Originally due to leave the EU on March 31, the UK was granted at least 12 more days to accommodate further parliamentary debate. But now that deadline also seems certain to be missed, as May's Brexit deal has been rejected for a third time since its initial agreement between her government and Brussels last November.
Alex Gordon, former president of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, told Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear Tuesday that much of the fear over Brexit's economic and social effects was "stoked up" by either EU or UK governments to try and "smuggle their class interests past the interests of the majority of the population."
Gordon said May's government was a "circular firing squad" and had been described by one of her own Conservative Party leaders as "the most dysfunctional government in history."
"What you're seeing unraveling in real-time is a political and state crisis of one of the most important states in the world," Gordon said, noting that "its ruling class is now in complete meltdown: deadlocked, unable to reach a decision, unable to reach a consensus, unable to smuggle their class interests past the interests of the majority of the population over here, which was their historic purpose. The Conservative Party has always been the vehicle for promoting the interests of the British ruling class as the interests of the nation, and they've simply been unable to do that over this question of Brexit."
"So what it means is, she's going to go running along, on the 10th of April, in just over a week's time, to the European Council of Ministers and ask them for a further extension to Article 50 beyond the 12th of April," Gordon said. "It seems extremely possible that the European Council are going to refuse that, because they've seen the shambolic state of her government; they know that she cannot deliver; she can't deliver within her own cabinet, and she can't deliver within the House of Commons, the British Parliament."
"So, everyone is asking the question over here: ‘What's going to happen?' Some of the best-informed commentators think that still the most likely outcome of this whole mess is that Britain will leave the European Union on the 12th of April without a deal with the European Union — that is to say, leave on World Trade Organization terms," Gordon told Sputnik.
"The other possibility is that the House of Commons will effectively launch a parliamentary coup d'etat and revoke the entire departure process — revoke Article 50 — and decide that they're going to remain in the European Union. If they do that, they will reap a whirlwind, because there's going to be a complete breakdown of established party politics in Britain," Gordon said, reassuring hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that "British commentators and British viewers have no more idea than your own audience what the British political ruling class is up to."
Gordon said the British Civil Service "has made extensive preparations" for Brexit. "There will be small dislocations in trade; everything has been taken into account. There will not be a catastrophe; there will not be a meltdown in trade; the prices of food will not skyrocket; there will not be a mass closure of factories because they can't get spare parts. There's been a huge project of fear mounted in the last two or three months around these issues for the consequences of trade, but it's quite clear there will be a Brexit under World Trade Organization rules."
"The British government has published its proposals for the impact on tariffs. In effect, the duty-free ratio of tariffs will move from 80 percent at current levels on goods imported to Britain to 87 percent, so there'll be an increase in reductions in tariffs into Britain. This will depend on which sector you're talking about; whether it's agriculture or manufactured goods or pharmaceuticals, there will be a change in tariff rules, but it's going to be a dislocation rather than a catastrophe," he said.
As for the question of the border between the independent Republic of Ireland and the UK's Northern Ireland, which has proven the major subject of contention in the UK's internal Brexit debate, Gordon told Sputnik that "much of this fear has been stoked up by the Irish government at the behest of the European Commission." He said that Irish republicans were "incredulous at the suggestion that an Irish government might impose border controls… when the British Conservative government is saying that under no circumstances would they impose border controls," although Gordon wouldn't' discount the idea of politics in Dublin, London or Brussels changing "a few years down the road."
Based on his talks with people on both sides of the border, Gordon concluded, "The impact is going to be extremely minimal in terms of the day-to-day lives of people who live around the border of Northern Ireland… The border in Northern Ireland has been used cynically by the European Commission and the Irish government to try and put pressure on the British in the negotiations. I don't think it is a major issue, in reality."
"The sky won't fall" if Britain doesn't leave the EU on April 12, Gordon said, but "if there's a long extension… there will be a major political crisis in Britain, because… the majority of the electorate has voted to leave the European Union, and such an act of treachery would be paid back with real vengeance, and we would see really a breaking of the existing party system of Labour and Conservative and the emergence of new forces that we can't really contemplate entirely at this moment."