Those years have been
But that was always going to be difficult, and May did herself and her party a disservice when she called a parliamentary election in early 2017. She lost her
The Irish backstop might have been dismissed as a technicality, except that May’s government needs those DUP votes. In addition, the hardline Brexit faction in her Tory party, the European Research Group, will agree only to a solution that is acceptable to the DUP.
Many accuse May of having pandered too much to the Brexit camp in her government and not sufficiently reaching across party lines to find a consensus, but the opposition Labour Party is divided on the issue too. The prime minister has now brought her Brexit deal before Parliament three times. The first time, it suffered a defeat unprecedented in parliamentary history. The second defeat was also comprehensive. In the third vote — ironically on what was supposed to be Brexit day, March 29 — she lost by 58 votes, despite offering to resign as prime minister if MPs approved her deal. Somewhat cruelly, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon observed that May was the first leader ever to fall on her
In the meantime, Parliament itself has tried to take control of the process, by temporarily wresting control of parliamentary business from the government — again, unprecedented — to hold votes on eight alternative forms of Brexit, ranging from “no deal” to remaining in the single market and customs union, and holding a further confirmatory referendum on whatever it decides. All eight proposals were rejected, inspiring the Guardian newspaper’s front-page headline: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.”
Parliament will try again next week, as will the prime minister with her own deal, but where has all this political squabbling left Britain? The current default legal position is that, unless the EU agrees to a further extension, Britain will crash out without a deal on April 12, with all the dire economic consequences that this entails.
British business is deeply concerned, and many business leaders are livid. The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, pointed out that this was no way to run a company, far less a country. Brussels, too, is worried. No one there wants a no-deal Brexit, but unless someone can pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, that is where we will end up by default.
If the process continues beyond May, the UK will have to take part in that month’s elections to the European Parliament. No one is keen on that, on either side of the English Channel. For the UK
French President Emanuel Macron is willing to grant the UK a further extension only if he sees a clear way forward. He is not alone in that view. European Council President Donald Tusk has called an emergency summit on April 10.
There is considerable Brexit fatigue in the EU. The issue has hijacked almost every summit agenda when there are other issues the bloc would like to discuss, such as climate change and migration.
The British people, Brexiteers and
And then there is the greatest irony of all. It is in the gift of the heads of government of the EU’s 27 member states to grant an extension and avoid the UK crashing out without a deal, which means that never before has Europe had so much power over the fate of the UK — when the whole point of Brexit was to “take back control.”