By GRAHAME ANDERSON
The deal Theresa May had hoped would make for a perfect Brexit compromise was ground into dust earlier last week. Why did it fail so badly? Perhaps the creation of solid red lines was a mistake immediately showing an early hand to EU leaders?
Maybe it was because she didn’t look for cross party support and advice? But then would Jeremy Corbyn or any of the other leaders have done the same if the roles had been reversed? After all, wouldn’t any political tribe want to take full credit for negotiating a successful formula for leaving the EU?
The Labour leader’s flat refusal to enter meaningful talks with the PM unless a no Brexit scenario is taken off the table has only served to further confuse things, drawing criticism from quarters of his own party. Perhaps the truth is the deal was de-railed because of serious Conservative party divisions with 118 MPs voting against her plan.
So what happens now? Well the fact Labour failed to unseat Theresa May, all but takes away the option of a snap general election. It’s unlikely the PM will resign at this point or there will be a second no confidence motion.This still leaves us with a range of possible scenarios. So what are they?
- Mrs May is required to present plan B to the house on Monday in neutral terms – this however could face a series of amends leaving the door open for some backbenchers to seize control of the process, and even thwart a no deal completely. The speaker John Bercow could have a great bearing on this.
More EU Talks
- Once the prime minister has sounded out the political leaders at home, she could go back to the EU in the hope of gaining even the smallest of concessions. But given the scale of last Tuesdays defeat many would argue, even in the unlikely event of the backstop being removed, the chances of making progress are extremely slim. There will still however, be a second MPs vote on January 29th after suggested changes and amendments have been made. It would still need an extraordinary turn around by those involved to get any deal through at such short notice. MPs also have a recess period in February.
Extending Article 50
- The Government could ask for an extension of article 50 for three months or even up to a year, in order to fulfil EU leaders wishes of clarifying exactly what it is the UK wants. This would facilitate the passing of further legislation, which could enable a second referendum. The problem here is there are EU elections in Spring – and the UK would need
representation of course. But with a sensible timetable EU leaders could well grant the request.
Halting Article 50
- Last year a court case ruled while all 27 EU states have to agree to extend the Article 50 process, the UK can unilaterally reverse it.
The EEA Solution
- There’s also the possibility of a Norway plus type deal many MPs are said to favour, resulting in the UK leaving the EU but still retaining a place in the single market with open borders. This won’t end free movement however, and remember the population of Norway is much smaller than the UK This would also enrage those who voted to leave in 2016 causing even more division. Known as the EEA route, this would be warmly welcomed by business.
Leaving Without A Deal
- The clock could be allowed to tick down as the UK leaves the EU on March 29 without a deal – plans are being put in place and money set aside for such an event, though the chaos could be far reaching. It seems the majority of MPs will do all they can to avoid this happening. Some legislation of course, would suddenly cease to exist.
Asian Sunday has learned requesting an extension to article 50 could well emerge as the best way through the political maze – but again this could offer up more questions than answers, given it’s already more than two years since the 2016 vote. Theresa May is still adamant we will leave the EU at the end of March, but she could be left with no choice if cross house talks don’t bear fruit. And of course, this will fuel the argument for using the time to organise a so called second people’s vote and all that brings. It would also take more than 20 weeks to implement. Extending article 50 however, would also allow time to create some type of acceptable new deal.
It’s a move favoured by former prime minister Gordon Brown, highlighted in a Brexit speech he made in Edinburgh. He said: “There is no majority in Parliament, not only for any amended version of Theresa May’s deal but for other options.
“Indeed, the historically-large defeat this week was so decisive that it is very difficult to foresee any satisfactory resolution within the 10 weeks left before the planned March 29th departure date.
“The only majority around is for a negative proposition that takes us nowhere – for a no-deal.
“It is a near tragedy that America and the UK – the two countries identified most with stable, lasting constitutional frameworks – are now seen as the most dysfunctional of democracies.
“So, I propose we negotiate with Europe to extend Article 50 for one year not as a delaying tactic but for a purpose – that we agree, and the European Union accepts, a unique democratic innovation — the convening of nationwide citizens‘ assemblies.
“Stage two would be a consultation in each UK region and nation, sponsored by Parliament’s Select Committees if not by the Government, to review the issues revealed by Brexit including those relating to immigration and sovereignty.
“Stage three would be a Parliamentary review of the results taking the issues back into parliament after listening to the people – followed by the options of a stage four and five if Parliament agrees the situation has changed – to a renegotiation with the EU, based on these developments.
“The people of Britain must be brought back into this debate.”
Division is so great at the moment, finding a perfect solution for everyone is simply impossible – compromise will need to be the key word of 2019. It does seem certain however, it could take a decade for people to come back together whatever the outcome. At this moment – nothing is off the table.