‘Humiliation’ and ‘meltdown’ is how the British press is describing the last-ditch attempt by British Prime Minister Theresa May to push through a deal on Brexit. Two votes in parliament on the Brexit deal have already been defeated and apparently May is planning a third one with the warning that Britain could risk losing Brexit altogether. The Conservative Party leadership must still be ruing the day when it agreed to hold the Brexit referendum. Misplaced anger over economic slowdown and migration in Britain was channelled towards its membership of the European Union – and the meltdown button was pressed.
No one actually expected the British public to vote for Brexit, which meant that there was no actual plan on how to separate from the European Union without actually separating from it. The situation now is that Britain will either need to ask for an extension in the EU or leave without a deal. With the PM’s cabinet itself split into three, there are genuine concerns over whether there can be a consensus over one of those two choices. May was left humiliated when 13 of her own ministers refused to back the second vote for ‘No Deal.’
Legally, Britain’s membership of the EU is set to expire on March 29. This leaves little room for continuing the political theatrics that have left the government in chaos. If the government will go ahead with seeking an extension, then it should call another general election. The sitting Conservative government has clearly shown that it cannot steer the ship. Whether it needs a change in leadership or another party needs to take over the task should be up to the British public. The EU’s official response to the situation has been calm: it has insisted it is prepared for Brexit with or without a deal. Right now, Britain is attempting to make it appear that it holds the cards over whether to extend its participation in the EU. However, the EU can simply roll up the deck and leave Britain without a choice in the matter. The view from Europe is that Britain’s infighting is dismal, with one negotiator calling it ‘like the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way.’ The EU might push for a general election or a second referendum to be held as a condition for giving Britain an extension. This would be the right choice – and one would hope there is enough maturity in Britain to take that choice if it is offered. If not, Britain is headed for a ‘hard Brexit’ that could send its economy into chaos.