Ottawa: After 16 months of difficult negotiations, the United Kingdom and the European Union have agreed to the text of a deal for Brexit.
But even with that text in place, UK Prime Minister Theresa May now faces a tough challenge in getting it passed by her divided cabinet, her divided Conservative party, and a parliament fractured over exactly what Brexit should mean and its long-term implications for Britain.
320The number of votes UK Prime Minister Theresa May needs to get the parliament to approve the Brexit deal.
Last evening in London, May sought cabinet approval for the Brexit deal, and a special EU summit will likely take place at the end of the month in Brussels to give the leaders of the 27 nations remaining in the economic, political and social bloc an opportunity to sign off on the deal.
That’s likely a formality — the real test is May’s ability to sell the deal to sceptics and get parliamentary approval.
And right now, those parliamentary numbers are not going May’s way.
She will need 320 votes, and her Conservative party is in a minority with 315 seats, only keeping power through the support of 10 MPs from the Democratic Unionist party MPs from Northern Ireland.
Those 10 have already indicated they are opposed to the Brexit deal because it treats the British-governed province differently than the rest of Britain.
And within her own Conservative ranks, there are at least 40 — and possible as many as 80 — who say the Brexit deals gives too much away to Brussels, and they favour a hard Brexit, sharp and quick to allow the UK to go its own way free of EU regulations and law.
40MPs at least in her own Conservative party are opposed to the Brexit deal, saying it gives too much away.
The opposition Labour Party says the deal doesn’t work for the UK, while Scottish nationalists at Westminster say they will oppose the deal.
If the Brexit deal is defeated — the vote will likely be sometime in early December — May faces several choices. She can resign; call a snap general election; go back to Brussels and try and renegotiate a deal; call a second referendum on the text of the deal; or ask the EU to suspend that March 29 deadline and seek more time to work out the next steps.
All are fraught with danger, and after 16 months of negotiations, the EU may very well not be in a mood to accommodate the UK as it sorts out the Brexit conundrum and its political divisions. Defeat would likely spell the end of May’s troubled premiership, one that has failed to unite the fractured party on how to break away from Brussels.
Any uncertainty too will have a serious impact on an already slowing UK economy and put the pound sterling under more pressure against the euro, the common currency used by 19 of the 28 members currently in the EU.