Monday

16th Sep 2019

Opinion

Brexit and the Queen Sacrifice

  • 'At times, the sacrifice of an important piece, a knight, a rook or even a queen, opens up your game and paves the way to ultimate victory' (Photo: Downing Street)

I don't consider myself an accomplished chess player.

But I do know that, in a chess game, it is not uncommon that a sacrifice brings success.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • (Photo: wikipedia)

At times, the sacrifice of an important piece, a knight, a rook or even a queen, opens up your game and paves the way to ultimate victory.

The same can happen in politics in Slovakia, we faced a momentous decision in 2011.

One of the parties of the then government coalition refused to support the creation of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) – the euro-bailout fund, referred to in Slovakia as 'Euroval'.

Without the votes of its MPs, the EFSF ratification would be impossible.

Although the strongest opposition party did support the Euroval, it set its own conditions for supporting the ratification: the dissolution of the government and early election.

The creation of the EFSF was vital not only for rescuing Greece and safeguarding its euro area membership, but also for strengthening the euro area, which already included Slovakia.

As the final vote on the Euroval ratification was approaching, the then Slovak prime minister Iveta Radicova linked it with a vote of confidence in her government.

Her intention was to put pressure on the rebellious government party to support the Euroval, or else to let it be ratified with the help of the opposition, even if the price were to be the collapse of her government and early elections.

The government party opposing the Euroval voted against its ratification and the government did fall.

Early elections had to be called, but the Euroval was ratified by part of the government coalition together with the strongest opposition party.

The government fell, but Slovakia saved its face and – most importantly – the euro area obtained a critical tool for handling crisis situations.

Brexit parallels

Reverting to chess, I would say that Radicova's government made a queen sacrifice in that challenging game only to eventually win the game – to achieve the ratification of Euroval.

In many respects, Brexit makes me think of that experience of the Slovak government and of a difficult chess game.

Prime minister Theresa May, after having survived a no-confidence vote triggered by members of her own party, needs to make a strong, active move in order to win this incredibly demanding chess game.

In my view, a solution for her would be to take a similar approach to the one mentioned in the Slovak story: a 'pro-active resignation'.

It is true that May said she would not lead the conservative party to the next election.

But that's not enough. The next general election in the United Kingdom is scheduled for 2022, while the deadline for Brexit is the next 29 March.

The situation in the British parliament today is very similar to that in the Slovak parliament in October 2011: an important segment of the ruling party (or of the government coalition in the case of Slovakia) does not support the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

While there are many also on the Labour side who would ratify the agreement, the opposition is quite united in not conceding an easy victory to the Tories.

That is why I can see only one solution: a queen sacrifice. This means calling snap elections in parallel with submitting an orderly withdrawal agreement for ratification.

This would give Conservatives a strong incentive to rally their ranks and Labour the chance to achieve a government change and vote for the Brexit deal without losing face.

I believe - or at least hope - that both sides are well aware that no other Brexit deal preventing a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is possible.

A queen sacrifice thus offers a solution, at least assuming that the chess game being played in Westminster is about ratifying the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU.

Of course, things are different if the game is about securing the longest possible premiership for May. Prime minister May has demonstrated admirable negotiating skills as well as great resilience.

Now she has an opportunity to make a winning move that would enable Britain to save face, settle the country's relations with the EU, and secure May's own place in history.

But when was the last time Britain had a chess champion?

Mikulas Dzurinda is president of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies in Brussels, and former prime minister of Slovakia, 1998-2006

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas

EU leaders said they can do no more than reassure the UK they do not want to trap it over Ireland, but May might need more than that to get the Brexit deal through parliament.

EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

British PM asked for a legally binding guarantee on the backstop and for it to end no matter what in 2021, but did not reveal a strategy on how to sell the Brexit deal to her parliament.

Battered May seeks Brexit 'assurances' from EU

Having just survived a leadership challenge 24 hours ago in London, Theresa May is back in Brussels for the EU summit in a hope of getting 'guarantees' from the EU on the Irish backstop. But could they be enough?

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Luxembourg will be the first European country to legally regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis (the Netherlands has a policy of de facto regulation of sale and consumption only), with all the implications this holds.

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us