EDITORIAL: Jolt for Mrs May
NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - As Britain stumbles in its quest for a formula to facilitate Brexit, yet another impediment has emerged on the road with Wednesday’s humiliating defeat of Theresa May in the House of Commons over a no-deal Brexit.
Indeed, in an unusual conjunction of the opposition and a section of the ruling Tories, Labour and Conservative MPs have demonstrated the strength of parliamentary opposition to leaving the European Union without a deal. Legislators across the party divide have backed an amendment to the Finance Bill to curb government powers, if there is no deal. The vote is a critical step to forestall such an eventuality. In the larger perspective, the British Prime Minister’s defeat demonstrates that there is no majority in Parliament, the cabinet or the country for leaving the EU without an agreement. It is open to question though whether Parliament will be able to prevent a no-deal exit from the European engagement. Given the end-of-March time-frame, the outlook becomes ever so uncertain. The evolution of British and European constitutional history remains fogbound less than three years after the affirmative vote in the referendum, if with a wafer-thin margin. Should the majority vote that defeated the British PM sustain itself over the next two months, Mrs May will have to reconcile herself to the fact that a no-deal exit shall not materialise. Markedly, 20 Conservatives rebelled against the government, including the former defence secretary, Michael Fallon, and the former education secretary, Justine Greening. Pretty palpable must be the widening rift within; the no-deal proposal has been junked as “disastrous” by an influential section of the ruling party. Reports suggest that Tory MPs had actioned a whip to vote against the finance bill amendment, despite rumours that the government would concede not the least because eleven Tories, including the former cabinet minister, Nicky Morgan. had signed the amendment. On Wednesday night, there was a robust anti-government setiment within the Commons. As much was clear from the statement of the shadow Treasury minister, Jonathan Reynolds ~ “It is a chance for Parliament to make a clear statement rejecting a no-deal outcome and that is a statement that cannot come soon enough. The government had run down the clock towards the 29 March exit date. Nobody should be underestimating at this stage how likely a no-deal exit could be. The government has got us to the point of ruin.”
Well and truly has Mrs May been caught with all defences down. Britain will be plunged in uncharted territory if the Brexit deal is eventually rejected by Parliament. The key sticking point in the deal is the so-called backstop solution, which proposes a Customs Union of sorts to prevent a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Governance is in limbo and in such critical sectors as trade, agriculture, healthcare, financial services, immigration, and also, of course, the withdrawal agreement.