By Nwabueze Akabogu
The beleaguered British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered yet another humiliating defeat in Parliament (House of Commons) on Tuesday 12th March, 2019 after her “new Brexit deal” was rejected by MPS with a majority of 149 votes (242 in favour and 391 against).
Theresa May’s defeat came in quick succession after she had lost in her earlier attempt to obtain Parliamentary approval on the so called “original deal” on 20th January, 2019. By her latest defeat, the British Parliament had dealt yet another devastating blow to May’s leadership and her already battered image even as she had continued to bungle the Brexit deal which MPs had earlier insisted was a complete “Sell-out” to the European Union.
The last straw that finally broke the camel’s back was the legal opinion by the Chief Law Officer of the British government and Attorney General who repudiated the so-called last minute assurances obtained by May from the E.U leaders on the highly contentious issue of the Custom Union on the Irish border. The Attorney general had maintained that the assurances May had extracted from the E.U was not legally binding on the Brexit deal hence such assurances could not alter the contents of the already rejected deal.
It was indeed a master stroke which emboldened many hard line Brexiteers in May’s governing conservative party to massively vote against the so-called “revised deal”. The E.U’s so- called assurances to Theresa May was merely a window dressing or simply put a symbolic gesture carefully designed to appease the embattled Theresa May who had since lost her moral authority not only within her own government but also in her governing Conservative party . The probability of “No deal” Scenario which had long been predicted by Political watchers in the unfolding Brexit drama now seem inevitable.
In the past few weeks Parliament had been debating and voting on series of amendments on the Brexit deal including the possibility of a second referendum. Precisely on 13th March 2019, Parliament rejected the “No deal” motion, 321 votes against and 278 votes in favour of no deal Brexit.
In the same vein, Parliament equally rejected the motion for a second referendum, 334 votes against and 85 votes in favour. Another crucial vote was taken on 14th March 2019 on the vexed issue of “Delay Brexit” or extension which would allow the United Kingdom more time to put together an acceptable deal that could be passed in Parliament. In other words, should the E.U grant the United Kingdom an extension then the scheduled date for United Kingdom’s final departure from the E.U which is slated for 29th March, 2019 would no longer be feasible. Parliament had already voted in favour of delay Brexit or extension, 413 votes in favour and 202 against.
In the midst of the extremely messy political situation and uncertainty, the Hon. Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow few days ago released what could be described as a bombshell when he told Parliament that Prime Minister May could not re-present her Brexit deal in its present form which had been overwhelmingly rejected twice by Parliament without substantial changes or amendments. This latest development had further compounded the already complicated Brexit impasse. It had equally thrown up a constitutional crises which was unprecedented since a similar political scenario erupted in 1604 about three hundred years ago.
In the meantime however, Theresa May in her familiar diplomatic shuttle was due to visit the European leaders in Brussels on Thursday 21st March, 2019 with a view to convincing them to grant the United Kingdom an extension beyond 29th March 2019, which is the scheduled date for her departure from the E.U. The United Kingdom had requested for a new departure date and which is 30th June 2019. But whether the European leaders would be favourably disposed to grant an extension to the United Kingdom is entirely a different matter altogether even as the E.U had always insisted that the British Parliament had not yet come up with any viable alternative to the Brexit deal which Prime Minister May signed with the E.U leaders more than two years ago. For any Brexit extension to happen however, it will require the revocation of the “All important “Article 50 in the Union treaty which initially triggered off the Brexit process by Britain over a year ago.
According to press statement just released in Brussels, leaders of the twenty seven member states of the E.U after their crucial meeting on Thursday 21st of March granted Britain an extension up till 22nd April, 2019 to allow the British Parliament approve the Brexit deal or in the alternative bring up any other viable option that would be acceptable to the European Union. It seems time has already ran out for the British to engage in further political manoeuvring in the utterly disgusting and confusing Brexit imbroglio.
As the Brexit saga continues to rage however, another dangerous dimension to the endless crises seem to have reared its ugly head when Prime Minister May in a televised broadcast to the British people in the evening of 20th March 2019, launched what could be described as a veiled attack on the integrity of the MPs whom she accused of being the stumbling block to her Brexit deal without offering any meaningful proposal or alternative to the deal. She devoted much of her speech to what could be termed a blame game and had assured the British people that she was always with them and vowed to carry out the people’s sacred mandate which they unambiguously expressed in the referendum to leave the EU about three years ago. Swift reactions from some conservative party members in Parliament however, had greeted her speech who described her televised speech as simply outrageous and unfortunate.
Meanwhile Britain appears to be in a terrible political quagmire, disarray and had boxed herself into a tight corner, even as the British economy is currently under severe stress and in an unprecedented state of doldrums and uncertainty. The lingering political crises had adversely affected the British currency the Pound Sterling, which had been on the receiving end since the Bretix stalemate even as its volatility had impacted negatively on the lives of the British people generally.
Prime Minister May was recently quoted to have made an interesting remark in Parliament when she told MPs that what was certain in the current Brexit deadlock is uncertainty. According to British political watchers the current Brexit debacle could be attributed to the British political leaders or gladiators who had grossly underestimated the dire consequences the Brexit deal would cause the British economy and her people. The British political leaders across the political spectrum were simply myopic and could not see beyond their noses even as they were merely concerned with the primordial sentiment and extreme narrow interest of protecting the British sovereignty and blind nationalism which they argued were arbitrarily ceded to the European Union via the Union treaty of 1958.
The British had simply shot themselves on the foot and are now paying dearly for their Omission or Commission in the entire Brexit saga. The United Kingdom made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently facing unprecedented threat of disintegration occasioned by the Brexit uncertainty. The people of Scotland who overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union are already calling for yet another referendum for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. Similarly, the people of Northern Ireland who also voted to remain in the E.U are equally reaffirming their yearnings and aspirations to re-unite with their kit and kin in Irish Republic across the border who equally voted massively to remain in the E.U. Should the above scenario eventually play out, it would be only a matter of time when the people of Wales would also demand for their own independence and leaving England alone as a nation.
In conclusion, the British people and their leaders must quickly rise to the occasion and take their destiny into their own hands by urgently setting themselves free from their self inflicted Brexit entanglement which had proved to be an unmitigated disaster of monumental proportion in the overall interest of not only their present generation but generations yet unborn.
Nze Nwabueze Akabogu (JP) is a Regular Public Affairs, Commentator and Analyst.