How Brexit affects the UK and Australia

WILL Theresa May's "soft" Brexit deal cost her the leadership?

It might. Two Cabinet ministers have already resigned over her "soft" Brexit proposal; outspoken Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.

UK media is reporting May could face a potential leadership challenge as early as this week.

But she is likely to remain in power, at least in the short term.

A leadership contest will only be triggered if 48 Tory MPs write to the chairman of the 1922 committee, Graham Brady, and say they no longer have confidence in their leader.

If that happens, May will then face a full confidence vote and if she loses she will have to resign.

That's unlikely given it would take more than 150 MPs to vote against her.

Two Cabinet ministers have already resigned over Theresa May’s “soft” Brexit proposal. Picture: AFP
Two Cabinet ministers have already resigned over Theresa May’s “soft” Brexit proposal. Picture: AFP

Monash University politics expert Remy Davison told News Corp the critics of May's Brexit plan didn't have the numbers yet to trigger a challenge, so a leadership contest was unlikely in the next few days.

But he said she could face one later in 2018 if she was unable to sell her proposal to the public and to the EU.

What deal has May actually proposed?

May's "soft" Brexit deal is a 12-point plan that proposes trade, immigration, fisheries and other legal arrangements for Britain and the EU after it leaves the Union.

It aims for the official date of Brexit to be March 29, 2019.

The big sticking point for "Brexiteers" in May's government are the establishment of a UK-EU free trade area with "a common rule book" for industrial goods and agricultural products. That will keep British producers, including farmers, bound by EU rules.

Another sticking point is allowing EU courts to still have the biggest say over disputes on goods - UK courts will still decide disputes but they will be settled based on the precedents set in more than 40 years of EU law.

And while the UK Parliament will still oversee rules on goods, if it decided to go against the EU rules it must accept there will be "consequences".

The plan also seeks to end the free movement of EU citizens into the UK but sets up an alternative "mobility framework" for tourists, students and workers.

Dr Davison described the proposal as leaving Britain "partly in and partly out" of the EU. This isn't the final Brexit deal. It's just the UK's opening bid in negotiations with Brussels.

Has May sold out Britain to the EU?

The PM's plan isn't what Brexiteers wanted. Boris Johnson accused May of flying "white flags" of surrender to the EU before negotiations had really begun in his resignation letter.

He described her plan as "semi-Brexit" with Britain unable to fully break free from EU regulations and rules.

But May has had to juggle the concerns of the public, business groups and attempt to draft a deal that the EU would actually sign off on.

She has faced threats from major manufactures, including aviation giant Airbus, which has threatened to leave the country - costing about 14,000 workers jobs - if the EU and Britain don't agree on a trade deal before the UK leaves the union.

UK media reports Johnson dismissed business groups' concerns with a "four-letter expletive".

"What she has tried to do is maintain a balance between extreme Brexiteers, like Johnson, and the remainers," Dr Davison told Newscorp.

He said the PM had listened to business groups and was trying not to negatively impact trade with Europe.

Is Boris Johnson likely to make a bid for the top job?

Absolutely. It's just a matter of when.

"It's clear that he wants the job and always has," Dr Davison said.

The Monash University political expert said Johnson had initially supported May's proposal at the weekend but had obviously "done some thinking".

"He thinks it's strategic to be a critic," he told News Corp.

But the timing of a challenge would depend on how well May could sell the plan to the public and whether the conservatives had enough votes.

Theresa May’s plan isn’t what Brexiteers wanted. Picture: Getty Images
Theresa May’s plan isn’t what Brexiteers wanted. Picture: Getty Images

Can May win back the support of Brexiteers angry at her plan?

It's understood May's 12-point plan won't change. It was signed off by her Cabinet at the weekend.

But she has appointed an outspoken Brexiteer, Dominic Raab, as David Davis' replacement for Brexit Secretary to appease the conservatives.

UK media reports her chief-of-staff is also briefing conservative MPs on the Brexit plan.

 

What is Europe wanting out of Brexit?

The EU has 28 different member countries, which will have 28 sets of demands.

But the one thing the EU won't allow Britain to have is a services agreement that would allow British banks to have a passport to operate in their countries, Dr Davison said.

That would mean British banks could not establish banks in the EU.

EU countries will meet without Britain to decide on a response to the UK's proposal and will then make a counteroffer in negotiations.

Dr Davison said Germany and France would ultimately decide the fate of Brexit.

He said its likely they would be able to influence the other member states into backing Brexit if the UK put forward a proposal they liked.

Spain and Poland as large economies will also have a big say.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she will push the UK to have more of a focus on the Pacific. Picture: Kym Smith
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she will push the UK to have more of a focus on the Pacific. Picture: Kym Smith

How will this affect Australia?

Mostly in trade. Australia is looking to establish a free-trade agreement with the EU, and Britain after it leaves the bloc.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will also push for new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to keep Johnson's commitment for the UK to have more of a focus on the Pacific.

Australia is concerned about China's growing development and influence push into the region.



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