Brexit ‘groundhog day’ continues as May is dispatched again to EU for...

Brexit ‘groundhog day’ continues as May is dispatched again to EU for concessions

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Prime Minister Theresa May attends a session of the House of Commons on January 29, 2019. Courtesy: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
Prime Minister Theresa May attends a session of the House of Commons on Tuesday. (Courtesy: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)

Despite EU leaders' insistence that a draft Brexit deal can't be revised, British lawmakers want Theresa May to make another push for changes.

UNITED NATIONS – The British Parliament handed Prime Minister Theresa May seemingly contradictory instructions on how to execute a successful Brexit this week, as lawmakers approved amendments condemning the prospect of a “no-deal” exit from the E.U. while sending her back to Brussels to tweak an agreement E.U. officials insist can’t be changed.

E.U. leaders are hardly holding their breath that a new round of talks with May will be any different than those that came before.

“From their vantage point it looks like Groundhog Day.”

Bart Oosterveld directs the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program.

“There’s a fear in Brussels that reopening parts of the agreement is opening a Pandora’s box. There’s a lot of topics that weren’t resolved to everyone’s full satisfaction in the draft agreement, and there’s a strong reluctance, outright unwillingness actually, to reopen all or parts of it.”

Still hoping the E.U. will cave and start offering concessions, the Commons backed an amendment from conservative Graham Brady ordering May to seek “alternate arrangements” from the E.U. to sweeten up her Brexit deal, though it’s hardly clear what those would be.

All the while, Britain is speeding toward a March 29 Brexit deadline, and if May can’t win support for a withdrawal deal by then, the U.K. will crash out of the E.U. with no arrangements in place.

Lawmakers were concerned enough about that prospect to back an amendment condemning a no-deal Brexit, but they stopped short of formally mandating a Brexit delay if a “no-deal” scenario looks likely.

But as the Brexit clock runs down, former British Ambassador to the U.S. Sir Peter Westmacott says parliament can still take the keys away from the prime minister if she keeps getting rebuffed by the E.U.

“One of the key reasons why this Brady amendment went through was that members of parliament were told that on the 14th of February – a lovely Valentine’s Day present –they’re going to get another chance to vote on the question of possibly outlawing no-deal Brexit.”

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