United Kingdom: May’s Brexit plan comes back to life
Prime Minister Theresa May could yet secure passage of her much-derided Brexit deal, said Tim Shipman in The Sunday Times. Nearly two months after they rejected the same pact, Euroskeptic hard-liners in her Conservative Party now say that they’re willing to back the terms of the divorce deal she negotiated with the European Union—if, that is, she gets one more concession from Brussels. Brexiteers want a legally binding clause that would make clear that the deal’s Northern Ireland backstop “is only temporary.” The backstop aims to prevent a hard border between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, by keeping the entire U.K. in the EU customs union until a high-tech system is developed to remotely check goods at the frontier. The Democratic Unionist Party, the Northern Irish party that May’s minority government depends on to rule, says it will also back the deal with that addition. Now May is gearing up for two votes on her deal in the next two weeks, in the belief “that it will take two heaves” to persuade balky Tories to fall in line.
Let’s hope they do, said Janet Daley in The Daily Telegraph. May’s pact leaves the U.K. far more enmeshed with the EU than I would have wished. But faced with “two ghastly choices,” May’s flawed deal or no Brexit at all, we must take the bad deal. Leaving the EU with no deal on the March 29 exit date is effectively off the table, since May said last week she would allow a parliamentary vote to rule it out. So our only option is to respect the will of the voters, who opted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum. Were we to ignore that vote, trust in government would be irreparably broken, replaced by “utter loathing and endemic suspicion.”
This latest British gambit is already a mockery of democracy, said John Vassallo in the Times of Malta (Malta). May has repeatedly failed to win approval for her exit plan in Parliament because she panders to only one wing of her party, the extreme pro-Brexit mob. Yet now she is demanding that the EU “reopen the negotiations she led and cancel the agreement she signed” so that she can pander further to that wing. “Sorry, it is farcical and does not deserve to be taken seriously.”
If the Brexiteers get what they want, said Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian, we will end up a U.S. patsy. Last week, the Trump administration announced its trade terms with post-Brexit Britain: It will demand that we buy its pesticide-laden produce and factory-farmed meat, including chickens that have been washed in chlorine. It will force the National Health Service to pay top dollar for Big Pharma medicines. Leaving the EU, then, would simply be “trading one set of restraints on our sovereignty—restraints agreed to by us and 27 other nations in Brussels—for another, dictated by Donald Trump.” ■