NEWS, ANALYSIS AND COMMENT

The Brexit Endgame Begins

Updated: Nov 25, 2018


All factions involved, from the British Conservative party, the UK government and even the EU, are fracturing in the face of the draft agreement and its implications


Last week Theresa May presented an extraordinary achievement: a Brexit deal agreed between the UK and EU at last. The international reaction: muted. The domestic reaction: Chaos. Many doubted she would make it through the weekend.


The agreement has served to underline the extraordinary weakness of the key Political factions within the UK. The PM lacks sufficient authority and support to quell her opposition (her internal party opposition, that is). Similarly her opposition (not the official opposition of the Labour party, confusingly) in the form of the Brexiteers, lack sufficient support to land a killer blow. Their drive towards a no confidence vote failed to take off, and has served to underline how out of touch they appear with their own party and the general public. They are now forced to wait for another mis-step by the PM, where it seems certain they will attempt another putsch.


The Government nearly brought itself down in the face of damaging resignations, the departure of Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab in particular being a wound May has given up any pretense of being able to staunch. Already DUP - the oft forgotten (unofficial) coalition partner that has served to prop up the government, has balked at the proposed deal, which will leave Northern Ireland's economic and legal status with an asterisk next to it indefinitely. Fiercely ideological, if somewhat cowed Brexiteers remain in the cabinet and insisting May attempt to re-open parts of the deal agreed. They have given up their efforts for now - but they're gambling that in the next speed-bump hit, they may be able to grab the wheel one last time.


The conservative (Tory) party remains deeply disgruntled, as does the country in general. As has been the case for the past 30 years, getting the party to agree on it's position on Europe looks insurmountable. May, known as a skilled tactician and praised by her enemies for being a survivor (if nothing else) will aim to exploit these divisions to shepherd her deal through a fractured Parliament. Much will depend on the actions of the Labour Party, whom if able to line up with renegade Tories, DUP and SNP support, could sink ratification of the deal in Parliament.


Ongoing movements within the UK, the drive for a 'People's Vote' , which would see another referendum staged , and even present the possibility of over-turning the Brexit vote, have flickered from embers into life. Yet there is still no apparent, viable means for that effort to come to fruition in the face of ambivalence from Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who himself has struggled to at any time feel relevant to conduct and implications of Brexit. The Labour party itself does not know how it feels about the deal or Brexit, with many inclined to vote the deal down, and yet are petrified of a No-Deal outcome, and consider a People's vote to be a Pandora's box. Making a commitment in either direction is in dangerously unpredictable for their electoral prospects.


The EU itself, almost embarrassed by the seeming advantages of the deal , has for the first time shown disunity as intractable issues such the status of Gibraltar, have left Spain out of sorts, though it would be a great exaggeration to believe this could torpedo the deal from the European side, who long ago agreed the manner of negotiations i.e Unity, were nearly as important as the outcome.


A No-Deal scenario, is the only proposed outcome for which there is near consensus in British and European Politics as being the worst possible outcome - the outliers being excluding the Hard Brexiteers, who themselves lack the numbers to oust May.


It's no small irony then that if the forces opposed to May from across the political spectrum move against her, No-Deal becomes the likeliest outcome. The PM's weakness is now her greatest asset, and still, her deal being ratified feels like the likeliest outcome in the face of no viable alternative.


It might have seemed unthinkable a week ago, but today, Theresa May remains the only actor who knows what she wants to achieve, how she intends to do it, and has a reasonable chance of success.

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