A Brexit Black Hole
I always wonder why high-level discussions within the European Union (EU) commence so late in the day that they can only be concluded in the early hours of the morning. Then again, I should note that the leaders of the EU nations seem unable to function unless they have been served a haute cuisine dinner to aid their decision-making capabilities.
The decision to grant another extension for when Brexit may happen is a case of frustration in the U.K. and typical EU compromise.
The U.K. had intended to leave on March 29. As the House of Commons failed to support the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement on no less than three occasions (albeit Meaningful Vote Three was a watered-down version) a new deadline of tomorrow, April 12 was put in place. This was not going to be possible so Mrs May asked for an extension again to June 30.
This marks the event horizon of an intersection between U.K. requests and EU proposals.
Donald Tusk, the President (one of many Presidents in the EU) of the European Council wanted a flexible extension of one year although the U.K. could leave earlier if an agreement was to be reached.
The German Chancellor seemed to concur was she had said on several occasions that she was ready to work till the last hour to help deliver a deal on Brexit. Opposing this view was the French President, Emmanuel Macron. He is facing a tough domestic political battle ahead of the European elections and was posturing for the home audience by appearing to make Brexit…indeed anything that upset his “Big Europe” vision as being a tricky path to take.
The process ended in a typical European way. It was best described by the former Prime Minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, as being a classic case of European “Chaos…Confusion…and Compromise”.
(Note Mr Stubb is a potential successor to Jean-Claude Junker as President of the European Council…oh my, another ex-politician seeking to ride the EU gravy train)
So not the date Mrs May wanted. Not the flexi year Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel wanted. Not the short time line Emmanuel Macron desired.
None of these…but a compromise, oh come on, it’s Europe, so what else would it be?
The new departure date is October 31. Whilst that is flexible, i.e. could be shortened it has given many headline writers (not this one) plenty of “Halloween” based fuel to write with.
Donald Tusk said that until that deadline arrives the next steps are entirely in the U.K.’s hands. He added that the U.K. could ratify the withdrawal agreement, and leave, or it could alter its course and can decide to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit. He did go to on the stress that the U.K. will remain a friend of the EU and ended his press conference by saying to the U.K.
“…Please, do not waste this time. …”
Of course, the EU will check in every now and then on the progress and as such a review was scheduled for June 30, although President Tusk did not describe that as a “…cliff edge…”.
Almost enjoying the role of “hard man of Europe”, French President Emmanuel Macron openly took responsibility for blocking a long Brexit delay and said he has convinced other European Union leaders to agree to a shorter one, “…for the collective good…”.
In a press conference after the agreement was reached, U.K. Prime Minster Theresa May said:
“…the choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear…”
She acknowledged the frustration that the UK had not yet left the EU.
What of Mrs May’s future? She has had to eat her words over Brexit so many times and last night it was painful to watch her avoid a series of questions about her future as Prime Minister. Given she had previously said she would not accept an extension beyond June 30, this can be only seen as humiliating.
Still, dogged is as dogged does and this resolute woman insisted that the U.K. could still leave on May 22 and not hold European parliamentary elections if the House of Commons were to pass the withdrawal deal. Mrs May…it will never pass as long as Labour and the Democratic Ulster Unionists oppose it.
She will face a testing day in Westminster as she will give a statement in the House of Commons in the early afternoon. No doubt the leader of the opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn will seek to make political hay by calling the process and insisting on a customs union or a general election.
He just doesn’t get it that the people voted to leave the EU. They do not want to be held in lock step to EU industrial and trade policy, unable to strike its own deals. To be balanced, the hard core Brexiteers will similarly sneer at the extension and blame the Prime Minister.
What is staggering and what I imagine the electorate will find difficult to comprehend is that given the threat of a no-deal exit has gone, … for now… parliament has scrapped plans to it on Friday and next week. Do they not understand the frustration felt around the country?
Our MP’s should be ashamed. They have collectively let down the nation. An instruction was given in June 2016. I did not vote that way, but I accept it. This nation should have held open the “no-deal” option. It could be managed; the EU would have changed tack…they need the U.K.’s money.
There is no glory in this mess, either in the U.K. or within the EU. It is like a “Brexit Black Hole”, except unlike the real phenomena, we have no image, not even a fuzzy one of what this dark destination looks like.