BY MARIELLA O’CURNEEN.
Since the referendum in 2016, the United Kingdom has been trying to come up with a plan to leave the EU , a process very well known to as all as Brexit. Brexit has caused a lot of political unrest in Parliament. For most bills, there is disagreement between the parties, but Brexit has caused unrest within the political parties themselves. This has threatened the status that the UK holds on an international level and it has also caused political uncertainty among the people of the UK. Throughout the last three years, the UK has had three Prime Ministers (PM) and with the general election in December, the number could go up to four.
How does the election process work?
The UK is a parliamentary democracy, which means that the people elect candidates to represent them in the parliament. In the UK there are 650 constituencies. Each one is represented by a member of parliament, more commonly known as an MP. Each MP is elected by a majority vote, so the MP with the most votes becomes the representative for their constituency in Parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons becomes PM; but to only have that party running the government it must win 326 seats. If no party has won 326 seats in Parliament, then the party with the largest number of seats can form a coalition government, which is when that party joins together with another party to have more seats in Parliament, so that it passes the 326-seat threshold. Both parties then run the government together, with the main party’s leader as PM.
Why has a general election been called?
In 2017, when Theresa May became Prime Minister, the Conservative party did not have enough seats in Parliament, so they partnered up with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), a party from Northern Ireland that wants to stay part of the UK. This has meant that the DUP has supported the Conservative party in Parliament. However, Boris Johnson has plans for Brexit that the DUP strongly reject. While the DUP favors remaining part of the UK, it has been one of the main parties to reject the deals struck with the EU, thinking that the solutions the PM has come up with are good enough. Despite all of this, the DUP, along with most other parties, does not want a ‘No-deal Brexit’ because it would be catastrophic.
A ‘No-deal Brexit’ would mean that the UK would leave the EU without a deal. This would mean that the UK would have to start from scratch. This would mean that they would have to strike deals with individual countries for trade; to get in or out of the UK and back to the EU could take days and traffic lines at the border would stretch for miles. Not only that, but food and fuel prices would go up drastically because importing them from other countries would be much more expensive. This would have a massive impact on the poorer parts of the UK. Lastly, medication shortages would be a very big problem and many people would suffer because there are some medications that can’t be stockpiled and there would be no way to get them.
To stop this high risk and potentially very damaging “No-deal Brexit” scenario, an Act was passed by Parliament in early September to make it illegal to leave the EU without a deal, thus requiring the PM to request from the EU an extension of the Brexit deadline. This act was opposed by Boris Johnson and many so-called Brexiteers. No agreement was decided on by mid-October, so Boris Johnson was forced to ask for an extension. When the EU granted an extension up to 31 January 2020, the Labour party, which is the next biggest party in the Parliament and the party that had been opposing a general election because no deal was still a possibility, agreed to support calling a general election on 12 December 2019. On Sunday the 10th November the campaigns officially begin.
What does each party hope to achieve with their MPs in Parliament?
Under Boris Johnson’s leadership this right-wing party has moved further to the right than ever before. The Conservative party hopes to leave the EU with Boris Johnson’s new deal, which got rid of the controversial ‘backstop’ intended to protect peace in Northern Ireland, and replaced it with a new customs agreement for the border with the Republic of Ireland. Like with the Labour party (see below) there has been a massive divide in the opinions in the party and 21 MPs have been expelled from the Conservatives for not agreeing with the government on Brexit. 10 have since been welcomed back into the party but others have joined the Lib-Dems or become independent.
Labour is a left-wing party, which currently has a far-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour party is one of the two largest parties in the UK. Different Labour MPs have different opinions on Brexit and because of this the party is divided on how to approach Brexit. They are campaigning to re-negotiate Brexit and to put it to a people’s vote. The referendum they are suggesting would be between what they call a ‘credible’ leave deal and the option to remain in the EU. In the deal they hope to strike, the UK will stay in the EU customs union and continue to have a close relationship with the EU’s single market. This deal would allow the UK to continue to freely trade with EU countries, but it would not be allowed to negotiate its own trade deals with other countries outside of the EU because the EU would already be doing it on their behalf. The Labour party hopes to get this done within six months of being voted in.
This party is a centre-left party, with Jo Swinson as their leader. The Liberal Democrats, also known as the Lib-Dems, want to stop Brexit all together. They believe that the UK is better off in the EU than out of it. If they win a majority, they will stop Brexit but if they don’t win a majority of seats, they will back a referendum so the people can choose between Boris Johnson’s deal or remaining in the EU. The Lib-Dems, the Greens and the Welsh party Plaid Cymru have come together and have said that if there is a clear majority of people supporting one of their candidates in a given constituency, then the other two parties will tell their supporters to vote for that candidate to become MP, in the hope of winning more seats in parliament to stop Brexit.
This is a right-wing party, with Arlene Foster as their Leader. The Democratic Unionist Party, also known as the DUP want to leave the EU, but their prime objective is that Northern Ireland should continue to be part of the United Kingdom. The DUP had an agreement with the Conservative party to back their decisions in Parliament, but did not agree with the deal that Boris Johnson struck with the EU because they believe that is would threaten the position Northern Ireland has in the UK.
This is a centre-left party with Nicola Sturgeon as their leader. It is also important to note that this party is a nationalist party, that campaign for the identity of Scotland. Like the Lib-Dems the SNP strongly supports remaining in the EU, because more than 60% of Scots voted to remain in the 2016 referendum. The SNP are campaigning for another referendum.
This party is a radical-right party, with Nigel Farage as its leader. The Brexit Party wants the most extreme Brexit, in other words it wants what it calls a ‘clean-break Brexit’. It stands for a no-deal Brexit because it believes that this is the only way that Britain will be completely free from the EU. Nigel Farage does not agree with Boris Johnson’s deal for several reasons, one of which is because it includes having to pay the UK’s current commitments of £39 billion to the EU. The party has offered to form a coalition with the Conservative party to make sure that there is a majority of MPs in government that want to leave.
This is a left-wing party with Caroline Lucas as their leader. The one MP, who is also their leader, that the Green party has in the Parliament has been clear about where she stands when it comes to Brexit and is backing another referendum. The Greens have joined together with the Lib-Dems and the SNP, to try to make sure that they have more MPs that want to stop Brexit.
This is a centre-left party, with Adam Price as their leader. Plaid Cymru is a nationalist party, campaigning for the identity of Wales. Although Wales voted ‘leave’ in the referendum in 2016, Plaid Cymru wants to remain in the EU and they want another referendum. They have joined together with the Lib-Dems and the Green party, to try to get more MPs in Parliament to stop Brexit.