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While people in the United States are digging into turkey and their regional side of choice (count us in the biscuit camp, even if we technically live in the “salad” zone), United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May will be in Brussels trying to rescue a Brexit plan growing more unpopular by the day.
Despite a March 29, 2019 deadline to finalize the conscious uncoupling, Britain’s divorce from their European neighbors is more in doubt than ever. If the UK and EU don’t agree on terms by then, England’s membership will end with no deal.
So much to do, so little time: People in England are increasingly worried about getting a bad deal on their way out the door. The debate over the details falls into two general camps, Hard vs. Soft. Those in favor of a hard Brexit want a clean break, with a new trade deal negotiated later. Soft Brexit advocates want to maintain closer ties, especially economically, but that would leave the UK subject to more EU rules with no say in what gets passed. May’s own soft Brexit plan led a couple members of her own team to resign in July, and prompted a flat rejection from the EU, which is adamant that the UK will not get to simply pick what aspects of the relationship it likes (e.g. zero trade tariffs) and ditch what it doesn’t (open borders).
The two sides still need to hash out an array of key points, including whether or not the UK will get any special trade considerations from the EU, if England will continue to allow unrestricted migration of EU citizens, and if it will still honor EU regulations and laws and the European Court of Justice.
A no-deal Brexit is a disaster for Britain: If the UK and European parliaments don’t both ratify an agreement by spring, then England will be thrown into chaos, probably. Trade will be buggered, and groceries will have a hard time keeping shelves stocked. The 3 million EU citizens in the UK and 1 million Brits in the rest of Europe would instantly lose all automatic protections and rights, and air traffic would likely come to virtual standstill.
And, another thing: A big sticking point is the future of the border between Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) and Ireland (a European Union member). After three decades of sectarian violence in the region, the area has enjoyed 20 years of relative peace, thanks to the Good Friday Agreement. The talks about what to do about movement and regulation of the border are highly sensitive, and still unsettled. A no-deal Brexit would immediately re-establish a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Can we get a do-over? Almost from the moment the Brexit referendum passed in 2016, many Brits have regretted the decision, and the idea of a second referendum was immediately floated. Now, as details of what the split really means for the UK come into focus, a group of political and financial leaders including the Mayor of London has renewed calls for a second vote. Considering many voters felt duped by the original campaign, that’s not something May and the Brexit supporters are likely to allow.