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.
Theresa May saw the writing on the wall. Her Brexit deal was not going to survive a Parliament vote in any way, shape, or form. So she did what any conscious politician would do: she reversed course. After three days of insisting that the vote would move forward as scheduled on 11 December, May postponed the vote today. She will hold talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by discussions with EU officials about the future of the deal. EU leadership has staunchly insisted that there will be no alterations to the EU deal. If this remains the case, May might be forced to allow a vote. If the deal is not approved, Britain’s final break from the EU in March, 2019 will be a hard one. The United Kingdom will lose virtually all of its political and economic connections with the EU. The relationship between the two will change irrevocably, and it will happen virtually overnight.
Both sides have stated repeatedly that they do not want that scenario to become the reality. Yet actions speak louder than words, and neither side has backed up their statements with actions that will head off a hard break come March. The coming days should give us a glimpse into the future, and leave the world with a good idea about what direction Brexit is headed in.
Authors Note: Short update tonight, I apologize. I’ll back it up with more on Brexit tomorrow, and later on this week as things unfold in London and Brussels.