For anyone who still doubted that Theresa May had no idea how to manage Britain’s exit from the EU, other than obdurately sitting tight, doing nothing, and running down the clock, the moment of realisation has arrived. The UK is due to leave on Friday of next week, and the situation of what happens then remains unresolved. Her Withdrawal Agreement has not passed a Commons vote. Now the Tories can’t agree on Article 50 extensions.
With leaders of industry, supply chain managers, financiers, and even some in her own party - those not participating in its interminable power struggles - screaming at her to just do something, Theresa May is like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. And it looks like the rabbit’s fate is what now awaits her.
What little initiative the PM takes is all about holding the Tories together. She knows there has to be an extension to the Article 50 process, that part of the Lisbon Treaty which provides for a member state to leave the EU. The problem is that this, too, becomes a hostage to internal Tory manoeuvrings, as Tamara Cohen of Sky News has shown.
“Cabinet Brexiteers concede that extending for only 3 months means ERG have no incentive to vote for deal for now, and can just sit on their hands until the last minute, say sources close to two of them … Tone of discussion in cabinet yesterday was all about not dividing the party”. Tory Party held together at the expense of the UK.
That grim reality has now been acknowledged by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, who has concluded “Ouch - Minister on PM’s decision to ask only for short delay - ‘Weak, weak, weak. Substantially increases the risk of no deal. Her most craven surrender to the hardliners yet. She knows this is the wrong choice for the country but she’s putting her short term interests first.’” She’s putting the Tories’ own interests first.
And the whole business might yet be taken out of her hands, as Paul Waugh has noted; “Am hearing moves afoot for an emergency [Standing Order] 24 Commons debate with a potential vote forcing May to rewrite [her A50] EU letter to include [a] longer extension option. Bercow hinted SO24 rules could be bent earlier this week to make it [a] substantive not [a] neutral notion. Expect fresh [Government] panic”.
There might be more of a panic at the news coming from the Beeb’s Europe editor Katya Adler, who has echoed the EU’s exasperation and rapidly ebbing patience with the UK. “EU sounding the alarm: THEY HAVE NOT YET RECEIVED THE PMs LETTER - EU Diplomats saying: How can 27 leaders be expected to reach a unanimous decision on PM’s #Brexit extension request with only hours to go before tomorrow’s EU summit and still no official notice from No10..?” Also, the Italians could blackball the request.
All of that means one thing: push has finally come to shove. Theresa May can no longer kick this one down the road. Running down the clock is no longer an option. She cannot bank on getting an Article 50 extension. The consequences of No Deal mean so much economic disruption that it would screw over the country for a generation.
She must now Revoke Article 50. She has no other option. The game is up.
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