United Kingdom: Will there even be a Brexit?
Theresa May’s sputtering Brexit strategy has finally “run out of road,” said The Times in an editorial. With the U.K.’s March 29 departure date from the European Union getting dangerously close, the prime minister sought to put the divorce deal she negotiated with the bloc to yet another vote in Parliament this week. The deal is a vague pact that would keep Britain in the EU customs union indefinitely while trade terms are worked out with Brussels, and it has twice been rejected overwhelmingly by lawmakers. But May’s Brexit strategy has always hinged “on her belief that she can bully Parliament” by running out the clock “until the looming threat of either no deal or no Brexit spooks enough” lawmakers into backing her deal. Enter John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons. He denied her a third vote, invoking a 415-year-old rule that says Parliament can’t vote on a bill it has already rejected unless the legislation is changed substantially. The point of this excellent rule is to prevent the executive from “wasting time with issues that have already been decided.”
Are Britons now to be denied Brexit—which 52 percent voted for—because of the “overweening vanity of a deluded man”? asked Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail. Let’s not pretend Bercow cares about protocol: When he became speaker in 2009, “he eschewed the traditional horsehair wig and breeches and buckled shoes.” No, this is personal. Bercow voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum and now hopes to send May back to Brussels to beg for a long delay to Britain’s leave date. If that were granted, it is likely Brexit would be overturned, either by a second referendum or by negotiators “so watering down the terms of disengagement as to make leaving the EU virtually meaningless.”
There’s one way May could sufficiently change her deal to get a new vote in Parliament, said Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. The prime minister could attach a rider that says that even if the bill passes, it must be put to a vote by the people. Every poll for a year has put Remain well ahead of Leave. At this point, “to impose anything without a public vote would be the great denial of democracy, the great betrayal.”
But for now, Britain’s destiny “lies in the hands of 27 foreign governments, our partners in the EU,” said Sean O’Grady in Independent.co.uk. They can offer May a short extension so she can tweak her deal and try again in Parliament, or “a far longer delay—21 months, say—in which, basically, to start again.” Whatever our EU neighbors agree, they will do so reluctantly, because they are heartily sick of us, said Nicholas Cecil in the Evening Standard. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte compares May to the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who refuses to admit defeat in a duel even after his arms and legs have been cut off. “She’s incredible,” Rutte said. “She goes on and on.” Will it ever end? ■