Brexit Jargon and where are we at? by Sesiones de inglés con Paul Jarvis - Profesor de inglés en Barcelona

Brexit Jargon and where are we at?

Brexit Jargon 


Listening to or reading the news in English can be hard enough in normal circumstances for a non-native or English learner but when it comes to Brexit there seems to be a whole new lexicon to describe what is happening. Here´s a handy guide to explain what all the words and phrases actually mean. 


Brexit - Yes, I know you know by now that this means the process of "BRitain" "EXITing" the EU but I thought I´d start small and get bigger as I go on. 


No deal - So let's go all the way back to the day after the referendum. We´ve decided to leave but at this stage no-one really knows what that means. The protocol for leaving the EU is that you have to give notice by enacting article 50. Once that´s done you have two years to negotiate with the EU so you can have a relationship with them on the first day after you´ve left. No deal means that we leave on (original date) the 31st of March and then on the 1st of April, the UK will find it difficult to import and export to and from the EU. Lorries will need to be checked at Dover, the UK´s main port for exporting to the continent, which will lead to a backlog of lorries going all the way to Scotland. If the UK leaves without a deal then they´ll revert to ... (see below) 


...WTO rules - WTO stands for World Trade Organisation. The UK and the EU are both WTO members. In the event of two groups not having organised a trade agreement then you will be on WTO rules. This is what happens to the UK if they leave the EU without a deal. 


Backstop - This is the "worst-case scenario" for what happens to the Irish border if the UK doesn´t have a deal with the EU when it comes to leaving day. In that case, Northern Ireland will remain in some of part of the EU like the single market and customs union so that trade can continue with the Republic just because there is a land border. 

Extend article 50 - Article 50 is the formal process of leaving the EU. You have two years to negotiate the deal you want and two years to the day after you invoke article 50, you leave the EU. You can ask for an extension, as the UK has done several times and then you have more time to negotiate.

Hard Brexit/Soft Brexit – Within the EU there are several clubs and other unions, Customs Union, Single Market etc... A hard Brexit removes you from all of those while a soft Brexit keeps you in some. A hard Brexit is similar to a ‘clean break’, see below. 


Operation Yellowhammer - This is the emergency procedure organised by the UK Treasury for how they´ll act and operate in certain circumstances in the event of ´No Deal´. 


Prorogue - Okay, so this isn´t totally unique to Brexit but had you heard of it before Boris Johnson told everyone that he had asked the Queen to "prorogue Parliament". It basically means to cancel (for a period of time) a governing body without dissolving it.   


Clean break - This is what the leave people want. To be completely out of the EU, out of the Customs Union, out of the Single Market and out of any of the other groups so that we can create our own laws for everything. 


So that´s the jargon now let me explain what is happening right now as I write this at the beginning of September. 


So Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister of the UK. In August Parliament basically closes down. They came back to sit this week. Thus far, as has been the case for the whole of Brexit, it has been one big game of chess. Right now there are two sides, one that wants Brexit at any cost, the other is the exact opposite to that. However, in the latter, you have two splinter groups. One doesn´t want Brexit at all and wants to reverse the result of the referendum, the other is willing to allow Brexit but on their terms. Everyone is carefully calculating each and every move they make at every stage, people are doing things that are potentially a risk but have they seen something that the opposition hasn´t and do they have a good plan to get what they want? Or are they playing a dangerous game, willing to risk everything only to get caught out in the end? 


For those observing, either casually or with scrutiny, at the moment Boris Johnson is losing. He´s in a week position because Parliament is pushing through legislation to stop no deal. If you look at the whole house of 650 MPs (Members of Parliament) he just doesn´t have a majority. Right now party alliance doesn´t matter in the main two parties, the Tories (Conservatives) are split on who wants no deal and who doesn´t. Within Labour, there are two that do want no deal and within the other parties, they´re sticking with their party alliance.  


So what Boris Johnson wants right now is an election. It´s a strange situation. In the UK we have the Fixed Term Parliament Act. That means we have an election every five years and the government can only call an election if they have two-thirds of the house in agreement. They don´t, so Johnson has no chance of increasing the number of MPs that will vote for a no deal. It´s an odd situation for the government to call an election and for the opposition to refuse, or in this case, abstain. This is the problem Johnson has, he doesn´t have the power and is being forced into a corner. 


Meanwhile, those that don´t want a no deal are pushing through legislation to prevent it from happening. And this is the real problem for Johnson because he has said that he will not go back to the EU to get an extension. If he is forced to do that that it will be clear he has no power. 


All he can do is continue to try to push through an election. There are other ways this can happen, besides needing a two-thirds majority. He can create legislation that will allow him to have an election with the support of 50% of the house. In that event, it could still be difficult but this is where the Scottish National Party (SNP) could be important. First off, remember that Scotland voted remain, for them they want to remain at all costs. They see no deal as the disaster that it is and so they see being part of the UK that can potentially take them out of the UK as a threat to them. This is SNP propaganda written for them. They held a referendum on independence in 2014 that lost by about 10%. This is now surely a lot closer than back then thanks to Brexit alone. 


A general election for them is good for two reasons. 1) They will surely increase their share of MPs in the house of commons. The Tories are all but dead in Scotland and so any seats they have will be cleaned up by the SNP, they´d probably gain from Labour, too. 2) in a way they want Brexit, this will surely guarantee a victory in a second referendum but, and this is in line with what I said about playing a dangerous risky game of chess. Has Johnson anticipated that and is he laying a trap for them? 


The vote in the House of Lords to extend Article 50 has just happened so according to law the Brexit date has to be pushed back to the 31st of January. Johnson now has two options, fight an election hoping to win enough seats to push through a no deal Brexit if needed on the 31st of January or resign. 


Why would he do the later? Because he made it a pledge that he would not allow the date to be extended. It is he who is required by law to go back to the EU and ask for an extension. He said on the 5th of September that he would rather be dead in a ditch than do that... 

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