The Brief – Brexit purgatory waiting room blues

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter

“Would you please consider voting for this deal so we can all get on with our lives.”

So implored Tory MP David Morris of Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell as MPs moved into the third of their five day marathon debate on Theresa May’s painfully agreed Brexit deal.

Millions of British people (and their counterparts across the EU) would, like Morris, love to be freed from the purgatory of the Brexit process. If only it was as simple as that.

While May’s position appears to change by the hour, one constant is that the parliamentary arithmetic is not on her side.

Ahead of next Tuesday’s vote (11 December) May is probably somewhere between 30 and 50 votes short of a majority.

That has prompted calls from some in her government to delay the vote (yet again). But that would just be another exercise in futility. Waiting two weeks or until after Christmas won’t change anything.

In any case, House of Commons procedure being as arcane as it is, May would actually have to win a vote in order to delay the vote. Which, of course, she would struggle to win. Satire simply cannot keep up with the absurdities of Brexit.

Barring divine intervention, MPs will reject the draft Withdrawal Agreement. But what then?

Only two scenarios can be discounted with any confidence. One is that the UK will crash out with a ‘no deal’, and the other is that May would be able to go back to Brussels, secure a couple of cosmetic changes, like Ireland did with the Lisbon Treaty, and then successfully coerce MPs to support her.

Hard Brexiteers say that rejecting May’s deal means a ‘no deal’ Brexit, but that ignores the fact that a handful of cabinet ministers say they will resign if ‘no deal’ is put on the table.

Remain supporting MPs, meanwhile, have tabled an amendment (which will probably pass) that would allow MPs to explicitly rule out a ‘no deal’ scenario.

That leaves us with a choice from a series of unlikely options: a second referendum, a general election, a new prime minister, a national unity government (yes, really), an extension of Article 50 or a combination of the above.

The UK made a seismic shift on 23 June 2016 when it narrowly voted to leave the EU. But, like it or not, there is going to be at least one more seismic event before the question of the UK’s EU relations is resolved and sanity restored.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

European defence industry integration progresses:  Germany and France will welcome Spain as a full partner in their programme to develop a next-generation air combat system.

Meanwhile, post-Cold War peace seems slightly disturbed as uncertainty over its preservation spreads over the continent. Save the US-Russia nuclear treaty, the EU urged after Washington issued a 60-day ultimatum to Moscow.

Experts insist that even a fully-fledged economic and monetary union and capital markets union the euro will not be able to overcome the dollar as number one currency.

France has failed to unblock EU tax proposals on financial and digital transactions, two measures for fiscal justice that Paris has attempted to push for a long time at European level.

Major strike against mobsters in Europe: In international sting against Italy’s notorious ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan, police arrested dozens of mafia suspects.

With only five months before the European elections, we discuss whether the EU has really delivered tackling the social challenges facing citizens.

Disinformation feeds on the media’s current weakness. Despite the Commission’s short-term action plan on disinformation, strategic options for media ahead of EU elections are needed, write MEPs and media industry experts in an open letter.

Our COP24 diary #4 sheds a light on Bulgaria, Canada, open letters, the shipping and car industry, and more. The host country’s determination to continue providing financial assistance to coal power plants beyond 2030 has sunk an attempt to reform Europe’s electricity market.

Caption Contest Corner

What an effort! Our Arnie/Šefčovič teaser from the UN climate summit certainly let plenty of you flex your wit-muscles. Conciliatory shout-outs go to Danny Kemp, MEP Reinhard Bütikofer and Davide Patteri for their efforts. But our grand winner is Anton Lazarus! Tune in soon for more!

Look out for…

Around 1,000 CDU delegates gather in the northern city of Hamburg tomorrow to elect the next party leader – which could eventually become the Germany’s next Bundeskanzler.

Views are the author’s

Subscribe to our newsletters