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Brexit, Explained: Not a Brit? Not a Problem! Here’s What It All Means

LONDON — After delays, stumbles and negotiations, Prime Minister Theresa May this week finally presented her plan for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union to Parliament. Then, on Tuesday, British lawmakers resoundingly rejected it, 432 to 202.

伦敦——经过拖延、磕绊和谈判,英国首相特丽莎·梅(Theresa May)本周终于向议会提交了她的英国脱离欧盟计划。然后,在周二,英国议员以432票对202票成功否决了该法案。

It was one of the biggest defeats in the House of Commons for a prime minister in recent British history.


The humiliating margin has put her government on the verge of collapse.


Supporters of Brexit, as the withdrawal is known, had once promised that leaving the European bloc would be quick and simple. It has turned out to be neither.


To understand why, it helps to understand the origins of the plan, and how that history is playing out today.


What Is Brexit?


Britain joined the forerunner of the European Union in 1973, but British politicians have always been ambivalent about the bloc. The issue has long divided both of the country’s major parties, the Conservatives and Labour, and it became especially divisive among the Conservatives. In June 2016, Prime Minister David Cameron decided to settle the question with a yes-or-no national referendum.

1973年,英国加入了欧盟的前身,但英国政界人士一直对该集团持矛盾态度。长期以来,英国两大政党保守党和工党内对待这一问题都存在分歧,在保守党内部分歧尤其严重。2016年6月,英国首相戴维·卡梅伦(David Cameron)决定通过是或否的全民公投来解决这个问题。

Mr. Cameron bet that the country would not risk leaving the European Union. He was wrong. Britons voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave.


They then faced a predicament: The campaign to quit the bloc had promised to “take back control” from Europe but never explained how. Embittered Remainers who lost the vote accused the Leavers of lies and xenophobia.


Mrs. May replaced Mr. Cameron and was charged with negotiating a Brexit deal with the European Union. Her biggest challenge was building support at home. One pro-Brexit faction has championed a clean break, so Britain would regain sovereignty over trade and immigration, while breaking free of the European Union’s institutions, including its Court of Justice, a particular concern for them.

梅接替了卡梅伦,负责与欧盟谈判英国脱欧协议。她最大的挑战是在国内获得支持。一个支持英国脱欧的派别主张与欧盟彻底决裂,这样英国将在贸易和移民问题上重新获得主权,同时摆脱欧洲法院等欧盟机构,这是他们特别关注的问题。 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

Others preferred to maintain close economic ties with the bloc, even if that meant sharing some control with the European Union.


With Britain scheduled to leave on March 29, Mrs. May has been trying to broker a compromise to avoid a chaotic “cliff edge” withdrawal that could leave ports blocked, airlines grounded, and food and drugs running short. That was the draft she presented on Wednesday.


Why Is a Compromise So Elusive?


The Achilles’ heel of a Brexit deal is the border between Ireland, a member of the European Union, and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. For years, this border was militarized because of sectarian violence that left more than 3,500 people dead. But with the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, free trade was allowed.


This was possible because Ireland and the United Kingdom were members of the European Union. But when Britain voted to leave, the Irish border again became an issue. Reintroducing customs controls would pose many problems.


Mrs. May’s draft agreement proposes keeping Northern Ireland, and the rest of the United Kingdom, in a European customs union until a trade plan that does not require checks at Ireland’s border is ready — so perhaps indefinitely. But this means Britain would also still be subject to some of the bloc’s trading rules and regulations.


纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/

In short, while paying a $50 billion divorce bill, Britain would remain bound by many European Union rules without any say in the making of them. This infuriates the hard-line Brexit crowd, who say it would leave Britain as a “vassal state.”


They aren’t the only ones offended. The Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, which provides a crucial 10 seats to Mrs. May’s minority government, is also furious, partly because the plan would impose more European rules on Northern Ireland than on the rest of the United Kingdom.

他们不是唯一受到冒犯的群体。北爱尔兰民主统一党(Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland)也很愤怒,部分原因是该计划将对北爱尔兰施加比英国其他地区更多的欧洲规则。该党为梅领导的少数党政府提供了关键的10个席位。

And don’t forget Scotland, which wants to remain in the European Union and is wondering why it cannot have the same deal as Northern Ireland.


So What Happens Now?


No one really knows.


With the defeat of her plan, Mrs. May is fighting for her political life amid a calls for a no-confidence vote.


But factions in the Conservative and Labour parties have no clear path to command a majority in Parliament.


Like most other everyone else, the prime minister has no easy answers about the way forward. She signaled before the vote that if she lost in Parliament, she would go back to the European Union in Brussels and seek concessions — but the bloc is unlikely to grant her any.


Some cabinet members are pressing for a different course, calling for nonbinding “indicative votes,” in which members of Parliament can freely express their preferences for the various Brexit plans being bandied about.


The hope is that Mrs. May’s plan might emerge from that process with the highest level of support.


Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has tabled a vote of no confidence, which if successful could trigger a general election. Few analysts believe that he can muster the numbers to win.

反对党工党领袖杰里米·科尔宾(Jeremy Corbyn)提议进行不信任投票,如果投票成功,可能引发一次大选。但几乎没有分析人士认为他能够获得足够的选票赢得大选。

One group of lawmakers is campaigning for a repeat referendum, which could overturn the mandate to leave, and another favors leaving the European Union on March 29 without a withdrawal agreement. That, experts warn, could lead to shortages of some foods and an economic downturn.




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