May can run but she can’t hide: Brexit isn’t working

by Luke Lythgoe | 10.12.2018

With the prime minister delaying a confrontation with the Commons on her deal this is now a failed Brexit.

There is an overwhelming case for MPs to oppose the deal. They recognise that, whichever way their constituents voted, nobody voted to be poorer, for fewer opportunities, lower living standards and to lose control.

Theresa May claims she will now “go boldly” back to the EU to find ways to reassure MPs on the Irish border backstop. She seems to think she can use the unpopularity of the deal at home to extract concessions from the other 27 EU countries. Her top Brexit adviser Olly Robbins is reportedly already back in Brussels. But even the prime minister herself has admitted that there can be no deal without the backstop to safeguard peace on the island of Ireland.

Tinkering with the backstop won’t be easy. Brexiter demands for an exit which the UK can trigger by itself won’t fly with the EU. Who would sign up to an insurance policy that could be torn up when things got tough? Irish leader Leo Varadkar has today re-emphasised that it is “not possible” to renegotiate the Irish border backstop, though he’s happy for clarifications of what’s already in the deal.

The last two years should have taught us there is no Brexit model that can fulfil all the promises made in the 2016 referendum or satisfy the expectations created. Any deal will be worse than the deal we’ve already got in Europe.

Postponing the vote is, in itself, dangerous for the prime minister. Labour has suggested it will call a vote of no confidence in the government whether the vote goes ahead or not. The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon has said she will support it. Tory Brexiters are already registering their outrage. Those 48 letters calling for a Conservative party leadership contest could finally come rushing in.

A lot will depend on what reason the prime minister gives for postponing the vote and what she plans to do next. If she can’t give a good answer, she will rapidly lose control of events. When all the shouting is done, the only sensible solution will be a People’s Vote with an option to stay in the EU – something today’s ECJ ruling shows is a realistic alternative unlike the fantasies peddled by hard and soft Brexiters alike.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

5 Responses to “May can run but she can’t hide: Brexit isn’t working”

  • It looks as if this whole affair is now about Theresa May. She is putting her position before anything else and is on record as saying that she sees her ‘legacy’ as the PM who took the UK out of the EU.

    Guy Verhofstadt has already tweeted that the EU is not going to let the people of Ireland down and, in doing so, has declared that May will get no joy by ‘re-negotiating’.
    I think May is about to be dumped by her own party. She is a deluded woman who confuses ‘stubbornness’ with stupidity.

    If she can pull a vote like this does it not set a dangerous precedent? John Bercow has called it ‘discourteous’ but what is to stop future PMs putting a block on a vote when they sense a defeat? And May lectures us all about democracy?

  • I the meaningful vote is not held till late January, it may be that the PM and Government are trying to run down the clock to March 2019 . If they are still negotiating in March, the PM would be in a much stronger position to inflict a Take It or Leave It ultimatum. It’s vital that Parliament breaks through the party system and asserts its control before its too late.

  • Alex-
    You’re right, parliament has to assert its control. This is now a straight power contest between parliament and the executive. Why can’t parliament go ahead and hold a vote anyway? If they did that , it would show who is in charge.

  • I agree with John King. I watched debate on TV and noted John Bercow said this sudden cancellation of the vote was (in hugely understated irritation) discourteous and was willing to hear a request for the vote to go ahead, as if that would be proper protocol. Can that be ignored?, and can’t an MP put forward a request for such a vote on whether to go ahead with vote on the May’s deal or not?