On Monday, The Daily Telegraph reported that the UK government is considering postponing the country’s withdrawal from the European Union due on March 29, 2019. Earlier, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the next parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal with the EU would take place before March 12. If the legislators once again reject the terms proposed by the cabinet, it will officially ask Brussels for moving the date of Brexit. Theresa May intends to request a respite of two months.
This is not an accidental timeframe, since Brexit should be completed before the start of elections to the European Parliament, scheduled for May 23. Initially, it was expected that Britain would no longer be an EU member by this time, so its participation in the election was not even considered. Now, however, it seems that the UK is unlikely to leave by March 29, and this worries Brussels, which does not want to see Britain at the elections.
Now, at least, everything looks like Britain would not be able to settle all Brexit-related disputes within the country by the end of March. On January 15, the Commons already rejected the agreements reached between London and Brussels. The legislators want to amend the deal in part related to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which at present remains “transparent.” The EU has so far been reluctant to make such amendments. Therefore, it is not certain that the British MPs will vote for this version of the deal next time. Without the parliament’s approval, the agreement will simply not be valid.
There have been reports in recent days that Brussels is willing to make some concessions to London on the matter of Brexit. Notably, President of the European Council Donald Tusk supported postponement of Brexit, but he said the extension should be two years, not two months, i.e. till 2021, The Guardian reported yesterday.
The extension of 21 months would be the most rational one for budgetary, procedural and financial reasons, sources of the publication say. But in order for it to be given, May’s cabinet needs to ask for it. Yet Tusk’s administration has still not received an official request from London, so the EU leaders have not considered possible options of postponing Brexit just yet. All the more so, as the British cabinet wants to put it off for just two months.
In any case, the office at 10 Downing Street wants Brexit to be postponed. Apparently, this move on the part of the government will be an attempt at cautious blackmail of proponents of the so-called hard Brexit (a “no-deal Brexit”) from among the Conservative Party members. May hopes to have them soften their position and support her Brexit plans. Whether she is going to succeed is far from a rhetorical question, since there are serious disputes about Brexit within the ruling party.
Added to this is the fact that May’s Brexit deal is not supported by Labor MPs, who earlier tried to pass a motion of no confidence against the cabinet and the prime minister. May miraculously avoided resignation in January, winning by a slim margin of several votes.
It is obvious that Brexit has put Britain into a political crisis and a true chaos, dividing the country into two very hostile camps: one advocates leaving the EU, while the other wants to stay. The latter currently has a majority of 53%. Anti-Brexiteers are obviously scared by prospects of Britain’s further development. After all, experts maintain that the country’s GDP after Brexit will fall by 3%-5% in any case, and all its ties with the Continent will be broken. Ordinary people, who are used to buying, say, agricultural produce at fairly low European prices, will be hit hardest. It is no wonder Tusk said earlier this month that there is a “special place in hell” for those who backed a no-deal Brexit.
The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland remains a hot topic for London and Brussels. It is a crucial issue for Irish people living on the same island, and they don’t want to have a hard border after Brexit, which is envisaged by the divorce agreement between Britain and the EU.
Obviously, Brexit has only boosted centrifugal trends within Britain. At least, Scotland and Northern Ireland increasingly often voice the intention to leave the United Kingdom. So, the UK has a hard time ahead of it, and may see a wave of mass protests against the cabinet’s policies. The government seems to be ready for such turn of events, and is even talking about introducing a state of emergency in the country and using not only the police, but also the army to keep protesters in check.
Brexit-related problems force official London to look for ways to distract ordinary people from this complicated process. That is why it invents various fables like the “Russian military threat” and the clearly staged “Skripal case.” Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt have been especially successful in this area. Anti-Russian tirades are but the only thing these two have been known for. Apparently, the incumbent British cabinet is not able to create anything, save for a provocation like the Salisbury incident.
That is why official London is currently impossible to negotiate with, it is destabilizing the situation within the country, but is unable to hold serious talks outside Britain, be it with Brussels or Moscow.