Sunday 22 September 2019

Q&A: Divorce now complete, but crash-out is still a live possibility

  

Stock photo: PA Wire/PA Images
Stock photo: PA Wire/PA Images

What happened at this EU leaders' summit? After a year of missed deadlines, the 28 EU leaders sealed a deal on the UK Brexit divorce. They also agreed a political declaration to fix future talks on the EU-UK relationship after Brexit becomes a reality. Those negotiations could take between two and seven years.

What is the next move?

It needs to be ratified by the European Parliament by a vote expected in February. But the bigger test is getting it voted through the British parliament at Westminster early next month. British Prime Minister Theresa May is already in a minority position and looks set to lose many of her Conservative Party colleagues, and the DUP's 10 MPs say they will vote against the deal.

What happens if the deal fails in the London parliament?

That's unclear right now. There could be another snap election largely about Brexit.

Another referendum cannot be entirely ruled out. But that turns on a big assumption that the EU would extend a welcome back or that the result would be different.

All the EU leaders yesterday insisted there was "no Plan B" and it is "this deal or no deal". That again raises the threat of a no-deal Brexit crash-out which would be ruinous for many, including Ireland.

What does the Westminster parliamentary arithmetic look like?

The magic number required is 320 MPs. Mrs May's Conservative Party has 315 MPs but up to 90 of these have spoken against her deal. She can expect a number of these will vote against it. She will not have the 10 DUP members who prop up her minority government. She is unlikely to get much help from the 257 Labour MPs, the 35 Scottish National Party members or the 12 Liberal Democrats.

So it's a totally lost cause?

Well, more of an uphill fight against the odds. Mrs May began her hard-sell immediately after this summit yesterday and will make a direct appeal to the people of the United Kingdom. She hopes voters, aware of potential job losses from a bad Brexit, will pressurise their local MP to support her. It looks like a long-shot. But she has no option but to fight.

Is this still a good outcome for Ireland?

Yes, though no Brexit at all would be a better result. Ireland's immediate interests regarding no return of the Border, safeguarding lucrative trade with Britain, and guaranteeing the common travel area between Ireland and the UK are secured. But these benefits are not secured if the deal is not ratified.

Irish Independent

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