September 7, 2019
September 7, 2019 5:34 PM EDT
Flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament, ahead of a Brexit vote, in London March 13, 2019. (REUTERS/Tom Jacobs/File Photo)
The United Kingdom is not so united these days.
For more than three years, efforts by the U.K.’s political leaders to negotiate a proper deal to leave the European Union following a referendum vote in June 2016 has borne no fruit.
Former Conservative prime minister Theresa May started the Brexit process in March 2017 that would have allowed the U.K. to sever its relationship with the EU by March 29 of this year.
That day has come and gone and still there’s no deal.
A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaking during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) question and answer session in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. PRU Handout / AFP / Getty Images
An extension was granted and May negotiated a deal to leave by June 1, but it was routinely rejected in the British Parliament, mainly due to the border issue with Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Because there is an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, May negotiated a plan with the EU to create a backstop that would allow people and goods to continue to cross freely between both countries instead of a hard border with checkpoints, which would be legally required if the U.K. was outside the union.
But that would mean some EU regulations would have to be followed in Northern Ireland – and potentially the rest of Britain – even if the U.K. was no longer part of the customs union.
Some British MPs argued allowing this arrangement would go too far after people voted to leave the EU.
Unable to convince Parliament, including members of her own party, May tendered her resignation in late May.
BREXIT: Opponents of ‘no-deal’ with EU defeat PM Boris Johnson, who promises an election
Snap election on horizon after U.K. lawmakers vote to block ‘no-deal’ Brexit
New Conservative PM Boris Johnson is taking a more hard-line approach. He has threatened a no-deal Brexit to force EU leaders in Brussels to negotiate a better exit. Having a no-trade deal would not only hurt the U.K., but also the other 27 EU member states as well.
But Parliament was not buying it.
Last week, Johnson lost three key votes on Brexit as his tenuous majority in Parliament was broken when fellow MP Phillip Lee brazenly crossed the floor while Johnson was giving a speech to sit with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.
Even members of his own party have been working with opposition members to pass legislation against the government’s wishes to ensure some kind of deal is negotiated.
A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during his first Prime Ministers Questions session in the House of Commons in London on September 4, 2019. – Prime Minister Boris Johnson headed into a fresh Brexit showdown in parliament on Wednesday after being dealt a stinging defeat over his promise to get Britain out of the EU at any cost next month. - / AFP/Getty Images
Because of this, a total of 21 lawmakers were kicked out of his Conservative Party’s parliamentary group.
On Friday, British lawmakers approved a bill that aims to block a no-deal option that would force Johnson to delay the UK from leaving the EU without a customs agreement. Queen Elizabeth is expected to sign the bill into law Monday.
Johnson, furious about his predicament while leading a minority government, has threatened to call an election for mid-October. But the opposition has rejected his request, not wanting him to dictate its timing.
For now, the drop dead date for the UK to leave – with or without a deal – is Oct. 31. Whether it will be extended for a third time into the new year is anyone’s guess.