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Johnson must sincerely find points of compromise with EU over Brexit

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe intention of the British Parliament is clear-cut: avoiding a “no-deal Brexit” from the European Union. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson must sincerely seek points of compromise with the EU by amending his stance of prioritizing the country’s departure from the EU.

The British Parliament, at the initiative of the largest opposition Labour Party, has passed into law a bill to postpone Brexit. The law obliges Johnson to ask the EU to approve a three-month delay to the Brexit deadline of Oct. 31 if Britain and the EU fail to agree on withdrawal conditions.

Johnson has repeatedly made clear that he will realize Britain’s withdrawal at the end of October, regardless of whether there is a deal between Britain and the EU. The law to extend the deadline is likely a major blow to Johnson.

In rivalry with the opposition, Johnson had submitted motions seeking to dissolve Parliament and to hold a general election in October. The election moves were aimed at watering down the delay legislation on the strength of the supposed popular will. As the opposition parties abstained from the votes, the motions for a general election failed, because they require the approval of a two-thirds majority of the members of the House of Commons.

Johnson had earlier prorogued Parliament until mid-October. A general election before the Oct. 31 deadline to leave the EU has effectively become difficult, forcing Johnson to rewrite his Brexit strategy.

Yet it is questionable that Johnson, even after his dissolution motions were turned down, stubbornly insists his government absolutely will not be asking the EU for an extension of the Brexit deadline. He must take the decisions of Parliament seriously.

Prevent further turmoil

The Johnson administration has become shaky. One after another, parliamentary members of Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party rebelled against the party to vote against the government. Consequentially, 21 members including prominent figures were expelled from the party, leaving it far from a majority. With some Cabinet ministers having resigned, the turmoil is spreading.

The Conservative Party’s tradition has been that it embraces people from all walks of life while advancing realistic policies. Isn’t the party losing its broad-mindedness with the emergence of members with a hard-line position against the EU?

A focal point of the Brexit negotiations has been the issues regarding the management of the border that separates Northern Ireland, a division of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland.

In order to maintain the free movement of goods through the border, the previous British administration led by Prime Minister Theresa May had incorporated in its draft proposal of the withdrawal agreement with the EU a clause stipulating that Northern Ireland would stay in the EU customs union until a new rule is set. Johnson, who seeks to have this backstop deleted, has yet to reach an agreement with the EU.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Britain to present an alternative proposal. It is the obligation of the Johnson administration to get the negotiations started in response.

A no-deal Brexit would bring about turmoil and enormous economic damage to Britain and the EU. Inevitably, it would also adversely affect the global economy.

The EU, for its part, is required to negotiate positively should a new proposal be made by Britain. It won’t be easy for both to find common ground within a little more than a month. There is even a need for the EU to consider accepting the request for extending the deadline by a further three months.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 11, 2019)Speech



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