By Gökhan Kurtaran
London letter, week beginning Sept. 26

When will Brexit be triggered?

There is no doubt that the U.K.’s negotiations with EU members will not be easy and might take many years. Even the EU-Canada trade deal, which has not been ratified by the parliaments, took around nearly seven years to conclude. Considering the size and trade ties of the U.K. economy with the EU, it might take many years to say “goodbye” in any real sense to the EU. The decision to leave will remain on paper until the government decides to trigger Article 50, but it seems that there are differing views as to the timing of triggering article 50 among cabinet members.

Boris Johnson, leader of the Brexit movement, has given U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May a new deadline to trigger Article 50, just four days after Downing Street reprimanded him for declaring a different Brexit date in his discussion on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. 

Johnson suggested the two-year Brexit process should be complete by the European Parliament’s MEP elections, which will take place in May 2019. When asked about the timing of Article 50, Johnson hinted it would be inconvenient if Britain had did not leave before Europe’s elections. This would mean triggering its departure by May 2017.

This is not the first time that Johnson has made statements which has put May in a difficult situation. Following Johnson’s similar statement last week, Downing Street publicly corrected him in a statement which said the decision was up to May:

“The government’s position is clear. The prime minister has said she will not trigger Article 50 before the end of the year. Ultimately it’s her decision.”

It seems that the Cabinet needs to firstly come to an agreement on the conditions of a new deal before “bargaining” with EU members in Brussels.

However, this is not the only headache at the heart of the Conservative Party. It has become evident that a new root movement within the party is taking a different stance by not clearly backing May. Former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron decidedly rejected sitting in the parliament’s backbenches by quitting as MP.  Speculation that Cameron has been left isolated by May’s team abounds. Cameron had given a more straightforward reason for his choice: a desire not to become a “distraction and a diversion” to the new government. But this might also be interpreted as a message to May and her cabinet that if they fail, he won’t be around to clean up the mess.

However, Cameron is not the only one taking a new road in his political career. Former Chancellor George Osborne will launch a Northern Powerhouse think-tank on Monday just months after being sacked by the Prime Minister. Osborne was sacked as Chancellor by May following the Brexit vote, amid reports that the two senior politicians do not see eye to eye.  According to the Telegraph, the Prime Minister was reportedly frustrated by Osborne's commitment to his forging of closer links with China despite her concerns over security surrounding the Hinkley Point nuclear plant decision, which has a Chinese partner CGN along with France’s EDF.

Moreover, Jim O’Neill has also resigned as Treasury minister after falling out with the new government over issues including the Northern Powerhouse and Hinkley Point. O’Neill, whose resignation marks the first by a minister since May took power, was a star signing from the private sector when Osborne took him into the Treasury in May 2015 as infrastructure minister, giving him a seat in the House of Lords.

It appears that there is definitely political challenges to May’s way of doing things. As long as she continues stalling a draft plan which is strongly backed by her party, the public and even opposition parties, she may find it hard to remove the dark clouds over number 10.



26 Sep,2016