The Corner


Brexit Update

Tomorrow the House of Commons will take another “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s latest Brexit deal. The whole thing hinges largely on the backstop.

A reminder: The “backstop” is the temporary arrangement which would keep the U.K. in the customs union and single market in order to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The trouble with the backstop is that the U.K. and the EU want diametrically opposing outcomes with regards to regulatory systems and trade. Indeed, the fact that the EU allowed no clear way out of the backstop in May’s previous deal (rejected by the Commons in January’s “meaningful vote”) was largely why it failed.

Britain’s attorney general Geoffrey Cox has since been tasked with finding a way out of this problem. He offers official legal advice to the British government. Has he found a solution?

Last week Michel Barnier, Europe’s Brexit negotiator, suggested on, um, Twitter, that Brussels is open to giving Britain a concession on the backstop. The trouble is that this is effectively back to square one: Barnier’s concession does not solve the Northern Irish problem, but rather offers an arrangement that the U.K. has already rejected.

Brexiteers believe it is impossible to the integrity of the Union to split the baby — in other words, to have Northern Ireland in a different regulatory system than the rest of Britain. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland agrees. However, if Ireland (still in the EU) and Northern Ireland (out of the EU post-Brexit) were to be under different economic rulebooks, many are concerned that there would essentially need to be a “hard border.”

The EU is exploiting this dilemma for all it’s worth — and has been since day one. At present, May’s latest deal fails to address this adequately. Which is why, in its current form, it will likely fail tomorrow.

So what happens next? Theresa May has admitted that if her Brexit deal is not passed by Parliament, then “we may never leave at all.” She may well be right.

If the deal is rejected tomorrow, then parliament will hold another vote tomorrow on whether to leave without a deal (i.e. “no deal”). There is very little appetite in the Commons for this option. If “no deal” is rejected, then most likely MPs will vote to extend article 50 (the law that states Britain will leave the EU on March 29.)

After that, who knows.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

Most Popular

Film & TV

A Sad Finale

Spoilers Ahead. Look, I share David’s love of Game of Thrones. But I thought the finale was largely a bust, for failings David mostly acknowledges in passing (but does not allow to dampen his ardor). The problems with the finale were largely the problems of this entire season. Characters that had been ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Great Misdirection

The House Democrats are frustrated, very frustrated. They’ve gotten themselves entangled in procedural disputes with the Trump administration that no one particularly cares about and that might be litigated for a very long time. A Washington Post report over the weekend spelled out how stymied Democrats ... Read More

Australia’s Voters Reject Leftist Ideas

Hell hath no fury greater than left-wingers who lose an election in a surprise upset. Think Brexit in 2016. Think Trump’s victory the same year. Now add Australia. Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison shocked pollsters and pundits alike with his victory on Saturday, and the reaction has been brutal ... Read More