United Kingdom: May’s disastrous failure to lead
This was supposed to be the week that British lawmakers finally broke the Brexit deadlock, said Kate Devlin in The Times. Yet after a succession of votes and “acrimonious scenes,” Parliament still can’t decide how, or even whether, the U.K. should leave the European Union. The divorce deal that Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the bloc is effectively dead, having been voted down three times in a row. Hard-line Brexiteers in her own party have refused to support the plan because it would keep Britain bound by EU tariffs and regulations indefinitely, while a way is worked out to avoid a hard border and checkpoints going up between Ireland—an EU member—and the U.K. province of Northern Ireland. With May unable to persuade the hard-liners, lawmakers broke with parliamentary tradition this week and wrested power from the prime minister, so nonbinding votes could be held on alternate Brexit plans. The four options were a new referendum, the scrapping of Brexit altogether, and two plans for a so-called softer Brexit. No option won a majority, and now May must ask the EU for a long delay or Britain will crash out of the bloc with no deal on April 12.
This comedy of errors had the perfect accompaniment, said Henry Deedes in the Daily Mail: “a parade of wiggling bottoms.” As lawmakers debated, 10 climate-change protesters in the gallery dropped their pants and then “thrusted, gyrated, and boogie-woogied their half-naked bodies in front of the chamber.” Police showed up and chased them about, and since the gallery glass is soundproof, “it was like watching a saucy Benny Hill sketch without the daft music.”
Spurned by her Conservatives, May is now trying to woo the opposition Labour Party, said The Guardian in an editorial. She invited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for emergency talks this week, saying she hoped to find a common Brexit position—perhaps a softer exit—that could draw enough Labour and Conservative votes to pass. Her failure to lead has left her goverment “a laughing stock,’’ so now she is turning to the opposition party to save her. “The suspicion is that May does not want to share the glory, just the blame.”
Nobody wants Britain to leave the EU with no deal, said Peter Foster in The Daily Telegraph. New customs checks could cause trucks carrying food, medicine, and other essentials from the Continent to the U.K. to stack up on the French side of the English Channel; Germany and other major exporters fear that their economies will take a big hit in the chaos. That means we must now beg the EU for a possibly months-long Brexit extension. It is not assured. The U.K. would have to agree to hold elections for the European Parliament in May and convince all 27 other EU member states that it will make good use of its extra time. French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the EU “will not be hostage” to the U.K. A no-deal Brexit may be upon us. ■