Brexit Brief: Rocking the Boat

After two weeks of debate and numerous votes, there is still no solution to break the Brexit stalemate. Now No. 10 is exploring cross-party talks and a second extension.

Yesterday, Theresa May announced her intention to ask the EU for a second Brexit extension to 22 May and to engage in cross-party talks to deliver Brexit. This comes after MPs failed to agree on an alternative solution over the last two weeks. With nine days till Britain’s new Brexit deadline, we could well be starting from scratch. How did we get here?

No resolution on any solution

Whereas previously MPs were united against the prime minister’s deal, they’ve now proven twice they can’t agree on anything else either. In a series of indicative votes — meant to test the position of parliament and narrow the options — alternative plans failed to yield a majority, with the customs union picking up the most votes. Meanwhile, after failing to get enough support for her deal on two occasions, the prime minister tabled her deal last Friday and lost by 58 votes (down from 149 last time). Third time’s still not the charm apparently.

Meeting halfway

With no alternative solution on the horizon, the prime minister is to engage in cross-party talks with main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. This will inevitably lead to backlash. Hard-Brexit rebels will see this move as conceding for a softer Brexit and some Labour activists will fear these talks take a second referendum off the table. If this fails, the prime minister has committed to honouring the outcome of the third round of indicative votes – if there is anything to honour.

What to expect when you’re expecting Brexit

The next few days will be hectic. EU leaders, especially France, will need convincing on the idea of a short extension they’d prefer to avoid in light of the impending European election, but parliament might solve the problem for them by trying to force a long one. Either way, the EU-27 will be looking for a plan and preparing for a no-deal scenario. Both main party leaders will need to convince their party factions of their plan (if there is one) or risk alienating them. A lot is up in the air and Brexit Brief readers should expect next week to be as chaotic, with the EU leaders meeting on 10 April for last-minute decisions on May’s requests, whatever those will be.

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