Sunday

20th Aug 2017

Opinion

Britain preparing to jump off a cliff

  • If there is no deal, Britain will simply tumble out of the EU in March 2019. (Photo: Duncan Hull)

Theresa May's plan seemed so simple: we're way ahead in the polls, so let's call an election, grab a great majority and start building a strong and stable Britain.

Instead, she found out that the British people are tired of empty slogans and that they don't believe she is the right person to lead the UK through the complex Brexit negotiations.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Theresa May remains the British prime minister so far, and is willing to do anything it might take to get life support from the Northern Irish extremists, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Nobody else is willing to touch the Conservatives, and thus May could soon be pushed out of 10 Downing Street.

So far, her survival strategy was to ritually sacrifice her closest advisers – but it is not only foreign secretary Boris Johnson (despite the loud public denials) that is sharpening his knives.

If May had learned her lesson from former UK prime minister David Cameron's EU referendum disaster and did not call the unnecessary election, London would be fully focused on finalising the preparations for Brexit negotiations right now.

Europe's strong hand

Europe is heading into the talks next week with a clear, detailed and published mandate, unanimously approved by all 27 member states.

However, on the British side of the table, there will be representatives of a very weak government with an unknown mandate, since the unrealistic phrases from the Tory election manifesto are exactly that – unrealistic.

Moreover, the European negotiators will have to keep asking: will our British partners even be at the table a few months down the road? Or will we have to go through every single issue again if there is another snap election and a new British government?

Maybe Theresa May will strike the deal with the Northern Irish Unionists and survive, maybe it will be somebody else who will close the deal and replace the prime minister.

But whatever survival agreement the Tories get, it will be very fragile and we may see another election in the fall.

If the Brexit clock were not ticking, we could simply watch the unfolding situation as an interesting case study on how a formerly successful political party totally lost its feel for reality and made two very bad decisions within two years, under two leaders – the unnecessary referendum on EU membership and the unnecessary early election.

Weakening position

However, May started the two-year Brexit countdown at the end of March and so far achieved only two things – wasting three out of about 18 months we have to close the deal before it heads to national parliaments for approval, and significantly weakening the British position.

May wanted the snap election to strengthen the Conservative majority, since her original majority of 17 votes was not enough to get many key things through the parliament.

And Europe hoped a stronger majority would liberate May from the choke-hold of the Tory Brextremist MPs, and enable her to agree to a deal that makes sense for both sides.

Instead, we will negotiate with a weak government that must rely on extreme partners and where basically every government MP holds a veto, thus reducing the trustworthiness of the British negotiators to almost zero.

Whatever the British negotiators claim, there is simply no guarantee that any agreement will be passed by the current UK parliament.

Unless there is a new election this fall that brings about a government with a reasonable majority, the risk of "no deal" scenario will increase immensely.

And, if there is no deal, Britain will simply tumble out of the EU in March 2019.

We will spend years fighting lawsuits about payments and liabilities, the Europeans will lose their rights in the UK, and British firms will smash their heads against the wall that will suddenly appear between the EU and the UK, as there will be no free trade deal in place.

If this worst-of-all scenarios does materialise, the UK will pay a terrible price for the foolishness of David Cameron and Theresa May. And it will all be for nothing.

Tomas Prouza is the former Czech state secretary for European Affairs

EU tells UK its door still 'open'

France and Germany have said the UK could still stay in the EU, as Britain confirmed that Brexit talks would start on Monday.

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides