Critical time for UK following  Brexit  votes

Published March 22, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON MAR 22, 2019In a referendum on June 24, 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland    voted to leave the European Union, with  51.89 percent voting to leave against 48.11 voting to remain.

 Two of the nations making up the union,  however,  voted against leaving the EU – Scotland which voted  62% to remain vs 38% to leave; and Northern Ireland, 55.78 percent to remain vs 44.22% to leave. That  meant  only England (53.38% to leave,   46.62% to remain)  and Wales (52.53% to  leave, 47.47% to remain) were for the Britain exiting the European Union (Brexit).

In the two years  and  nine  months  since that referendum, the UK has been negotiating with the European Union for an orderly  separation involving economic and  commercial relations,    movement  of people, immigration problems, etc., with Prime Minister  Teresa May meeting with EU leaders to forge  an agreement to ease the separation scheduled on March 29.

The British Parliament,  however,  rejected in succession two agreements she forged with the EU. If Parliament  continues  to withhold  its approval  this week, Prime Minister May  said she will ask the European Council for an extension  for Brexit  beyond March 29.

She  expressed  concern  over the prospect of  the UK having to vote for members of  the European Parliament  in the elections slated this May,  if there is still no agreement. “There could be no more potent  symbol  of Parliament’s collective political failure,” she said.

Some quarters have  suggested  that  the continuing  disagreement in the British government could be a sign of the British people perhaps having second thoughts about leaving the EU, considering  the  very  close vote in the referendum of  June 24, 2016. But British officials rule out suggestions of a new referendum. The people’s decision in that first referendum  must be carried out, much like a  president assuming office after getting elected, even if the voters may  have quickly changed their minds.  The UK Parliament has thus rejected a call for a second referendum.

The  United Kingdom has long been a close friend and ally of the Philippines, and  its  continuing travails have our deepest sympathies.  Aside  from  its difficulties in settling its relations with the EU,  the UK may be facing problems  with Scotland and Northern  Ireland, where many people  want  to stay with the European Union.

There  are  many problems faced by so many nations in the world today – continuing street violence in France  for several months now,  a gathering move to impeach  the president of the United States, an open challenge to the president of Venezuela,  India and Pakistan threatening  each other with nuclear missiles, North Korea failing to get an agreement with the US.

Our problems in the Philippines – a water shortage, a reenacted national budget,  pollution  in Manila Bay,  continued entry of illegal drugs – may not be as urgent or critical by comparison.  But  we all live in one  world and so we  must hope for peace and stability, agreement, and progress in all corners of our world, including in our close friend and ally the United  Kingdom.