Theresa May has an impossible job selling her Brexit deal — and Trump isn't helping

"We will have an independent trade policy so that the UK can sign trade deals with countries around the world — including with the US.”

by Tim Hume
Nov 27 2018, 6:26pm


Downing Street hit back at Donald Trump’s criticism of Theresa May’s Brexit deal Tuesday, saying it wouldn’t impact Britain’s ability to trade with the United States.

"The political declaration we have agreed with the EU is very clear. We will have an independent trade policy so that the UK can sign trade deals with countries around the world — including with the US,” a statement read.

When asked about the Brexit deal by reporters Monday, Trump undercut the British PM’s position. "I think we have to take a look at seriously whether or not the UK is allowed to trade,” he said. “Because you know, right now, if you look at the deal, they may not be able to trade with us."

May reached an agreement with European Union leaders Sunday on the terms of a deal under which Britain will leave the bloc on March 29.

The prime minister now has to win the backing of 318 MPs in the House of Commons when the crucial vote is held on Dec. 11. By most counts she is currently around 60 votes short.

As she embarked on a national tour Tuesday aimed at drumming up support for the deal, her own deputy acknowledged it would probably be rejected if MPs voted today.

“If the vote were today, it would be a difficult one to win, but I think that we have time between now and [Dec. 11] to make the case,” David Lidington told Sky News.

The compromise deal, negotiated with the EU over 17 months, has faced widespread opposition from across the political spectrum — with Brexiters arguing it does not provide a clean enough break with Europe, and Remainers arguing it will hurt the country.

May leads a minority government, meaning that even if she can shore up support within her bitterly divided Conservative party, she will still need outside support for the deal to pass.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government, is against the deal, while Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, attacked the proposal Monday as “the worst of all worlds” that would potentially shrink the British economy by nearly 4 percent.

READ: Theresa May’s own party members are plotting to bring her down

But, as May warned Parliament in a spirited defense of her agreement Monday, it’s the only deal on offer, and rejecting it would subject the country “to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail.”

Here are some of the potential outcomes amid the political chaos that will ensue if Parliament votes down the deal next month.

No-deal Brexit

This outcome, in which Britain would crash out of the EU on the appointed date of March 29 with no trade deal in place, is considered the doomsday scenario. Analysts warn it could expose the country to acute shortages of essential goods and catastrophic economic consequences.

Understandably, there’s widespread opposition to this outcome, and even if Parliament cannot agree on a course of action, it could likely reach agreement to at least block a no-deal Brexit.

Renegotiating with the EU, and asking for more time

MPs could ask the government to seek a renegotiation with the EU, although Parliament remains divided over what sort of Brexit — a harder or a softer option — is preferable. But it’s not clear that the EU, which has repeatedly said the deal is the best on offer, will be open to revisiting the issue.

A revote under pressure

The political uncertainty stemming from a rejection of May’s deal would likely trigger a strong reaction from global markets, and could lead to a fall in the pound. Those pressures could force MPs opposed to the deal to reconsider their position to avoid further political and economic pain, and eventually back for the deal in a revote.

Fresh elections

Labour wants a general election if May’s deal is voted down by Parliament, and has floated a vote of no-confidence if the deal is rejected. But it’s not clear if such a motion would succeed. While hardline pro-Brexit rebels in the Conservative party have recently attempted to topple May as prime minister, to replace her with one of their own, they’d be unlikely to back any action that could hand Labour the keys to power.

A second referendum

A number of key opposition figures have called for a second referendum, a proposal that appears to have some public support, given the complaints from some Leave voters that they were misled about the potential benefits of Brexit.

A second referendum could offer a way out of parliamentary deadlock on the Brexit deal, but it’s not clear what options would be presented to the public as an alternative to accepting May’s deal: a renegotiation attempt, cancelling Brexit, or a no-deal Brexit.

But even if the British public voted in a potential second referendum to scrap Brexit and stay in the EU, it’s not a given that the EU would allow it. Judges in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg are currently considering that question in a case brought by a group of Scottish politicians, arguing that the British Parliament should be able to revoke Article 50 — the clause under which Brexit was triggered — without the approval of the 27 other EU member states.

Cover image: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May tours the Royal Welsh Winter Fair at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, Wales, Britain November 27, 2018. (REUTERS/Rebecca Naden)

This article originally appeared on VICE News US.

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