Flextension

Editorial

Alas, Theresa May is still the placeholder for prime minister and as inconsequential as ever. And, in just under 24 hours, we are going to confront a realisation of just how powerless her Withdrawal agreement has, too, made the UK.

MPs voted with a commanding majority to endorse Theresa May’s proposal to plead with EU for an extension to the Article 50 process. When she anxiously enters the European Council meeting in Brussels, bowl-in-hand, on 10 April she will have to swallow one of three possible outcomes.

May’s preference is for an extension of Britain’s leaving date to 30 June, making our participation in next month’s European elections a necessity yet also a mere formality. The Council, however, could offer her an open-ended extension that will last upwards of a year, or until the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement had taken place. This is the likely option Mrs May will be served. EU diplomats, following a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council, said “slightly more than a handful” of EU member states spoke in favour of a push-back of the delay until June 30, whereas the majority highlighted their support for a longer extension.

The third possible outcome is that of a no-deal Brexit. Only 131 Conservative MPs favoured an extension to the Article 50 process, which, again evidences the difficulty of reaching any kind of Brexit with the current sitting parliament: there is no conceivable option or agreement capable of garnering a majority from both the majority party and a majority of MPs. And Mr Macron, the French President, looking at the current parliamentary landscape could decide to veto any attempt at extension – believing that the UKs current parliament is simply too unstable to deliver anything, apart from an incompetent stumble into a no-deal, anyway. He believes a veto could, at best, force the UK to revoke Article 50 – finally making a decision – or teach the UK a stern lesson as well as deter any other country contemplating doing the same song-and-Brexit-dance.

Yet, no-deal still remains only a remote possibility, with the more likely outcome being the one year “flextension:” giving the UK time to reflect and revaluate. The revaluate part mostly relies on Tory MPs, seeing as they have categorically rebuked the no-deal option, deciding either to soften Brexit, hold a snap election or go ahead with a confirmatory referendum.

There’s no doubt who’s in charge of deciding the nature and date of an extension and it’s not Theresa May.

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