Much like the highly anticipated Avengers flick this summer, Brexit finally seems to be reaching its ‘Endgame’, or at least it appears to be. Officially, and legally, the UK will leave the European Union on the 29th March with or without a deal, should Parliament fail to ratify it in time. Since bringing back her deal from Brussels the government appears to have done very little to alter it or attempt to re-open negotiations. This suggests that, rightly or wrongly, Theresa May believes her deal is the best and only possible outcome which satisfies the referendum whilst also protecting our economy and national interests. The Prime Minister therefore believes that her deal must be the Brexit settlement that becomes policy.
To that end the government’s strategy has been jaw-droppingly reckless. It has become obvious over the last month that the government has no intention of making any serious alterations to the deal and acknowledge the concerns of MPs, other than securing assurances on the backstop. Instead, the government is essentially capitalising on MPs fear and total opposition to No Deal by running down the clock until the 29th March, at which point Britain will leave the EU with or without a deal. Essentially the PM is recklessly gambling with the country’s future by bluffing and threatening the prospect of No Deal.
We must therefore count ourselves lucky that both the cabinet and Parliament contains ministers and MPs who realise the real danger of No Deal and can see clearly how grossly irresponsible and careless the government’s current strategy is. Theresa May was forced to back down and offer a parliamentary vote on No Deal and an extension to Article 50 following the growing support for the Cooper-Letwin bill, which would have forced the government to seek and extension if no deal was passed by March 29th. Exacerbating the situation for Mrs May was the threat of mass cabinet resignations should the PM refuse to take no deal off the table. Furthermore, with the prospect of more Conservative MPs defecting and joining the Independent Group of MPs, further diminishing the governments control over the parliamentary agenda, the PM had no choice but to acquiesce to their demands. As a result Parliament will now have three votes. One on the PMs deal, another on whether to leave without a deal, and another on whether to seek an extension of article 50 and delay Brexit.
As a result no deal hasn’t quite been ruled out but its is highly unlikely that it will become a reality. Additionally the chances of an extension have also become more likely but is still not certain yet. There is little appetite in the Commons and in Europe to extend this torturous process, with many in Westminster and Brussels wanting to settle Brexit and move on to negotiate the future relationship. But at this stage an extension really does look inevitable. We are set to leave the EU this month and yet still there is no clarity on where we will be this time next month. There is currently food on supermarket shelves that goes out of date after Brexit day and businesses who cannot plan for the next month because they have no idea what will happen after the 29th March. For many in the uncertainty created by the government is having real consequences. We should therefore expect to see the debate shift to how long the extension will be. A couple of weeks, months, or maybe even years. All are being discussed as serious possibilities.
Endgame or not what is abundantly revealing from this continued uncertainty is Theresa May’s continued bungling of the Brexit negotiations.