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A Soft Proposal that was Hard to Chew: the Brexit Chequer’s Proposal
A banner from the People's Vote march in London, 20th October 2018

A Soft Proposal that was Hard to Chew: the Brexit Chequer’s Proposal

At the Chequers meeting, Theresa May realistically faced two options: either continue down the path toward’s a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, or formulate a ‘soft’ Brexit option and hope for the best. Both options had to be taken in an atmosphere where the British cabinet could split at any moment. The first means cutting ties with Europe strictly and harshly, the latter takes into consideration relationships with the rest of Europe. Indeed, Theresa May’s attempts at a hard Brexit were shot down and consequently she now faces the reality of a no-deal Brexit. 

May has had to consider numerous factors in her decision-making. This included the Northern Irish question due to the influential role that the DUP played in ensuring her place in government, tipping the balance of power in the House of Commons. The EU is arguing for the establishment of a customs union between Ireland and Northern Ireland. A union of any kind between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would cause Northern Irish Unionist parties to rebel, whilst any hard border on the island of Ireland would set back 35 years of work creating peace in the North.

Following this, in a July cabinet meeting earlier this year May secured approval for the Chequers Plan; a ‘soft’ Brexit. Leading to the reshuffling of a government due to the consequential resignations in protest, the Chequers Plan, in summary, claimed to:

  • Commit to harmonisation of goods
  • Have a ‘joint institutional framework’ 
  • Develop a facilitated customs arrangement 

These proposals were rejected at the Salzburg Summit. The EU argued that the UK cannot expect to reap the benefits of the internal markets and harmonise only on goods. This has been a consistent feature of EU rebukes to British proposals, with the criticism subsequently ignored by successive Brexit secretaries. Additionally, the problem of Northern Ireland still remains (The Conservative Party’s full name is the Conservative and Unionist Party, hence the internal machinations).

With May unable to secure support of parties at home, the following weeks after the rejection of the Chequer’s Proposal have been rough. Discussions about the future of customs union have been to no avail, the country has seen numerous protests calling for another Brexit referendum, and May is mostly opposed in her own government. It seems May has not come up with any more innovative ways to rescue the situation, apart from a possible extension of the transition period for Britain. 

Currently, the EU is preparing itself for a no-deal Brexit. We are just over 140+ days away from Brexit day, leaving the British government in a scramble to settle with a suitable deal. However, the EU is already holding seminars to discuss what the no-deal Brexit will look like. Overall, one can definitely see that there is currently quite the air of gloom in British politics, with Chequer’s just being another self-inflicted gash to the UK. 

 

For further readings, see these articles;

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/30/brexit-weekly-briefing-hammond-reveals-budget-that-may-have-to-be-torn-up-if-no-deal

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887

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About Maruša Straunik

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