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.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is under intense pressure to resign. Although it is probably too late, May is apparently now “listening to colleagues” about her Brexit withdrawal bill. She has halted plans to publish the legislation on Friday and will revise the bill again before it is published and debated before a vote in early June. However, it is unclear if that vote will even take place with Tory opposition deepening. On Tuesday, Brexit supporters were infuriated when May outlined a revised Brexit deal that would allow MPs to vote on whether to hold a second EU referendum. That point has triggered a near-revolt in her cabinet which is threatening to escalate.
To complicate matters even more, European Parliamentary voting has started today in the United Kingdom. The election is anticipated to bring a major victory for Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party. The chaos surrounding May’s withdrawal deal this week has been a gift for Farage. If his party wins big in the EU elections it could be disastrous for the Conservatives, and end up bringing about May’s resignation despite her efforts to preserve her position. If the EU parliamentary election results are as bad for Conservatives as feared, May could be forced to resign as the party leader by Monday at the latest.
Regardless of how the next few days play out, Theresa May’s time at 10 Downing Street is evidently coming to an end.
Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal with the European Union has been soundly defeated again. MPs rejected it for the second time today by 391-242. This was a smaller defeat than the first vote in January, but the margin is meaningless at this point. May’s Brexit strategy now lay in tatters, and Britain’s exit from the EU, scheduled to take place at the end of the month, appears likely to be a chaotic endeavor.
The next step will be a vote on whether Britain should leave without a deal, or if Brexit should be postponed. This upcoming vote might very well prove to be more critical than the one today. The concerns, and fears that a potential no-deal exit scenario are now being countered by equally passionate feelings of anxiety and suspicions that an Article 50 extension will eventually lead to a possible second referendum. Brexiteers are dead set against allowing another national referendum to take place. In the view of many Brexit supporters Britons have made their choice clear and it is up to the government to turn the wishes of the people into a reality.
At the center of the bedlam in London is the Prime Minister. Despite her best efforts, her government has suffered a second defeat. May’s power, and authority have been diminished and another no-confidence vote remains possible. Her political future remains very uncertain.
International leaders have started reacting to the vote results. Not surprisingly, European leaders are publicly quite disappointed at how the vote has played out. Now the leaders of EU member-states are beginning to circle the wagons, so to speak, in an effort to minimize the blowback that will arise from a no-deal British departure. As far as the EU is concerned, Brussels has done everything possible to bring about a solution acceptable to both sides and Britain has turned in down.
Perhaps it was Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s words which best describe the sentiment on the continent at the moment: “We regret the decision of the British Parliament despite the EU’s efforts to achieve the best possible agreement. The European project must move forward to ensure freedom, stability and prosperity. We need pro-European governments. Let’s protect Europe so that Europe will protect us.”
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*