The twists and turns of the last few weeks have pushed Brexit back, but it remains to be seen whether an agreement with the European Union could be accepted by the House of Commons, knowing that Theresa May offers her place as Prime minister at stake. Not that it will pave the way for a solution.
"Should I stay or should I go". This famous song of British punk-rock band The Clash summarises very well the position about Brexit within the United Kingdom. This Friday 29 March 2019 was to correspond to the implementation of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), decided by referendum on June 23rd 2016. This negotiated exit with the EU, under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, is not ready to succeed because the agreement that Theresa May, British Prime Minister, had found with the European authorities was widely denied twice by the House of Commons, in January then early March. Nevertheless, on Friday, May is submitting a third time this agreement on the release of Albion from the EU, playing its part with the intention of resigning if MPs vote this time for the agreement reached with the EU (see link).
Does Her party, the Conservative party, must accept this political tactic? Some Tories, supporters of a hard Brexit, would see it as an opportunity to put a person closer to their positions on Brexit for the rest of the events because if accepted, the Brexit would become effective on May 22, four days before European elections. Otherwise, it will be necessary to renegotiate with the 27 EU members and find a solution by 12 April. After this period, we should consider a no-deal Brexit.
But other alternative scenarios have been put on the table, notably from the Labour party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. But whether it was the idea of a second referendum, an agreement on a customs union, a proposal for an exit by Labour, etc. all alternatives were rejected in the House of Commons on Wednesday, March 27. This is to say if the confusion seems to be general.
In reality, what is blocking are regional parties such as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Scottish National Party (SNP). The DUP’s north-irishmen refuse Labour proposals because they are in favour of a hard Brexit, while wanting an agreement with the EU, in particular on the question of the border with the Republic of Ireland because if Brexit were to take place with the re-establishment of the borders in Ireland, tensions might arise on the Belfast side, with the idea of a reunification of Ireland under the banner of the Irish Republic. A nightmare for DUP Unionists. As for the Scottish SNP, representing a pro-European and independentist faction, the idea of an exit from the EU does not satisfy them and if this were to be done, they would hold a referendum on Scotland’s independence, after the failure of the one in 2014.
But one scenario that could unlock the situation is that of new early elections. May’s situation arose on her own initiative by causing early elections in June 2017, who have a victory in the Pyrrhus of the Tories because they lost the parliamentary majority they had acquired two years earlier and had to agree with the DUP to form a majority in the House of Commons. So even if she resigned from 10 Downing Street, who says that the successor would not be forced to call early elections? This scenario may seem favourable to Corbyn and Labour. But Labor is also weakened because its leader dithers on the line to be held in relation to Brexit while it was known to have held Eurosceptic positions before being taken at the head of the party in 2015. Even the main opposition party would not be sure whether it would win, even if, a priori, the Brexit route that Corbyn would take if he became Prime Minister would be different from that advocated by the Conservatives, in particular on economic, social, environmental and territorial issues, with this thorny issue of Northern Ireland.
Somewhere, there is a sense of tiredness in people’s minds about Brexit. First in the UK, where supporters of EU remain have picked up again in recent weeks and want to show a balance of power for a second referendum that would nullify the previous one. Then, within the European continent, there is frustration about the discussions and the rejections of the British deputies of the agreement between British government and European authorities. However, this is a war of attrition, a psychological war caused by Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon allowing a time limit for a negotiated exit from an EU member country.
And what stands out from this story is that it is illusory for a country to be able to leave the EU honourably because the other countries will make it very expensive to do so, especially if it was decided by referendum. There, the other European leaders show the fangs to London by wickedness, but also to demonstrate to their own countries that wanting to leave the EU through Article 50 is absolute madness, that it would stretch the stick to get beaten. In doing so, they show once again how undemocratic the European construction is, oriented towards liberal capitalism at the economic level and then towards political conservatism.