- Theresa May has just over three months to save the Brexit project.
- With little support for her deal in the UK Parliament, the prime minister needs to think again.
- Despite the huge difficulties she faces, some options still remain.
- Here’s how the prime minister could still find a route out of her Brexit nightmare.
Theresa May arrived for talks in Brussels on Friday looking grim-faced after what has been the most difficult week of her premiership.
In recent days the prime minister has been forced to postpone her planned Brexit deal vote in parliament, fought a brutal one-day leadership challenge launched by her own MPs, and suffered public humiliation at the hands of EU leaders in Brussels.
With the possibility of a further vote of no confidence in May’s government in the UK parliament, it has become increasingly difficult to see how she can possibly find a way out of her current predicament.
So is May’s Brexit project now doomed to failure, or is there still a route out for the British prime minister?
Here are five ways Theresa May could still find a way out of her Brexit nightmare:
Pass a tweaked deal
More than 100 Conservative MPs have pledged to vote against May’s Brexit deal, with the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority government, also committed to vote it down. With Labour and other opposition parties also opposed to May’s deal, many assume it is impossible for her to win a majority in parliament for this, or any deal.
But is it really as impossible as it looks?
While Labour are opposed to the deal as it stands, there is a chance that they could change their mind if May manages to tweak her deal. If May were to drop her red lines and seek a renegotiated deal in which the UK would stay in a Customs Union with the EU then it is not impossible to imagine Labour either backing the deal explicitly, or abstaining.
As one senior adviser to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Business Insider last week: “I could see a scenario where May comes back with a slightly softer deal and we say ‘well that is the best we can do. That nearly meets our objectives’ and then we will try to renegotiate in office.”
Pivot to a softer Brexit
At the start of the Brexit process, May was persuaded by her then adviser Nick Timothy to rule out staying in the Single Market and Customs Union after Brexit.
However, by committing to cutting all customs and trade ties with the EU, May made it all but inevitable that there would need to be a hard border with Northern Ireland and the Republic. By risking that, it also became inevitable that she would lose the support of the DUP.
However, with May’s red lines running up against the unbreakable walls of EU policy and UK parliamentary arithmetic, she may ultimately decide that she has little choice but to drop them. As I have argued before, the only sort of Brexit that has a hope of passing through parliament is a soft Brexit.
Faced with the grim reality of risking the economic and political pain of a no-deal Brexit, or abandoning Brexit altogether, May could ultimately decide that a soft Brexit is better than a bad Brexit or no Brexit at all.
There are little more than three months to go until March 29 when Britain will automatically leave the EU under the terms of the Article 50 withdrawal process. In that time May must win a vote in parliament for her deal, then go through the painstaking process of passing the necessary legislation to implement it. She must do all of this without a majority in parliament and with more than a third of her own MPs publicly calling on her to stand down. This is not so much a mountain to climb as it is a deep-sea trench to swim. The prime minister has far too much to do, and far too little time and political capital to do it with.
Given this is the case, May could ultimately have little choice but to seek an extension to the Article 50 process. The Irish Taoiseach has already offered to assist with such an extension and it is not impossible to imagine other EU leaders falling into line.
Doing so is not without its problems. Any extension would likely mean Britain would have to take part in this May’s European Parliament elections and it would also be treated as a betrayal both by large numbers of her own MPs as well as many Brexit voters. The EU would also be reluctant to agree an extension unless there were an explicit purpose and end point for that extension. Simply kicking the problem six or 12 months down the road, without any method to solve it over that period, is unlikely to be warmly received by the EU.
Call a second referendum
The prime minister has repeatedly insisted that there will not be a second Brexit referendum. However, she was similarly insistent that there would not be a snap election in 2017 and that she would not pull her Brexit vote this week.
What recent events have proven is that what May does or doesn’t want out of this process is no longer the main issue. All that matters is what is possible to get through Parliament.
Right now the prospects of passing an EU referendum through parliament, without the explicit support of the government, looks incredibly difficult. Even if the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were to back one, and as BI has reported his team is very reluctant to do so, there would likely be significant numbers of backbench Labour MPs who would vote against it. And while the number of Conservative MPs who would agree to a referendum is increasing, the numbers still don’t look good enough for one to pass.
And even if the principle of holding another vote was to pass, it would take the best part of six months to agree on what that vote should look like and pass the act of parliament needed to trigger one.
However, that doesn’t mean it is impossible. If May is unable to pass a deal then she may be persuaded that a referendum is a better option than either a general election or a no-deal Brexit. And while the process would take time, the EU would probably agree some form of extension to the process if it allowed the possibility of Britain remaining in the bloc.
If all of the above fails then there is one last option open to the prime minister — cancel Brexit.
The ECJ ruled this week that Britain has the right to unilaterally withdraw the Article 50 process if it chooses to. Obviously doing so would be a politically explosive and arguably undemocratic. But faced with the possibility of doing so or allowing Britain to fall out of all existing trade, customs, security and aviation rules with nothing to replace them, then calling the whole thing off could be the least worst option. In any case it need not be a complete cancellation. The prime minister could choose to withdraw Article 50 under the condition of calling a second referendum that would effectively be a simple re-run of the vote in 2016. This would allow Brexit voters another chance to get what they want while avoiding the utter chaos of leaving without a deal.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.