May’s final chance to break Brexit deadlock
MPs have backed Theresa May’s plan to renegotiate her Brexit deal in a last-ditch attempt to get it through Parliament. But as the EU declares it will not budge, has the PM run out of road?
“It will not be easy.”
That was Theresa May’s response after a dramatic night of voting in Westminster, in which MPs backed her bid to secure last-minute changes to the Brexit agreement. Her original deal was hated by MPs.
But now they have given May one more opportunity; one chance to try Plan B.
It revolves around one key issue: the Irish backstop. This is the controversial backup plan designed to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if Britain and Brussels fail to agree on a trade deal. Brexiteers hate it because they worry it will stop the UK from properly leaving the EU.
May’s plan is to reopen negotiations and replace this backstop with legally binding “alternative arrangements”. It is unclear what these arrangements might be, but May hopes they will satisfy MPs when she gives them a decisive vote in two weeks time.
The big question is: will the EU be willing to renegotiate?
“The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation,” insisted Donald Tusk, the European Council president.
How true this is remains to be seen. Beneath the bullish rhetoric of the EU, some suspect that a compromise could be reached — perhaps by adding additional text to the withdrawal agreement rather than renegotiating sections of it completely.
But can Theresa May return with a deal they will actually vote for?
After humiliating defeats and weeks of torment, last night would have felt like a victory for the prime minister. But was anything substantial actually achieved? Can we really expect the EU to cave to these demands?
Some expect May to come back empty-handed, but what then? Would a second referendum break the deadlock? Should Brexit be delayed — even cancelled?
- Is Theresa May the best person to deliver Brexit?
- If you were to vote in a second referendum, would you vote to leave or remain in the EU? Why? Discuss your thoughts in small groups and feed back to the class.
Some People Say...
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”Samuel Beckett
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Currently, Britain is leaving the EU on March 29 with a deal or without. Yesterday, MPs voted against a proposal to delay Brexit, however, they may vote on this issue again.
- What do we not know?
- Whether Theresa May will be able to secure changes in the withdrawal agreement. Even if May does win concessions there is no guarantee that Parliament would vote for her proposals.
- The proposal was passed by 16 votes.
- Hard border
- Without the backstop, a border would be needed because Ireland would remain in the EU, while Northern Ireland would not — necessitating customs checks on goods.
- Trade deal
- This has not yet been negotiated by the two sides. Under the current arrangement there will be a transition period in which a trade deal will be worked out.
- Properly leaving
- A major concern for Brexiteers is that Britain would not be able to exit the backstop without the agreement of the EU.