Who can unlock the stalled Brexit negotiations? UK Premier sticks to her proposal

Theresa May, UK Prime Minister and Emmanuel Macron, President of France.
Copyright: European Union. Event: European Council – June 2018.

The Brexit cataclysm comes to its apex. On the one side is Prime Minister Theresa May, and on the other around 50 unrepentant Brexiteer Tory MPs. The sides are about to cross swords within and without Parliament.

Reportedly, May could pass her own – not so mild but negotiable in Brussels – version of Brexit in the Commons, the lower and decisive chamber of Parliament. It’s her famous ‘Chequers Brexit proposal’. Supposedly, there are enough votes in the Commons to pass it. This majority includes 11 pro-EU Tory dissident deputies, who defy their Tory party line.

At the same time, however, the hard Brexiteer conservative representatives can try to topple May in the Party. On both occasions, nothing is certain though. The Labor Party, the major opposition in Parliament, is not at all sure if they want what May offers. It’s also uncertain, if a censure motion introduced by the 50 Tories to topple May from Party leadership and consequently from premiership, can produce the sought after result.

Who supports Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson, the atypical leader of the 50 hard Brexiteers, has to convince the majority of his 314 fellow Tory MPs, to vote May down. This may prove to be very difficult. If they decide to do so, the Tory Parliamentary group would have to face the possibility of accepting Boris as Party leader and maybe also as Prime Minister. In that case, the pro-EU Tory MPs like Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, can vote down Boris’ version of Brexit, which would, very possibly, be a frightful no-deal exodus.

It turns out then that the only certainty in Parliament is a cross party majority of pro-EU deputies, who will block a hard Brexit deal, if the option is put to them. By the same token, it’s not certain if this majority would vote for whatever proposal May is to table.

The same kind of predicament reigns on the other side of the English Channel. The 27 EU leaders would very, very much want to have a Brexit deal this autumn. They are not ready however to abolish, what they consider as red lines. Recently, the French President Emmanuel Macron, while addressing the annual conference of his ambassadors said it very clearly. He explained, he would love to maintain the closet possible relations with Britain after Brexit, but not if that would entail the unraveling of the EU. Understandably, he and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel are pivotal in finalizing any Brexit deal.

EU’s founding principles

For them, it’s about the founding principles of the Union; the security of the club’s Customs Union and Internal Market and the free movement of goods, people and capital. Add to that the backstop avowal of no hard border being built in the island of Ireland, and one comes up with squaring the cycle. Both Britain and the EU have pledged that there won’t be a hard border in Ireland. The Republic of Ireland, the Eire has clarified it will veto any Brexit deal, if it leads to the enactment of a hard border with checks and controls within the island.

Today, there is nothing reminding of any kind of divide between Eire and Northern Ireland. Still, they are both members of the EU. After Brexit, the Republic will of course remain in the EU, as an integral part of the Customs Union and Internal Market. ‘No hard border’ though means Northern Ireland, a part of the UK, would have to remain in the Customs Union too, and so be somehow partitioned from exiting Great Britain.

The security and the reliability of EU’s Customs Union would demand that checks and controls being introduced in the movements of people, goods and capital between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. London considers this option as constitutionally unacceptable, because it amounts to a partition of the Kingdom.

The Irish ‘Gordian Knot’

As things stand, the Irish question remains the ‘Gordian Knot’ of the Brexit deal. On the one side is the integrity of the UK and on the other the security of the Customs Union. These issues are central on the two shores of the Channel and this is going to be confirmed later on today. Since yesterday, there is an informal EU Summit going on in Saltsburg Austria, but it is not expected to produce any concrete results on Brexit.

Last night however, Theresa May had the opportunity at a dinner to present to the 27 EU leaders her ‘Chequers Brexit proposal’. According to information from this graceful Austrian city, the other heads of government or state just said how badly they want a Brexit deal this fall. In any case, this Summit being informal is not to produce any conclusions in writing. So the hard decisions will be left for the subsequent formal EU Summits of October, or November or even December in Brussels. The no-deal Brexit becomes every week more probable.

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