The British government is now moving ahead on the assumption of a no-deal Brexit. Michael Gove, who has been made responsible for no-deal preparations wrote in the Sunday Times that “No deal is now a very real prospect.” Newly installed Prime Minister Boris Johnson has wasted little time in grounding the British government so to speak. In the last six months of Theresa May’s tenure the British government had functioned under a cloud of uncertainty, so to speak. A no-deal Brexit was the white elephant in the room, so to speak. Even as it became clear that May’s Brexit deal was not going to pass, the possibility of a no-deal scenario was paid no mind. No preparations were discussed internally, and whenever ‘No-deal Brexit’ was uttered by a member of the government, a swarm of political pundits descended on media outlets to explain in detail why a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic to Britain, and perhaps the world. Bear in mind too, these folks said the same thing about Brexit back in June, 2016 so their knowledge, and credibility are questionable to say the least.
With Johnson now on Downing Street, reality is setting in. To be fair, a no-deal exit is not an attractive option. It is a very real possibility at this point, and the government is preparing for it. Extra funding is being made ready for no-deal essentials like additional Border Force officers, and improved port infrastructures. Some of the newly appointed officials in the Johnson government have even publicly stated that no-deal preparations are now the government’s top priority.
The Irish border backstop has been the main sticking point in negotiations between the EU and UK. Theresa May, and EU officials had decided that no matter what the outcome of Brexit, the border between Ireland (an EU member) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK) would not be hardened. It would remain unchanged, ensuring a link between Britain and the EU in the post-Brexit years. The backstop created a firestorm in British politics and is most responsible for derailing Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and ultimately her government. Keeping an open border between the EU and Britain is seen by many as keeping the UK in the EU.
Boris Johnson is committed to removing the backstop from a future exit deal. The European Union is equally as determined to keep the backstop in the plan as part of the agreement. With this stalemate, it only makes sense for the British government to begin preparing for a no-deal Brexit as the 31 October deadline comes closer.
It would appear Theresa May has managed to secure new assurances from the European Union. Officially, May and the EU have agreed upon “legally binding changes” to the withdrawal agreement. The changes will not affect the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal. It will instead serve as legal assurances preventing the UK from being trapped indefinitely in a customs union.
Now comes the hard part. Between now and tomorrow morning May has to determine if the latest changes will be enough to push her agreement through a very skeptical Parliament on Tuesday. Her main target will be the 100 or so Tory MPs who voted down her seal last month. If she can sway a majority of these votes in her favor, the agreement has at least a fair chance of passing.
The date for the UK leaving the EU is 29 March. If necessary, Brussels has indicated that a one-time extension can be applied. This route is not one which the EU wants to see become reality because it could very well interfere with the EU Parliament elections set to take place in late May. If the UK is still an EU member when that date arrives there are significant legal obstacles that need to be hurdled beforehand.
Come tomorrow the fate of the agreement, and perhaps of Brexit entirely, will be in the hands of the MPs in London.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has arrived in Strasbourg to conduct eleventh-hour talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The PM is hoping the discussion will produce a resolution which leads to enough support for her Brexit withdrawal deal to pass through parliament. The second vote on the deal will come tomorrow. There has been speculation today that the vote could be postponed, or its status altered to ‘provisional.’ A final decision on this will be dependent upon the end result of the Strasbourg talks.
According to the BBC, EU member states have been given details about a package that May and Juncker are considering. British cabinet officials have also been made aware of this and are being kept up to date on the discussions now taking place in Strasbourg.
With three weeks remaining until the United Kingdom officially separates from the European Union, negotiations continue on in hopes of preventing a hard Brexit. Today, a proposal put forth by EU negotiator Michel Barnier brought little enthusiasm from Theresa May or members of her government. The proposal was crafted in large part to bring an end to the concerns surrounding the Irish backstop, and help reassure the British government that the border between Ireland (EU Member) and Northern Ireland (UK) will be managed properly post-Brexit.
Theresa May was unmoved by the proposal, and the reaction from other British colleagues was similar. The proposal is not seen as being enough to overcome the large amount of opposition remaining in British parliament to the UK-EU divorce deal. Negotiations between EU and UK officials will carry on over the weekend. Time is running short, and anxiety is starting to build. On Friday 29 March, 2019 Great Britain will leave the European Union. It still remains to be seen if the departure will be hard or soft. The anxiety surrounding this is what’s responsible for causing the anxiety in Britain, across Europe, and around the world.
May is feeling the pressure to get the divorce deal passed through parliament soon. Time is running out, and even with renewed negotiations with the EU, it appears quite unlikely that Brussels will amend the deal further.
*Author’s note: Short write up this evening. Apologies. I’ll try and make up for it over the weekend*