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Apr 16, 2019

The history of Brexit -- so far

We've found this nice article in the Guardian, and present a few highlights with the original HTML-markup still in place and a picture that could start the next Agatha Christie film (scroll down):

May has failed, so far, because she could not win around Conservative rebels, mostly hard Brexiters from the European Research Group. A last, desperate promise to quit if MPs backed her deal only reduced rebel numbers to 34, 28 of them linked to the ERG.
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Few Conservatives expected Brexit to triumph in the referendum. But the 52% result and May’s elevation to Downing Street changed the picture dramatically.
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Boris Johnson, the face of the leave campaign, was given the job of foreign secretary, but May marginalised him from Brexit policy. Chris Wilkins, a former speech writer for May, said: “She sees him as fundamentally unserious, and for her that is the worst criticism.”
The prime minister later remarked there was no off-the-shelf plan for Brexit. Instead she set about devising policy in the strictest secrecy, barely consulting cabinet colleagues on the most important diplomatic event since the UK joined the European Union 40 years earlier.
Policy was initially delivered via speeches. According to Wilkins, texts were only shared with cabinet members the day before. There was no general discussion at cabinet...
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A key speech was May’s first – to the Conservative party conference in 2016 – in which she said the UK would be “a fully independent sovereign country”.
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Brexit did not feature much during the [snap] election [of 2017], remarkably in hindsight, but the disastrous campaign undermined May’s authority and she lost her majority.
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May said she would form an administration with “our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist party”. Becoming reliant on Northern Ireland’s DUP complicated the picture further.
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Downing Street developed a secretive style of negotiations with Brussels. The DUP had demanded access to the negotiating text in the five weeks leading up to the end of the first stage of talks in 2017, then May tried to bounce the party leader, Arlene Foster, going to Brussels on her own to sign off the deal with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. However, May took a lunchtime call from Foster, who unexpectedly said no to the agreement.
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May returned to Brussels a few days later with a revised commitment to extend the backstop to the whole of the UK. While it brought the DUP on board, who had argued it would otherwise create an invisible customs border down the Irish Sea, it created fresh problems.
Johnson and Michael Gove said they thought it represented the beginnings of a long-term trade deal in which the UK would maintain strong alignment with the EU.
They were temporarily bought off with reassurances from Downing Street that “these were only words” and should not be taken seriously.
Cabinet was called to a summit at Chequers in July 2018 to discuss Britain’s future trade relationship with the EU after Brexit. It was the first substantive discussion on the topic, papers were only sent out the day before, and there was no negotiation.
One minister said they were told amendments could not be proposed because it had all been signed off with the German and French leaders, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Downing Street briefed that if ministers wanted to resign they would have to walk to the nearest pub and call a taxi.
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Johnson quit as foreign secretary the next day, claiming May’s plan would reduce Britain to the “status of a colony”.
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Meanwhile, the DUP said the final agreement did not match the text of the previous December, and that the detail of the backstop linked Northern Ireland closer to Ireland than Great Britain.
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May visited Brussels in December to try, and fail, to get the EU to limit the backstop. It was a poor presentation – May even appealed to EU leaders to show the UK “some Christmas goodwill”.
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It was hoped that Christmas would cool passions, but May’s deal was sunk by 230 votes in January. A complex process emerged in which the Commons held endless votes, making it clear that it agreed on one thing only: to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
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An end, of sorts, was in the air, and a few days later an emotional May told the backbench 1922 Committee if the deal was passed, “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended”.
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“It’s a case of Lyndon Johnson’s rule, isn’t it,” one May adviser said ruefully, reflecting on the parliamentary arithmetic. “You have to learn how to count.”


The cabinet discusses Brexit at the PM's country seat Checkers ("Downing Street briefed that if ministers wanted to resign they would have to walk to the nearest pub and call a taxi.")

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