The Colorado Springs World Affairs Council has had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Ray Raymond, an expert on UK affairs, on several occasions. As our members no doubt are aware, events on this topic are currently moving fast. Dr. Raymond has generously shared his observations on the current state of Brexit for the benefit of our members and followers.
By Dr. Ray Raymond
Many people have asked me ask me how will this Brexit mess get resolved. I have replied that I had no idea, but that the unexpected rather than the inevitable could occur and when we least expect it. I share these thoughts in the hope that they might be useful.
Here are the basic facts :
1. There is not a majority in Parliament for May’s Brexit plan.
2. There is not a majority in Parliament for a hard “No Deal” Brexit.
3. The EU will not grant any substantive concessions to May. Some cosmetic language perhaps, but there is no appetite in the EU to make any alterations to the withdrawal agreement.
4. The Conservative Party parliamentary party is deeply split; a narrow majority of Conservative party members want a clean and if necessary hard Brexit.
5. The Labor party is deeply split on Brexit.
6. The DUP in Northern Ireland is adamantly opposed to the Irish backstop.
7. A majority in Parliament believe that Theresa May has little respect for the institution.
Turning to Theresa May’s strategy, here is my reading of it for what it is worth : In the UK, I think she is playing it long trying to frame the debate – as she will this week – as a choice between her plan and chaos. At bottom, it’s a scare tactic. She knows that that strategy will fail next week. At the same time, within the EU I think she plans to use that Parliamentary defeat as a weapon to try to wring more concessions from the EU arguing that it is in their economic self-interest to avoid a no-deal Brexit. And it is. Germany,for example, sells more cars in the UK than it does in China and would not wish to see that endangered. But for now, I don’t see Chancellor Merkel making any concessions.
This is a high-risk strategy. There is no guarantee that Theresa May can survive a major defeat in Parliament. After all, a third of the Parliamentary party voted to dump her and Jeremy Corbyn’s primary goal is unseat her government and he may seize the opportunity to press for a vote of confidence. This said, Theresa May has one ace up her sleeve : Having survived her party’s vote of no confidence a couple of weeks ago, Conservative party rules stipulate that she cannot be challenged again for a year.
As for Parliament next week, there will be so many different amendments and different options floated. The main ones will be a permanent customs union, staying in the Single Market, or a second referendum. The problem is that none of them command a majority in Parliament.
There are sensible options out there – using the European Court of Justice’s ruling on Article 50 to slow down or temporarily halt the withdrawal so as to buy more time to avoid a hard “No Deal” Brexit and until the country has worked out what it wants. And the only conclusive way to do that would be a second referendum. Theresa May is ruling this out now but once her plan is rejected by Parliament, and they are all facing the chaos of a hard “No Deal” Brexit, common sense just might prevail.