The decision to postpone until late January the December 11 vote in the House of Commons on the Withdrawal Agreement stipulating the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union, agreement approved by the EU on November 25, created real chaos in the Brexit issue, this time at the government policy level. The WA and London’s position that forms the foundation of the deal and that was pushed through the Cabinet by Prime Minister Theresa May last July, led to two series of resignations. In all, 11 ministers quit, including key officials responsible for Brexit, such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis and his successor Dominic Raab.
This time, May’s maneuvering provoked a vote of no confidence in the parliamentary party. On the evening of December 12, May won the ballot at 200 votes to 117. Now the Conservatives cannot retake the vote for one year. That said, her reputation has sustained serious damage. In particular, it was confirmed that one-third of the Conservatives would vote against Brexit. In other words, the deal would be voted down by a large margin. Indicatively, the entire opposition, starting from Labour, has denounced it as the worst option. This means that it does not suit either those that favor a sensible withdrawal from the EU, or those that want to remain. In fact, it is this prospect that compelled May to risk postponing the vote in parliament at the last minute and in violation of the established procedures.
The problem is that the Brits who voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum proceeded from the need to restore full sovereignty and independence to their country. No specific divorce terms were discussed. Also, Britain joined the European Common Market in 1972, while the subsequent creeping integration was not endorsed by the electorate (as for that matter in other EU member states). In other words, it was a situation described in a Russian song that says “they married me off in my absence.”
It should be added that London was already on the sidelines of the integration process, or in its second round, being uninvolved either in Schengen, or the Eurozone.
This is exactly what was understood under Global Britain, a slogan that May put forth when she became prime minister after the resignation of David Cameron who lost the referendum. According to Brexit supporters such as Boris Johnson, the Withdrawal Agreement “betrays” this vision of the country’s future. Under the WA terms, Britain will become a vassal to the EU without being a member. As US President Donald Trump said, London will barely be able to conclude a good bilateral trade agreement with the United States.
After the December 13 EU summit, where Theresa May was told in no uncertain terms that the agreement could not be reopened and that no additional guarantees would be given on the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland (its regime is regulated by the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement on Ulster settlement, to which Dublin, a remaining EU member, was a party), she still continues saying that she will seek some “political and legal assurances” from Brussels on this score. At the same time, May rejects, and rightly so, the very idea of a second referendum, which would trigger off a political and constitutional crisis. In parallel, the Government will work on plans for withdrawing from the EU without any agreement (the EU is also working on this).