At the EU summit in Brussels Theresa May seemed willing to agree with a longer transition period of the Brexit. Once back in London, the British prime minister quickly exclaimed that ‘Brextra Time’ is out of the question. Classical attitude of British leaders: admirable in Brussels and unrelenting in safe London.
The extension of the transitional period after the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019 – which has now been set at 21 months – was suggested by the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, one of the leading figures in the Northern Irish psychodrama. The other European leaders would also be sympathetic to it. It offers extra time to work on a trade agreement and to find a solution to the Irish border problem. For May it would be easier to accept the controversial safety net. That would be that either Northern Ireland or the entire United Kingdom would remain with the European customs union.
That safety net is the big stumbling block. The brexiteers do not want a safety net at all, but according to Brussels it is necessary to guarantee that the aforementioned limit remains open. Between them, May stands with her tiger pumps on an equilibrium cord. She wants to agree with a safety net, but that should be temporary and not for an indefinite period. London and Brussels have until the end of the year to formulate a Brexit agreement so vaguely that everyone can agree.
After all, there is no transitional period without agreement and both parties are heading for a bitter divorce. The suggestion of staying with the European Union for a few months or even a year as a vassal state leads to strong emotions in the United Kingdom. Responses, particularly from the pro-Brexit corner, varied from ‘madness’ to ‘insane’. The prominent brexiteer Daniel Hannan pointed out that the transition period is a disaster: stay with the EU without any involvement.
Theresa May arrives in Brussels. She spoke to her European colleagues about migration, cybersecurity and above all about the stalled Brexit consultations.
The disadvantages are clear: the British continue to pay to the EU in such a situation and in the meantime can not conclude the free trade agreements with countries such as Nigeria and New Zealand. The longer a transitional period lasts, the greater the chance of political shifts in the roaming kingdom that could lead to a softer Brexit or even no Brexit at all. This fear of the Brexiteers is the silent dream of the Europeans.
There is already a movement going to the weakening of the Brexit. Within the British cabinet, agriculture minister Michael Gove has become an advocate of membership in the form of the Norway model, so much so that he is called the ‘St. Michael of the European Economic Area’. Opponents of the Brexit stir more and more. Coming Saturday, the biggest anti-Brexit demonstration so far is planned in London, with television chef Delia Smith and actor Dominic West in the front ranks.
In the meantime, Brexit-minded Britons are starting to lose patience (“Get On With It!”) And they detect tactics from the established order that comes down to “postpone delay.” For May, it is a challenge to convince its rebel party members that the transition period is already too short to arrange a free trade agreement with the EU. Earlier this year, the British customs revealed that whatever scheme is being devised, it will not be ready before 2023.
Mays’s aim now seems to be to reach a Brexit agreement at the very last moment, and then to put the House of Commons before a fait accompli: May’s Way or No Way. Parliamentarians have already indicated that they want to have the freedom to table amendments, something that the May government is against. Much depends on what House of Representatives John Bercow will allow for the Brexit debates. Its position is shaky because of the alleged pest culture in parliament.
Nothing is currently stable in London.
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