YET MORE SPOUTING TO BE DONE IN BRUSSELS
THERESA MAY’S journey to the soulless EU quarter of Brussels next week is likely to be her most miserable yet. On course for a shattering defeat over her Brexit deal on Tuesday night, the Prime Minister is widely expected to be resigned to begging on arrival at the scheduled EU summit less than 48 hours later.
Tory MPs speculating about the possible aftermath of the so-called Commons “meaningful vote” on her deal reckon the most likely scenario is that Mrs May will plead with her European counterparts to offer the concessions needed to break the deadlock at Westminster. A declaration that guarantees Britain a way out of the hated “backstop” mechanism will be top of her wish list.
Eurosceptic Tories are braced for the EU to concede some ground to help out beleaguered Mrs May given how successful the bloc has been in every round of the negotiations. “They must be able to give her something on the backstop that might give her hope of winning a second vote,” said one Brexiteer Tory source. Leaders of the 27 member states staying put in the EU after Brexit will despair that the UK’s departure remains unresolved. Many have far too many domestic travails of their own to want to return to the details of a row about the future of Northern Ireland’s border. French President Emmanuel Macron has seen his authority devastated by the violent response to his green taxes on fuel, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is preoccupied with the contest in her own CDU party to choose her successor. Even more urgently, the bloc is facing a political and economic crisis in Italy that threatens to dwarf the Greek bailout saga.
EU leaders will be caught between the desire of some to do anything to get Brexit off the agenda and others still wanting to make an example of the UK for leaving, in order to discourage others from doing so. While the 27 have stuck together throughout the negotiations so far, Brexit fatigue and the yearning to get on with other issues will stretch their unity to breaking point.
JOHN HOWELL has told MPs of a way of coping with the topic gripping Westminster: “I was at a naval dinner last night where, if anyone mentioned Brexit, they had to drink a large measure of rum.”