Britain’s Brexit blues by the numbers


LONDON • Britons may be forgiven for suffering Brexit fatigue after watching their Parliament spend 500 hours debating how to leave the European Union (EU) without making much headway in nearly three years.

May survived the Jan 16 no-confidence vote 325-306

Lawmakers have spent time discussing everything from post-Brexit plant health regulations to fishing and official “flag flying days” since the island nation voted to quit the EU in June 2016.

Yet, the original March 29 departure deadline is long gone and a new one is looming tomorrow that EU leaders will probably decide to postpone again when they meet in Brussels.

Experts who crunch numbers for a living believe that one-sixth of all the endless hours spent talking in the House of Commons has been devoted to Brexit.

Institute for Government data analyst Gavin Freeguard said civil servants refer to the split as Britain’s “greatest challenge of peacetime”.

“All the big things that (Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party) promised in their election manifesto have been dropped because of it,” Freeguard told AFP.

Here is a look at the figures shaping Britain’s big Brexit battle — a campaign that might yet drag on for many more months.

Simple Math
3: Number of times the House of Commons has rejected the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement the two sides reached after 17 months of talks.

12: Number of “Plan B” alternatives to May’s way forward that Parliament has voted on in the past three weeks.

0: Number of “Plan B” alternatives Parliament has approved.

3: Total number of Brexit-related initiatives MPs did back this year. Two focused on ways to keep Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal — and one on renegotiating the current agreement.

1: Number of times May’s Conservative Party tried to oust her over her handling of Brexit. She survived the Dec 12 leadership challenge vote 200-117.

1: Number of times the Opposition Labour Party tried to oust May’s government over its handling of Brexit. May survived the Jan 16 no-confidence vote 325-306.

3: Number of times various parliamentary parties tried — and failed — to get Brexit put to a new public referendum.

3: Number of summits EU leaders will have had by yesterday devoted to May’s futile attempts to get the deal they all reached in November through Parliament.

Complex Numbers
The bigger numbers were compiled by Institute for Government analysts using parliamentary sessional diaries and other records.

501: Number of hours the House of Commons spent discussing Brexit from the moment Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016 to the day it was supposed to have left last week. That number has since grown by a dozen hours or so.

33: The hours May has spent making statements on the EU withdrawal. But she also engages in weekly question time sessions in Parliament that often last two or three hours and are consumed by heated Brexit talk.

200: Number of hours various legislative committees have spent discussing Brexit issues away from the main Commons chamber.

161: Number of hours peers in the House of Lords — Britain’s upper chamber of Parliament — spent discussing the EU Withdrawal Act.

So, what are the issues driving all this talk?

The House of Commons Library summary of the Brexit topics debated this year alone is 26 pages long.

It starts with one about “Tobacco Products and Public Health” on Jan 7 and ends with “Flags (Northern Ireland) (Amendment)” on March 25.

The two chambers of Parliament have touched on everything from criminal justice to train licences and public sector catering.

An accompanying reading list of all the publications released by Parliament runs to 66 pages.

It features a section on artificial intelligence and ends with a March 29 briefing paper entitled: “Brexit means Brexit…but not quite yet”. — AFP