The political events in the United Kingdom since the fateful day that the former Prime Minister David Cameron called a referendum to decide whether the United Kingdom should continue to be a member of the European Union, have been nothing short of extraordinary.   

The electorate of the British Isles voted to leave the Union, a decision which triggered repercussions and consequences, some of which were unintended and most unprovided for. The decision has put great pressure on Britain’s unwritten constitution and considerable strain on the unity of the Kingdom itself. The division between the constituent parts is indeed unprecedented and, in many ways, sad. However, it is a decision that has to be respected as a sovereign people’s legitimate one.

The European Union is a profoundly democratic constitutional project and no member state should remain in this Union against the will of its own electorate. For this reason, the Union has, with great respect for the will of the people of Great Britain, twice been involved in intricately balanced negotiations for the conclusion of an appropriate agreement to terminate the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. This, as we have seen, was done in the spirit of respect for, and loyal cooperation with, a greatly valued European member state. The European Union hopes for a close and intense neighbourly relationship with the United Kingdom after it leaves.

Parliament at Westminster has voted for general elections to be held on December 12. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is aiming to obtain a mandate from the polls with a sufficient parliamentary majority so as to  enable him to implement the revised Brexit deal that has been concluded with the European Union. The Leader of the Opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn promises, if elected, to renegotiate the agreement and to put it to the test of a fresh referendum.

There is a general feeling that either way, after the coming election, the country should move on

The Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson proposes a stop to the Brexit process altogether so that the United Kingdom would continue to be a member state of the European Union. The Greens and the regional parties, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party, favour remaining. Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party would opt, on the other and opposite end, for a ‘clean break’ meaning a ‘no deal exit’. In John Bull’s other Island, the Sinn Fein prefers remaining while the DUP would leave. It seems there is no consensus on either leaving or remaining.

The Brexit debate has dominated the political scene in the whole United Kingdom, and this many-sided issue will loom large over the election campaign, notwithstanding Johnson’s and Corbyn’s tentative moves towards more strictly ‘domestic’ concerns such as the National Health Service, Education, and Law and Order.

The British people will be divided on the issue of Brexit, but as of now, there is a general feeling that either way, after the coming election, the country should move on. The long drawn out discussion of the matter itself and the uncertainties attached to its final resolution, have harmed the British economy, as well as its future prospects.

The debate has, perhaps thankfully, made the position of the two major parties somewhat clearer. Understandably, given the scale of support enjoyed by the Tories and by Labour, both aptly described as ‘broad’ churches, it was difficult to find a definite mean in their overall orientation.

Though the Conservative Party moved behind the leave banner, one notices reluctancies in many quarters; and as Labour adopted a less emotive and more of a reflective stance towards the issue, it now seems that Corbyn would prefer a second referendum in which the benefits of remaining for the common men and women of Great Britain could be put squarely and evenly before the electorate.

At the moment, many political observers all over Europe are waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the coming general election. The result may not be as decisive as some had hoped. There might well be elected a ‘hung’ Parliament, as the electorate is very divided.

As of now the impending British general elections leave us Maltese on tenterhooks. Maltese citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in Malta are living in great uncertainty. Businesses on both sides of the English Channel and Maltese companies trading with the UK regularly, find difficulties in planning ahead. Though no longer the ‘mother country’, our economic and cultural ties with that country and its ‘peoples’ are indeed, very strong. With both our countries partners as member states within the same and ‘common’ European Union, these historical ties had become even stronger and unfettered.

Our country should look forward to an election result on the morrow of December 13, which would give a clear indication of the reasonable and informed choice of a majority of the people in Britain, so that our citizens in general and our business community in particular, can continue to plan ahead without the uncertainties that have lingered so long.

May we hope for a Christmas season in which the ghosts of a pending Brexit have been buried and made really past, and the problems of a future relationship thrust towards resolution.

Carm Mifsud Bonnici is PN spokesman on foreign affairs and trade promotion.

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