The Brexit saga has become like a long and tedious television series. We do not yet know the outcome but many would probably not even care at this point. The original Brexit date was March 29. But till then, the United Kingdom could not come to an internal consensus over the deal that it wants from the European Union (EU). The deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated has been rejected thrice by the UK Parliament. And no one else has a deal which could both honour the 2016 Brexit referendum as well as get accepted by a majority in the Parliament. Hence, one wonders if the new extension given by the EU will throw up anything useful.
The new deadline for Brexit is October 31. Without this extension, a no deal Brexit would have come to life on Friday — the EU had already extended the deadline to April 12. This could be the UK’s final chance to either accept Ms May’s Brexit deal or to draft a new one with requisite popular and parliamentary support. The EU also hopes that the UK, as European Council President Donald Tusk said, may cancel Brexit altogether. While the extension certainly gives more time to the UK to find a solution, it does create more problems as well. The UK will have to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23 or leave the EU without a deal by June 1. If the UK wants to avoid holding the elections, it will have to negotiate (both internally with British political parties and externally with the EU) a Brexit deal before that, something which is an unlikely prospect.
The Labour Party wants the UK to remain in a customs union with the EU. This arrangement will prevent the UK from entering into independent trade agreements with other countries, thus defeating the logic of Brexit in the first place. The hardcore pro-Brexiteers envision a hard Brexit and some of them even do not mind a no deal scenario. Ms May’s deal is somewhere in the middle — it does pull Britain out of the customs union but the provision of the Irish backstop does undercut that promise to some extent — and hence receives little support from either end of the spectrum. The bloated ego of the UK politician is imposing a serious cost on businesses and people in the UK and beyond. It is time for them to show maturity and some ability to compromise.