Brexit saga continues.. your turn EU.

in politics •  last month 


The Brexit saga (described by some European fans as "better than anything on Netflix" or "just like Game of Thrones") is now moving into a new phase. The ball is now in the EU's court because they have to take a pretty big decision on the 10th. This will not be easy because for them there are truly no good options right now. They could take the line Macron appears to be advocating and tell the UK they've had their chance and that's it. In that case however the UK would leave on WTO Terms without a formal deal and the effect on Ireland would be severe and difficult for the EU to handle, especially in the longer term.

On the other hand, if they give the UK a longer extension that means the UK will have to take part in the EU elections and this could add to what already appears to be a rather fraught new European Parliament. Moreover from their point of view it's not clear how British politics will develop if a longer extension is granted - it could well be in a direction that they do not like.

So a close and difficult decision. I think, on balance, that the case for a longer extension will win (because the Germans lean that way and, well, say no more) but it's close and I wouldn't be surprised if it went the other way.

One way of understanding this is to see the EU as an exam board or assessment committee and the UK as a student who has failed to hand in their assessed work on time, been given an extension and still failed to get it done, had a report from Student Services that they are having a mental health crisis and serious relationship problems, and is saying "I just need a couple more weeks before the end of registration period, I really will get it done this time". One view is "This student is a hopeless case, too many problems and a lot of extra work for us if we show flexibility so we should cut out losses and fail them or give them an aegrotat" while the other is "We really don't want to say we haven't tried everything, they were a very promising student once, we should see what we can do to help them sort out their problems and avoid the pushback we'll get if they crash out. How about we let them stay registered but not attending classes for a year and see if they can sort themselves out and submit or do a sit next year?"

In other words, I can see the EU giving UK an extension but not the kind of short one May wants. From the EU's point of view that is the worst of both worlds. They would only give that if she came with a detailed plan of how to get something over the line in a couple of weeks with a stable majority in Parliament. She won't be able to do that. The negotiations she's been having with the Labour Party are partly to try and get that but also (on both sides) they are about blame shifting/sharing and, above all, about keeping an increasingly fractured party together. I have sympathy for both May and Corbyn because I think they both have an extremely difficult job, in fact an almost impossible one.

The decision the EU make, regardless of what it is, is going to trigger even more splits and internal rows in both the major parties. It's very hard to see how we can avoid those long awaited splits and combinations from happening now.

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Brexit has a new deadline of 31 October. A shorter extension made no sense as we would likely end back where we are now. Even 31 October offers no guarantee that an exceptable deal can be reached. In fact, I think I don't think a deal will be made before 31st.

May has put Britain in a very bad negotiating position by taking no deal off the table. No deal hurts the EU as much as Britain and May should have made them work to avoid it rather than put all the pressure on Britain to get the May/EU deal through parliament.

I believe should Britain should have left without a deal. Negotiating can still continue after Britain leaves the EU.

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