The British government awarded a contract to ship in emergency supplies to a company with no ships. It pledged to replace citizens’ burgundy European passports with proudly British blue ones – and gave the contract to a Franco- Dutch company.
Steve Parsons/PA via AP
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons ahead of a Brexit vote. May was scrambling Thursday to avoid another defeat on her Brexit plans amid opposition from members of her own party who claim she is moving in the wrong direction in efforts to overcome the impasse blocking a deal.
It promised to forge trade deals with 73 countries by the end of March, but two years later has only a handful in place (including one with the Faroe Islands).
Pretty much everyone in the UK agrees that the Conservative government’s handling of Brexit has been disastrous. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing this divided nation can agree on.
With Britain due to leave the EU in six weeks and still no deal in sight on the terms of its departure, both supporters and opponents of Brexit are in a state of high anxiety.
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Remain in the European Union supporters wear blindfolds as they take part in a protest event organised by the People’s Vote Campaign, which calls for a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership, in Parliament Square, London. The campaigners gathered together Thursday to call for Members of Parliament not to vote for a deal they say provides no closure and no clarity, as British Prime Minister Theresa May tries to avoid another defeat Thursday on her Brexit strategy.
Pro-EU “remainers” lament the looming end of Britons’ right to live and work in 27 other European nations and fear the UK is about to crash out of the bloc without even a divorce deal to cushion the blow.
Brexiteers worry that their dream of leaving the EU will be dashed by bureaucratic shenanigans that will delay its departure or keep Britain bound to EU regulations forever.
“I still think they’ll find a way to curtail it or extend it into infinity,” said “leave” supporter Lucy Harris. “I have a horrible feeling that they’re going to dress it up and label it as something we want, but it isn’t.”
Cakes are displayed by remain in the European Union supporters on a cake stall they setup opposite the Houses of Parliament, London.
It has been more than two and a half years since Britons voted 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the EU. Then came many months of tense negotiations to settle on Brexit departure terms and the outline of future relations.
At last, the EU and Prime Minister Theresa May’s government struck a deal – then saw it resoundingly rejected last month by Britain’s Parliament, which like the rest of the country has split into pro-Brexit and pro-EU camps.
May is now seeking changes to the Brexit deal in hope of getting it through Parliament before March 29. EU leaders say they won’t renegotiate, and accuse Britain of failing to offer a way out of the impasse.
Pro Brexit demonstrators hold banners and placards outside an entrance to the Palace of Westminster in London.
May insists she won’t ask the EU to delay Britain’s departure, and has refused to rule out a cliff-edge no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, Brexit has clogged the gears of Britain’s economic and political life. The economy has stalled, growing by only 0.2 per cent in the fourth quarter as business investment registered a fourth straight quarterly decline.
Big political decisions have been postponed, as May’s minority Conservative government struggles to get bills through a squabbling and divided Parliament. Major legislation needed to prepare for Brexit has yet to be approved.
Remain in the European Union supporters stand backdropped by a remain cake stall opposite the Houses of Parliament, London. British Prime Minister Theresa May was scrambling to avoid another defeat Thursday on her Brexit strategy amid opposition from members of her own party who claim she is moving in the wrong direction in efforts to overcome the impasse blocking a deal.
Britain still does not have a deal on future trade with the EU, and it’s unclear what tariffs or other barriers British firms that do business with Europe will face after March 29.
That has left businesses and citizens in an agonising limbo.
Rod McKenzie, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association, a truckers’ lobby group, feels “pure anger” at a government he says has failed to plan, leaving haulers uncertain whether they will be able to travel to EU countries after March 29.
McKenzie says truckers were told they will need Europe-issued permits to drive through EU countries if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal.
Member of European Parliament and former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage attend a debate on the future Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.
Of more than 11,000 who applied, only 984 – less than 10 per cent – have been granted the papers.
“It will put people out of business,” McKenzie said. “It’s been an absolutely disastrous process for our industry, which keeps Britain supplied with, essentially, everything.”
He’s not alone in raising the spectre of shortages; both the government and British businesses have been stockpiling key goods in case of a no-deal Brexit.
An anti-Brexit demonstrator shouts out as he wears a mask with a sticker attached, outside the Palace of Westminster in London. British lawmakers are holding another series of votes on Brexit legislation Thursday.
Still, some Brexit-backers, such as former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore, relish the prospect of a clean break even if it brings short-term pain.
“Perhaps it is time for a Brexit recipe book, like those comforting wartime rationing ones full of bright ideas for dull things,” Moore wrote in The Spectator, a conservative magazine.
He added that he and his neighbours were willing to “set out in our little ships to Dunkirk or wherever and bring back luscious black-market lettuces and French beans, oranges and lemons.”
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves the Houses of Parliament in Westminster following a Brexit vote in the House of Commons, in London.
Brexit supporters often turn to nostalgic evocations of World War II and Britain’s “finest hour,” to the annoyance of pro-Europeans.
The imagery reached a peak of absurdity during a recent BBC news report on Brexit, when the anchor announced that “Theresa May says she intends to go back to Brussels to renegotiate her Brexit deal,” as the screen cut to black-and- white footage of World War II British Spitfires going into battle.
The BBC quickly said the startling juxtaposition was a mistake: The footage was intended for an item about a new Battle of Britain museum. Skeptics saw it as evidence of the broadcaster’s bias, though they disagreed on whether the BBC was biased in favour of Brexit or against it.
A billboard is displayed as part of the campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union, by the ‘Led By Donkeys’ group, which aims to highlight quotes on Brexit made by politicians and organizations and displayed on billboards.
Some pro-Europeans have hit back against Brexit with despairing humour.
Four friends have started plastering billboards in London with 6-metre-by-3-meter images of pro-Brexit politicians’ past tweets, to expose what the group sees as their hypocrisy.
Young members of Britain’s opposition Labour party write on a billboard why they want Jeremy Corbyn the party leader to back a “People’s Vote” second referendum on Britain’s European Union membership, during a publicity stunt in Corbyn’s north London constituency of Islington North. Four friends have recently started posting Tweets sent by pro-Brexit politicians to highlight what the group see as their hypocrisy, dubbing their billboard campaign; Led by Donkeys.
Highlights included former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage’s vow that “if Brexit is a disaster, I will go and live abroad,” and ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s pledge to “make a titanic success” of Brexit.
The friends dubbed the campaign ‘Led by Donkeys,’ after the description of British soldiers in World War I as “lions led by donkeys.” The billboards are now going nationwide, after a crowdfunding campaign raised almost £150,000 pounds.
“It was a cry of pain, genuine pain, at the chaos in this country and the lies that brought us here,” said a member of the group, a London charity worker who spoke on condition of anonymity because their initial guerrilla posters could be considered illegal.
An anti-Brexit demonstrator wears a hat adorned with anti Brexit statements as she protests outside the Palace of Westminster in London.
A similar feeling of alienation reigns across the Brexit divide in the “leave” camp.
After the referendum, Harris, a 28-year-old classically trained singer, founded a group called Leavers of London so Brexiteers could socialise without facing opprobrium from neighbours and colleagues who don’t share their views. It has grown into Leavers of Britain, with branches across the country.
Passers-by walk next to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.
Harris said members “feel like in their workplaces or their personal lives, they’re not accepted for their democratic vote. They’re seen as bad people.”
“I’m really surprised I still have to do this,” she said. But she thinks Britain’s EU divide is as wide as it ever was.
“There can’t be reconciliation until Brexit is done,” she said.
Whenever that is.
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