A lot has happened in the weeks following the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Not only was the result shocking, it has rocked British politics from all sides. David Cameron, Nigel Farage, and Michael Gove are gone, Boris Johnson is actually the Foreign Minister (amusing and/or alarming to the rest of the world) while Labour is in shambles and saddled with yet another leadership bid. Teresa May, a remainer oddly enough, is the new PM and there is now a government department for negotiating the country’s exit from the EU. Meanwhile, as all this happens in London, rumblings of another referendum gain traction up in Scotland.
What this referendum has put into the spotlight is the sorry state of British politics. It is quite a bizarre situation when a Tory PM calls for a referendum due to pressure from the right of his own party and UKIP. Said Tory PM supports remain but his party is clearly fractured on the issue. Leave campaign relies on lies and implicit (sometimes explicit) racism while remain side relies on scaring the middle class English by telling them their holidays to Spain will become pricier. Public vote to leave. Both leave and remain campaign fall apart with apparently neither having prepared for an actual leave vote. Mayhem ensues.
Nobody has yet agreed on what the UK actually wants out of an EU deal. Nobody has even agreed on if the country should stay in the single market. On the one hand, it seems leaving the single market would have some serious repercussions for the economy and many politicians seem to think the UK could stay in. However, the EU has already said the UK cannot remain a part of the single market with controls on EU migration. It now seems particularly difficult for May to keep the UK in the single market if it cannot control EU migration – the issue most people voted on in the referendum.
A clearer picture should emerge from the newly created Brexit department in the coming weeks, with some saying Article 50 will be triggered around the new year. However, the fact that even the people who wanted to leave the EU cannot decide on what to do now that it is reality is absurd.
The Tories under May are perhaps on the road to recovery, depending on how the next few months pan out. She has given many posts to leavers and has struck a conciliatory tone with Nicola Sturgeon in the hopes of preventing another indyref. After a rapid and chaotic leadership contest, the ship appears to be steadying.
The picture is different for Labour though. Corbyn, quite the eurosceptic himself, was relatively absent and unenthusiastic during the remain campaign. Many blame him for many Labour party members voting to leave and many (maybe or maybe not the same people) members not knowing what the Labour party’s stance on the issue was. Corbyn has been urged to resign and lost a non-binding vote of no confidence organized by the party’s MPs. However, he has refused to do so, claiming the mandate he received by being voted leader by party members last year. Angela Eagle and Owen Smith both launched their own leadership bids to challenge Corbyn, potentially splitting the anti-Corbyn vote. Eagle eventually resigned from the competition but not before she and Smith had already traded barbs over who is best suited to take on Corbyn who may still have significant support among party members. The party, frankly, looks a mess. A leader with little support among his MPs and now a new leadership challenge. All this from a party that was supposed to be more unified in its support for remain than the Tories. Labour continues to squander opportunities to take advantage of a fractured right. In the past few years, it should have easily been able to gain ground thanks to the rise of UKIP on the right but has failed miserably. Unless major change happens or the party comes out with an inspiring and coherent message, plus figure out a way to regain its seats lost in Scotland, it will continue to be in the opposition indefinitely.
A question mark is now sitting over UKIP. After Nigel Farage stepped down (although still an MEP) after the referendum, it is unclear if the party can forge on. Will there be a UKIP without Nigel? Can anyone come close to acquiring his level of media attention? Exiting the EU, and thus having greater control over who gets to enter the UK, has been the main talking point, or rather, point, of the party. Now that this has been taken care of, what’s next for the party? Additionally, what’s next for Farage? It’s hard to imagine him actually leaving for politics. A return to politics for some other cause will surely be in the works in the months or years to come.
And so there it is, the sorry state of British politics after the referendum. Parties are in disarray and are fractured. The response on what to do now has been confused. Nobody is actually all that sure as to what is in store for the UK, EU citizens in the UK, and British nationals across other EU member states. Meanwhile the pound remains significantly weaker than before the referendum and there are many a warning of a recession in the near future. Calls for a second referendum or other ways to escape an exit continue, although it seems more and more unlikely. The country, and its politicians, appear to be in a sort of shock after a trauma. The future looks incredibly uncertain for nearly all parties involved: political parties, the economy, the UK population, and the EU.