190524 Theresa May
Theresa May Image Credit: AFP

After three weeks of relative quiet on the UK political parliamentary front, a full-blown war of attrition among members of the ruling minority Conservative party is now under way. And whatever temporary patches that may have covered the deep wounds of the Brexit debate in Britain before, those are well and truly ripped away, exposing ugly and festering divisions within the ranks of that party.

Talks with the opposition Labour party over the past three weeks tried to reach some sort of a compromise over a customs union or protecting the rights of workers once the United Kingdom does eventually leave the European Union. At times it seemed a way forward would be found, and that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which has been voted down three times previously by Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, might indeed pass on Theresa May’s fourth time of asking.

The breakdown of those talks, combined with May putting together a list of 10 guarantees that would be included in that Withdrawal Agreement Bill, has not gone down well with the senior Cabinet ministers who are once again venting their opposition to her leadership. It has pushed the UK to the brink of what will be a disastrous no-deal Brexit sooner rather than later.

The past three years of May’s leadership have been overshadowed by deep divisions within the ranks of her Conservative party. Those divisions made it impossible for her to find any acceptable way forward in reaching a consensus deal on ending Britain’s 46-year marriage with the institutions, legislation and politics of Brussels. That was never going to be an easy task, and the chasms now within the Conservative reflect that — just as those same deep divisions are evident across British society and in Northern Ireland.

May has now announced her resignation date (June 7). Her departure may be welcomed by many in her party and many up and down the communities and cities of her nation. But this Brexit crisis will not end with her going.

The reality is that whoever succeeds her, Britain is broken and divided. There is a crisis of leadership and a crisis of confidence. The worst possible outcome is that the UK blindly moves towards a no-deal Brexit, one where it’s economy will take a sharp hit, causing ripples across the EU and the global economy. Now, more than ever, Britain needs somehow to find the courage to do the right thing: Leave with a deal.