Britain at sea: Week after Brexit, political crisis grips country

  • Agencies
  • Updated: Jul 01, 2016 15:05 IST

Britain’s ruling Conservative Party was left reeling on Friday after the shock withdrawal of favourite Boris Johnson from the race to become prime minister in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union.

Here is a recap of key developments since Britain set off a political earthquake:

Leadership race

Interior Minister Theresa May leads five candidates vying to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation after losing the referendum on Britain’s membership of the 28-nation alliance. May urged voters to stay in the EU before the poll, but promised to respect their verdict if she took office. She has said she would not trigger the exit process until next year.

Rumbles in opposition

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party is also in turmoil. Many MPs are angry at party chief Jeremy Corbyn for what they see as his lacklustre performance in the “Remain” campaign. Corbyn is under intense pressure to resign after losing a confidence vote among his lawmakers, but he refuses to go, saying he was chosen by grassroots activists not politicians. The veteran socialist has been accused of not campaigning hard enough to stay in the EU, but insists he still has the support of party members.

Stocks, pound tumble

Britain’s surprise vote sends shockwaves across global markets on Friday as it ushers in new uncertainty in a world already plagued by weak growth. Stock exchanges from Tokyo to Paris, London, Frankfurt and New York plummet, while the pound crashes 10 percent to a 31-year low. The euro also plunges against the dollar, while oil prices slide.

British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in London, on June 30. (AFP)

Remainers in shock

As supporters of “Leave” campaigner Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) celebrate, the press reflects on the divided nature of the country, after the “Brexit earthquake”. Some call it the “birth of a new Britain,” while others ask “what the hell happens now?”

A series of racist incidents, notably against the Polish community, are reported.

Scots, others eye new polls

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says a second independence referendum is “on the table”, while Ireland’s Sinn Fein eyes a vote on uniting with Northern Ireland. In London there are calls for the capital to secede from the rest of Britain.

A petition is launched on an official government website calling for a second referendum. By early Thursday it had just over four million signatures.

EU seeks divorce

“This process must begin as soon as possible so we don’t end up in an extended limbo period,” says German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker says: “It is not an amicable divorce but it was also not an intimate love affair.”

Cameron’s EU swansong

On Tuesday at a tense Brussels summit -- Cameron’s last -- the 27 remaining EU members accept that Britain needs time before triggering Article 50 that will begin the formal divorce proceedings.

But they warn Britain it cannot expect special treatment outside the bloc, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the EU would not tolerate “cherry-picking”.

Stocks recover, pound steadies

Global stock markets start recovering from the unprecedented sell-off. By Wednesday the FTSE-100 stands above its level ahead of the referendum results. But sterling, while steadying, remains well down from its pre-Brexit poll high of around 1.50 dollars.

Scotland lobbies Brussels

On Wednesday, Sturgeon visits Brussels as she seeks to keep Scotland in the EU. Scotland voted strongly for Britain to remain.

But France and Spain reject any possibility of Scotland having a separate role in talks between Britain and the European Union after the Brexit vote, with Madrid wary of a knock-on effect in separatist-minded regions like Catalonia.

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