Millennium Post

May in Brexit quicksand?

As matters stand, Britain's Theresa May now seems to be in Brexit quicksand. Indeed, the UK's main opposition party will likely seek to topple Prime Minister Theresa May's government and force a general election if she loses a key Brexit vote early next week. If the government survives a vote of no confidence, Labour could begin campaigning for a second referendum on remaining in the European Union, the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer warned. Now back from G20 talks, May has just one week to convince dissenting members of Parliament to pass the bill, a feat the country's pro-Brexit Environment Secretary Michael Gove concedes will be "challenging." Under the agreement reached with Brussels, failure to reach an alternate deal defaults to a backstop in the form of a "single customs territory between the (European) Union and the United Kingdom." Such a situation would essentially leave the UK both in and out of the EU, in line with all EU regulations and rules but unable to influence them. As if the Northern Ireland issue was not bad enough for May's chances, the government was also forced to admit last week that the deal would be bad for the UK's economy. In the increasingly likely event therefore that May loses next week's vote, Labour will almost certainly seize on it as an opportunity to bring down her government, which is currently propped up by an unsteady alliance with the right-wing Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP),that is itself expected to vote against the deal. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the government, in theory, has a five-year term,but a vote of no confidence or a vote by two thirds of the Commons can still trigger a general election at any time, making it exceedingly difficult for the government of the day to stave off an election should lawmakers wish to go to the voters.

Such a situation, while it would ramp up pressure on May's government, would likely be preferable to the Prime Minister, who has previously attempted to paint Labour as untrustworthy on Brexit and allow her to shore up support among Euroskeptic voters across the political spectrum. While Labour has previously committed to following through on Brexit, support for a second referendum has been growing inside the party and last month shadow chancellor John McDonnell said it was "inevitable" that if a general election was not possible "then the other option which we've kept on the table is a people's vote." Environment secretary Gove said that a second referendum "would undermine our democracy," and predicted that if it were held, people would vote to leave "in even greater numbers."

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