Brexit Draws Near, as May’s Chances Increase

On March 20th, there will be a third meaningful vote on Brexit. The most likely scenario is the approval of Theresa May’s deal, because the MPs will not manage to find any other solution, and those who previously said “no” to the deal will now say “yes”. Time is running short, however, so the vote is expected to be very close. Hence, the chances are high that May’s deal will pass, even by a margin as razor-thin as three or four votes, says Iain Ferguson, research fellow at the ‘International Laboratory on World Order Studies and New Regionalism’ at the National Research University of the Higher School of Economics.

An important factor in Wednesday’s vote is the Northern Ireland-based Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has so far insisted on refusing May’s deal, as now they are very nervous about the backstop.

Whether the deal passes or not depends on the DUP and the hardline Eurosceptics, who have to change their position, lest the UK remain in the EU by default. Thus, the chance that May’s deal will be ratified has become far more probable.

However, the DUP are unlikely to change their position, especially after Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox said the last week that May’s deal does not settle the Irish backstop issue. For the UK, there is no legally valid option to quit the backstop mechanism unilaterally, so it has to discuss this problem with the EU. As public pressure mounts, Cox could change his public view on the backstop. If that happens, the chance exists that the DUP will also change their position.

Where is Brexit Now?
Perhaps the most tumultuous week in British parliamentary politics of recent times has left the UK with no clear timetable for leaving the European Union – and barely two weeks to prevent what is widely considered the worst-case scenario: crashing out of the EU without an agreement.
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Now there are rumours that 7-10 DUP MPs are wavering and want to change their position. In that case, the prospects of Theresa May’s deal passing look like quite optimistic.

Another outcome is also possible, because the Eurosceptics, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, are unlikely to change their position. What they want to happen is more delays on Brexit. If this deal is turned down, they will have to ask the EU for a long extension, lasting three months at least.

Considering the long-term consequences, of Brexit, this is very hard to predict. There are many forecasts about what is going to happen with the British economy under various Brexit scenarios, and all of them are negative. The question is not whether or not the economy will suffer after Brexit, but just how much. But investors who have fled the UK economy could return if the deal passes.

The fate of the UK’s trade ties is far from clear. They remain ambiguous with respect to China, because many countries such as the US have strong reservations about doing business with the Chinese company Huawei, and Britain has refused to follow suit. It wants to keep its options open for post-Brexit links with China, but how long Britain can remain at odds with the US is another question.

Brexit Is Shaking the Very Foundations of UK Politics
Brexit has shown up the conflicts within UK democracy, as between direct and parliamentary democracy. It has exposed sharp differences in sentiment between the devolved regions that could lead, sooner or later, to the break-up of the UK.
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The UK could strengthen its historical ties to India, and improve upon its existing relationship with the USA.

There is no connection between Brexit and the UK-Russia relationship. There were some rumours about so-called Russian traces being behind the Brexit referendum, but any anti-Russian hysteria is absent. Brexit is not being linked with any other extraordinary events, like the Skripal affair.

 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.