The EU is warning that the UK may tumble out of the bloc with no deal, after Theresa May proposed dropping the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ plan and both the Irish government and her own MPs rejected it.
But there may not be time even to leave the EU with no deal, as this also requires a large amount of legislation which the Conservatives haven’t been interested in setting in motion. It seems they’ve had other things on their minds.
The UK is drifting rudderless towards a huge economic storm and it seems the only people who can do anything about it haven’t got a clue.
Theresa May presented her ‘Plan B’ to Conservative MPs on Monday afternoon (January 28). It is exactly the same as ‘Plan A’, which was defeated by a majority of 230 votes on January 15 – with one exception: the ‘backstop’ plan to keep the Northern Irish border with the Republic open will be stripped away and replaced with “alternative arrangements”.
By the time she announced it, ‘Plan B’ had already been rejected by Jacob Rees-Mogg and his European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brextremists – altbough he seemed to be in two minds as he promptly told other Tories to back it at Mrs May’s meeting.
It turns out the ERG’s members will support the motion, which is simply that MPs have “considered” Theresa May’s next steps – because it has no meaning in law. They’re saying they won’t support any of the 14 amendments, including the one that would strip out the backstop.
Whatever they decide to do when the vote on her new plan happens at 7pm today (January 29), there are plenty of other Conservatives who are against it – Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and possibly even Boris Johnson, and no doubt many others.
The next meaningful vote on Mrs May’s deal won’t happen until February 13, according to government sources.
But if the ‘backstop’ is dropped, the EU won’t accept Mrs May’s plan – according to the Irish government.
Deputy PM Simon Coveney said the backstop had been designed to accommodate Mrs May’s “red lines” – issues over which she refused to make compromises. The EU had been forced to make compromises instead, to suit her – and would not make any more.
This view seemed to be echoed by the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand, who said other options had been extensively discussed in previous negotiations.
This meant that, even if the “alternative arrangements” idea won the approval of the UK’s Parliament, it would never win the support it needs in Brussels.
And that means we could end up with no deal at all between the UK and the EU.
Now get ready for the sting in this tale:
There are currently fewer than 30 sitting days available for Parliament to push through the legislation needed for Brexit to happen on March 29 – no less than nine Parliamentary Bills and 600 pieces of associated legislation.
Given the inertia that has gripped Parliament on this issue since negotiations began, we can draw only one conclusion:
It can’t be done.
The only alternatives are to cancel half-term and Fridays… and to delay Brexit beyond March 29.
Even then, given the fact that it seems nobody can come to any terms at all makes any such exercise seem pointless.
And this should surprise nobody. I read a piece on the social media earlier, which proposed a way of explaining the difficulties of Brexit to children. It’s like 28 youngsters pooling all their Lego and then using them to build all kinds of multi-coloured things – and then one child deciding to leave, taking their Lego with them: the blue pieces.
Mrs May has delayed so long that it will be impossible to carry out the detailed work that would secure our blue pieces for us in the time that remains.
She has wasted everybody’s time, jeopardised the economy and the livelihoods of millions of people, ruined the UK’s reputation internationally and done who-knows-how-much more damage, for no reason at all.
We’re just counting down the time until everybody realises that.
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