The United Kingdom has agreed to a draft agreement with the EU to withdraw from the European Union. But analysts warn that there is much uncertainty over whether the deal will be accepted by a majority of Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet and Tories in parliament.
The New York Times explains May’s dilemma:
Details of the agreement were not immediately available. Presumably, it contains language pertaining to the “backstop” plan to settle the contentious issue of the Irish border, the part of the agreement that is likely to set off the most sparks in the cabinet discussions.
The breakthrough followed months of discussions over an issue that has divided Britons and split the governing Conservative Party. But the prime minister’s problems are far from over.
Even assuming she gains the cabinet’s approval on Wednesday without a politically damaging raft of resignations — not a given — Mrs. May faces daunting odds in pushing the compromise plan through Parliament, where it has many opponents.
Britain is scheduled to quit the European Union on March 29. The draft agreement, if approved, would at least avert the prospect of a disorderly and chaotic departure without any deal — something that could clog ports and lead to shortages of food and some medicines.
If Mrs. May’s cabinet signs off on the draft agreement, the next step is for European Union leaders to give it their blessing at a meeting at the end of the month.
It would then need the approval of the European Parliament and of British lawmakers in London. If that is forthcoming, the agreement would lead to a standstill transition period during which very little would change before the end of 2020.
This is a long, slow, treacherous path to a Brexit. If May can convince her cabinet to back the deal — a big if — the parliamentary brawl to approve it could very easily lead to May’s ouster. If that happens, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a hardline Brexiteer , is waiting in the wings to replace her.
A change in Conservative leadership at this point would almost certainly lead to a “no deal” Brexit and widespread chaos, the effects of which could plunge the UK into an economic and political crisis that would drive the Tories from power and hand the government to the odious ant-Semites of the Labor Party.
The details of the deal remain unknown, but if the Northern Ireland “backstop” plan is acceptable to the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, it is not likely to be popular with Tories in parliament. But that’s the tightrope May has been walking these many months of negotiations — drawn out, no doubt, by EU officials who hope that Great Britain will somehow change its mind and remain in the European Union.
However it happens, this is going to be a messy divorce between the EU and UK and will not encourage other nation states to try it themselves.