By GRAHAME ANDERSON
Asian Sunday reports on the latest Brexit developments
The Prime Minister is facing a weekend of soul searching after returning home from the EU summit empty handed despite an earlier passionate presentation to European leaders. Her words also aimed at winning a few more weeks of intricate work on her withdrawal deal were lost however, on EU members determined to draw a line under proceedings and move on. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “We do not want the UK to think there can be any form of renegotiation whatsoever.” Speaking after Thursday nights dinner at which Mrs May wasn’t present, he was even more scathing adding: “The British still need to say what they want instead of asking us what we want”.
Media cameras closed in on Friday on an angry looking Mrs May clearly confronting the President. His previous remarks were certainly brought up in what seemed a terse conversation. The PM revealed later ‘he’d been talking about a general level of debate.’
In truth, despite explaining they’d like to help, what really emerged was a message aimed at MPs here to think again and back the current deal. This could involve “preparations” on the future relationship with the EU beginning a little earlier than planned – possibly before Brexit day on March 29th next year. The back story from this is EU members are keen to get on with trade and security talks, so the all important Irish backstop isn’t employed for at least a few months. But the chilling warning seems to be they could also be speeding up preparations for a ‘No-Deal’ scenario.
Hope Springs Eternal
Despite a bombardment of criticism from all sides the PM arrived in Belgium insisting she could still fashion together a commons majority for the controversial Withdrawal Agreement. More crucially pushing the belief any backstop would be ‘short lived’ at worst. The EU have intimated since then, any future problems with this would be the fault of the UK through the lack of a clear plan. Mr Juncker told the media he had listened to the recent debates in the UK parliament and realised neither the government nor MPs have a clue what kind of future relationship with the EU they want. He added on Friday: “So we would like, within a few weeks, our UK friends to set out their expectations for us because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise and I would like clarifications.”
In Defense Of The PM
Leaping to Theresa May’s defense Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington told the ‘Today’ programme on BBC radio: “Anybody who has heard Theresa May in debate, anybody who has heard her around the Cabinet table, knows there is a very clear plan.”
He described the talks as “a welcome first step that was the removal of uncertainty” over the EU’s intentions, because it had shown it wanted a “speedy UK trade deal” that would remove the need for the backstop in the first place.
On her return the PM said it was clear that “further clarification and discussion” is possible. “A disorderly Brexit would be good for no-one.” She’d been “crystal clear” to EU leaders about the need for assurances on the backstop in response to MPs’ concerns.
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “
It seems that the Prime Minister has failed in her bid to deliver meaningful changes to her Brexit deal. We cannot go on like this. The Prime Minister should reinstate the vote on her deal next week and let Parliament take back control.”
“The EU are doing what they always do,” said DUP party leader Arlene Foster. “The key question is whether the prime minister will stand up to them.”
Where does the PM go from here? Well, it seems we have almost arrived at the political dead end the British people were dreading. How long does she put off a telling vote in the commons that could as things stand, lead to a devastating and humiliating defeat of more than 200 votes. It’s possible if she doesn’t do this before mid January, a commons vote of no-confidence could emerge quickly on the horizon. Calling a general election would be chaotic at this time, though it could in many ways hand the baton back to the people, She’ll be very aware though, the late Edward Heath did just that in the 70’s over the miners strike and subsequently lost. And of course, Mrs May won’t now be taking the party into the next scheduled election in any case. A second referendum is possible, but time is against the process – and what happens if the majority once again vote to leave?
The UK could just leave without any deal at all, and hope to try and calm possible stormy waters as quickly as possible, though many MPs have intimated they won’t let that happen. Or we could simply take the decision to remain in the EU with a clear message better individuals deals must be offered in the longer term. This of course would be looked upon as a betrayal of those who came out on the right side of the 2016 referendum.
Confronting The Problem
Aside from knocking once again on the EU’s door, The PM may have no choice now but to seek the will of MP’s with a view to formulating a Brexit or Non Brexit plan to see the UK out of the immediate stalemate. That second referendum could, whether people like it or not, still be on the table.
One glimmer of hope is, the EU have a history of still being open to making changes even as the clock begins to strike midnight on seemingly fully agreed deals. But even if the backstop problem was solved and appeased the DUP, that may still not be enough to get the deal through the commons.
And so it’s back to Westminster as the Christmas break looms – it’s clear however whatever happens next, the division Brexit has caused will go on for many years to come hre in the UK.
No Deal Worst Case Scenario’s?
It should be remembered these are the worst possible outcomes and no more than that at this stage – but there’s no doubt a no-deal Brexit could swiftly turn the county of Kent into a huge car park, with the port of Dover so close by.
- Flights between the UK and EU could be grounded as British airlines would need permission from individual European countries to fly to them.
- The chief executive for NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, has already warned: “without national planning and coordination, there could be both stockpiles and shortages of medicines and medical devices.”
- The cost of living could soar leaving those family’s already on the breadline or just getting by, even further damaged.
- People may need an international driving permit to drive on the continent.
- And of course many businesses might suffer in terms of costs and employees.
- Free movement could be seriously affected.