Under a cloud of uncertainty

In a bind: May making a statement at 10 downing Street in London.

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing lately...Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.” - Oliver Cromwell

The feelings of the British people could best be summed up by these famous words used by the 16th century English military and political leader Cromwell, when he thought Parliament was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation.

Disbelief, disgust, anger, outrage, disappointment, and finally resignation. This is the mood of the British people this week, just seven days before Brexit, when their country is due to leave the European Union.

I’ve been in London and its outskirts since last week, and I can tell you that the mood of the Brits is easy to gauge. You can’t escape it because the newspapers, TV and social media are fixated with the issue. Britain is essentially experiencing a constitutional crisis due to the farcical handling of Brexit and an almost total absence of leadership in this most crucial time.

With the country a week away from the scheduled date of departure (March 29) from the EU, the legislature and the executive are locked in an extraordinary battle of wills.

Prime Minister Theresa May has been seeking Parliament’s approval for a Brexit strategy that would allow her to do a deal with the EU. MPs have so far twice refused to endorse the prime minister’s approach and when she tried a third time, speaker John Bercow torpedoed her plans.

On Monday he ruled that under an ancient 1604 precedent, the Prime Minister could not bring her deal back before Parliament for a third time unless it was “substantially changed”.

Bercow’s ruling surprised both Labour and his fellow Conservative MPs, but while the ruling was out of the blue, the reality is that both Brexiteers and Remainers are openly contemptuous of May’s leadership.

There is a growing feeling in the country that the only solution to this crisis is to go back to the people for a final vote.

Lest we forget, a referendum was held on June 23, 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU. Leave won by a razor thin 51.9% to remain’s 48.1%. More than 30 million people voted. And since that historic vote almost three years ago now, the country has been divided.

The ordinary Brit is of course utterly fed up with the state of things - the incompetence of the country’s political leadership and the government’s abominable handling of Brexit.

Take a walk, as I did on many London streets, and you’ll find beggars, vagrants and an alarming number of the homeless, sleeping rough on sidewalks. Worryingly, statistics show that knife crimes are on the rise, the highest since 2010 with a 54% rise in young stabbing injuries. Far-right movements are also on the rise in the UK, according to a recent report, fuelled by increased Islamophobia and anti-semitism.

Against this backdrop of rising anxiety is the uncertainty over Brexit and this has taken its toll on the economy.

City firms have so far transferred nearly one trillion pounds in assets out of London, the equivalent of 10% of the UK banking sector, with more to come, according to a study by the think tank New Financial.

Tomorrow, some 700,000 people are expected to take to the streets in London in protest over Westminster’s failure to address the real issues that matter to the British people.

The key demand for the “Put It To The People” rally will be that any Brexit deal should be put to a public vote for a final approval.

Theresa May was due to travel to Brussels yesterday to ask for an extension to Brexit, but it is unclear if the MPs will finally back her deal. In Parliament on Wednesday she asked for a final delay until June 30.

There is also a possibility that EU politicians could argue against a delay, but the length of the extension, if there is one, will ultimately be up to the leaders of the 27 EU countries.

A worst case scenario could see the UK leave the EU without any deal but there is also a possibility that the UK could revoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union states and cancel Brexit.

Unfortunately for the British people, with March 29 looming, nothing is certain except uncertainty.

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