CANBERRA, Jan 16, 2019, SBS News. As the United Kingdom scrambled to make sense of Brexit’s future, the chaos has cast a shadow of uncertainty reaching well beyond the country’s borders. Pablo Vinales, Jessica Washington specially for the SBS News.
The Australian government has pledged to push ahead with plans to strike a multi-billion dollar trade deal with the UK, despite the ongoing uncertainty about the future of Brexit.
“The circumstances are unclear, Australians should feel reassured that a safe and steady pair of hands has been managing what is a very uncertain and unstable set of arrangements,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference in Vanuatu.
“We have continued to pursue Australia’s interests in all scenarios.”
The Brexit process has been marred by frequent disruptions – the latest saw MPs reject the European Union withdrawal agreement by a margin of more than 200 votes, marking the biggest defeat in British Parliament in almost a century.
Tomorrow will bring more drama for UK Prime Minister Theresa May as MPs vote on the no confidence motion tabled by Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
It has been an arduous process for Ms May, and with the March 29 deadline edging closer, she is no closer to securing a Brexit deal that satisfies both EU leaders and British MPs.
At Sydney’s Bondi Beach, SBS News asked British tourists and migrants how they view the process – many of them said they were happy to look on from afar.
“It makes me very pleased that I’m living here,” one British woman, who is now a permanent resident in Australia, said.
For others, the frequent delays are a source of annoyance.
“I strongly feel that in the long run, it’s going to happen, and it’s frustrating that it’s a long and drawn out process,” one Briton said.
But, it is not just British citizens who feel frustrated by the delays – the state of flux is already having ramifications on businesses, within the UK and abroad.
“It means everything is on ice, the traders are waiting to see which way the wind is going to blow,” said Professor Simon Tormey, who teaches European politics at the University of Sydney.
“There are a lot of people holding back on investment decisions, and a lot of companies that want to know if their headquarters are going to be in London, or if they will have to move to Paris.”
However, the Head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry James Pearson is cautiously optimistic, and believes businesses have had adequate time to prepare for whatever may come.
“Let’s recognise that the United Kingdom is one of our largest investment partners, and we are a significant investor in Britain as well, so there is a lot at stake,” he told SBS News.
“But on the other hand, we’ve had a couple of years to prepare for this, and businesses on both sides of this issue will be looking to take advantage of the opportunities.”