Prime Minister Theresa May is set to publicly urge the European Union for changes to a UK-EU deal, with a second vote by MPs due to take place next week and discussions on the backstop having reached deadlock.
Making a speech from Leave-voting Grimsby today, May is expected to plea to Brussels: “Just as MPs will face a big choice next week, the EU has to make a choice too.
“We are both participants in this process. It is in the European interest for the UK to leave with a deal.
“We are working with them but the decisions that the EU makes over the next few days will have a big impact on the outcome of the vote.”
The big problem of course is that Theresa May has backed down to hardline Remainers in her Cabinet such as Amber Rudd and Greg Clark, granting MPs the ability to to vote against a No Deal Brexit and for a Brexit delay if her deal is rejected by Parliament for a second time.
That’s despite having consistently insisted that Article 50 would not be extended and that the UK would leave on 29th March, as promised. This is now a matter of trust and credibility.
Brussels know that a Remainer Parliament is likely to both vote down a WTO Brexit and vote for a delay. So where is the leverage? Brussels are quite happy to keep the UK hooked for as long as possible, keeping control over and money flowing from a country that voted to leave nearly three years ago now. It’s a shambles.
There is even now talk that May won’t even whip her own MPs in favour of a No Deal Brexit, further weakening the UK’s hand and giving the EU little incentive to back down and grant concessions.
It is obscene that the British government have backed themselves into this position of weakness. A recent report by a German economic institute found that a ‘hard but smart’ WTO Brexit that saw Britain slash trade tariffs would leave the UK and EU roughly in the same position, but would hit the Republic of Ireland ten times harder.
Yet the increasingly unpopular Varadkar doesn’t think such an outcome is likely, having recently said: “I don’t want to say too much about it at this stage but I think that the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union without a deal on March 29th is unlikely.”
Having the ability to walk away is critical. The EU currently don’t that that prospect seriously. No amount of last minute pleading from May is going to secure meaningful, legally-binding changes required unless Brussels regard a WTO Brexit as a serious possibility.