Brexit: default outcome looms

Published: January 18, 2019

The March 29 Brexit deadline marches closer, only to find Britain mired in more and more chaos and confusion. The crisis on how, or even whether, to exit the European Union after a 45-year-long association is the severest the kingdom has faced in half a century.

Only recently, three options were there to steer the kingdom out of the crisis: British parliament’s nod to Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal with the EU; an economically catastrophic no-deal Brexit; or an outright cancellation of Brexit itself. Now with parliament having rejected the May’s withdrawal deal — which covered financial matters, citizens’ rights, provisions to keep open Britain’s border with Ireland and arrangements for a 21-month post-Brexit transition phase — by more than two votes to one, the first option is just off the table.

While the situation appears to leave Britain with the remaining two options, a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all, Prime Minister May — who did manage a vote of confidence from lawmakers by a score of 325 to 306 just 24 hours after the same set of lawmakers rejected her withdrawal deal with EU — has invited the leaders of parliamentary parties for separate meetings to work through a withdrawal deal to finally bring about Brexit. However, if the prime minister fails in bringing her rival leaders round to her stance or closing in the gap on views, the possibilities of a second referendum on EU membership or a delayed Brexit may also emerge.

That Britain has been in a fix since the ‘yes’ vote on Brexit in June 2016 illustrates to the world the perils of unchecked populism that is being used world over for achieving political purposes by dividing people on nationalistic and sub-nationalistic lines. Back to Brexit: with a lot of ifs and buts connected with the various options, Britain appears to be skidding toward the default outcome i.e. a no-deal Brexit at the end of March.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2019.

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