Thursday 21 November 2019

Editorial: 'Extension offers chance to finally escape Brexit maze'

'Thanks to the good graces of the EU, and the desperation of Boris Johnson, the way looks clear for an election.' Photo: Reuters
'Thanks to the good graces of the EU, and the desperation of Boris Johnson, the way looks clear for an election.' Photo: Reuters
Editorial

Editorial

For more than three years Westminster has been transformed into a maze under the spell of Brexit.

Each start led to an ending; the feeling of entrapment drove normally sensible people to the point of being perfectly at ease with the idea of having it burned to the ground; and walking through its ashes, if it guaranteed a way out.

With all sense of direction lost there was grave danger that all sense of purpose might go with it.

The idea that resolution may be at hand will be seized on with relief. Thanks to the good graces of the EU, and the desperation of Boris Johnson, the way looks clear for an election.

Victor Hugo commented: "The straight line, a respectable optical illusion which ruins many a man." All straight lines - especially red ones - were shown to be illusory since the UK voted to divorce the EU. The "easiest deal ever" was anything but. "Removing the octopus from the string-bag" has been a chastening experience for all.

EU ambassadors wisely agreed to accept a request for a Brexit "flextension" until January 31, 2020.

Just three days before the UK was due to leave, the bloc agreed to delay the deadline by three months or until the UK parliament ratifies the deal. This is the third time Brexit has been delayed; the fervent hope in Brussels will be it can finally strike lucky.

Guy Verhofstadt summed up the feelings from Europe when he said: "Relieved that finally no one died in a ditch. Whether the UK's democratic choice is revoke or an orderly withdraw, confirmed or not in a second referendum, the uncertainty of Brexit has gone on for far too long. This extra time must deliver a way forward."

If indeed it is to progress it may be the Liberal Democrats' plan to force a general election via legislation that gets the election bandwagon out of the mire. It seems extraordinary Labour could not find the stomach to move matters forward.

Between now and the year's end, politicians stupefied and immobilised by indecision must rediscover their mojo and persuade a hugely sceptical and disillusioned electorate why they should vote for them.

There is still a risk, however. An election could take place before any vote on the withdrawal bill, raising the prospect that a new government could seek to renegotiate it.

Mr Johnson would undoubtedly prefer to go to the country having made good on his word.

He will be hoping with the Tories ahead in the polls, Brexit in terms of a withdrawal deal could still be all wrapped up and under the tree by Christmas.

But the British prime minister's lance has somewhat been splintered.

He goes to battle without the shield of being able to claim he delivered on his "do or die" promise to be "out" by this Thursday's deadline.

However, Jeremy Corbyn's inability to even mount up for a single joust suggests the Tory leader can prevail. Could it possibly be that Brexit may even mean Brexit?

Irish Independent

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