315 Days to Go
Today in Brexit: Theresa May asked for assurances from the European Union that she would accept her new proposal at the Irish border. She did not get them.
The prime minister took advantage of a meeting of leaders in Bulgaria to probe what kind of reception he might expect from his latest idea of how to break the stalemate over the divided Isle of Ireland.
EU President Donald Tusk told him it was too early to give guarantees because of the messages of "disorientation" that the EU was receiving from London, according to a senior EU official, Ian Wishart.
May's plan to resolve the intractable Irish border issue would keep the United Kingdom bound by EU customs rules for years after Brexit as a last resort. It is politically risky for her, since it could cause pro-Brexit conservatives to try to expel her. Launching Brussels early would offer some political coverage.
So, with only five months to go until there's supposed to be an agreement, where are we? Here is a summary:
- The talks are stalled on how to avoid a police border between the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The May government has presented a new proposal, but the EU is not buying it, at least not in its current form.
- May's team has accepted the idea of keeping the United Kingdom linked to EU customs rules for years after Brexit. It is presented as an option of last resort to solve the Irish problem, but it is not hard to see why the pro-Brexiters fear – and the Remainers hope – that it is only the beginning of a larger concession.
- There is a growing sense that some kind of extension is going to be necessary beyond the two-year transition that has already been agreed upon. So Brexit day is March 2019, but maybe it does not feel real until a few years later. Regardless of the new customs configuration that the government aims at, it probably will not be ready on time. While the UK hints at piecemeal extensions, the EU's opinion is that it is all or nothing.
- The Council of Ministers is still divided about what Brexit should mean for future links and trade between the EU and the EU. Mayo wants to force a decision for next month.
- There is a key legislation that has the potential to pressure the government to change its position and maintain closer ties with the EU. May is being delayed for a vote.
- Brexit purists continue to issue veiled threats when they believe they will be betrayed, but may not have the numbers to overthrow May.
- What do voters think? The polls show a slight change against Brexit, but it's too close to call.
- By October, both parties say they want a deal. Then he is destined to go to Parliament, in what could become a dramatic confrontation.
- But do not disconnect. There is a crisis before that: the period leading up to the June 28 summit. The EU wants progress in Ireland and, if there is not, it expects threats and fiery rhetoric at least. If May admits too much, he expects indignation from Brexit supporters.
Today should read
- May move keep the United Kingdom within the EU's core trade rules for years after Brexit – as a last resort to solve the problem of the Irish border – increases the risk of a rebellion of Eurosceptics who could drive it out, writes Tim Ross.
- The emergence of the debate on the option of remaining in the single market is bad news for the sponsors of Brexit, argues Tim Harford in the Financial Times. If it becomes a clear possibility, staying in the block will start to look more attractive in comparison, he says.
Brexit coming soon
Too much at stake | Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said there is too much at stake for the Brexit negotiations to fail, and that "hopefully" an agreement will be reached in October despite growing frustration in the talks.
Labor Split | Four Labor legislators from northwest England sent an open letter to the Mirror calling for a referendum on the final Brexit agreement. Last week, five Labor legislators signed a similar letter. The party leadership does not support a second vote.
Appointing the Lords | May is expected to create about 10 Tory comrades in an attempt to improve his position in the House of Lords, reports The Guardian. The Conservatives have no majority in the Lords, who voted 15 times against the government in May's Brexit key legislation.
Clear awareness | Rebel conservative Pro-EU Kenneth Clarke says that if May is defeated in Parliament by Brexit, there is no reason why an election should be triggered. "The House of Commons can approve an amendment, in fact bring some sanity to the customs debate and Theresa will be pressured by the party to continue, certainly without election."
Down in the Douro | Brexit is throwing a cloud over the harbor, the sweet fortified wine that symbolizes the ties of the United Kingdom with one of its oldest allies. Producers are concerned about restrictions on trade, the poorest pound and whether they still enjoy the protection status that labels of geographical origin in the EU give to products such as champagne and Parma ham.
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