Brexit: May's tough­est week

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

With just months left for the UK's with­drawal from the Euro­pean Union, there is lit­tle clar­ity on the terms of its exit, or in­deed whether the ver­dict of the 2016 ref­er­en­dum can be hon­oured at all. In­stead, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May's gov­ern­ment is fac­ing a pos­si­ble vote of no con­fi­dence, or­ches­trated by her own deeply di­vided Con­ser­va­tive Party, over the modal­i­ties of a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with the EU. At the heart of this bit­ter dis­pute is the with­drawal deal with the other 27 na­tions in the bloc, which would leave the coun­try largely bound to cur­rent reg­u­la­tions, with di­min­ished in­flu­ence over pol­icy for­mu­la­tion. Brus­sels has in­di­cated broad agree­ment over its terms, which are to be for­malised at an EU sum­mit this month. But Ms. May's gov­ern­ment faces an up­hill task to se­cure par­lia­men­tary ap­proval for the deal in the wake of a spate of res­ig­na­tions by se­nior Cabi­net col­leagues in the last few days. No­table among them are the prom­i­nent pro-Europe Trans­port Min­is­ter Jo John­son, brother of the prin­ci­pal Leave cam­paigner Boris John­son, who stepped down in July; and Brexit Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab. The lat­ter's exit, as that of his pre­de­ces­sor David Davis, un­der­scores the ex­tent to which Ms. May's blueprint for an exit has proved con­tro­ver­sial even among Con­ser­va­tive eu­roscep­tic Min­is­ters and MPs. Even those pro- Brexit Min­is­ters who have cho­sen to stick with Ms. May are anx­ious that the terms of with­drawal be al­tered. This group recog­nises the im­por­tance of a soft bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic of Ire­land. But they are op­posed to the pro­posed com­pro­mise ar­range­ment in re­turn, which could lock Bri­tain into a cus­toms union with the EU for an in­def­i­nite pe­riod and con­strain its abil­ity to strike trade deals.

The un­fold­ing Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship cri­sis could trig­ger a gen­eral elec­tion, a prospect the Labour Party has been eye­ing ever since Ms. May formed a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment af­ter the 2017 polls. That dan­ger also means she could yet rally sup­port for the draft with­drawal deal among Con­ser­va­tive back­benchers anx­ious to avoid an elec­tion. Her fail­ure to win par­lia­men­tary back­ing for the exit deal would raise the risk of a no-deal Brexit, with po­ten­tially chaotic ram­i­fi­ca­tions. Both the U.K. and the EU know that avert­ing such a night­mare is in their mu­tual in­ter­est. For that rea­son, it is con­ceiv­able that the 27 other states will see wis­dom in de­fer­ring the March 29 dead­line for with­drawal, should a re­quest be put for­ward. Such a sce­nario would strengthen the case for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, ar­tic­u­lated most elo­quently by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter John Ma­jor and echoed in a pub­lic demon­stra­tion in Lon­don. Mean­while, grow­ing un­cer­tain­ties over Bri­tain's fu­ture on the global stage only ex­pose the hol­low­ness of the Leave cam­paign and the fragility of its lead­er­ship.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.