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Deadlines and Ditches: The UK’s Brexit saga continues

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY VIDEO) — In this week’s UpFront, we ask whether the seemingly never-ending Brexit process is laying waste to democracy in the United Kingdom with Labour MP David Lammy and economist Liam Halligan.

And in a special interview, we discuss what leaving the European Union (EU) means for Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein politician and Member of the European Parliament Martina Anderson.

A never-ending Brexit: Democracy undermined?

Labour MP David Lammy and economist Liam Halligan debate whether Brexit has damaged the UK beyond repair.

Boris Johnson became prime minister in July, promising to take the UK out of the EU by October 31 – with or without a deal. He said he would rather “be dead in a ditch” than ask the EU for another delay.

But Johnson has been forced to do just that. While he managed to get MPs to back his withdrawal agreement, they rejected his plan to push it through the House of Commons in three days. Johnson was forced to send a letter to the EU asking for yet another Brexit delay.

It has been more than three years since the British public voted to leave the EU, but their wishes have not been met. So what has gone wrong with the democratic process in the UK?

Lammy, who wants the UK to remain in the EU, blames Prime Minister Johnson for trying to ram the agreement through Parliament.

“He’s not taking it seriously. And the reason he’s not taking it seriously is because he actually doesn’t want the withdrawal bill and the basis on which he wants to leave the European Union properly scrutinised,” Lammy said.

Lammy wants a new referendum and denies any suggestion a second vote would undermine the result of the first. He says it would be more democratic.

“No one can tell me [about] a country that has ever undermined democracy with more democracy. That is why you can have a general election and you have another general election in four years’ time,” Lammy argued.

But economist Halligan – a Brexit supporter – believes a second referendum would be wrong.

“I have a major problem, I’m afraid, call me old-fashioned, with the idea of not implementing a referendum when Parliament has sanctioned the referendum and given the decision to the British people,” Halligan said.

“Authority is vested in the people via Parliament, not in Parliament itself, and I think it’s a major concern if we don’t implement that decision,” he added.

In this week’s UpFront, we debate the ongoing Brexit negotiations in the UK, and the chaos it has triggered both inside Parliament and on the streets.

Will Brexit lead to violence on the island of Ireland?
Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson explains why any form of Brexit would be bad for Northern Ireland.

Anderson was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and was freed from prison when the Good Friday Agreement ended the Northern Ireland conflict 20 years ago. She is now a Member of the European Parliament for the Sinn Fein political party.

Anderson is advocating against a Brexit deal between the UK and the EU that creates a physical border dividing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Many believe a hard-border could lead to a return of violence.

“Brexit is totally incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement,” said Anderson. “The people of Ireland will not allow the British establishment to have us as collateral damage.”

She said the UK’s departure from the EU and a potential hard-border has increased support in Northern Ireland for Irish reunification.

She added that under a provision in the Good Friday Agreement, if a majority of people in Northern Ireland support reunification, the UK is obliged to hold a referendum on it.

“Irish people in the north of Ireland voted to remain,” she said. “Under the Good Friday Agreement, we have a democratically endorsed pathway back into the EU.”

In this week’s special interview, we speak to MEP and former IRA member Martina Anderson.

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