British Government In Crisis Over Brexit Deal
Theresa May's government is barely hanging on to power thanks to Brexit negotiations that clearly seem to be headed for disaster.
The British government is in crisis over the resignation of key ministers after the submission of the latest Brexit plan from British Prime Minister Theresa May:
LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain faced a deep political crisis on Thursday after two cabinet ministers quit her government, including Dominic Raab, her chief negotiator on withdrawal from the European Union — decisions that threaten to wreck not only her plans for the exit but also her leadership.
The surprise resignation of Mr. Raab on Thursday morning followed a tense, five-hour meeting of the cabinet the previous day, during which ministers reluctantly agreed to sign off on Mrs. May’s draft plans
for departure from the European Union, a process commonly known as Brexit.
Mr. Raab’s departure was not only unexpected but also deeply damaging to Mrs. May’s authority, increasing the risk that she might face a leadership challenge from rebel lawmakers inside her own Conservative Party.
Shortly after his announcement, Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, resigned, adding to the turmoil.
The crisis is a grave one for Mrs. May, who addressed lawmakers in Parliament on Thursday morning to sell her deal. Even before the resignations, she most likely knew that she would struggle to gain support from lawmakers for her draft agreement.
“What we agreed yesterday was not the final deal,” she said. “It is a draft treaty that means that we will leave the E.U. in a smooth and orderly way on the 29th of March, 2019, and which sets the framework for a future relationship that delivers in our national interest.”
She added that the deal “delivers in ways that many said could simply not be done.” It would put in place a transitional relationship with the European Union through the end of 2020, while a permanent arrangement is negotiated, but the transition period could be extended.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, called Mrs. May’s agreement “a leap in the dark, an ill-defined deal by a never-defined date.” The continued uncertainty about Britain’s relationship with Europe, lasting at least another two years and possibly much longer, will accelerate the exodus of businesses and investment that is already underway, he said.
“Parliament cannot, and I believe will not,” accept the arrangement, he added.
That view was echoed by Ian Blackford, a lawmaker from the Scottish National Party, who said the prime minister was “trying to sell us a deal that is already dead in the water.”
Although a hard-line supporter of Brexit, Mr. Raab had been a core member of the cabinet, and his presence had reassured other hard-line lawmakers. He served as Brexit secretary for barely four months, succeeding David Davis, who also resigned, because he felt that Mrs. May was not taking a hard enough line in negotiations.
In his letter of resignation, Mr. Raab said that he could not “reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made.
In the hours after his announcement, the pound dropped 1.5 percent against the dollar.
Ms. McVey’s departure, though damaging, was less of a surprise.
Another cabinet minister, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, was also reportedly reconsidering her position after a cabinet debate on Wednesday that Mrs. May described, diplomatically, as “impassioned.” As many as 10 cabinet ministers were reported to have voiced reservations.
Iain Duncan Smith, a leading Conservative supporter of Brexit and former party leader, told the BBC that the effect of Mr. Raab’s resignation would be “devastating,” because it suggested that the Brexit secretary’s concerns had been ignored, despite his pivotal position in government and in withdrawal negotiations.
More from The Washington Post, which reports that May is contending that her government intends to move forward with her Brexit plan notwithstanding the resignations:
Following a devastating series of resignations from her cabinet over Brexit plans, Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament on Thursday that Britain will leave the European Union in March, deal or no deal.
May faced a torrent of criticism in the chambers as members of Parliament, including those from her own Conservative Party, stood and denounced her Brexit plans as either a weak capitulation, an act of naive folly or a looming disaster.
Some members pleaded with May to stage another ”People’s Vote” to give citizens another chance to rethink Brexit. Others decried her proposals as condemning Britain to years of unbreakable alliance with European trading rules and regulations — and failing to make good on the vow to “take back control” as the pro-Brexit campaigns promised two years ago.
Hours before the parliamentary session, May’s government was rocked by a series of protest resignations, including that of the minister in charge of helping Britain leave the European Union, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
“I know it’s been a frustrating process — it has forced us to confront some very difficult issues,” May conceded before Parliament. ”But a good Brexit, a Brexit which is in the national interest is possible. We have persevered and have made a decisive breakthrough.”
That optimistic optic was not visible in Parliament. Hardly anyone stood to support May.
The prime minister said the draft withdrawal agreement, approved by her cabinet on Wednesday night, will go to vote by leaders of the remaining 27 member states of the European Union later this month. Then, next month, the British Parliament will get a ”meaningful vote” on the deal.
Lawmakers warned May that she will not be able to muster enough support for the deal when it comes before Parliament in December.
Mark Francois, a Conservative lawmaker and Brexiteer, said the arithmetic just is not there. He said that by his calculations, 84 Conservatives — “and going up by the hour” — would vote against it. Adding to that, he said, “the Labour Party have made plain today that they will vote against this deal,” as will parties from Northern Ireland and Scotland.
“It’s therefore mathematically impossible to get this deal through the House of Commons,” he said. “It’s dead on arrival.”
Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative lawmaker and pro-European, said, “It will be blindingly obvious to the entire country that the prime minister’s deal cannot pass this house.”
The resignation drew immediate derision from pro-E.U. voices in Brussels who have lamented the Brexit decision. Many Europeans have grown weary of the chaos over Brexit in Britain, where May’s own government is in constant crisis over its departure plans.
“Who negotiated those UK terms again…? Surely the #Brexit Minister had nothing to do with it and learned of the terms yesterday…..? Oh wait,” Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter.
E.U. officials involved in the negotiations said they were focused on the current deal and that it was unclear whether they could offer any changes that would satisfy London any more.
“We think this is the best we can do collectively with the constraints we have on both sides,” said an E.U. official briefing reporters about the deal under ground rules of anonymity. “I’m not going to speculate about any other scenario.”
The key differences that appear to be dividing the government confirm the questions regarding a so-called “hard Brexit,” which would basically consist of a complete break between the United Kingdom and the European Union and a “soft Brexit,” that would keep some of the elements of the U.K.-E.U. relationship in place, including arrangements regarding border crossing that would essentially keep the open border between Nothern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, something that has been a key part of keeping the resolution of the religious unrest that once rocked the region, in place. May’s plan is, in at least some sense, a variation on the softer Brexit deal that clearly doesn’t satisfy the hardline Brexiteers and which they are now seizing on in an effort to undermine her government and force a vote of no confidence that would lead to either a change in the leadership of the Conservative Party, or perhaps even a collapse of May’s government itself that would require the calling of new elections for the third time since 2015.
This development also comes at the same time that at least some polling indicates that Britons appear to be regretting the outcome of the Brexit referendum itself. Recent polling has shown that majorities support both the idea of remaining in the European Union and even the idea of a second referendum on Brexit itself before a deal is finalized. In reality, of course, there is no mechanism in the law that would allow for such a referendum, and it’s unclear that the Brexit process, which is supposed to be completed by March of next year, can be stopped at this point regardless of what the British public may want. This would seem to be especially true if all of this unfolds while the British government is gripped by a political crisis, the odds of which only seem to be increasing by the hour.
The problem the Brits are facing appear to be two-fold. First, the increasing doubts about the wisdom of Brexit itself appear to be growing at least among members of the public seems to be completely disconnected from the process itself, which appears to be on a course from which there is no turning back regardless of what the public may or may not want. The second problem is that there isn’t a credible opposition party out there that stands opposed to Brexit. The Labour Party remains as supportive of Brexit as it has been since the results of the referendum, and there doesn’t appear to be any signs of that changing. Additionally, the current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is hardly a credible leader in any respect and doesn’t even seem to have much real support inside his own party. As a result, British voters in a new General Election would be left with not much of a choice at all even as the clock ticks down to the hour at which there will essentially be no turning back.
Well there’s the LibDems! Polling at 8%… Also, the SNP polling at 4%, but 37% in Scotland!
The best thing for anyone living south of the border seems to be to seek asylum in Scotland, then hope for Scottish independence and that Spain or the Netherlands won’t block Scotland from joining the EU….
Theresa May has been trying to square the circle: the U.K. wants to have all the benefits of frictionless trading, but doesn’t want to have to a) stick to the rules that make such happen b) have to take notice of what the other side is doing, or c) pay for any of the agencies and methods of monitoring necessary to implement frictionless trading.
Their idea, as far as I can tell, is that the EU should just automatically follow along with whatever the U.K. wants to do.
These are the same people who think the best solution for the ROI-NI border problem is for the Republic of Ireland to crash out of the EU at the same time the U.K. does and snuggle back up with the U.K. The fact that the ROI has no interest in doing so is totally irrelevant, in their minds. The ROI should just drop this silly European Union stuff and go back under the U.K. umbrella along with the rest of the Commonwealth countries.
Hence the chaotic mess. It’s wishful thinking, totally divorced from reality.
P.S. I also wonder whether the rest of the EU has become so fed up with the U.K. that they now think the costs of a Brexit would be worthwhile paying to get rid of it…the U.K. has backtracked on promises, insulted the other side, totally ignored the EU’s own red lines, and continually presented the same already-refused offer over and over again, no matter how many times the EU has told them “that won’t work.” About the only card the U.K. holds is the size of its markets (which will be much smaller after Brexit no matter what) and the fact that it has been a net contributor to the EU up to now.
The ultra-Brexitors are going to learn the hard way that the U.K. is not as important to the rest of the world as they think it is, and the U.K. is not as important to the EU as they think it is.
I’ve never been much of a fan of referenda or plebiscites. It’s necessary to take the people’s opinion into account, yes, but it’s also true the issues voted on are not known in detail to all or even most voters. We end up with, to quote Londo Mollari “Arrogance and stupidity all in one package.”
In the Brexit case, though, it’s even worse because no one seriously planned for it. same as what happened in the US with Dennison. The result is a cluster f**k of epic proportions.
I haven’t been following the matter closely, largely because I don’t quite understand the issues involved. But the impression I have is the Leave faction, or a sub-faction within it, wants to keep the access to EU markets but not free movement of people or EU regulations. To me this seems the equivalent of requesting a windows seat on a plane, that also has direct aisle access and people on both sides of it.
@Kathy: Nice analogy. Personally I’m reminded of the Churchill quote that the best argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter (yes, I’m an arrogant twit).
Britons did this to themselves, and I don’t see a way out for them now. They’re going to end up in a no-deal worst of all worlds Brexit. And then hopefully realize how full of BS the whole Leave movement and it’s leaders are. I’m not optimistic though-to paraphrase a cynical comment about conservatives, Brexit can never fail, it can only be betrayed.
P.P.S. If nothing else, I hope that this cures the Brits from their forelock-tugging obsession with public-school educated twerps who think that all they need to succeed in life is a plummy accent, a handful of Latin phrases, and an ability to bluff.
The rEU are perfectly willing to see the UK crash out, if it comes to that. But I’m quite sure that their first preference is still for the UK to remain.
The shit that the Brits have pulled recently is small beer compared to what the Germans and French have done to each other. The ultimate goal of the EU is to make European wars impossible – not only now, but for generations to come.
If all that it takes is to swallow some pride, the Euros will do so in a heartbeat. Just like Macron* was perfectly willing to suck up to silliest US president ever – without, of course, giving away anything of substantial value.
* Since Trump hates Merkel, May was busy Brexshitting and Denmark is just too damn small, Macron took one for the team.
I find that surprising, given how many Brits are opposed to Brexit — I would expect a realignment, or a new party to pop up.
A clever opposition party could at least thread the needle with “we support a robust Brexit deal that protects our workers, and which can win a second referendum.”
Oddly, this shows the voters haven’t actually learned anything from this. They voters for Brexit thinking that the EU would some how be forced to give into the UK’s demands that they get all the benefits of EU membership, but none of the downsides.
Now they seem to think that a second referendum would mean that the EU would somehow be forced to give into the UK’s demands that the whole thing be treated as a big prank. But the UK already pulled the trigger on the exit process and there’s no mechanism for halting that now. If they want back into the EU, they’re going to have to be readmitted, and it’s not clear the rest of the EU will be interested in that, particularly on the special terms the UK permanently enjoys.
In particular, I don’t see the UK getting out of this with the Pound intact.
I see all this discussion of a deal but feel I must have missed something. It seems to me they have just kicked the can down the road to December 2020, leaving all the hard stuff still unnegotiated. In what way is this a “deal”?
@MarkedMan: Yoou win the PRIZE (get $200 dollars, etc.) Yeppers, that’s all this is. Kicking the can down the road because “Leave” was never expected to win by anyone which is why nobody prepared and Cameron bolted ASAP and Boris Johnson looked totally ashen-faced the next day. So they’re all desperately kicking the can down the road, crossing their fingers, and hoping please please pretty please that a deus ex machina will show up to rescue the U.K. from the consequences of its stupidity and fecklessness and lack of preparedness.
And the rest of the EU is just looking on in gaping amazement unable to believe that the Brits could be making such a dog’s breakfast out of the whole thing.
Moderation ate my comment. I’ll try again.
The ECJ will hold a hearing on November 27 to determine whether the UK can unilaterally revoke its notification to leave.
Most experts appear to think that this legally possible.
What if the UK has a second referendum, and “leave” wins again?
I’m not suggesting the polls are wrong, but that sentiment can change after a campaign. Surely the Leave side has more lies and half-truths and misinformation to bolster their side.
@Just Another Ex-Republican:
The Mollari quote, or the seat thing?
The quote, as I recall, in it’s entirety is “Ah, arrogance and stupidity all in one package. How efficient of you.”
It’s in the prequel TV movie for Babylon 5, aptly titled “In The Beginning,” when the Earth, having helped defeat a third-rate power, now thinks they can tangle with a top power.
I’m an advocate of learning from one’s mistakes, or even better from others’ mistakes. So I’d advice any other nation contemplating leaving a multinational organization with such wide and deep effects, to 1) avoid a referendum, and 2) if one can’t be avoided, then make it clear it’s just to determine whether the government should debate leaving or changing the treaties involved.
@Kathy: Yes, this “The PEEPUL HAVE SPOKEN!!!” attitude is really annoying. I’m quite sure that I could get something going that Everyone Would Vote For (“shall the US get rid of all taxes while increasing the level of government services–YES or NO”) but that doesn’t mean it’s something that’s very practical in reality, mmm?
As said, a lot of people are dummies. Hence the present mess the U.K. finds itself in, and the Brexiters can do nothing more than hurl accusations of “traitor!” at Theresa May and whine about How The EU Isn’t Treating Them Nicely. They really do sound like a bunch of three-year olds.
Remember, intelligence is distributed according to a left bounded Gaussian, which means more than half of the population has below average intelligence. =)
I quoted this earlier today, but it’s so good I felt it should be put up again:
Well, not exactly.
Corbyn is a long time anti-European; but surveys indicate the membership at large are majority Remain, also majority of Labour voters, and certainly overwhelming majority of Lab MP’s.
BUT Corbyn’s Lab leadership circle are focused above all on forcing and winning a General Election; in that calculus Brexit as such is secondary to them.
And they fear that coming out as pro-Remain would peel off enough pro-Brexit voters to deny them victory in the marginal seats they need.
And the MP’s who hate this strategy are paralyzed by the Corbynite activists, who even if not pro-Brexit personally, would almost certainly be inclined to purge anyone who rebels against the Corbyn line at this point.
Similarly, the majority of Conservative MP’s, by my estimates, are pro-Remain or at least favour a “soft” Brexit. But are likewise terrified of their constituency activists who are definitely majority Brexit and prob. majority No Dealers at this point.
Conserative activists, especially the elderly ones, can be terrifyingly stupid and stubborn; I suspect a majority are now anti-May and would vote for an hardline Brexiteer in a leadership contest.
The only thing that unites the more rational MP’s and not-entirely howling mad activists is fear of a Corbynite Labour govt.
And the Remainer/soft-Brexiter MP’s, like Labour, fear the consequences of “betraying Brexit” in marginal seats in an election.
Given that polling indicates the leave vote in marginals was driven primarily by immigration (rather than the sovreignty and trade deals which more excite the ERG Brexiteer Conservatives) May’s proposed deal sacrifices the advantages of a Single Market aligned deal as the price of ending “Freedom of Movement”. (As do the Labours proposals, insofar as they have any coherence at all).
But rejecting Single Market (and full Customs Union) brings the sort of conditions re. N. Ireland and non-participant alignment that are the (ostensible) reasons for the Brexiteer revolt.
Ultimately though it comes down to the numbers in the House of Commons.
Conservatives are a minority govt. with 315 MP’s.
Depend on the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party, of Northern Ireland) for 10 votes to give them a (bare) majority.
DUP hate the proposed deal, no votes there.
Labour (257) look solidly against the “May Deal”, for various reasons (to destabilise govt, as Remainers, or even as Brexiteers), LibDems (12) even more so, Scottish Nationalists (35) and Plaid (4) (probably?) Greens(1) likewise, leaves 8 Independents (gawd knows how they go).
(Numbers don’t add up, you say? Well spotted: SinnFein with 7 don’t and won’t sit on principle, Speaker does not vote)
So, May, even absent an ERG-Conservative revolt, doesn’t have the votes for her deal.
Revolting Tories are just the extra-nasty poisoned cherries on the cake.
EU have made it clear this is their final offer, (prob. caveat: unless the UK scraps it’s rejection of the Single Market) despite the idiotically persistent fantasies of some Conservative MP’s.
ERG probably have the votes (48 needed) to force a Party leadership confidence vote, but May only needs a bare majority of Conservives to see that off; and Remain/pro-Deal Conservatives have the votes save her and probably would because they they are horrified by the prospect of the membership at large electing a no-Deal Brexiteer headbanger.
As the country remains on course for the rocks.
We will have solved our Trump problem come 2020.
Brexit will haunt Britain for decades.
Why didn’t Roddy Frame / Aztec Camera become big?
Aztec Camera – Good Morning, Britain
The public gets what the public wants
You made your bed, you better lie in it
The Jam – Going Underground
Are you going to be threatened by /
Public Enemy number 10?
The Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down!
In Dutch, “The Style Council” would be de stijl raad or de raad stijl
That’s the thing, and lucky no one’s proposed that yet, or not seriously.
There’s the concern, too, of putting people’s rights up to a popular vote. remember Prop 8 in California?
@Kathy: I would snarkily suggest that the last several years in Kansas have been nothing more than the local government being stupid enough to put up something like that, the people voting it in, and then watching as the ramifications all hit like bricks, one after another. There’s a reason that Kobach didn’t get voted into office and the previous idiot has waffled off to a fruits-and-lights position in the Trump administration.
And I hope that people in Kansas are now a little more suspicious of tax-cutting zealots who promise them they can have their cake and eat it as well with no downsides.
A familiar problem.
Can’t wait till the Brexiters to come begging for some trade deal with the US
Being cured of Trump doesn’t necessarily preclude permanent lingering side effects. Plus, of course, the reservoir of infection is still out there. I doubt that having contracted Trump once grants future immunity.
Say it’s 2021. Would you prefer to be the US or the UK?
Yes, Trumpism will have aftereffects that will need to be accounted for.
But Brexit is forever.
As DRJ has noted, this is not at all clearly the case.
Britain is indeed in a crisis. They should have left sooner. Now Italy is probably going to leave. The EU may very well come apart. The people do not want decisions and regulations made for them by officials whom they did not elect. Some of the leaders want to be in the EU and have their sovereignty. They are discovering you can’t have both. You also have the migrant problems in many of the countries. And there are problems with the Euro dollar. Merkel will be gone soon.
Who will be the face of Europe? Go to Paul Begley video on the Brexit crisis for more facts and updates about this.
@Tyrell: I’m sure you like telling yourself such stories…..
Exactly. The modern Republican Party is the main manifestation of a deep seated national psychosis. Trump is just the stage at which the party started ranting out loud about their delusions.
“We will have solved our Trump problem come 2020.”
Not likely. Given that one party believes that going full-in on bigotry and attacking institutions is the way to power, it will take at least a generation to get our Trump problem out of our system.
Exaggeration: Italy is in dispute over it’s budget proposals because it is a Euro currency member, and the Commission dislikes the proposed deficit increase given Italian debt levels.
Italy is NOT proposing to leave the Euro, nor is the Commission indicating it, and Italy is ABSOLUTELY NOT considering leaving the EU.
Re. “sovereignty” and “officials they did not elect”: the EU is the creature of the sovereign states, the ruling body of the EU is the Council of the states, from which the legitimacy of the EU comes.
EU officials no more need to be elected than national civil servants do.
“Migrant problems” are not primarily due to the EU but because Spain, Italy and Greece are on short sea crossings from migrant routes; geography is geography; just as Texas seceding from the Union would not reduce it’s likelihood of migration from Mexico much.
“Merkel will be gone soon”. Well, yes. She’s serving a term as Chancellor, she’s not Queen or President-for-life.
“Who will be the face of Europe?” Macron? Tusk? Next years Eurovision winner? Whatever.
I’ve visited France twice since Brexit, and I’d say that the French reaction to the British Brexit situation is a strange mix of vexation, pique and schadenfreude (not sure what the French word for ‘schadenfreude’ is, but the German word is fabulous). I think that Brexiteers thought that they’d cut a deal in short order and be done with it. In the mean time, the rest of the EU is watching this slow motion British train wreck.
Very good article going into the psychodrama behind Brexit. As the author says, the reality of the EU and how it has interacted with the U.K. over the past 45 years is irrelevant. What we’re seeing is the British population coming to grips with the fact that the rest of Europe has surpassed them economically. Oh, and there’s a hell of a lot of self-pity involved (as one could have expected.)
@Tyrell: This one reminded me of something my mom and I were talking about on a visit I’d made from my teaching job in Korea. She had just heard on some televangelist’s show that Obama–who previously had been identified as a future Democratic candidate for the Presidency back in 1968 (when he was about 7)–was only killing time as President until he could reveal the true plan–he would be elected the next President of the EU (a post that doesn’t exist), after which he would be revealed as the Antichrist and the Rapture would come.
I’m not quite sure why this particular memory was triggered by your post, but it was all the same. Once again, you’ve been amazing, and I stand in awe of the processes of your mind.
Because clearly the best source of information about current European affairs is a borderlince-crazy pastor and conspiracy theorist from Indiana.