Things are not going well in the negotiations for the British exit of the European Union (EU), dubbed “Brexit.” In little under ten weeks, Britain is expected to leave the EU, revoking its membership to the 28 state bloc. Article 50 of the EU’s constitution allows for a member state to withdraw themselves from the union, provided they alert the union and negotiate a treaty with the bloc. The problem? The treaty negotiated between the UK and EU was rejected by the British Parliament 432 to 202, the worst margin seen by the UK parliament in modern times. Without a deal, the EU may force out Britain without any concessions, a move that could leave the island nation in diplomatic shambles. As of now there is no clear plan for the British exit of the bloc; Prime Minister Theresa May’s unrelenting resolve to complete Brexit by the deadline is leaving a growing potential for a disastrous no-deal exit.
Both Parliament members and representatives from the EU are skeptical if a new deal can be made in this time frame. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commision called the rejected deal, “the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.” The botched Brexit attempt has worked in the Commission’s favor, showcasing the difficulty of leaving the bloc and possibly dissuading other countries from attempting to follow suit. Citing the growing concern of a no-deal scenario, International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesman Gerry Rice said in a statement earlier this week, “Leaving without a withdrawal agreement and a framework for the future relationship with the EU is the most significant near-term risk to the UK economy.” The Bank of England has warned this near-term risk could be an up to 8% contraction in the UK economy, equivalent to wiping 200 billion dollars off their GDP.
Few paths remain open for the British government. With Theresa May’s party risking fracture she must act quickly to assure lawmakers that Brexit can happen by the deadline. But the simple truth is that at this point any Brexit deal is going to have consequences felt by both the UK and EU for some time. Even the possibility of a second referendum, that is a second vote by the people to leave or not leave the EU, would be disastrous. Theresa May has been cited ruling out the possibility of a second referendum, rightly believing that such a move would erode the people’s faith in politics. Others cast doubt on the possibility of a referendum even being feasible. Government officials were presented with a document suggesting a new referendum would take upwards of a year to successfully implement. While the notion has gained support from some lawmakers, Theresa May ultimately has the final say.
With a second referendum ruled out, possibly the only solution left to the Brexit fiasco is to simply delay the departure. This course of action also comes with its own complications, however, as it would require the British government to present the bloc with a “valid” reason behind their need for more time. Considering the current chaos and fracturing taking place in parliament, an agreement to delay their leave does not seem likely. Theresa May has also presented her opinion on delaying the exit, saying, “the government’s policy is that we are leaving the European Union on the 29th of March. But the EU would only extend Article 50 if actually it was clear that there was a plan that was moving towards an agreed deal”, a day after her deal was rejected by Parliament.
Theresa May has proven herself to be a hardliner when it comes to Brexit, unwilling to budge in the direction of delaying the exit or calling for a revote. May’s bold stance appears blind to the reality she is facing in Parliament. No deal of hers stands a chance of passing Parliament, and renegotiating a deal with the EU is a luxury she doesn’t have the time to afford. May’s options continue to dwindle as the deadline inches ever closer, and her marriage to a March 29th Brexit may lead to a nasty divorce between the UK and EU.
Nicolas Perez is a literary journalism/english double major. He can be reached at email@example.com.