Is Brexit hard for you to follow? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. As Mel Cappe — a former Canadian high commissioner to the U.K. — puts it: “anybody who tells you that they understand what’s going on doesn’t have a clue.”
Here are the latest updates, followed by Cappe’s expert insight on what to watch out for.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party on Wednesday, insisting on an early election to “get Brexit done.”
“I have written to Jeremy Corbyn: this Parliament must get Brexit done now or a NEW Parliament must get Brexit done so the country can move on,” Johnson said in a tweet.
What is the biggest development on the Brexit file this week?
Two things to watch out for: one is “the supremacy of parliament coming back to bite Boris again,” Cappe said.
The other is the matter of how complex Brexit has become.
“This is as complicated an arrangement as you’re ever going to have,” he said.
It’s a 155-page document that Johnson wanted to pass in three days, he pointed out.
“That wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
Cappe, who is a professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs, said the advantage of the current deal is that “it buys you 14 months to negotiate the real extrication.”
What is taking so long? What is the main sticking point?
The answer to that question is Northern Ireland, says Cappe. Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland is a member of the European Union.
Getting out of the EU means that the U.K. needs a border “either at the six counties of Northern Ireland or in the Irish Sea.”
Both outcomes pose serious problems.
“If it’s at the six counties of Northern Ireland, you violate the Good Friday agreement,” Cappe said. “If it’s the Irish Sea, you violate the United Kingdom. So you’ve got to pick your poison.”
The Good Friday agreement marked an end to the fighting that occurred during “the Troubles” from 1968 to 1998. As part of the agreement, the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was eradicated.
But Brexit would mean the U.K. — including Northern Ireland — would leave the EU’s free trade zone. As a result, the current free flow of goods and trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland could be disrupted.
Britain’s not supposed to have an election until 2022. What would happen if a snap election was held this year before Christmas?
Holding an election this year would get confusing, Cappe says, because people vote for all sorts of reasons.
“Boris thinks it would be an election on Brexit, but people will vote on the NHS, they’ll vote on the future of education,” he said.
“I mean, it’s going to be a dog’s breakfast. And then what happens if you don’t get a clear majority? (Boris Johnson) thinks he’ll get a majority.”
Johnson has said he will ask Parliament on Monday for an election to be held Dec. 12. A “yes” vote from 434 out of 650 British lawmakers is required to hold one.
To recap, the British prime minister has failed to garner enough support for an early election twice in the last two months, according to Reuters.
Johnson had previously vowed to wrap up Brexit by Oct. 31, but he was forced to ask for an extension earlier this month when it became clear that was not going to happen. The EU is expected to give the U.K. an extension.
U.K. lawmakers now have to decide whether to support a snap election.
“We need to clear this up,” said MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. “We cannot go on endlessly not making any decisions.”
So what big update should we keep an eye on?
The dissolution of the U.K. Parliament would be the big thing to watch out for, Cappe said.
But going to the Queen and requesting her to dissolve parliament and call an election might not work out in Johnson’s favour, he added.
“She may say, ‘I’m not prepared to do that,’” or she might ask someone else to form government, Cappe said.
“So, you know, like, who knows?”
— With files from AP, Reuters, Andrew Russell