After another exasperating exchange in the House of Commons, Parliament has finally agreed on a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. The only problem is that the EU have already rejected it.
Last week, Theresa May brought her Plan ‘B’ Brexit to Parliament for them to vote on her updated plan. The problem, though, was that it wasn’t very different from Plan ‘A’; which MPs had rejected by a colossal margin. It did come with a number of assurances, however. May hoped to woo MPs with the removal of a £65 EU settlement fee (which would have forced EU citizens to pay for rights that they will otherwise only have prior to Brexit), by offering a “flexible, open and inclusive” approach to Brexit (whatever that means), and by pledging to agree changes to the backstop agreement on the Irish border. Effectively, Mrs May was handing the Withdrawal Agreement over to MPs to see if they could propose amendments to create something workable.
As instructed, various amendments were tabled and voted on yesterday (29th January), and two of them passed:
- To reject leaving the EU without a deal (Spelman amendment); and
- To seek alternative arrangements for the Northern Ireland backstop (Brady amendment); even though we don’t yet have an arrangement to provide an alternative to.
These changes have made a bad deal marginally better, but the EU have already said they will not discuss any further changes to the Withdrawal Agreement. All of the options have been debated previously, and going over it again is pointless. The EU were happy with May’s original proposal, but Parliament wasn’t.
Now we have a deal that just scraped through Parliament, and the EU aren’t having any of it. So what are our options now? It depends on what’s actually possible, and whether or not Theresa May bothers to follow the proper procedures. Given her track record, it looks like we will be relying on the former.
In theory, the Spelman Amendment prevents a no-deal exit, but in reality the EU can just tell us to sling our hook on 30th March – they’ve already said they will not accept this Withdrawal Agreement, amendments or not.
If things become really desperate, MPs might fall back on the original agreement, but that would be one difficult pill to swallow. It is a bad deal, and there’s too many hardline Brexiters claiming no-deal is better than a bad deal (it’s theoretically possible, but not so for this bad deal). May would have to pull something spectacular to get that bill passed.
Extending Article 50 to allow more time to renegotiate a deal has been proposed, and it was flatly rejected by the EU.
The only other alternative to May’s deal and no deal is to revoke Article 50, and that’s a whole new territory politically. Everything debated, authorised and put into practice since June 2016 has been based on our departure from the EU going ahead; such a change of direction would be incredibly disruptive, and involve a lot of red faces in Parliament. It might be our best option, but based on the events of the last 30 months there’s a very real chance our politicians will put their own interests first at the expense of the country.
Effectively, we’re looking at Remain or no-deal, which is a scary prospect. Given that we really do have a binary choice now, calls for a second referendum have gained some legitimacy, but putting it to the electorate again is extremely risky.
Brexiters have always approached the issue with more passion than reason, and the media and the governing party have fuelled their emotional investment since the vote. Yesterday the BBC ran clips of leave voters reminiscing over WWII and saying it would do us good to have food shortages. I’m not joking, the video is below:
This evening (30th January), BBC News ran a piece on Theresa May’s next trip to Brussels, interspersed with footage of Spitfires crossing the channel. That the national broadcaster could air something so incendiary is completely outrageous and actually quite frightening.
With those sorts of attitudes widespread, and more entrenched now, anyone that excited about leaving is sure to turn up and vote. A second referendum could be our only hope to stop this mess, but it could also backfire and ensure a no-deal Brexit.
If we remain in the EU, we cannot undo the damage we have already caused, but at least we can avert a disaster. But those with vested interests and rose-tinted memories of a time they never experienced are dead set on pushing through an abrupt exit. Revoking Article 50 is politically damaging, and the toxic combination of political skullduggery and petty jingoism could ensure we crash out of the EU with no deal. I’m genuinely frightened that this could really happen.
The consequences of a no-deal Brexit are alarming. If Ireland doesn’t reunify, there will be another war. Either way, the UK will lose Northern Ireland. Scotland could go too, peacefully or otherwise. Whatever’s left of the UK will be dealing with the consequences for decades, and the first few months will slowly improve from chaos to disaster. Anyone who’s paid attention to the Brexit contingency plans can tell you that — and that’s just what the government is willing to let slip to the public. Imagine what else could be in store for us.
The EU’s had enough of our stubbornness and political games. The UK is behaving in much the same way that it did as an EU member state, wanting to have its cake and eat it too. The EU will be harmed by the UK’s departure, but not as much as it will hurt the UK. Of course, it’s all relative, as the shock this will cause to the global economy will touch every single one of us.
The world needs to start panicking about Brexit
The UK stands just two months away from a no-deal Brexit that will crash the world's economy. As it stands, no plan to…
The whole world is looking in on Britain with bewilderment. We have elected to make ourselves poorer, smaller and more precarious in an already unstable time. None of it makes any sense, and anyone with the slightest bit of nous can see the situation is ripe for exploitation by those with nefarious ends. Deal or no-deal? It’s far from a safe bet.