According to multiple reports in the British press, Theresa May’s “cross party” talks meant to find a workable resolution to the impasse over her Brexit deal have been a complete and utter failure – largely due to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to even participate.
So, after carefully surveying her options, May has briefed her senior cabinet ministers about her new plan…which, as fate would have it, isn’t much different from her original plan: Find a workaround to the controversial Irish Backstop that could win over rebel Tory MPs and the DUP – the 10-member party from Northern Ireland that props up May’s government.
But with less than two months before Brexit Day and the dream of revoking Article 50 looking increasingly implausible (largely because it would require the assent of the EU27, whose leaders have been coy in their comments on the subject. But what’s potentially worse for May is that restive MPs who are growing increasingly anxious about a ‘no deal’ outcome have reportedly formed a ‘cross-party alliance’ to try and throw out centuries of Parliamentary precedent and allow a minority of MPs to seize control of Commons business from May. They would reportedly use this power to definitively rule out the possibility of ‘No Deal’ and call for Article 50 to be extended.
During the above-mentioned call with her senior ministers, the only thing that was agreed upon was that winning over Labour would be a waste of time.
When asked whether May had a specific plan, she effectively affirmed that she didn’t, saying only that a solution would be found only by “doing something” on the backstop, according to the Daily Telegraph.
On Sunday night, Mrs May held a conference phone call with her Cabinet. One Cabinet minister said the outcome of the call was “essentially one more heave on the backstop.”
Mrs May is said to have told them her plan was to do “something” on the backstop. Asked if it was something specific or just “anything”, she is said to have told them “the latter”.
All of this, as Bloomberg reported, is bad news for investors in British assets.
The risk is that the EU has repeatedly ruled out re-opening the divorce deal it took 18 months to negotiate. May’s stance is bad news for investors who have been hoping that cross-party talks would yield a Brexit policy that keeps closer ties to the bloc.
However, during her talk with her cabinet, May did bring up one novel idea, though, like her plan to invoke the “unicorn” solution of using technology that may or may not actually exist as a workaround for imposing a hard border with Northern Ireland, this too sounds like more of a pipe dream than anything approximating a workable solution.
May’s idea? Amend the 20-year-old Good Friday accord to include an explicit commitment not to ever allow a hard border to return between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
One of the proposals under consideration is rewriting the 1998 accord to assure Ireland that the UK is committed to no hard border on the island after the UK leaves the European Union in March.
Ministers believe that adding some text into the agreement would serve as a way of avoiding having to commit the UK to the backstop.
The plan is likely to prove highly controversial and would require the consent of all the parties involved in Northern Ireland.
Senior EU sources said it was a non starter while even UK Government sources were “sceptical” that it would work. The fact it is even being considered underlines the political crisis now facing the Prime Minister.
May is expected to unveil her “Plan B” Brexit deal on Monday. But with the EU27 refusing to reopen negotiations, most expect May’s “Plan B” to simply be Plan A with a few minor tweaks.
The prime minister has repeatedly insisted that she won’t try to “run out the clock” on negotiations. But if the EU27 refuses to assent to a delay of Brexit Day, and refuses to reopen negotiations, it looks like May will have little choice but to either cave to all of Labour’s demands – remaining in the single market and customs union among them, which would be anathema to pro-Leave Tories – or revert to her original strategy: Go all-in on “Project Fear” and hope MPs come to their senses in an eleventh-hour vote on the withdrawal agreement.