If one thing is certain, the UK faces a number of challenges that could heavily affect its future. Brexit, being the principle challenge, has the most potential for doing harm to the UK. The potential effects of Brexit are deep and could take a generation to recover from, but how much of it is being controlled by Conservative in-fighting? Are the current issues within the Conservative party really serving the country well? In this article, we’re going to look at the current issues inside the Conservative party to see whether the situation is helping or hurting the UK.
The Labour party is often described as having a broadchurch, but is there really any difference with the Conservatives? Perhaps Labour’s differences are a little easier to see, between the centrists and the far-left, there is quite a difference politically. But the Conservative’s have often had a large chasm between their centrists and eurosceptics. The problem of Europe has troubled the party for years, and Brexit has given the eurosceptics the opportunity that they’ve been waiting for. The problem for the Conservative’s is that their front benches mainly consist of so-called “remainers”, whereas the back benches have a large group of eurosceptics.
This distinction of the two groups is now coming to the fore with the eurosceptics pushing their agenda and causing no end of problems for the cabinet. This is Theresa May’s biggest problem: trying to deliver a Brexit that pleases all of her party. This lack of consensus has lead us to the current impasse. With Brexit rapidly approaching, the lack of Conservative harmony is now damaging the country to the point where a “no-deal” Brexit is a very real possibility. This option for many is a huge worry and one that they are keen to avoid. But with Theresa May unable to maintain a tight grip over her party, it’s an option that looks more inevitable by the day.
One of the main reasons for Theresa May’s woes is her decision to hold a general election in 2017. Already having a tight grip on the country, the prime minister took the decision to try and tighten it further. This decision was a catastrophic disaster. It was a gamble that completely backfired and is one the main contributors to our current impasse. It opened the door to the eurosceptics to round on the prime minister and cause her huge problems. These problems look like they are not going away any time soon and the prime minister’s days may well be numbered.
The decision to hold a general election removed all of the Conservative majority and led them to lean on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to make up their shortfall in votes and form a minority government. This has lead to the British government now being held hostage by the whims and wishes of Arlene Foster and her team. This didn’t seem like a huge problem until Brexit negotiations started to deal with the issue of having a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. All parties are against the introduction of a land border between the two nations, but the EU insist that there needs to be a way to seperate the two due to only one of them (the Republic of Ireland) remaining in the EU zone. While it’s easy to see why Theresa May opted for using DUP votes to form a minority government, the decision, much like the one to hold a general election, now looks like a particularly short sighted one.
Another major factor in the current Conservative woes is the troublemaking by two closely related factions inside the Conservative party: former foreign secretary and London mayor Boris Johnson and the so-called European Research Group. The former, Johnson, has benefited significantly from Brexit. In the lead up to the referendum in 2016, Johnson came out as a leave campaigner (much to the surprise of many) and in many people's eyes, swung the campaign. In the direct aftermath of the result, it was widely anticipated that Johnson would campaign to become the next prime minister after David Cameron stepped down. But to the shock of many, Johnson did not run, instead backing fellow leave campaigner Michael Gove. This decision proved wise as Gove’s campaign was derailed and Theresa May took the leadership with ease. He then reappeared as foreign secretary as Theresa May attempted to bring him into the fray. Again this decision went awry and Johnson quit in an attempt to damage the leadership further.
The European Research Group is a group of eurosceptic MPs trying to also derail the Brexit negotiation process. Lead by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, the group is trying to put pressure on the government to leave the EU with no deal whatsoever, in order to make a clean break. For many this is the worst possible outcome. The group heavily support Boris Johnson and could pull the numbers together for a leadership bid, should Johnson finally decide to strike. It was anticipated that he would launch a leadership bid after quitting as foreign secretary, but this has so far not happened, though Johnson has refused to rule out a leadership bid. Whatever happens, the Conservative infighting is unlikely to cease and with Brexit on the horizon, we’re moving towards a “no-deal” situation which could potentially cause huge lasting harm to the UK, and there are many subsections of the Conservative party who will be rubbing their hands together at the thought.
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