Brexit: Fourth Time Lucky?

The Brexit deal nobody likes is back, and characteristically, there’s something in it for everyone to hate. A ten-point plan presented to MPs by Prime Minister Theresa May contained many of the same promises and compromises she had previously offered. Vague language about “alternative arrangements” and “keeping Northern Ireland aligned” aren’t any more likely to win over Conservative Brexiteers, or her Democratic Unionist partners, than they were before. At least one item, per The Guardian, seemed placed for no other reason than to round the list up to ten.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo: Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office)

Two new concessions— a vote on a post-Brexit customs union and a second referendum— were designed to win over Labour members, but seem to have already backfired, making approval even less likely. Those same Tory Brexiteers vehemently oppose a second referendum, and Remainers would rather see a guarantee of a new public vote. There is, of course, no idea of what a second referendum would even ask, or with how many choices a voter might be presented. May’s olive branch to Labour of a customs union is only temporary, and would face further bipartisan opposition. Labour wants a permanent union, the Brexiteers oppose any kind at all.

If the Prime Minister, or her party, were looking to the weekend, and European Parliamentary elections for salvation, they won’t find it there either. The Tories fell to fifth place in the latest opinion polls, behind Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party, the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, Labour, and the Greens. As one Tory MP, Huw Merriman put it, it’s a “perfect storm” that will produce “an absolute mauling.” Every faction— Leavers for not taking the country out already, Remainers for holding the referendum in the first place— will have a reason to vote against the Conservatives on Thursday.

With May attempting to craft some sort of historical legacy north of Anthony Eden (of Suez Crisis infamy), her fellow Tories are already planning for her succession. The first week in June is still the tentative date to begin departure. Several Conservative MPs are expected to stand to fill the vacancy, once it’s created, and one already is: leading Commons Brexiteer Boris Johnson. For months, Tories have encouraged, cajoled, begged May to vacate the premises of 10 Downing Street, even going so far as to vote for her Brexit plan in March to start the timetable. Everyone wants Theresa May to go, it seems, but someone is going to be stuck inheriting the very mess she herself was given.

Meanwhile, the Brexit Party is now looking like a serious contender in national elections that are currently scheduled for May, 2022.

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Robert Martin (CN Staff)

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