Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has come under attack from all sides, increasing the risk that her plan for leaving the EU will be voted down by parliament and thrust the UK towards a potentially chaotic “no-deal” Brexit.
Less than five months before Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, negotiators are still haggling over a backup plan for the land border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, if they fail to clinch a deal.
May’s compromise Brexit plan, which seeks to leave the EU but keep closer trade ties, is facing opposition from Brexiteers, pro-Europeans, the Northern Irish party that props up her government, and even some of her own ministers.
Asked if there was any chance May’s plan could pass parliament, former education minister Justine Greening, who supported staying in the European Union, said “no”.
“I think it’s the worst of all worlds,” Greening she told BBC radio. “It leaves us with less influence, less controls over the rules we have to follow.”
Sterling plunged to a 1-1/2 week low of $US1.2841 as the dollar strengthened broadly and doubts grew over May’s ability to clinch a Brexit deal and get it passed.
Both sides need an agreement to keep trade flowing between the world’s biggest trading bloc and the fifth largest global economy. The other 27 members of the EU combined have about five times the economic might of Britain.
But May has struggled to untangle nearly 46 years of membership without damaging trade or upsetting the lawmakers who will ultimately decide the fate of any deal she can secure.
While May has for months faced fierce opposition from Brexit-supporting lawmakers, who say she has betrayed the referendum result by seeking such close ties with the EU, she is now facing increasing pressure from pro-Europeans too.
Jo Johnson, the younger brother of leading Brexiteer and former foreign minister Boris, resigned from May’s government last Friday, calling in a withering critique for another referendum to prevent her Brexit plans unleashing Britain’s biggest crisis since World War Two.
If a deal is voted down by parliament, the United Kingdom will face an uncertain future: leaving abruptly without a deal, the collapse of May’s government, an election, or, as some opponents of Brexit hope, a new referendum.
It is unlikely that there will be a breakthrough in negotiations this month, with any deal probably pushed back into December, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on Monday.
“We are waiting for new news from London… We have time, but not so much. For this month, it’s very difficult to make real progress, but before Christmas I’m hoping that it will be possible,” Reynders said.
Brussels and London cannot agree how to guarantee there is no return of border controls on the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.