In the course of selling her much-derided plan for Britain to quit the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday played what she sees as her trump card, telling lawmakers there are just two alternatives.
“We can choose to leave with no deal,” she said, pausing for effect, or “We can risk no Brexit at all.”
For those who see stopping Brexit as a prize, not a risk, that admission was some rare good news — a sign that Britain could be on course to reverse its biggest and, to them, most disastrous, decision in four decades. And that would almost certainly rest on holding a second referendum to overturn the 2016 decision to leave the union.
The path toward a second plebiscite has always seemed impossibly treacherous. On Friday, Mrs. May, who insists there will be no new vote, was sticking to her Brexit plan with the apparent support of two pro-Brexit cabinet ministers, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, and Liam Fox, the international trade secretary.
She also welcomed Amber Rudd, the former home secretary, back into the cabinet as work and pensions secretary, and appointed a little-known figure, Stephen Barclay, as Brexit secretary.
And Mrs. May’s opponents have so far failed to muster the support of the 48 Conservative Party lawmakers needed to force a confidence vote in her leadership.
But the political chaos of recent days — a swirl of cabinet resignations and calls for Mrs. May to stand aside — has put another vote squarely on the table.
That is because Mrs. May’s plan, which would keep some close economic ties to the European Union, now looks unlikely to gain approval in Parliament. That would seem to leave a second referendum as the most promising among a limited number of escape routes to avoid a chaotic, disorderly, no-deal departure.
“I think it’s a lot more likely,” said Patrick Dunleavy, a professor of political science and public policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “The whole effort to try and implement Brexit in a one-party way, without any negotiations with the opposition, without a coalition agreement, looks doomed to destruction.”
“Last summer, the chances of this outcome seemed minimal,” wrote Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, a London-based research institute, in a briefing paper. But the odds have improved, he said, because the opposition Labour Party is now more positive about that notion if it cannot achieve its favored outcome, which is a general election.
There are plenty of obstacles, of course. Right now there is no majority in Parliament for a second vote. The Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is not sympathetic. Holding one would almost certainly depend on the European Union granting Britain an extension on the current March 29 date for the country’s exit. And precisely what question, or questions, would be asked would provoke endless wrangling.
There are also good political arguments against it. The last vote was close — 52 percent to 48 percent — and another one would in all likelihood be so, too. That risks a polarizing and angry referendum campaign with an outcome that would be no more definitive than the first vote.
But according to several surveys, public opinion is finally shifting away from Brexit, and proponents of a rethink sense an opportunity. They want a plebiscite on the terms of an exit deal, with the option to remain, calling it a People’s Vote — a smart piece of branding designed to dispel claims that they are sore losers seeking to rerun the last referendum because they didn’t like the result.
“This was a long-shot campaign when it started,” said James McGrory, director of the People’s Vote campaign. “But the odds are getting shorter every day. All the momentum is with our campaign.”
It has been a long time coming. When Britons voted in the 2016 referendum to quit the European Union, few “remainers” believed that the decision could be changed. At first, the remain camp seemed shellshocked and, when some began to suggest a redo, it was accused of trying to undermine “the will of the people” and taunted in parts of the tabloid press as “remoaners.”
But in biding their time, the pro-Europeans might have played a smart long game because, while Brexit still seemed on track, few wanted to revisit the divisive referendum of 2016. Many voters tuned out of the debate, and a lot simply wanted the issue resolved.
Now, after more than two years of negotiations leading to an unpopular draft agreement, the one thing that is sure is that there will be no swift and easy exit. The trade-offs that Brexit supporters batted away during the referendum campaign — such as sovereignty versus economic prosperity — have been brutally exposed by Mrs. May’s draft deal.
Growing public disquiet was clear even before Mrs. May’s deal was announced, when 700,000 people marched last month in London for a People’s Vote.
The tide probably began to turn during the summer as Brexit talks stalled and the government began to announce some fearsome-sounding contingency plans for leaving in the event of no deal.
Pharmaceutical companies were instructed to stockpile six weeks’ supply of drugs, and there were plans to keep airlines flying and supply routes open for food and essential imports; even those expecting to take pets to continental Europe were warned that they needed to start the paperwork four months in advance.
Little wonder, then, that enthusiasm for Brexit — once sold as an easy, cost-free choice — started to wane. While some hard-liners favor a no-deal departure, there is certainly no majority in Parliament for it.
It would take a huge about-face for Mrs. May to offer a second referendum, something she has consistently rejected (though she has changed course before, by calling a general election last year after ruling out that option). But Mr. Dunleavy, the political science professor, believes that if she is replaced her successor could turn to a second referendum as a way out of an impossible situation.
Another pathway could lead through the election of a Labour government, according to Mr. Grant, of the Center for European Reform. While noting that a referendum is not current party policy, “there is movement within the party toward that option,” he said.
The other option, Mr. Grant said, is that a deadlocked Parliament asks the government to hold a plebiscite since, with a no-deal cliff edge looming, it could seem like “a welcome alternative to political and economic chaos.”
Whatever the scenario, a second referendum would need the support of a majority of lawmakers, as it is Parliament who would have to authorize it. The People’s Vote campaign is vague about its parliamentary support, but it is thought to be well into three figures — though far short of a majority of the 650 seats.
But if Mrs. May cannot get her deal through, and the European Union offers no alternative plan (something it says it cannot), the numbers in Parliament could change as the implications of a no-deal Brexit loom.
One significant moment was the resignation last week of the rail minister, Jo Johnson, brother of the pro-Brexit campaigner and former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. Unlike his brother, Jo Johnson campaigned for Britain to remain in the 2016 referendum, but accepted the result and joined a government committed to delivering an exit.
Now Jo Johnson is in favor of a People’s Vote, “a reminder that support for a referendum is deeper than it appears,” wrote Mujtaba Rahman, managing director and practice head, Europe, for the Eurasia Group.
“Only nine Tories are among the more than 100 M.P.s who have publicly backed the idea,” Mr. Rahman wrote, referring to members of Parliament. “If the Commons rejects May’s deal, many more Conservatives would come out for a People’s Vote.”
How many is unknowable. Yet, ultimately, if Parliament is deadlocked on Brexit and lawmakers do not want a general election, there is only one option left for Britain to avoid a brutal no-deal departure.
Read more here: NYT > Worldhappy wheels
Dec 06, 2018 0She wasn’t ready!!! Those are the first words that came to mind when Compton rapper, YG took to his IG Stories to share the awkward entertainment available for him while partying it up in Australia. It was, well…see for yourself the post that had YG thinking “WTF.” Wasting no time to...
Dec 06, 2018 0
Dec 09, 2018 011 hours ago The first Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer just premiered at Brazil Comic-Con. Sadly, only those who were there get to see it for now, with Sony/Marvel holding back on the online release. However, the stars in attendance teased a lot of interesting details about the characters. Jake...
Dec 09, 2018 0
Dec 05, 2018 0“Ewwwww,” said my husband the other night,...
Dec 09, 2018 0PARIS — A fourth weekend of antigovernment protests in...
Dec 09, 2018 0Senior American officials were worried. Since the early...
Dec 09, 2018 0ROME — Rarely have expectations for a tree been so high....
Dec 09, 2018 0LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May had just suffered...
Dec 08, 2018 0PARIS — A video of French students silently kneeling in...
Dec 08, 2018 0PARIS — Vincent Picard describes himself as a “militant...
Dec 08, 2018 0ESTEVAN, Saskatchewan — Crews are hard at work these days...
Dec 08, 2018 0REGENSBURG, Germany — Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis...
Dec 08, 2018 0BEIJING — The arrest of one of China’s leading tech...
Dec 07, 2018 0HAMBURG, Germany — German conservatives opted for...