Ten days to save her political life

May way: “The only way to honour the result of the referendum […] is by backing the deal.”

Britain today faces a rude awakening after the Christmas holidays. Within the next two weeks the country may choose a new deal with the EU, no deal at all — and/or a new prime minister.

As the clock ticks towards the most important event in modern British history, much uncertainty about Brexit remains.

But first, with just 81 days before we are due to leave the EU, a quick recap.

Before Christmas, after months of tortuous negotiations, Theresa May struck a deal with EU leaders that set out the terms of Britain’s divorce. Next, she needed this deal to be approved by Parliament.

Here there was a problem: many MPs hated her deal — so many, in fact, that she was forced to cancel a crunch vote in December.

Now it is a new year. The prime minister is back, and the vote is on.

Yesterday, Theresa May declared that it will “definitely” go ahead. The 15th or 16th of January seems to be the most likely date. She has until then to convince MPs and the public to support it.

May’s position rests on two pillars. One: that stopping Brexit would betray the millions that voted for it. Two: that her deal is the best that can be negotiated.

However, she faces fierce opposition.

Labour MPs will certainly vote against it. And if May is defeated, Jeremy Corbyn hopes to win power in a general election.

Then there those who want a second referendum. A recent poll found that 53% of Britons want the final say on Brexit, rather than leave it to MPs.

What happens if May is defeated? Nobody knows. “We are going to be in uncharted territory,” she herself admitted yesterday.

Mayday

On one point, everyone is now agreed. Britain is the midst of a very messy political crisis. And taking a position on it requires thinking about some difficult questions. For example: how much independence should a wealthy modern trading nation seek? If more freedom will make us poorer, is that an exchange worth making?

And what about the process? Would it be morally defensible to have a second referendum? Is that like making athletes run another race because you didn’t like the winner of the first? Or is it more a case of admitting that the first race wasn’t fair in the first place?

You Decide

  1. Is Brexit a good idea?

Activities

  1. What do you think of politicians? In one minute, write down as many words as you can that you associate with them. Share your ideas with the class. Are most of your words positive or negative? Do you think politicians deserve a negative reputation?

Some People Say...

“Brexit means Brexit.”

Theresa May

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Theresa May has confirmed that the Commons vote on her Brexit deal will go ahead next week. She faces an uphill battle, with many Conservative MPs expected to vote against the deal.
What do we not know?
If May will be able to win enough support between now and the vote. She hopes that additional assurances from the EU may discourage some MPs from voting against her.

Word Watch

Terms
The deal includes a transition period between March 2019 and December 2020, when the UK will still need to follow EU regulations.
Public
According to a YouGov poll, only 22% of Britons support May’s deal.
Best
Theresa May is also seeking further assurances from the EU that Britain would not be trapped within the Northern Ireland backstop arrangement.
53%
Removing those who were undecided, the split was 53% in support of another referendum, with 47% against.

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