More than three years after the pro-Brexit referendum, it’s still not clear which way the British are going.
A unique case in the history of the European Union, which grew from six to 28 members over a few decades, Brexit turns out to be more difficult to manage than the EU's successive enlargements. For the last three years, the UK's exit has been paralysing London, causing inconvenience in Brussels and creating anxiety and confusion everywhere. On the 23rd of June 2016, some 17.4 million British voters, out of a population of over 66 million, voted to leave the European Union. They accounted for less than 52% of the total number of votes. While Scotland, Northern Ireland and London voted to stay in the European Union, the English industrial cities, rural places and Wales voted to leave.
The Conservative prime minister David Cameron, who supported staying in the Union, but also the man who organised the referendum, resigned immediately afterwards. He was replaced by Theresa May, a eurosceptic who said she was in favour of staying in the EU before the referendum. After trying unsuccessfully to navigate Brussels' conditions and the expectations of her own citizens, both pro and against Brexit, she also resigned in favour of a vocal EU critic Boris Johnson, who commentators say is acting increasingly incoherently and is becoming unpopular among his own people. He said he would rather be dead in a ditch than extend Brexit and kept promising that the UK would leave the Union on the 31st of October.
On Monday, however, Brussels agreed to a new delay, the third so far, in the hope of preventing a no-deal Brexit. The EU's decision to postpone Brexit by another three months was announced by the president of the European Council Donald Tusk. According to Radio Romania's correspondent in Brussels, Tusk spoke about a flexible extension until the 31st of January 2020, meaning that the UK can also leave on the 1st of December this year or 1st of January next year if it passes the withdrawal agreement by then. France insisted that the conditions of the extension period are laid out as clearly as possible. Thus, the withdrawal agreement is not subject to renegotiation. The UK must respect the code of conduct and allow EU member states to discuss issues relating to their future such as the EU budget and climate change projects. Another condition is for London to appoint a EU commissioner if the European Commission takes office before the UK's departure. Also, the European Union reminds London that it has the right to revoke Brexit.
According to the procedure in place, president Tusk awaits Johnson's approval to trigger and finalise the written procedure by Wednesday at the latest. The president of the European Parliament David Sassoli has also said that the extension of the Brexit deadline gives the UK more time to clarify what it is it really wants.