What’s next for Brexit Britain?


NO CONSENSUS: Theresa
May addresses the Commons
on Tuesday night (15)
NO CONSENSUS: Theresa May addresses the Commons on Tuesday night (15)

by LAUREN CODLING

BRITISH ASIAN peers and politicians have spoken of their concerns for the future of the United Kingdom and its economy as parliament defeated the prime minister’s Brexit deal by 230 votes on Tuesday evening (15).

Theresa May had lost MPs’ votes on the deal by 432 votes to 202, thought to be the biggest government defeat in history.

“The house has spoken and the government will listen,” May said, immediately after the vote. “It is clear that the house does not support this deal, but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support.

“Nothing about how, or even if, it intends to honour the decision taken by the British people to leave the European Union”, the prime minister added.

“Listen to the British people, who want this issue settled. EU citizens here and UK citizens in the EU deserve clarity as soon as possible.”

Politicians cast their votes on the Brexit deal after five days of debate in the House of Commons as the prime minister fought to convince them of the merits of the deal she made with the EU.

Hardline Brexiteers and Remainers opposed the agreement for different reasons and many feared it could lock Britain into an unfavourable trading relationship with the EU.

As soon as the result was announced, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called a vote of no confidence in May’s government, to be held on Wednesday (16) after Eastern Eye went to press.

EU leader Donald Tusk urged British leaders to rethink their Brexit strategy after parliament rejected the planned withdrawal agreement.

“If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” tweeted Tusk, the president of the European Council.

The EU said that the Brexit deal remained the best and only way to ensure Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the bloc.

“The Brexit deal is basically dead,” said Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London.

Ahead of the vote, the prime minister told MPs on Monday (14) that rejecting it risked either a chaotic no-deal scenario or subverting British democracy by blocking Brexit.

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament, ahead of a vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in London

Lord Jitesh Gadhia told Eastern Eye that although it may be necessary to extend Article 50 if the deal is rejected, it was “unlikely to produce a fundamentally different set of choices or trade-offs which we are not already aware of”.

The peer noted that Brexit is a process, not an event, and cautioned against a zombie parliament.

He added: “Britain’s international reputation for political stability – and mature, predictable
and rational decision-making – has already been dented.”

Sunder Katwala, the director of think tank British Future, said the politics of Brexit looked certain to remain “stalemated” beyond Tuesday’s vote.

Katwala noted the lack of support for the alternative options besides the prime minister’s deal and said both leading parties – the Conservatives and opposition Labour – had seen tactical political advantages in delaying their choices.

“But this deepening uncertainty presents increasing risks not just to the economy, but to the climate of our politics, which risk becoming ever angrier and more divided,” Katwala told Eastern Eye this week.

Most MPs do want to rule out a no-deal Brexit, but cannot do that without making a positive choice: finding consensus on a Brexit deal, or deciding to hold another referendum.

“In this hung parliament, no party can make the choice on its own: a sustained cross-party process to agree how to proceed is overdue and now urgent.”

Speculation is growing on both sides of the Channel that May could ask to delay Brexit.

But a diplomatic source said that any extension would not be possible beyond June 30, when the new European Parliament will be formed.

The prime minister must now decide whether she tries to hold another vote, gets kicked out of office, delays Brexit – or if Brexit even happens at all.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street in London ahead of the final vote for the Brexit deal

Lord Karan Bilimoria described a potential future general election as “pointless”.

The founder and chairman of Cobra Beer and the founding chairman of the UK-India Business Council accused Corbyn of showing no signs of a “sensible” alternative to the current deal.

However, the peer said he supported a second referendum.

Although critics have argued that it would be unfair to hold a second vote, the businessman
told Eastern Eye it would be less fair to “hold this country to ransom on a referendum result, won on a knife-edge, which is now more than two-and-a-half years out of date.”

“Since when did democracy hold you to one point in time?” Lord Bilimoria argued. “We have triggered Article 50, but since that time, the facts have changed, the demographics have changed, with almost two million youngsters who were not old enough to vote in 2016 who should now have a say in their future.”

He asserted that staying in the EU would be the best option.

Dr Rami Ranger CBE, who has publicly backed the prime minister’s deal, claiming it delivered on the Brexit results and provided the country with a “smooth” and “orderly” exit which gave control over money and borders.

The businessman, who is the joint chairman of the Conservative Friends of India, said as the June 2016 referendum result was a close one, it would not “please everyone”.

However, Dr Ranger expressed fears that the current Union may become broken after the vote was defeated.

“Scotland and Northern Ireland overwhelming voted to remain,” he told Eastern Eye.

“Scotland may go for another referendum on independence and we run the risk of the dark
days when violence was prevalent in Northern Ireland, all this as a result of hard borders.”

Ahead of the vote, Dr Ranger added that the British people are used to a “border free Europe for uninterrupted trade and tourism” which would come to an “abrupt end” if the prime minister’s deal was defeated in parliament.

“The pound can plunge further and countries which are now investing in Britain due to access to the single market may start investing directly into Europe,” Dr Ranger added.

A people’s vote van drives past the Houses of Parliament on January 15, 2019 in London, England

Last weekend, London mayor Sadiq Khan, who described the prime minister’s deal as a “bad” one, spoke of his preference for a general election if the deal was not approved in the Commons.

“Sadly, the Tories have a long history of putting their party above the national interest so, if
an election is not immediately called, I will step up my campaign for a public vote – with the option of remaining in the European Union on the ballot paper,” Khan told The Observer last Sunday (13).

“It’s clear that if our government and parliament are incapable of finding a way out of this
mess, it should be taken out of the hands of politicians and returned to the British people to take back control and have their say.”

Sharing Lord Bilimoria’s sentiments, Khan said he remained open to a second vote, although a different approach must be taken to unite the country again.

He recommended a campaign highlighting how the European Union has acted as “a force for good for generations”.

In the case of another referendum, Khan suggested reducing the voting age to 16 so young people would be able to voice their thoughts on “such a crucial democratic decision for the future of our country.”

After the outcome of the vote was announced, Labour MP Virendra Sharma recommended
the prime minister hold a second referendum with remain as an option.
(With agencies)