• 23 Sep - 29 Sep, 2017
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

In the year to come, it would appear to be reasonable to expect that news in Britain and about Britain will be dominated exclusively by the thorny issue of Brexit, whose thorns grow sharper by the day. We have, in effect, a year in which the UK has to seal and sign the deal determining the terms and conditions of its exit from the European Union as this has to be done by October 2018, giving the remaining countries of the EU six months to consider these terms and then give their approval or otherwise. If they do not agree, the matter has to go back to the negotiating table. At the moment, the chances of getting a deal sealed and signed by October 2018, do not look very bright because as yet, the basic issue of how this complex negotiation is to proceed has not been settled. The EU wants the rights of its citizens in the UK, the issue of the EU land border in Northern Ireland with the UK, and the all-important question of the payment by the UK of what the EU feels are its rightful dues (known as the ‘divorce settlement’) before it leaves the EU, to be all settled first before the matter relating to the UK’s future economic and trading relations with the EU are discussed; Britain wants it the other way around, or at least both strands to proceed simultaneously. The EU wants substantial progress on the three issues mentioned above to take place first.

The main sticking point is the divorce settlement. We do not appear to be within a mile of any agreement on the sum to be paid, with the EU reportedly asking for a staggering •1 billion and if they stick to their guns on this matter, the Tory government would face a very destabilising situation. It is not just a matter of coughing up a vast sum like that, but also handling the political backlash of it. Keep in mind that the leaders of the Brexit movement, who now hold important positions in government, had promised immense savings if Britain left the EU with £350 million being available for the NHS every week. A reverse flow of a billion pounds, given that now the euro and the pound are practically at par, would not be even nearly the same thing and quite embarrassing to explain. It may even be embarrassing enough to bring down a government and letting Jeremy Corbyn into 10 Downing Street, which, for the Tories, is the ultimate horror.

By the time this sees the light of print, the British Prime Minister Theresa May should be explaining to leaders of the EU her vision of the EU, which is not likely to be anywhere near their vision. The problem here is that the Brits, still acting as if the battle of Waterloo was won yesterday, cannot see why the rest of the EU, including many of the east European countries who are seen as a much lower form of humanity, does not fall in line and see it the British way.

With nostalgia about the days when Britannia ruled the waves still sloshing all over the place, there seems to be genuine astonishment and frustration at what is seen as the EU’s intransigence.

The EU meanwhile, have made it clear that unless the divorce bill is settled, the negotiations are not going anywhere, and if negotiations go nowhere, which is where they seem to be headed, Britain leaves the EU on March 29, 2019, deal or no deal, with trading relations thenceforth reverting to WTO rules which could mean an almost instant increase in the prices of most commodities of 10 percent or more. If that were seen as the most likely scenario, most banks would have shifted their headquarters to the continent well before that happens and all flights to Europe would have to be suspended as the airlines worked out new agreements and, based on these agreements, new fares. And many more such delights. This scenario, now dubbed as the ‘cliff edge’ is becoming an increasing probability. •


Undeterred by any of this, the Asian community in the UK had one of its biggest bashes when the daughter of one of the biggest property developers in the UK was married to the son of perhaps an equally rich Australian property merchant. Aneel Mussarat, whose family originally came from Faisalabad, is a man with very wide connections, and thus the wedding of his daughter was graced by many of the great and good in the land, including British Army chief Sir Nick Carter. The cream of Bollywood, led by Bollywood star Anil Kapoor, were also on show as were most of the leading lights of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), including party chief Imran Khan. Sheikh Rashid, now a permanent attachment of PTI, was also there and even photographed in very close proximity of a lady which made the photo one for the archives. The merriment was spread over the better part of a week and is rumoured to have cost the better part of £4 million. It was covered widely by the Asian media and if Mr Mussarat wanted to raise his profile, that purpose was certainly served. Whether the PTI’s public image as a party of the masses was similarly enhanced by attending in such big numbers a celebration as far removed from the masses as anything could be, remains to be seen.