Why This Is an Important Week for the Fate of Brexit

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Posted: Dec 10, 2018 9:14 AM
Why This Is an Important Week for the Fate of Brexit

UPDATE: Prime Minster Theresa May has postponed Tuesday's Brexit vote. In an address to Parliament, May says she is delaying the vote even though there is "broad support" for "many of the key aspects" of the deal she made in Brussels. Laughter erupted throughout the House of Commons when she made those remarks.

ORIGINAL POST

It's an "important week" for the fate of Brexit, according to European Council President Donald Tusk, who recently spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May. On Tuesday the House of Commons will vote on the current deal May helped draft at Brussels for the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. It's not a popular one, judging by the over 100 Tories who have publicly opposed the deal. If the deal fails, not only would the UK leave the EU with no agreement in place, but it could lead to a new general election. But, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay insisted the vote will proceed as planned. 

"The vote is going ahead and that's because it's a good deal and it's the only deal," he said.

Yet, that same line has been used as a biting criticism from Labour leaders. Jeremy Corbyn ridiculed May for promoting her deal as "the best" at a recent round of Prime Minister's Questions, considering it's the only one available. As you can see, May had her own liner comeback for Corbyn, asking, where is his party's master plan?

Still, May faces opposition from members of her own party too. Multiple Tories have resigned as a result of a Brexit deal they say is not hardline enough. Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Boris Johnson,  Jo Johnson, and Tory MP Will Quince are just a few of those who quit the cabinet in the wake of the latest negotiations in Brussels. Several other Conservatives are planning to rebel against May this week by voting against the deal, insisting the negotiations are tying the UK too closely with the European Union through 2020.

Johnson and the like are especially frustrated by the "backstop" agreement that is part of the negotiations.

"The backstop is a position of last resort, to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal," the BBC explains. "At present, goods and services are traded between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland with few restrictions."

But, after Brexit, all that could change - the two parts of Ireland could be in different customs and regulatory regimes, which could mean products being checked at the border.

The UK government does not want this to happen. The EU has also said it does not want any hardening of the border.

However, the UK's current red lines, which include leaving the customs union and the single market, make that very difficult.

So, a "backstop" would be aimed at preventing that headache. But, it seems like it would again tie the UK to the EU.

If a backstop only applied to Northern Ireland, then the customs and regulatory border would essentially be drawn down the middle of the Irish Sea.

Goods coming into Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the UK would have to be checked to make sure they met EU standards.

Any separate status for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK is seen as potentially damaging to the union as a whole.

May suggested that the UK, as a whole, remain aligned with the EU customs union for a limited time after 2020.

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Johnson said it "breaks his heart" that the UK is about to sign an agreement that allows the EU to still rule them "in many respects." He says it's a simple fix though, one that demands a withdrawal agreement that does not include the backstop.

The rebellion against May over Brexit continues to grow, with dozens of Tories sending letters to the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers asking for a vote of no confidence in May. If the chair receives 48 letters, then they'll get their wish.

If May is nervous about her position, she gave no indication at a recent press conference. Britain "will be leaving" the European Union on March 19, 2019, she told reporters.

May insists there will be no second referendum. The people have already spoken.

If Tuesday's deal is rejected? It could mean "grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal," the prime minister warned on Sunday.