The Ongoing Brexit Deadlock
March 29 marked Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union, but the date passed with no approved Brexit deal, as the country remains in a political deadlock. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan was defeated for the third time by Parliament, and the UK now has only until April 12 to decide on a departure agreement or risk a no-deal Brexit.
Britain has borne witness to extraordinary turmoil in recent weeks. On March 23, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets of London to demonstrate their frustration and demand that the people decide the future of Britain with a second referendum. On March 27, Prime Minister May, as a last resort to get Parliament to accept her Brexit deal, offered to resign if her deal were approved, which would have given Britain an extension until May 22 to leave the EU. However, Parliament still voted down her plan.
On the same day, MPs tried to take some control over the Brexit process and held indicative votes — or votes on non-binding resolutions meant to gauge the majority’s inclinations. They voted on eight motions, ranging from a no-deal Brexit to a second referendum that would allow voters to have a say on the deal to be struck between the UK and the EU. All eight options were voted down as Parliament failed to find a majority for any of the motions. More indicative votes were held on Monday and proposals were once again voted down.
The UK’s lengthy impasse is partly because of the “inherent contradiction” in asking Parliament and May, who never supported Brexit, to execute the results of the referendum, wrote the New York Times Editorial Board.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, on Tuesday forewarned of the increasing probability of a no-deal Brexit as the April 12 deadline approaches. Leaving the EU with no deal would be detrimental to the UK’s economy, with potential complications including jammed ports and food and medicine shortages. The question of the border between Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, part of the UK, also remains uncertain.
In a new attempt to break the stalemate, May met with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday, in what the Washington Post described as “the biggest gamble of her political career.” The unlikely cooperation caused a stir, especially after May’s rebuke last week, when she said Corbyn was the “biggest threat to our standing in the world, to our defense and to our economy.” Discussions between the two sides continued until Thursday but resulted in “no breakthroughs or breakdowns.”
With the April 12 deadline looming, the British government is running out of time to find a solution. May requested yet another extension on Friday to push Brexit to June 30. This new delay is being referred to as a “flextension,” a lengthy extension that may end up being shorter if Parliament manages to approve a Brexit deal before the deadline. May intends to push for this extension when she meets with European leaders at a Brussels summit this coming Wednesday.