Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Project Brexit” — the United Kingdom’s planned withdrawal from the European Union — is in disarray following the resignation of two top Cabinet members, which also represented the greatest challenge to her authority yet. Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who said in his resignation that Britain is headed for the “status of colony”, has always favoured a “hard Brexit”, whereby the UK would cut all ties with the EU. The other cabinet member who quit, Brexit minister David Davis, has said it was impossible for him to defend Ms May’s plans that would see the UK retaining close trade ties to the EU and subject to certain regulatory mechanisms.
There appears to be no immediate challenge to Ms May’s leadership, as the Brexit hardliners simply do not have the numbers, and her Conservative Party seems set to weather this storm, despite deep divisions on the issue. However, the jolt has come at an inopportune moment as Britain is engaged in crucial negotiations with European officials to hammer out a deal ahead of an EU summit in Europe. If Ms May is unable to satisfy the hardliners, the revolt against her will only grow and jeopardise the negotiations.
The Brexit talks are being closely followed by the Indian government and more than 800 Indian companies based in the UK with annual revenues of nearly £50 billion. These firms would, of course, favour a “soft Brexit” as that will ensure continued access to the single market comprising the remaining 27 EU states, and some have put expansion plans on hold until there is greater clarity on Britain’s exit by March 2019. The UK has spoken of boosting the Commonwealth and forging a free trade pact with India after Brexit, but that will not be easy if Britain refuses to budge from its tough position on movement of people and visas. The cold realities of business opportunities, and not historic nostalgia, will decide India’s future engagements with the UK.
Courtesy – Hindustan Times.