You’ve probably heard enough about Brexit by now. The famous U.K. referendum on whether to remain in the EU or leave (“Brexit”) took place on June 23, 2016, with a victory for the “leave” position. But the Brexit debate began even earlier when then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced the referendum as part of his election campaign in February 2016.
Of course, Cameron thought this was a safe bet to get votes and that the U.K. people would never prefer leaving to remaining. Cameron won his election but lost the Brexit gamble and soon resigned. This was one of the greatest political blunders in U.K. history.
After the referendum itself, a new U.K. government under Theresa May was stuck trying to negotiate the actual terms of Brexit with the EU. May’s problem was that the referendum itself had two choices (leave or remain) but the political process had numerous choices (hard Brexit, soft Brexit, no Brexit and a new referendum among others). Even politicians bunched in one of these choices could not agree among themselves exactly what the terms might be.
As a result, there is no majority for anything definite, just shifting majorities that say no to one idea or another. Still, the clock is ticking and there are only two weeks left before a “hard Brexit” (with no EU concessions) becomes final.
As this article reports, there is a majority in favor of buying time by extending the deadline as the negotiations continue. As they say in Washington cliffhangers, “When you’re out of land, build more land.” That seems the most likely outcome as of now since the EU formerly indicated a willingness to extend the deadline.
The real crunch will come in the months ahead if the extended negotiations don’t produce any consensus. At that point, May’s government may fall and the cry for a new referendum will become deafening. That’s not an easy solution either because those who voted “leave” in 2016 will feel betrayed.
Contrary to elite expectations “leave” may win again. This is just one more element of uncertainty now dominating the global stage. Pounds sterling will rally on each bit of good news and crash again as good news turns to bad. This roller-coaster ride has a long way to run.
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