As Brexit continues to drag on, in anticipation of the British national elections, SOLIDAR Foundation publishes its last Country Report, on the UK, prepared in the framework of the Citizenship and Lifelong Learning Monitor 2018.
The UK was expected to leave the EU by 31 October 2019, but a further extension has been granted, postponing Brexit at least until 31 January 2020. This decision comes as the UK and the EU have agreed on an amended version of the Withdrawal Agreement, previously signed by Theresa May, and as a national election has been called for 12 December. The amended deal places the customs border in the Irish Sea, ensuring that Northern Ireland follows the EU’s customs rules, while UK custom checks will not occur at land borders but in the British ports. This concession on the side of the UK aims to address the main bone of contention in the previous deal. However, given the short period of time that UK MPs had to debate the new agreement before the UK’s October deadline for BREXIT, the EU agreed to grant an extension until 31 January. Given the continuous deadlock experienced by PM Boris Johnson over Brexit, the new election was called to move the country on Brexit by the time the new deadline arrives.
The polls indicate a continuation of the deadlock, even as the Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage, announced that it will not stand for election in seats where it would split the vote with the Conservatives. Furthermore, the debate on Tuesday between Johnson and Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, reiterated the same strategies and arguments they had already aired. Neither could claim to have won the debate as Mr. Johnson brought the conversation back to Brexit on all points, while Mr. Corbyn did not take a clear position on Brexit, apart from allowing the people to decide on this via a new referendum if Labour is elected. The debate touched on the NHS multiple times, but a muted Mr. Corbyn failed to challenge Mr. Johnson on the Conservatives’ unmet promises regarding the NHS.
With no clear end in sight for Brexit, and with the debate polarising the nation, it is hard to predict what Brexit will look like, while many domestic policy topics have been put on stand-by or have simply fallen off the agenda. As this is set to continue, SOLIDAR Foundation wishes to bring attention back to other issues on which the UK must keep working, because life goes on in the post-Brexit referendum world. In its report on the UK, SOLIDAR Foundation draws attention to the need to increase funding for citizenship education, to ensure more inclusive formal education providers, and to combat hate speech and fake news, among others. These recommendations can be found in our UK Country Report, and are more and more relevant at a time when fake news is flooding the electoral campaign and when an us-and-them division is being created among UK citizens.