The British Parliament on Tuesday shot down an effort to delay Brexit in the event there was no deal with the European Union, and voted to say it could support Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with some changes -- as the country moves closer to its formal exit from the E.U. at the end of March.
An amendment put forward by Labour Party MP Yvette Cooper would have delayed Brexit by nine months if no agreement was reached with Brussels by the end of February, a month before Britain is due to leave the E.U. on March 29.
The amendment was the pro-Remain bloc’s strongest push to delay Brexit to date, and pro-Brexit voices feared it was the first step on a path to ultimately overturning the referendum. However, it was voted down 321-298 amid a series of amendments voted on Tuesday afternoon -- marking a significant defeat for those seeking to keep Britain in the E.U. or delay its exit.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who has pushed for a second referendum, told Sky News that the torpedoing of the Cooper amendment, and another similar amendment, represented “a bad day for Parliament.”
“It has robbed Parliament of the opportunity, the wide canvas to give us to work with to prevent that no deal from happening, and we’ve got a government which has basically been taken hostage by the right wing of the Conservative Party that is quite happy for that scenario potentially occurring,” he said.
May’s withdrawal agreement, negotiated with Brussels last year, was overwhelmingly voted down earlier this month by the House of Commons, leaving the U.K. on track to leave with no such deal and therefore revert to World Trade Organization terms -- something that those in favor of remaining in the E.U., business groups, and even some in May’s government have said would be unacceptable and lead to chaos throughout Britain.
Hardline Brexiteers have dismissed predictions of long lines at borders and food and medicine shortages as exaggerated talk designed to delay and ultimately overturn the 2016 referendum, in which more than 17 million Brits voted to leave the bloc.
But in a win for the prime minister, MPs also voted for an amendment by Conservative MP Graham Brady, which said that the House would support May’s deal if she was able to secure changes to the “backstop” -- a controversial safety net by which the U.K. will remain in a customs union until a trade deal with the E.U. was secured.
The backstop is intended to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but so-called “Brexiteers” have pointed to the lack of a unilateral exit mechanism as evidence that the backstop could lead to Britain never leaving the bloc. While those in the pro-Brexit faction balked at other parts of her deal, their key objection was the backstop, and its removal allowed them to vote for the Brady amendment.
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned last year in opposition to the backstop and May’s agreement, described the amendment’s passage as “a victory for the prime minister, but also it’s a victory for the U.K.” as it allows May to return to Brussels stronger to negotiate changes.
However, any such negotiation attempt is likely to be treated coldly by E.U. officials, who have repeatedly ruled out a renegotiation. A spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk told Reuters that the backstop was part of the withdrawal agreement, and therefore was not up for negotiation.
Finally I understand everything: why Brexit is proving so impossible to negotiate; why Leave voters are more determined than ever to get the hardest Brexit possible, preferably No Deal; why Theresa May keeps caving to Brussels; why the political class is so out of touch with the electorate; why this can only get uglier…
Why am I repeating this obvious truth? First because it pays always to know your enemy. Second because our Remainer elite — from Westminster to big business to our largely supine mainstream media — has been putting up so much chaff of late that it’s easy to lose sight of the basic fact.
The EU is not a club which retains its members by keeping them happy and rewarding them with all manner of perks. It’s run much more like a prison, in which the benefits of staying in consist largely of incentives like: “Well if you don’t try to escape, we won’t shoot you…”
The reptilian lush Jean Claude Juncker, sounded like a slightly less reasonable Don Corleone when he described some pettifogging concession he had made to Cameron.
“I said ‘This is the price to pay. I didn’t like the price. But my feeling was that we had to agree.”
To put it another way, even when offering Cameron next to zilch — just the right, for seven years, not to have to pay welfare for EU immigrants; exemption from ever-closer union; a promise not to destroy the City of London (which probably wasn’t in the EU’s power anyway) — the EU’s technocratic elite insisted on playing the hardest of hard ball, keeping Cameron waiting and making him beg.