘stage two’ future relationship deal will be part of a different set of negotiations once a withdrawal deal is ratified by the UK and EU.

Johnson even managed to do what May couldn’t and got a majority of MPs to back legislation for a Brexit deal in parliament.

But then MPs ripped up his fast-track timetable for the bill, and fearing attempts to soften his deal or trigger a second referendum, Johnson has insisted on a snap general election.

Meanwhile, the EU has agreed to extend the October 31 Brexit deadline to January 31.

But now a general election is to happen, Brexit will be decided by whoever wins power. It is all to play for.

The prime minister has been clear that he will campaign for his deal.

If the Tories win a majority then Johnson will have the means and mandate to take the UK out of the EU on the terms he has agreed with Brussels.

What does his deal include? The UK will leaving the customs union while Northern Ireland will stay aligned with single market regulations on goods.

The UK will also pay a £33bn divorce bill. Johnson has also agreed a “level playing field” commitment for trade talks, which will see Britain closely aligned to EU regulations with some freedom to diverge.

There will be a transition period until December 2020, when critics say the UK could again face a no-deal cliff-edge.

It is worth saying that Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit, maintaining that while he doesn’t want this outcome it is an option the UK must have.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins the keys to Number 10 Downing Street, it does not mean that Brexit does not happen but it does guarantee a second referendum.

Despite a large rump of Labour MPs and the party’s membership being pro-Remain, the policy is much more nuanced.

Corbyn would renegotiate a softer Brexit deal with the EU, claiming Johnson’s agreement puts manufacturing jobs at risk.

A Labour government would rule out no-deal. It would also seek customs union membership and a close UK relationship with the single market.

This deal would be put to the public in a second referendum versus remain. Labour has said it would legislate for that vote immediately, so it could mean a referendum within the space of a year.

Labour has not said whether it would campaign for the Brexit deal or for Remain.

Corbyn has been hostile to striking any trade deal with America, claiming Trump would aim to cut UK standards and target the NHS.