- It is "the great dispute over the soul of Britain," as a British MEP on Thursday said, and the situation has not gottenten any easier this week.
- After all, the MEPs want to postpone the EU exit for now.
- Despite their dwindling power, Prime Minister May hopes to get the Brexit deal through the House next week.
An electrifying news leaked on Thursday in Westminster: middlemen Theresa May, it was said, would meet with the Northern Irish DUP. That sounded little exciting at first, after all, the Northern Irish and the Tories are cooperation partners in the government. But this "breaking news" had it all – even in the face of what was going to happen that day. Because in the evening, the government made its request that the EU withdrawal will be postponed for several weeks; shorter or longer – depending on whether May's deal goes through in the third attempt. But that was no sensation anymore.
That was different before. In the morning, there was a rumor in Parliament that the top legal adviser to the government, Geoffrey Cox, was working on a breakthrough for Theresa May's Brexit deal. And that, quite, suddenly, was within reach. The ten DUP MPs secure May's majority in the lower house, and they have been bitter opponents of the backstop, which according to the EU exit treaty Northern Ireland should keep in the single market until Brussels and London have concluded a free trade agreement.
Last Tuesday, the DUP voted 'No' in the second parliamentary vote on the agreement with the EU. Partly because Cox, the chief lawyer, the improvements that May in Strasbourg had negotiated the night before and presented on Tuesday, although what they were called – improvements just. But not as iron guarantees that Britain would change the status of Northern Ireland and would end the backstop unilaterally.
The Northern Irish DUP, which was against any deal so far, is suddenly not so negative
The judgment of Cox, as many Tory hardliners and DUP parliamentarians had at least publicly argued, had a lot of weight for them. His vote was that the treaty amendments did not change any "fundamentals" of the fact that the end of the backstop could only be heralded if the EU intentionally and viciously delayed a new contract. That was not enough for the DUP and many Tory hardliners; May lost the second round almost as high as the first in January.
Cox was conspicuously praised on Tuesday for not being a party soldier but an independent legal scholar. On Thursday it was suddenly to the irritation of many Brexit opponents, he negotiate again but once with the DUP and try to convince them with new arguments and ideas to change their attitude. Did he change his mind?
During the day, the group seemed to make progress. Arlene Foster, at least, the party leader of the DUP, was cautiously optimistic. Intercepted by BBC reporters on their way to parliament, she cheerfully said that her party had always wanted a deal, and it was only when one got to the bottom of the negotiations and saw "the whites in the eyes of the adversary, that at times, that there is still a solution.
This solution, which was to be perceived as a trickery by May's opponents, was later debated openly in the lower house, which had actually come together to debate the pros and cons of a Brexit shift. But then the deputies already knew that Theresa May would put their deal to the vote again at the beginning of next week.
What she needs for that, Cox has to deliver. And obviously, contrary to his previous expertise, he seems ready to be ready to do what the Brexit Shadow Minister of the Labor Party, Keir Starmer, immediately called "a nuclear option." Apparently, the government is planning to use the "Vienna Convention." on the Law of Treaties of 1969. After that you can, in short, unilaterally invalidate an international treaty under certain conditions. "Anything that the British government would have to do would be to inform the EU of this decision, and twelve months later – kabumm – there would be no withdrawal agreement and no backstop," writes the website with a satirical tone Politico and adds that, however, that is not permitted under Article 56 of the Vienna Convention.
The head of the eminent European-critical Tory group ERG (European Resarch Group), Jacob Rees-Mogg, had already tried this treaty several times in the past few days in the debate. Also, if there are new arguments from the government, the ERG could possibly lend its support to support May's deal. Should the Vienna Convention be the vehicle? Rees-Mogg seemed to suggest that. Or was everything that was going on in Westminster just hot air?
Experts from all parties will now bow to the convention in detail over the next few days, but the House of Commons soon realized that Conservative MPs "are looking forward to hearing Cox's change in their assessment, DUP is flirting with a way out, and Labor is holding it The idea of coming to Brussels with the treaty of 1969, for a "gross, unprecedented breach of trust". What should the EU say, asked Starmer, if the British government announces before the ratification of the withdrawal contract to break this?
Theresa May is ready for a short, technical delay
The waves went up in the lower house. The Scottish MPs fiercely talked about the nonsense of Brexit, the Labor MPs on alternative concepts, they joked a lot, before the MPs finally turned back to the reason for their meeting: the postponement of Brexit. The mood was partly like on a school trip, it was in view of the confusing situation something like gallows humor wide. Allen knew that the debate over the shift was one thing. May's struggle for survival and her agenda the other.
The government had presented its own, sharply worded text for the evening. He said that Parliament would like to see a brief technical delay – no later than 30 June. It should not come to a longer shift, to new negotiations, to the second referendum, to whatever the parliamentarians could think of, if it goes after May. She wants to know it again next week.