Editorial: ‘Abandoning vote on Brexit deal smacks of desperation’

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Editorial: ‘Abandoning vote on Brexit deal smacks of desperation’


British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: PA
British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: PA

There may be a risk of further frying the brains of the nation with Brexit information overload.

But there is a greater risk of being blind to the fact we are a step closer to a no-deal meltdown following yesterday’s unprecedented events in the Commons.

Something very big is at stake, yet British Prime Minister Theresa May has still chosen to hit the pause button on the momentous “meaningful vote”.

Mrs May knew her deal was going to be rejected resoundingly. It is always a bleak moment for the gambler to realise fortune has laughed in their face. Even so, Mrs May is set to press on with taking her bad luck to Brussels for a forlorn final bet.

At best this smacks of desperation, at worst of bad faith. A deal was struck this time last year. It has to be delivered on. This was the very deal championed and signed off on by Mrs May.

She has been repeatedly told that the 560-page withdrawal agreement – backstop and all – can not be unpicked. Rather than face her fate, she has sought a stay of execution.

The worry, and it is now closer to reality than before, is the whole roof could cave in.

To avoid this, pressure may come back on Dublin to shore up the beleaguered prime minister. Mrs May has indicated pointedly she would now be accelerating her preparations to cope with the chaos a no-deal exit would unleash. Despite all the red lines and commitments, Mrs May’s administration looked utterly shambolic. Her government stands accused of being in contempt of the House of Commons.

Abandoning a vote for fear of being defeated is a novel way of upholding democracy and the wishes of the people. How she will ultimately be rewarded for a series of calamitous decisions remains to be seen. But when a parliament does not carry out the wishes of the people it represents, its days are generally numbered.

Outright rejection of the deal might indeed have ramped up the likelihood of a disorderly exit from the EU.

Delaying things further in the hope of some 11th-hour concession from the EU is simply delusional after 18 months of negotiations.

Much of what has unfolded in the past year concerning the backstop is reminiscent of the abortive Boundary Commission which was stitched into the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921. It too had a legal basis, but confusion over its wording caused consternation, and ultimate disaster. Its restrictive interpretation eventually exposed its inherent flaws that were either ignored or naïvely underestimated. This time out, Mrs May must recognise the Brexit deal she struck with the EU cannot be renegotiated.

The spell of magical thinking must be broken. Last week Mrs May lost three critical votes. Her authority is rapidly evaporating.

Whether it is another referendum, or a general election, Brexit needs to be resolved.

But as time ticks away, a meaningful effort to stabilise the crumpling political landscape seems farther off than ever.

Irish Independent

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