Last Sunday Theresa May, British Prime Minister, reached an agreement with fellow EU leaders on the United Kingdom’s intended withdrawal from the European Union (EU).
This came hours after Spain and the UK reached a last-minute agreement on the future status of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory. While Theresa May may have overcome one major hurdle, the next one already awaits her: parliamentary approval.
Why does it matter?
May is confronted with the unpromising scenario that neither her own party, the Tories, (1), nor the opposition (2), nor the population (3) supports her withdrawal deal. In case May fails to master ‘the art of the deal’ – and, thus, cannot secure a parliamentary majority at home – the UK risks crashing out of the EU without a deal. This would lead to a so-called ‘hard Brexit’: leaving both the single market and the customs union.
(1): While the EU and the UK could, in theory, renegotiate another deal until the 29th March, this seems unlikely. It already took months to reach consensus amongst the 27 EU member states. Last week’s stand-off with Spain showed the fragility of the negotiations.
(2): It’s difficult to make forecasts in this fast-moving environment. May has been written off numerous times. Yet in the end she has proven remarkable resilience. This is largely due to her divided opposition, which struggles to get the 48 required votes to topple her.
(3): The idea of a second referendum gets thrown around from time to time. Whether this would imply a second referendum on Brexit itself, or on the content of a Brexit deal itself remains unknown.
Yet it’s important from time to time to realise the different perceptions about the EU. The vast majority of the British population perceives the relationship with the EU to be mainly of economic nature, as opposed to the rather civic interpretation widespread on continental Europe.
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