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Rocky road ahead for Prime Minister May

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Political analysts in the United Kingdom (UK) are forecasting that Prime Minister Theresa May will win today's no-confidence vote in the British Parliament. However, while that may very well be the case, it is clear that Mrs May and her Government will have to deal with the deep divisions in the country created by the 2016 Brexit referendum.

An indication of that chasm was evident yesterday as hundreds of anti-Brexit activists outside the British Parliament reportedly “roared with approval” after learning that the Government's Brexit plan was crushed by Members of Parliament. Similarly, we are told that a smaller contingent of pro-Brexit activists, who were also outside the Parliament, celebrated the vote, but for a different reason.

“I'm ecstatic. No deal is what I want to see now,” Agence France Presse reported London retiree Reg Kerr-Bell as saying.

The British Government will also be pressed by the European Union (EU), which is insisting that the March 29 date for Britain's divorce from the union must be observed.

In fact, yesterday, shortly after the vote at Westminster, EU leaders urged Britain to decide quickly how it will avoid a “no deal Brexit”.

“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up,” Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, was reported as saying.

He also said that Brussels would step up contingency planning as the vote had increased the risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the UK.

Mr Donald Tusk, the EU Council president, who represents the leaders of member states, also addressed the issue in a tweet. “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” he asked.

Mr Juncker, however, stressed that the EU would press on with plans to ratify the agreement they signed with Prime Minister May last November in the hope of avoiding a catastrophic break-up.

London and Brussels have insisted that the November agreement was the best compromise available. Indeed, Prime Minister May, who is proving that she is tough as nails, yesterday told the British Parliament that the deal remained the only option, even as she was reportedly “crushed” by the 230-vote rejection.

Of significant note though, is the fact that while Mrs May has pointed out that there is no “alternative deal” on offer from the EU, she has expressed a willingness to discuss with MPs ideas that are “genuinely negotiable” and which could be explored with the EU.

Whether she will be able to get that done is yet to be seen, because it seems clear that even if, as expected, she beats back today's no-confidence vote, Prime Minister May will need to regain the confidence of the British Parliament — a tough task, given the walloping she received in the House yesterday, and which has been described as the biggest parliamentary defeat for a Government in modern British political history.

Indeed, the road ahead for Mrs May is extremely rocky.