Mayday! PM begs Brussels to save Brexit deal
Should Brexit be delayed? Yesterday Theresa May held talks with EU leaders in a bid to save her Brexit plan. Now Tory MPs have triggered a vote of no confidence. Here are five possible outcomes.
1/ May renegotiates the deal. In Britain, opposition to May’s plan is focused on the Northern Ireland backstop, which critics claim will tie Britain to the EU indefinitely. Ideally, May wants legally-binding concessions from the EU guaranteeing that this will not happen. However, that looks unlikely. “There will be no further opening of the exit deal,” insisted Angela Merkel.
2/ The EU making non-binding “reassurances”. Jean-Claude Juncker also claimed the agreement cannot be changed, but he did say there is room “to give further clarifications”. For example, EU diplomats could sign a “letter of intent” pledging to avoid using the backstop. However, this would almost certainly be unsatisfactory to mutinous MPs in Westminster.
3/ Tory rebels topple May. This morning Sir Graham Brady announced that 48 Tory MPs have submitted letters of no confidence in May. A vote on her leadership of the Conservative Party (and therefore prime minister) will be held tonight at 6pm. The results will be clear by 10pm. If she wins, she is safe for a year. If she loses: a leadership contest.
4/ Labour force a general election. The could happen if Jeremy Corbyn calls a vote of no confidence in the government. If the motion passes, a general election is called. MPs from across the Commons have already urged Labour to do it. However, Corbyn is biding his time — fearing he does not have quite enough support to win the initial vote. Expect him to strike when May returns to Parliament with (or without) an amended agreement.
5/ Brexit is postponed. “The clock must be stopped. It is clear we need the most precious commodity of all: time,” so declared former Prime Minister John Major yesterday. His words came after the European Court of Justice ruled that Britain had the power to revoke Article 50 without the approval of other EU members, which would bring Brexit to a halt. May immediately ruled this option out. However, if one thing has become clear over the last few days: anything is possible.
Should Brexit be delayed?
Yes, some argue. The chance of May securing a deal that will pass a Commons vote is near zero. Therefore, every passing day brings us closer to a ruinous no-deal Brexit. We must revoke or extend Article 50 and take time to consider the options before us. If necessary, a second referendum should be called. Right now we are on a one-way street to calamity.
No, others say. May’s delaying tactics have caused enough chaos. The British people voted for Brexit, and that is what should be delivered. Obstructing the process any further will enrage those who voted for it and spark a full-blown democratic crisis. The choices before us are tough, but they must be made now.
- Is Brexit a good idea?
- Would Jeremy Corbyn do a better job as prime minister?
- What do you think of when you hear the word “Brexit”. Write down your thoughts and compare your ideas with your classmates. Are most of your ideas positive or negative?
- Compile your own Brexit glossary. Research the following terms, writing down the meaning of each: Article 50, cliff edge, customs union, divorce bill, ECJ, freedom of movement, hard Brexit, Norway model, single market, transition period, WTO.
Some People Say...
“Brexit means Brexit.”Theresa May
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- MPs still have to confirm any Brexit deal proposed by Theresa May if it is to come into effect when the UK leaves the EU. Otherwise, Britain will leave without a deal. According to the government, a Commons vote will be held before January 21 — although Brexit minister Robin Walker told MPs he hoped it “would be sooner than that”.
- What do we not know?
- We do not know if European leaders will be willing to give Theresa May enough concessions to make her deal acceptable to MPs. The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, insisted that the EU wants to help Theresa May, “the question is how?”
- The current plan states that if the Brexit transition period ends without a trade deal, Northern Ireland and Great Britain would stay closely aligned to the EU. Furthermore, Britain would not be able to exit this arrangement without agreement from the EU.
- May is reportedly asking that the UK Parliament be given a vote on whether to enter the backstop, and an annual vote on whether the country should remain in it.
- Refusing to obey the will of a leader.
- Theresa May would need the support of half of her MPs to stay in power. If she wins, another vote cannot be called for a year.
- A parliamentary majority is needed to pass the vote. May currently commands a slender majority (with the help of the DUP). If May cannot secure an amended deal, the DUP may switch allegiances, giving Corbyn the majority he needs to win the vote.
- Article 50
- Legislation by which a country withdraws its membership from the European Union.
- EU officials have stated that the Brexit deadline could be delayed if necessary.