The Brief – No end in sight to Tory wars

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter [AIDAN CRAWLEY / POOL]

British politicians will start their summer holidays next Wednesday (25 July) but the two-month recess is unlikely to bring any respite for Prime Minister Theresa May.

By most measurements, May is running out of road. Piloting Brexit-related legislation has become a daily act of survival.

Eleven ministers and ministerial aides have resigned since the prime minister secured agreement on her Brexit White Paper.

Ten days after securing agreement on the document, which aims to keep the UK in a single market for goods, May was forced to accept a series of Eurosceptic amendments that would prohibit her government from collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU, in order to keep her premiership alive.

Such are her difficulties that an attempt to bring forward the recess by a few days, thought up by party managers to reduce the chances of a leadership challenge, was rejected by MPs.

Yet despite May being so beleaguered, it is hard to see how ousting her would make things any better for the hard Brexiteers.

What continues to save her is the fact that there is no single leader of the ‘hard Brexit’ faction who wants the UK to revert to trading with the EU on WTO terms if they can’t get a free trade deal.

Boris Johnson’s resignation speech on Wednesday received much less coverage than the one-time darling of Eurosceptics would have expected, and he is only one of a handful of possible candidates should May be forced out.

In the meantime, many Labour figures believe that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would make a no-confidence vote (and another general election, which they would expect to win) almost inevitable.

“The more chaotic the better. It increases the chances of Brexit not happening,” a senior Labour centrist told this reporter.

Privately, many Tories fear that Brexit will cause the party either to split or lose power. A chaotic ‘no deal’ would probably lead to a snap election and a Labour government.

A ‘soft Brexit’ or ‘Brexit in name only’ – where the UK would stay in the single market or customs unions – would fuel the sense of betrayal among Brexiteers, bringing Nigel Farage’s UKIP back from the political dead.

“I don’t think in my 35 years as an MP that I have ever known such a truly unpleasant and deeply uncertain time in the House,” Nicholas Soames, a Tory MP and the grandson of Winston Churchill, said earlier this week.

The bad news for Brits and Europeans hoping to return to normality is that there’s no sign of it changing any time soon.

The Roundup

By Sam Morgan

Tensions between Greece and Russia are on the up, thanks to efforts to derail the Macedonian name deal and wider influence peddling in the Balkan region.

A new trade deal between Japan the EU is the first to include the so-called ‘Paris Agreement clause’, while Brussels’ man in Malaysia claims that the European market is “open to palm oil”.

Check out how the Twittersphere reacted to all the main stories this week in Tweets of the Week.

Margrethe Vestager may be the darling of the Commission, particularly after her Google escapades, but her job and chances of duking it out to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker look in doubt.

British citizens will start receiving ‘no-deal Brexit’ updates on a weekly basis, in news straight out of a dystopian novel. Good job the Commission decided to allow a citizens’ initiative that hopes to secure EU citizenship for beleaguered Brits after the UK leaves.

Former Catalan leader and Belgium’s favourite tourist Carles Puigdemont gained a reprieve when Spain dropped the European arrest warrant against him. Juncker is in Madrid and stopped by the Bernabeu.

The Commission boss was also caught out by Russian pranksters in May, AGAIN pretending to be Armenia’s new prime minister.

A big thanks to Freya Kirk for her help putting together The Brief these past months, it wouldn’t have been possible without her.

Look out for…

Tomorrow – Belgian National Day!

Views are the author’s

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