Brexit: UK to suffer from EU’s uncompromising stance

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (second from right), and Michel Barnier, EC Chief negotiator for Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom (first from right), participated to the debate on Brexit during the European Parliament Plenary session in Brussels. Date: 30/01/2019. Location: Brussels – European Parliament. © European Union, 2019/Source:EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Etienne Ansotte.

Last Tuesday, 29 January, 317 British MPs voted for (301 against) the Tory Sir Graham Brady’s amendment, to replace the ‘Northern Ireland Backstop’ with elusive “alternative arrangements“. This NI Backstop is an integral part of the Brexit Agreement, PM Theresa May concluded with the other 27 EU leaders last December. It guarantees that, after the divorce, there won’t be a hard border on the island of Ireland separating the Irish Republic, a member of the EU, from Northern Ireland, an integral part of the UK. Other than this deal, the EU uncompromisingly considers no other option for a divorce agreement.

In any case, on 15 January, the Commons, the British Parliament, rejected altogether this kind of soft Brexit Agreement of May with Brussels. A round number of 120 MPs of her own Conservative Party defied their leader again, joining the opposition deputies, including the Labor Party, and all of them together voting down May’s soft Brexit proposal by 432 votes to 202.

Blocking the no-deal exit

Before that and envisaging the rejection, two pro ‘remainer’ deputies, a Tory and a Labor, proposed an amendment to forbid a Brexit without an Agreement with Brussels. This amendment was passed with 303 votes for and 296 against.

Obviously, the aim of the Parliamentary majority is to avoid a catastrophic no-deal Brexit at all costs. Everybody agrees that a no-deal Brexit will entail devastating effects for Britain in the coming decades. There is one incomprehensible exception to that. A round number of 120 Tory MPs plus a few other deputies think well about such a prospect.

A Parliament lost in amendments

Let’s try, now, to assess where the British Parliament stands. For one thing, many MPs are not any more afraid to ask for a second referendum, openly defying the result of the 23 June 2016 plebiscite. By the same token, there is a clear majority in the Commons against a wild divorce, even favoring a full revocation, or at least a deferral of the Brexit date well beyond the 29 March. Legally, though, for a real change in the Brexit path, the proposal has to come from the government and be voted by the Parliament. An MP’s amendment cannot do that and doesn’t bind the government.

As a result, only eight weeks before the exit day at the end of next month and the UK Parliament is lost in a maze of red lines and groundless aspirations. The latest vote, approving the completely vague Brady amendment, has perplexed things even further. As mentioned above, 317 MPs voted for it, but not all them come from the same party.

7+8 dissident MPs

This majority included seven Labor MPs, but eight Tories voted against their Conservative colleague’s proposal. Those 7+8 dissident deputies voting against their parties’ lines are proven hard rock antagonists to their party’s leadership. In the case of Tories, the eight rebel MPs are utterly opposing their party’s line for a Brexit, be it soft or hard. In the Labor camp, the seven contestant representatives fully support a full Brexit at any cost, against their party line which favors at least the participation in the EU Customs Union or a second referendum. Presumably, a second plebiscite will reject Brexit altogether.

As for the smaller parties, the Scottish National Party and the Liberals, they are in favor of a soft Brexit, or a no Brexit at all or even a new referendum. The Labor Party’s policy is not fully laid down and its leader Jeremy Corby by and large proposes to remain in the EU’s Customs Union, without however having a detailed plan for that. Understandably, the participation in the EU’s Customs Union doesn’t go for free. There are important obligations that go with it, and Corbyn remains very elusive about that.

A British colony?

In reality, there is not a solid Parliamentary majority for a clear cut solution to the Brexit conundrum. If May really tries to press mainland Europeans to serve her new offer, about “alternative arrangements” for the Irish Backstop as the Brady amendment demands, there will be grave repercussions for Britain. Already, Brussels have started to provoke the UK. A new Regulation is being currently being drafted by the European Commission which contains a phrase characterizing Gibraltar as a “British Colony”.

No matter how deafening the cries of the British Ambassador to the EU, Gibraltar remained a “British Colony” in the relevant text. Obviously, the rest of mainland Europeans have lined behind Spain, in her conflict with Britain about the ‘ownership’ of the Gibraltar Rock. This is a solid indication that the 27 EU countries will not concede to renegotiate May’s Brexit Agreement which they occluded last December.

Brussels will not blink

With mounting problems from the present full Brexit chaos upon the UK business sector, the consequences from a no-deal divorce on 29 March will inflict a historic trauma on Britain. In the latest incident, automaker Nissan is reportedly withholding a major investment in its Sunderland plant. The giant automotive company is about to cancel plans to produce the X-Trail SUV in Britain.

All in all, if some Brits think that the EU will blink before May’s new demands, they will learn the hard way, that in today’s world nobody will miss the opportunity to make a kill. Things are difficult for all and Britain is probably about to pay dearly for that.

 

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