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It’s complicated; Brexit may never really happen

Vince Cable, who is tipped to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats - a party that espouses another referendum on the issue - said on Sunday that he is “beginning to think Brexit may never happen.”

world Updated: Jul 09, 2017 21:24 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Enormous divisions in the Labour and the Conservative parties and a
Enormous divisions in the Labour and the Conservative parties and a "deteriorating" economy would make people think again about Brexit, says Vince Cable, who is tipped to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. (AFP File)

Is the tide turning against Brexit? Apart from the legal, constitutional  and procedural complexities involved in Britain leaving the European Union, there are indications that appetite for Brexit is going down in the Westminster village.

Vince Cable, who is tipped to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats - a party that espouses another referendum on the issue - said on Sunday television that he is “beginning to think Brexit may never happen.”

According to him, “enormous” divisions in the Labour and the Conservative parties and a "deteriorating" economy would make people think again: "People will realise that we didn't vote to be poorer, and I think the whole question of continued membership will once again arise.”

Cable, who was Business secretary in David Cameron government (2010-2015), told BBC that his party’s promise of the second referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal could offer voters a “way out,” and added that he is keen to work with Labour and Tory MPs to block what he regards as Prime Minister Theresa May's ‘hard Brexit’ policy.

Doubts have also been expressed over the May government’s ability to pass the Repeal Bill to be introduced in the House of Commons this week. The bill seeks to incorporate European law into British law before the expected exit from the European Union in March 2019.

The bill, one of the highlights of the recent Queen’s Speech to the new parliament, is expected to face may amendments from Labour and other parties such as the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, eventually seeking to derail it.

Some ruling Conservative rebel MPs opposed to the ‘hard Brexit’ policy (essentially meaning leaving the European Single Market and the Customs Union) are also likely to support the amendments. A new survey by the London School of Economics suggested that most Britons want to maintain or increase EU citizens voting rights in the UK.

Amid the growing Brexit-related imbroglio is the continuing issue of how long May would continue as prime minister. There are reports that matters will come to a head around the September conference of the Conservative party.

David Davis, secretary for Exiting the EU, is mentioned as a caretaker candidate to take over from May before the next election, which may be sooner than 2022. The question increasingly seemed to when, not if, May would be removed as the party leader and prime minister.

One unnamed senior Conservative told The Observer that there was frustration among a small group of MPs and junior ministers that needed to be reined in: “I’m encouraging everyone to go on holiday...It cannot be now – there are some who want it to happen before the end of July, but it is not in the interests of the party”.

“We need to go away, have a holiday and address it in the autumn. There are a lot of conversations going on about when she should go, not if she should go.”