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Zombie government? UK politics consumed by Brexit concerns

Who’s in charge now in Britain? It’s a fair question as the country tries to sort out its future following voters’ seismic decision to leave the European Union.

Britain EU Referendum Updated: Jun 29, 2016 01:07 IST
Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister has already announced his impending departure in the fall to allow a new leader to negotiate an exit from the EU, and the race to replace him is underway.
Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister has already announced his impending departure in the fall to allow a new leader to negotiate an exit from the EU, and the race to replace him is underway. (AFP)

Who’s in charge now in Britain?

It’s a fair question as the country tries to sort out its future following voters’ seismic decision to leave the European Union.

Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister has already announced his impending departure in the fall to allow a new leader to negotiate an exit from the EU, and the race to replace him is underway.

The opposition Labour Party leader lost a no-confidence vote from his own party Tuesday but says he won’t resign.

The new mayor of London thinks the capital — which wanted to remain in the EU — needs more autonomy. And even the country’s national soccer coach has resigned after an inglorious defeat by Iceland at the European Championship.

So little is work is being done on other state business that Britain’s Daily Mail has dubbed it the “zombie government.” Here’s a look at Britain’s political chaos.

Read: EU parliament urges ‘immediate’ triggering of Brexit process

THE RACE IS ON TO BE BRITAIN’S NEXT PRIME MINISTER

The Treasury chief is out, the home secretary is probably in — and so are a bunch of others.

The scramble is on in Britain’s Conservative Party to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said he will resign after losing the referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union. Home Secretary Theresa May and former London Mayor Boris Johnson are considered the front-runners, but the field is starting to take shape.

One of Cameron’s closest allies, Treasury chief George Osborne, told The Times that the EU referendum had left him a divisive figure and he was “not the person to provide the unity my party needs.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who’s “seriously considering” a bid for the Conservative leadership, says it’s time for a discussion on what kind “of country we want to be.” Hunt argues that Britain should try for a Norway-like arrangement that gives Britain access to the EU’s single market of 500 million without EU membership. But he says the EU’s free movement rules for labor must be restricted, due to British concerns about EU immigration.

Read: Conservative party recommends appointment of next Britain PM by Sept 2

OPPOSITION LABOUR PARTY MEMBERS PONDER COUP

Opposition Labour Party lawmakers conducted a secret ballot Tuesday on the future of their leader, Jeremy Corbyn — and he lost the no-confidence vote.

Read: UK Labour leader Corbyn refuses to quit after losing confidence vote

The vote came after some 40 members of Corbyn’s inner circle have resigned, accusing him of lacking the ability to lead the party. Many Labour lawmakers are deeply unhappy with Corbyn’s lack of enthusiasm in supporting the “remain” campaign to keep Britain in the EU.

Corbyn, however, says he won’t honor a “corridor coup.” And Corbyn’s supporters say he will stand again for the leadership and win again because of his strong standing with the party’s grassroots.

“The party members are going to look dimly at people who unleashed this kind of mayhem,” Labour member Diane Abbott told the BBC.

But Victoria Honeyman, lecturer in British politics at University of Leeds, said she can’t think of any Labour leader who has ignored the voices of his own members to the extent that Corbyn has.

“It appears that he is putting his own welfare ahead of the political party’s interests. It is fairly unusual for politicians to find themselves in this degree of trouble, and then not resign,” she says.

Read: We understand Britain needs time to exit EU, but cannot afford delay: Merkel

BACK AT THE “ZOMBIE GOVERNMENT”

The business of government is at a standstill in Britain while authorities digest the dramatic events of the past few days.

The government had a slate of challenges to tackle, such as whether or not to add a new runway to Heathrow Airport outside London. But now critics are wondering whether the government will be able to deliver on a promise to choose between Heathrow and Gatwick — a ferociously controversial question that has been debated for decades.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took aim Tuesday at the frozen state of affairs.

“These times call for principles, purpose and clarity — in short, for leadership,” she told lawmakers. “This is why the vacuum that has developed at Westminster is so unacceptable. Politicians who proposed this referendum — no matter how bruised they feel by the result — have a duty now to step up and deal with the consequences.”

She is heading to Brussels on Wednesday to try to protect Scottish interests in the Brexit debate, since Scotland wanted to stay in the bloc.

Read: After Brexit, it is a muddle out there