May’s new Brexit strategy?

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would be “armed with a fresh mandate and new ideas” when she next meets European Union negotiators over her Brexit deal.

May has suffered a string of consequential failures over the past few months and will be looking to fight back after a recent impasse with the British Parliament. 

Background 

On June 23rd, 2016, Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union, stunning Europe and the world in general. The EU employs a set of policies for its 28-member states that aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods and trade among other services. Britain is deeply intertwined with the workings of the EU especially with regard to trade.

PM Theresa May’s leadership in the negotiations has been heavily criticised. She has been unable to form a consensus within the Parliament, or even her own party, for the course of Brexit. Her “directionless” leadership has not convinced most of her peers in Westminster and she was challenged by a no-confidence motion in early December 2018, which she narrowly won.

Despite her best efforts, the British parliament is not accepting the proposed Brexit agreement. Irrespective of whether they arrive on a deal or not, the UK is officially set to leave in March 2019.

Analysis 

EU officials have insisted that the deal — rejected by British lawmakers — is not open for renegotiation.

May wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that she would be “battling for Britain and Northern Ireland” in her efforts to get rid of the agreement’s unpopular “backstop” provision. “If we stand together and speak with one voice, I believe we can find the right way forward,” she said.

The so-called backstop is intended to ensure there is no return to a hard border with Ireland, but Brexit supporters fear it will keep Britain tied to the EU’s customs rules. MPs voted last week to send May back to Brussels to renegotiate the clause, suggesting her deal would then be able to pass,  after it was roundly rejected in parliament last month.

“I am now confident there is a route that can secure a majority in the House of Commons for leaving the EU with a deal,” she wrote. “When I return to Brussels I will be battling for Britain and Northern Ireland, I will be armed with a fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination to agree a pragmatic solution.”

The EU insists that the deal “remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal,” and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Sunday that “if the British want to avoid a disorderly Brexit, our offer is on the table.

With the clock running down until the March 29 exit date, the risks of a no-deal Brexit for both Britain and the bloc are coming into sharp focus. May said opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn “also believes the potential indefinite nature of the backstop is an issue,” and that the EU has “already accepted the principle of ‘alternative arrangements’ superseding the backstop should it ever be required.

The backstop would kick in if Britain and the EU have not agreed a trade deal on their future relationship after a time-limited transition period of up to two years. The prime minister rejected accusations that plans to reopen the backstop talks risked upsetting the Irish peace process.

“I’m determined to deliver Brexit, and determined to deliver on time — on March 29, 2019,” she wrote. May has promised MPs that she will bring any revised deal back to be voted on by MPs on Feb. 13.

Warnings of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit intensified last week as several multinational firms, including Airbus and Ford, said jobs could suffer with an unfavorable negotiating outcome.

Even Queen Elizabeth II was drawn into the fray, with the Sunday Times reporting that the civil service had drawn up plans to whisk away the royal family to a secret location if riots should break out due to no deal, but Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on the report.

The Brexit saga has driven a wedge in the heart of both major parties, pitting centrists against their more ideologically driven MPs.

Assessment 

Our assessment is that the next few weeks will decide not only Theresa May’s political future but the future of the United Kingdom as a whole. We believe that the EU will try to leverage its far superior negotiation position and deny any extension for the exit date. We also feel that the Parliament may look for other remedies if the EU does not cooperate on the exit date.