The Brief – Revoke, rinse, repeat

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter [Photo: EPA-EFE/UK PARLIAMENTARY RECORDING UNIT]

Theresa May actually made a good point after her deal was rebuffed again last night: “Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face.”

It’s too late to solve all the UK’s woes but one option stands out clearly as the best course of action.

Revoking the Brexit-spawning Article 50 is that option. And it’s no longer a matter of partisanship, it’s just that pulling the plug is now the only sane decision. It is also the only option that keeps the UK’s destiny in its own hands.

By tonight, British MPs will almost certainly have voted to take no-deal Brexit off of the table. Boris Johnson has already made an attempt to spin no-deal as the path to “self-respect” but genuine politicians cannot sell it to their voters.

That’s where May’s comment comes into play. Westminster has to decide how to prevent no-deal from happening because just voting against it won’t achieve much. You can’t solve your money problems just by shouting “I declare bankruptcy”, remember. You need to take some action.

That means extension, which will be put to the vote on Thursday, or revocation.

Until recently, extending Article 50 looked like a solid safety net but EU leaders have now made it abundantly clear that it is not the sure-fire prospect the Brits thought it was.

Immediately after the deal was defeated, there was talk of “reasoned request” and “credible justification” for an extension, which will need unanimous agreement from the EU27.

Two of the main sticking points are: 1) nearly two years have failed to produce a palatable deal, so what good would a few extra months do? And 2) any meaningful extension, which would allow another referendum or more fruitless talks, means EU elections in the UK.

EU political chiefs have flinched at the latter prospect: liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt said today a vote would just be hijacked by Brexiteers, while conservative-counterpart Manfred Weber insisted not “a single day” should be added if there’s no credible alternative in the pipeline.

EPP luminary Elmar Brok was heard saying that the UK should simply not take part in May’s elections, although it might just be sour grapes because neither will he.

So revoke May must.

That allows a few essential things to happen without the threat of a ticking clock in the background.

The UK will be able to get its legal house in order, so as to avoid a repeat of the illegalities that riddled the previous campaign, while the toxic split within the two main parties can be contained, as much as possible, to Westminster.

If, after a cooling-off period, there is still the need for a vote on EU membership, then that can take place. There’s been no significant shift towards ‘remain’ so ‘leave’ could win out again.

Revoking once does not mean you can’t trigger Brexit again. Anybody up for round two?

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The Roundup

The Commission revealed how Europe should deepen its relationship with China this week, including urging the Far East country to peak its emissions by 2030, but MEPs are worried about “embedded backdoors” in Chinese tech.

Russia can’t be considered a strategic partner anymore, according to EU lawmakers, who insisted Brussels should be ready to impose more sanctions on Moscow if international law continues to be violated.

The head of the UN’s humanitarian relief agency discussed the challenges still facing the world thanks to the Syrian war and revealed that a cut in US funding did not create the shortfall that was once feared.

Bosnia is splashing its cash on coal power but it could damage its already slim chances of securing EU membership.

Albania’s opposition leader said that the EU has glossed over the failings of the current ruling party, in favour of promoting stability in the region, and warned that judicial reforms have had little effect.

Boeing planes remained grounded after Europe’s aviation regulator decided that there is too much risk in allowing 737 MAX 8s and 9s to continue flying. The black box flight recorder from an Ethiopia Airlines aircraft that sparked the concerns is on its way to Europe for analysis.

And Donald Tusk received a heartfelt drawing and message from a young fan. The cynical Brussels press pack were quick to cast doubt on its authenticity though.

Look out for…

The no-deal vote in the UK tonight and then tomorrow, probably, a vote on whether to request an Article 50 extension.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljević]

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