What’s Next for UK Politics, Citizens and Businesses?
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced she will step down as leader of the ruling Conservative Party on June 7th or until a successor is chosen. The announcement was made on Friday morning at a press conference at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s Office.
On Thursday, UK residents cast their vote in the European Parliament elections, as Brexit was postponed until October 31st this year. The results will not be available until all EU countries vote, which takes place on various days until Sunday, 26th of May. However, a YouGov pollpredicts that the Conservative party only managed to obtain 7% of the votes, which could explain Theresa May’s resignation announcement the following morning. The same poll expects the Brexit Party, fronted by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, to be dominating with 37% of the votes. British media reported that many EU nationals, eligible to take part in the European Parliament elections held in the UK, were denied the right to vote due to “an administrative error” at local councils’ level.
“The [Brexit] referendum was not just a call to leave the EU, but for profound change in our country. A call to make the United Kingdom a country that truly works for everyone”, said a visibly emotional Theresa May in her resignation statement on Friday morning. “Our politics may be under strain,” she admitted while stressing her unity message and the need for a compromise on all sides of the Brexit debate. Solidarity messages from UK and EU politicians have been pouring in all morning, praising Theresa May for her attempt to solve the Brexit conundrum.
Boris Johnson, Next PM?
According to the British electoral system, a prime minister is not elected directly by a public vote but is chosen from within the party that wins in a general election. As the Conservative Party won slightly more seats in the 2017 snap elections, Theresa May – leader of the Conservative Party at the time – was named Prime Minister. Now that she is stepping down, an internal contest will take place and members of the Conservative Party will choose their new leader, who will become the UK’s new Prime Minister. Speculated names in the British media as potential PM candidates include Boris Johnson, London’s former mayor and outspoken Brexiteer; Rory Stuart, International Development Secretary; and Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary. Tory frontrunner Boris Johnson, the most well-known of all probable Conservative candidates, is said to be most likely to become the UK’s next Prime Minister.
Brexit has been a divisive topic in the UK ever since the results of the referendum for the UK to leave the EU emerged in June 2016. Although many argue in favour of the opportunities Brexit may bring, temporary uncertainty is nonetheless the common denominator most people on both sides can agree on. While the details of the Brexit deal are being fully clarified and agreed on, with the Irish border remaining the main challenge, British citizens are trying to take matters into their own hands with whatever leverage they are left with, regardless of the outcome. Questions about second citizenship options have opened up as a Plan B, though are not limited to British citizens alone.
At the beginning of 2019, the Irish Department of Justice announced that a total of 665 UK nationals had obtained Irish citizenship in 2018, compared to only 41 in 2017. Data provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Ireland on March 16, 2019, indicates that there had been a 30% increase in passport application numbers in the first three months of 2019, compared to the year before. This is despite the fact that 2018 had already registered a record number of Irish passport applications – 860,000, to be exact, which the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs describes as “the highest number of Irish passports ever issued in one year.” 258,000 of these applications are said to have come from outside “the island of Ireland”.
London legal advisory CS Global Partners explains that ‘jus sanguinis’ (right of blood), which delves into one’s ancestry, is not the only path to citizenship. Other common citizenship routes include ‘jus matromonii’ (right by marriage); naturalisation, usually preceded by one’s extensive residence within a country along with language and culture tests; and ‘jus soli’ (right of soil) or ‘right of birth’, which is only available in over 30 countries. Though less known of, there is also the option of obtaining ‘citizenship by investment’, whereby a financial contribution is required in exchange for citizenship. This is only available in over a dozen countries and requirements vary, some having more thorough due diligence procedures, while investment thresholds vary between US$100,000 and several millions.
Business Relocation to EU
British companies have also invested heavily in contingency planning for various Brexit scenarios. Many are opening offices in the EU as a solution to being able to continue doing business on EU territory, tackling GDPR compliance and remaining within the common European framework.
The Institute of Directors, Britain’s most established business professionals association and lobby group, says one in three British businesses are intending to move operations abroad following Brexit or in preparation for it. Some of the favourite relocation cities in the EU include Dublin (Ireland), especially for businesses focused on native English-speaking customers; Frankfurt (Germany) – first choice for finance and banking; Paris (France) – also for finance, but with a cultural twist; Amsterdam (Netherlands) – for its proximity to London; and Bucharest (Romania) – for its thriving IT sector.