In another blow to Theresa May’s government, the European Court of Justice on Monday ruled that the UK can revoke Article 50 and halt Brexit without the permission of other member states.
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In other words, just pretend the whole Brexit thing never really happened.
It’s unlikely to change the outcome but it does give British lawmakers another option going into Tuesday’s big vote, an option Mrs. May doesn’t want to consider.
It was supposed to be straight forward.
On March 29th, 2019 the United Kingdom would say “au revoir” to Brussels, the European Courts, EU trade rules and the free movement of EU citizens across the UK border.
Britain would say hello to new trade deals, greater border controls and no kowtowing to faceless, unelected bureaucrats from across the Channel. Rule Britannia!
Britain, said the politicians, would become a rule maker not a rule taker.
So what happened since 52-percent of Brits voted to leave their European neighbors on June 23rd 2016?
Turns out the only simple thing about “Brexit” is the term itself.
Truth be told, it was never going to be straightforward, few divorces are, but the European Union already feeling jilted and angry, was never going to give the UK a sweetheart deal. If it did other countries may line up for the same arrangement, threatening an already imperfect union.
So here we are, almost 30 months after Brexit was approved, and Prime Minister May says she has the best deal the country can hope for…not a perfect deal but the best the UK can achieve.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement and it is being roundly criticized from all sides of the political aisle in Westminster and beyond.
The “Brexiteers” say the deal keeps the UK too closely tied to the EU with horribly vague terms about achieving a true divorce sometime in the undetermined future.
The pro-EU crowd say it makes Britain economically poorer than before and makes future trade with the EU much harder.
And then there’s the thorny issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland where no one wants a return to the old days but finding a solution without keeping Northern Ireland within EU customs rules is more than tricky.
Prime Minister May has done her best to sell the agreement, through marathon sessions in Parliament and charm offensives across the country, she has remained steadfast that an imperfect deal is better than no deal.
But it seems the charm is not enough, the sales pitch isn’t working and the UK Prime Minister is facing a crushing and humiliating defeat when lawmakers vote on her agreement December 11th.
So if it fails what happens next?
The UK could try to renegotiate with the EU but European lawmakers are unlikely to budge.
Britain could “crash out” next March with no deal in place creating a good deal of chaos and confusion.
More likely will be a challenge to May’s leadership either from her own party or the opposition Labor party. Either way it is clear the Prime Minister’s political future is dim.
The call for a second referendum on Brexit also grows louder by the day, even though the government says the British people have already had their say and PM May refuses to entertain the idea.
I can’t help thinking that in the hallways of EU government buildings in Brussels and elsewhere, there’s a good deal of smirking going on. Don’t blame us they’re saying, you wanted to leave.