Who Boris has to convince for Brexit success

 

SHAKESPEARE completed writing his play The Comedy of Errors in 1594, but like how so many of the lines in his work became part of the English language, it's not a bad description of Britain's Brexit attempts.

The British parliament will vote on Saturday on a deal to leave the European Union or seek another extension three years after a referendum on the issue.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been working around the clock, using all his charm and guile to get the 320 votes he needs for his deal to pass.

Until this week's breakthrough, Britain has endured a political limbo that has slowed business investment to a trickle, caused jitters in financial markets and quite simply, annoyed most people who just wanted it solved either way.

Mr Johnson, who was elected leader on July 23, may just pull off a blinder like Ben Stokes did in his last wicket stand that won England the third Test against Australia at Headingley.

Voters on the streets of Shakespeare's home town, Stratford-upon-Avon, in England's West Midlands, where the result mirrored the 52-48 split across the country, were still divided on whether to stay or go when News Corp Australia paid a visit.

 

UK leader Boris Johnson has sealed a Brexit deal with the EU. But it’s yet to be seen whether the British parliament will approve it. Picture: Getty Images
UK leader Boris Johnson has sealed a Brexit deal with the EU. But it’s yet to be seen whether the British parliament will approve it. Picture: Getty Images

Young people overwhelmingly wanted to stay with the EU, while the older generation, many who remember the Second World War either directly or through their parents, want to take back control of their country.

Retired Rolls Royce engineer Steve Metcalfe, 65, of Stratford, was fishing on the River Avon when he spoke to News Corp.

He voted to leave, and he has not changed his mind, saying he didn't want to be "dictated to by the European Union".

"It's like your next door neighbour coming into your house at night and telling you what you should you should watch on the telly or where to go shopping or where to work," he said.

"You want a chance to be yourself."

Abi Halden, 21, studies literature at Stratford-upon-Avon's Shakespeare Institute, which is part of University of Birmingham.

She voted to remain and said Brexit would be fertile ground for the Bard, who often wrote about the powerful and how they wield that power.

"He would write a farce about politicians who took too much power and made a mess of everything," she said.

Abi Halden, 21, and Liv Beards, 23, of Stratford-upon-Avon, UK. The pair are both in favour of the UK remaining in the EU. Picture: Hollie Adams
Abi Halden, 21, and Liv Beards, 23, of Stratford-upon-Avon, UK. The pair are both in favour of the UK remaining in the EU. Picture: Hollie Adams

Liv Beards, 23, also a student at the Shakespeare Institute and a Remainer (a person in favour of UK remaining in the EU), said it was time Brexit was solved.

"I think everyone just wants it to all sort of go away. We don't know what that option is going to be to make it happen," she said.

Ms Beards described Brexit as a tragedy, and "like any good tragedy, something has got to happen".

Newspapers and 24-hour news channels have been filled with wall to wall opinions on what will happen with Brexit, and it appeared the only thing that was certain is uncertainty.

But then on Thursday, a miracle happened, the EU and Britain agreed on a deal that scrapped the hated Irish backstop.

Now Mr Johnson has to convince Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to back the deal, as well as some other hardliners who wanted a no-deal Brexit.

He needs 320 votes, and can count on 285 at the moment.

 

Arlene Foster, Leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose party’s votes will be crucial when the Brexit deal is put to the UK parliament. Picture: Getty Images
Arlene Foster, Leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose party’s votes will be crucial when the Brexit deal is put to the UK parliament. Picture: Getty Images

Mr Johnson, who has a habit of writing personal Christmas cards, might have to send a few more of thanks this year if he gets the deal done.

He can also put out an olive branch to the 21 MPs out of his party for voting against a no-deal Brexit.

But the Labour Party, under hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn, 70, is also divided.

There are members of his own party who want him to come out against Brexit and support a Remain position.

Some might vote for Mr Johnson's deal, but tie their support to getting a second referendum.

The result of the expected Saturday vote will go down to the wire.

Mr Johnson must get the deal done in a special vote on Saturday, with debate beginning at 7.30pm Australian time (9.30am UK) otherwise he will have to ask for an extension under a new law passed last month.

Hannah Latif, 20, and Kieron Harper, 28, both want Britain to remain in the EU. Picture: Hollie Adams
Hannah Latif, 20, and Kieron Harper, 28, both want Britain to remain in the EU. Picture: Hollie Adams

Back on the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon, some voters have a different view to Mr Johnson, who argues the EU is a millstone around the neck of the UK economy.

Kieron Harper , 28, a landscape gardener from Birmingham now studying environmental science, sees leaving the EU as a disaster.

"A lot of people who voted leave had given up on the system," the Remain voter said.

"It was a protest vote but anger changes nothing."

He said that because the vote was so close, they should go again with another poll.

"I think if they do, people will vote Remain," he said.

But how does democracy work if politicians just keep having referendum votes until they get the answer they want? It's like playing paper, rock, scissors with a grumpy five-year-old who keeps demanding a new round because he just won't accept that rock smashes scissors.

Mr Harper's girlfriend Hannah Latif, 20, a pub worker from Newcastle, wants to Remain too.

And Mr Johnson, whose personal life including multiple affairs and an Anne Boelyn-style relationship with businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri who had a stripper's pole in her home, has not impressed her.

"I don't understand why he's Prime Minister, it's just a joke," she said.

However, most people News Corp Australia spoke to said Mr Johnson's complicated love life would not stop them voting for him.

"He's entitled to his private life in my eyes," Elaine Stephens, 89, of Weston Super Mare, said.

"If we had an election (Boris Johnson) would win. With Jeremy Corbyn we will go into huge debt again."

And that might be Mr Johnson's secret weapon.

There's a strong ABC campaign - anyone but Corbyn.

His policies including nationalising railways and seizing 10 per cent of shares of every large company on his theme of the redistribution of wealth from capital to labour.

If it sounds a little bit communist, that's because it is.

 

Elaine Stephens, 89, said Boris Johnson’s complicated love life would not stop her voting for him at an election. Picture: Hollie Adams
Elaine Stephens, 89, said Boris Johnson’s complicated love life would not stop her voting for him at an election. Picture: Hollie Adams

Mr Corbyn, a longstanding Marxist who lives in the inner north London lefty enclave of Islington, might have called upon a polish plumber to fix his loo.

If he has, it doesn't sound like he spoke to them at length about what life was like under Soviet rule.

Mr Corbyn has proposed $A90 billion (£49 billion) of new taxes, private schools would also be broken up and returned to the state system.

The rabbit in Mr Johnson's hat is the Labour leader, who is hated by his own MPs, but on solid ground because of a groundswell of grassroots support from the Momentum section of the party membership.

There has been talk among Labour MPs this week of a challenge to Mr Corbyn, with Rebecca Long-Bailey, 40, floated as a potential leader. But talk is cheap, and Labour needs to act before an election is called if they want to have a chance.

The British parliament will vote on Saturday on a deal to leave the European Union or seek another extension three years after a referendum on the issue. Picture: Getty Images
The British parliament will vote on Saturday on a deal to leave the European Union or seek another extension three years after a referendum on the issue. Picture: Getty Images

For despite Mr Johnson's awkward private life, mutiny in his own party over Brexit, a major loss in the court that found he had lied to the Queen when he asked her to suspend parliament, he's still leading in 11 published polls with a margin of between three and 15 per cent in the UK's first past the post system.

Tom Wheatley, 33, a financial adviser in London, was on a couple of days off with his wife Arran, 33, and son Fraser, 2, enjoying the sights of Stratford-upon-Avon.

He pointed out the chaos that could ensue with a no-deal Brexit, saying there would be a shock to the sharemarket, problems with changing property laws and new regulations.

Ms Wheatley, who works for the National Health Service - the UK's much loved free public health service, said Brexit would lead to a shortage of health workers.

"Lots of my colleagues are from Europe, we fought so hard for freedom of movement, it seems a bit of a waste," she said.

Mr Wheatley added that many of the 2.2 million EU residents working in the UK do jobs that British people just won't do.

And with unemployment at 3.8 per cent, it was hard to see where the cafe workers, cleaners, and tradespeople will come from.

Many are now applying for permission to stay after Brexit, which promises to take as little as five minutes.

But with so many applications online, it's sure to leave many applicants looking at the pizza wheel of doom.

In Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, two sets of twins are separated in a shipwreck.

One set of twins later goes to find the other, causing a series of incidents of mistaken identity.

But they are not allowed to enter the land where they are searching for their respective twin and have to raise a ransom of 1000 marks by sundown or face death.

Today, Mr Johnson will find out whether he managed to squirrel away enough goodwill to pay his own ransom to get a deal on Brexit.

He said in his leadership election campaign that "do or die" Britain would leave the EU on October 31.

We will find out on Saturday if Mr Johnson has proved the doubters wrong.