Thursday, December 12, 2019, 01:17:18 PM

BREXIT debate, chaotic political situation and tit bits of 2019 UK elections

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Update: 2019-11-06 7:47:06 PM
BREXIT debate, chaotic political situation and tit bits of 2019 UK elections

The 2019 United Kingdom general election will be held under the provisions of the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 on Thursday 12 December 2019, two and a half years after the previous general election in June 2017. It will be the first UK general election to be held in December since 1923. The campaign period officially begins after the dissolution of Parliament on 6 November 2019.

As of 5 November 2019, 65 MPs who held seats at the end of the Parliament are not standing for re-election. All UK political parties called for application and have completed the selection process for the new candidates for all 65 seats which were vacant as those current MP’s standing down from their position for the upcoming election. 

Each parliamentary constituency of the United Kingdom elects one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons using the first-past-the-post voting system.

The election will be contested under the same boundaries for 650 constituencies that have been used since the 2010 general election. The Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies, tasked by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 with reducing the number of constituencies to 600, proposed modified boundaries. However, boundary changes are not implemented until they have been approved by both Houses of Parliament and the government did not submit the proposed changes for consideration before the election was called.

Voters in Britain may freely apply to vote by post and voters in Northern Ireland can vote by post if they give a reason they could not vote in person. Postal ballots need to reach the relevant Electoral Office by the time of the close of polls or be handed into the voter's local polling station in order to be counted. Voters may apply to allow another person to cast a proxy vote for them if they can give a valid reason why this is required.

The deadline for delivery of candidates' nomination papers is 14 November. The election will be held on 12 December 2019, with polling stations opening at 7am and closing at 10pm.

This date occurred despite the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA), which introduced fixed-term parliaments to the United Kingdom, with elections scheduled on the first Thursday in May of the fifth year after the previous general election. This would have led to an election on 5 May 2022. On 29 October 2019 the House of Commons passed the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 which circumvented the FTPA so as to hold a December election. The House of Lords followed suit the following day, with Royal Assent the day afterward.

Due to the impasse about the Brexit withdrawal agreement, some political commentators in 2019 considered an early election to be highly likely. In January 2019 a vote of no confidence in Theresa May's government was called by the Labour Party. If passed, and no alternative government could be formed, this would have resulted in a general election. However this motion failed. After becoming Prime Minister in the summer, Boris Johnson made three attempts at a vote for an early general election under the terms of the FTPA, but each failed to achieve the required two-thirds supermajority. The eventually successful bill, which required only a simple majority to pass (though it could be amended during its passage through Parliament), was proposed by the Liberal Democrat and Scottish National parties on 28 October and adopted by the government the following day (albeit with a Thursday 12 December date rather than Monday 9 December proposed by the opposition parties). An amendment changes the date to 9 December failed by 315 votes to 295. The final Commons vote on the bill passed by 438 votes to 20.

The election will be the first UK general election in December since 1923, and the first general election to be held by virtue of an Act of Parliament.

The general election comes against a backdrop of continued debate around Brexit, with the failure of the UK government and Parliament to agree withdrawal arrangements. The ruling Conservative Party formed a minority government after the 2017 election, with support from the DUP. Splits over Brexit saw the Conservatives lose MPs and then lose DUP support. Since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, the government has repeatedly lost votes in the Commons.

The unresolved matter of Brexit is expected to dominate the campaign.

The major parties have a wide variety of stances on Brexit.

The Conservative Party support leaving under the terms of the withdrawal agreement as negotiated by Johnson (amending Theresa May's previous agreement), and this agreement forms a central part of the Conservative campaign.

The Brexit Party are in favour of a "no-deal Brexit", with their leader Farage calling for Johnson to drop the deal. Farage had suggested that the Brexit and Conservative parties could form an electoral pact to maximise the seats taken by Brexit-supporting MPs, but this was rejected by Johnson.

The SNP, Plaid Cymru, The Independent Group for Change, and the Green Party of England and Wales are each opposed to Brexit, and propose that a further referendum be held with the option which they would campaign for remain in the EU. This is similar to the Liberal Democrat position, with the additional pledge that a Liberal Democrat majority government (considered a highly unlikely outcome by observers would revoke article 50 immediately. In England and Wales, the prospect of a "Remain Alliance" electoral pact between parties opposed to Brexit has been mooted.

The Labour party position, approved at their 2019 conference, is that a Labour government would renegotiate the withdrawal agreement (towards a closer post-withdrawal association with the EU) and would then put this forward as an option in a referendum against remaining in the EU. The Labour party's campaigning stance in that referendum would be decided at a special conference.

Although the DUP are in favour of a withdrawal agreement in principle, they oppose the deal negotiated by May and Johnson as they consider that it creates too great a divide between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Alliance all favour remaining in the EU. The UUP favour remaining over Johnson's proposed deal.

Most candidates are representatives of a political party, which must be registered with the Electoral Commission's Register of Political Parties. Candidates who do not belong to a registered party can use an "independent" label, or no label at all. At the 2017 general election, representatives of 71 parties stood for election, and 462 people stood as independents.

The Conservative Party and Labour Party have been the two biggest political parties, and have supplied every Prime Minister, since 1922. Early 2019 saw the founding of two notable new parties: the Brexit Party was formed by former UKIP politicians, while Change UK was formed by a group of Labour and Conservative MPs leaving their respective parties. Neither party stood in the 2019 local elections. In these, the Liberal Democrats and Greens made significant gains, but the Conservatives and Labour were still the two largest parties. However, in the European Parliament elections later the same month, the Brexit Party came top and the Liberal Democrats were second; Change UK failed to win any seats and subsequently split, with some former members joining the Lib Dems and others forming The Independents. In the aftermath of those elections, the Brexit Party or the Lib Dems came top in a number of national polls in May/June 2019.

In February 2019, eleven MPs from both the Labour and Conservative parties resigned from their parties to sit together as The Independent Group. Having undergone a split and two name changes, this group now numbers five MPs who sit as the registered party The Independent Group for Change under the leadership of Anna Soubry.

Tim Farron announced his departure as Liberal Democrat leader shortly after the June 2017 election. He was replaced by Vince Cable. In September 2018, Cable stated his intention to retire and resign as leader and was succeeded by Jo Swinson in July 2019.

In May 2019, Theresa May announced that she would formally resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on 7 June and on 23 July was succeeded as leader of the party by Boris Johnson, who replaced her as Prime Minister the following day.

While a number of UK parties organise in Northern Ireland (including the Labour Party, which does not field candidates) and others field candidates for election (most notably the Conservatives), the main Northern Ireland parties are different from those in the rest of the UK. Some parties in Northern Ireland operate on an all-Ireland basis, including Sinn Féin (which is currently Northern Ireland's second largest parliamentary party).

Sinn Féin are abstensionist and do not take up any Commons seats to which they are elected.

The DUP, SDLP, Sinn Féin and the UUP are all declining to contest at least one seat in Northern Ireland: the UUP and DUP so as not to split the unionist vote, the SDLP and Sinn Féin so as not to split the pro-Remain vote.

Brexit issues and discussions made a severe chaotic situations and divisive policies ever in British politics. Brexit negotiations in 2019 commenced in August, after having originally concluded in November 2018 with the release of the withdrawal agreement. Negotiations took place between the United Kingdom and the European Union during 2017 and 2018 for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union following the referendum held on 23 June 2016.

In March 2019, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May and European leaders negotiated a fortnight's delay for the Parliament of the United Kingdom to ratify the Brexit withdrawal agreement,[1] moving the date from 29 March 2019 to 12 April 2019. On 10 April 2019, a further half-year extension was agreed between the UK and the EU27 at the EU summit, until 31 October 2019.

At the time of the second extension, the EU position was that the negotiation of terms for withdrawal ended in November 2018 and that the extension is to give the UK Parliament more time to consider the Agreement. Negotiations during 2019 have been primarily within the UK Parliament on whether to accept the Theresa May Government's negotiated settlement, to leave the EU without any agreement, or to abandon Brexit.

In July, the newly assembled Boris Johnson ministry declared intention to re-open negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, with the Irish backstop removed as a pre-condition. UK and EU negotiators met for the first time on 28 August and meetings "will continue twice a week". Fresh proposals were released by the Johnson ministry in October, which the EU dismissed as unworkable.

The Benn Act, passed by the UK parliament in September, required the prime minister to seek a further extension in the event that by 19 October, a deal has not been reached and parliament has not given its consent to a No-deal Brexit. On 28 October 2019, the date was moved back to 2020.

On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons voted against the deal put forward by May's government by 432 votes against to 202 votes for. Shortly afterwards, the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, tabled a motion of no confidence in the government, a vote which was won by the Government by a margin of 325 to 306. Following the confidence vote, Corbyn voiced opposition to entering talks with the Government on Brexit, until May had ruled out the option of a no-deal Brexit. On 17 January, May rejected this offer, stating that ruling out a "no-deal" Brexit would be "impossible". On 28 January 2019, May expressed opposition to the backstop that she and the EU had agreed to and urged Conservative MPs to back a backbench amendment asking for the backstop to be replaced by an unspecified "alternative arrangement". On 29 January, this proposal, which was presented by MP Graham Brady, passed in the House of Commons by a margin of 317 votes to 301 votes.

The House of Commons had also agreed to reject a no-deal Brexit in principle only, and also rejected other proposed amendments which would have given Parliament the power to extend Article 50 and block a no-deal Brexit. Following the vote, Corbyn met with May and it was agreed that if May were able to successfully renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, another vote would be held on 13 February 2019. It was also agreed that May would return to Brussels for more talks.

After a long political argument in the parliament with the representatives of the  different political parties and intrinsic political chaos, On 2 October the Government published a fresh Brexit plan, which included proposals to replace the Irish backstop. It would create an "all-island regulatory zone", meaning that Northern Ireland would essentially stay in the European Single Market for agricultural and industrial goods, meaning that sanitary and phytosanitary controls would be needed between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The proposal also declared that Northern Ireland, along with the rest of the UK, would leave the Customs Union, meaning that customs controls would be needed for cross-border goods trade. The proposal did not appear to address cross-border services.

On 4 October the Government assured the highest civil court in Scotland that Johnson would send a letter to the EU seeking an extension to Article 50 as required by the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. The court was originally due to release their ruling on 9 October, but decided to delay doing so until 21 October, in order to allow the court to "assess how circumstances have changed".

On 17 October 2019, a revised withdrawal agreement, with a changed backstop, was agreed by the EU leaders and Boris Johnson.

On 19 October, a special Saturday sitting of Parliament was held to debate the revised agreement. MPs passed an amendment by 322 votes to 306 that withholds Parliament's approval until legislation implementing the deal has been passed, and forces the Government to request a delay to Brexit until 31 January 2020. Later that evening, 10 Downing Street confirmed that Boris Johnson would send a letter to the EU requesting an extension, but would not sign it. EU Council President Donald Tusk subsequently confirmed receipt of the letter, which Johnson had described as "Parliament's letter, not my letter". In addition, Johnson sent a second letter expressing the view that any further delay to Brexit would be a mistake.

On 22 October, the UK government brought the recently revised EU Withdrawal Bill to the House of Commons for debate. MPs voted on the Bill itself, which was passed by 329 votes to 299, and the timetable for debating the Bill, which was defeated by 322 votes to 308. Prior to the votes, Johnson had stated that if his timetable failed to generate the support needed to pass in parliament he would abandon attempts to get the deal approved and would seek a general election. Following the vote, however, Johnson announced that the legislation would be paused while he consulted with other EU leaders. On 28 October 2019, it was confirmed Brexit had been delayed until 31 January 2020. The following day, MPs backed a general election on 12 December 2019. On 30 October 2019, the day named as "exit day" in UK legislation was changed to 31 January 2020.

Whoever the political party will get the majority in the upcoming UK general election in 2019, it depends on how they will ensure to approach their views and the elector’s demand about the Brexit as the outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has told the BBC he believes the UK will leave the EU by 31 January 2020, the end of the current extension period.

He told BBC Europe Editor Katya Adler that Brexit is "a too-long story that has to be brought to an end".

On Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim that he will negotiate a trade deal with the EU before the end of December 2020, Mr Juncker said some UK MPs think negotiating a deal will be easy, but discussions with Canada "took years".

And he said he did not think Labour’s pledge to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement if it wins a majority in the general election was a realistic approach - although this would be an issue for his successor.

The British people are desperately eager to see and have a positive political decision from the politicians for this chaotic situations to be brought to an end to ensure and uphold the British socio- cultural and political harmony for better Britain. 

Writer: Dr Anisur Rahman Anis, Political Analyst, Law researcher, Member: London Bangla Press Club. Email: [email protected]

BDST: 1925 HRS, NOV 6, 2019

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