Three months ago the United Kingdom was supposed to have left the European Union one way or another. And three months from now, come October 31, the UK might very well finally leave the bloc that binds together 28 nations of Europe. But what is increasingly becoming clear is that still, after a highly divisive referendum campaign three years ago, two subsequent years of negotiations and twice delayed deadlines for Britain’s departure, the least-favourable option of having no deal is all the more likely.
For its part, the opposition Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn has coalesced its thinking to move in support of Remain should there be a second referendum on Brexit. That’s certainly a welcome development but also one that’s slightly disingenuous: It would have been far more positive if Labour took a step further and actively champions that second referendum. As things stand now, a second vote might be the only way of resolving this gordian knot of Brexit and its impasse in a critically divided UK parliament.
With Theresa May no longer in charge of the Conservative party and awaiting a new leader, she is a lame duck leader of an utterly disunited United Kingdom. Her would be successors, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, say they are committed to seeing Britain leave as soon as possible, with Johnson taking a harder line by saying that October 31 succession will happen come hell or high water.
Both have said that they will succeed in getting the EU27 to reopen negotiations and get a better deal than the current Withdrawal Agreement that has been voted down by the House of Commons on three separate occasions. But both contenders clearly are not listening to Brussels. The EU27 have consistently said that deal can’t be reopened. The incoming President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has made it clear that there is no room for new talks with the new British PM.
The British parliament has reiterated earlier last week that a no-deal Brexit will not be allowed. Johnson himself has indicated that to avoid Westminster being able to stop him taking Britain out of the EU without a deal he will simply suspend the sitting of the House of Commons. That’s an undemocratic move, one that might undermine parliament authority.
Clearly, politics in the UK is at a nadir, and that second referendum or a general election sooner rather than later may be the only reasonable way forward.