Svenja O'Donnell and Robert Hutton, Bloomberg News on Jun 26, 2016Published in News & Features
LONDON –– The turmoil engulfing British politics worsened as the country's biggest parties descended into chaos after last week's national vote to leave the European Union.
Senior Labour Party lawmaker Hilary Benn was fired after calling on Jeremy Corbyn to quit as party leader, triggering the resignation of seven other members of Corbyn's shadow cabinet. In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is planning a possible second referendum on EU membership, while suggesting that she could block Britain's exit without another vote. And the campaign to succeed Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron began, with the Sunday Telegraph reporting that his allies will try to stop Boris Johnson from getting the job.
As infighting grips the country's two biggest parties, investors, executives and the EU's other 27 nations are waiting for the Britain to provide details on of how it plans to leave the EU.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Brussels and London Monday to discuss the situation with foreign policy officials.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin Monday. The heads of what will be the EU's three biggest economies after Briain is gone are expected to discuss their response ahead of a meeting of the bloc's 28 leaders in Brussels on Tuesday.
There are differences within the governments on how tough a line to take with Britain, with the British political power vacuum also complicating the issue.
Corbyn may survive a Labour leadership challenge because of his popularity with the party membership, but he has lost authority over many of its lawmakers. Those pushing for him to go fear that whoever replaces Cameron will call a snap election, in which Labour would need a clear position on its attitude to the European Union and a leader who looks like a potential prime minister.
Corbyn, a long-time euroskeptic who voted against EU membership in 1975, ran a low-key campaign for staying in. He didn't make his first speech on the topic until two months after Cameron announced the referendum, and in his rare media appearances he repeatedly highlighted the EU's flaws, even while arguing for a "Remain" vote. Much of Labour's traditional strongholds in northern and central England, and Wales, voted to leave the bloc.
"There is growing concern in the shadow cabinet and the parliamentary party about his leadership," Benn said. "Jeremy is a good and decent man but he's not a leader. And that's a problem."
Among the shadow cabinet members who resigned were the party's education spokeswoman, Lucy Powell, and its health spokeswoman, Heidi Alexander.
Former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC on Sunday that it would be "very, very difficult for the public -- who have voted for leaving the European Union -- to find they have a prime minister who opposed leaving the European Union."
Meanwhile, Sturgeon suggested that Scotland could block a British withdrawal from the EU because the necessary legislation might have to be approved in its Parliament in Edinburgh.
"Looking at it from a logical perspective, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn't be that requirement," she said on BBC. "I suspect the U.K. government will take a very different view on that, and we'll have to see where that discussion ends up."
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