Brexit’s fate: May’s deal, no-deal, or no exit? Options explained

Two years after the first Brexit referendum led to a tumultuous result, a recent survey indicated that fewer Britons want to leave the European Union and also want to make the final decision themselves.

The polling firm YouGov published the findings of the survey on Sunday, indicating that if a referendum was held in the current political climate, 46 per cent would vote to remain, 39 per cent would vote to leave, while the rest were undecided or refused to answer. The split was then rounded off to 54-46 in favour of remaining, which suggested a massive shift in public perception about withdrawing from the EU.

The 2016 referendum had voted 52 to 48 per cent in favour of leaving.

What’s happening with May’s deal?

This delivers a fresh blow to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s struggles to get the divorce deal passed in the Parliament, where opposition to the existing terms outnumbers the yes-vote.

Democratic Unionist Party which props up May’s majority government, issued a statement Sunday saying “the fundamental problems which make this a bad deal appear not to have changed” over the Christmas break.
Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said, “The backstop remains the poison which makes any vote for the Withdrawal Agreement so toxic,” referring to the backstop aimed at preventing a “hard” border between Ireland and Northern Ireland which the Tories want to avoid.

Ireland, which will remain a part of the EU after Brexit, agreed to a backstop or an insurance policy to avoid a return to controls on the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland in case of trade relations in the future.

Germany too opposed the hard border on Tuesday while the Irish government said it would not “stand in the way” if the UK asked to extend the Article 50 negotiation period, following reports that May is seeking new guarantees from the EU on the backstop.

British lawmakers are due to vote on May’s exit deal on January 15, a month after the PM the vote possibly anticipating its defeat on the floor. At the time, she had claimed to return to Brussels to renegotiate some of the terms, irking her lawmakers to subject her to a no-confidence vote which she won by a thin majority.

Why are hardliners and opposition against May’s Brexit?

Settling for the middle ground by going forward with the divorce while preserving the closest possible ties with EU, May’s compromise plan has upset Brexiteers, pro-Europeans, Scottish nationalists, and few of her own government officials.

The growing  and disgruntlement among many Brexit-supporters in Theresa May’s own party came from those who believe that she had given in to too many demands of the EU. Vowing that they would veto the deal on the floor of the cabinet and the parliament, some of them have raised their voice against May’s surrender to other European powers. 

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has vehemently opposed any deal that does not grant the same economic privileges Britain enjoys by virtue of the membership.

The Labour Party has been agitating for a general election if May can’t get her Brexit deal through Parliament. Barry Gardiner, trade spokesman for the Labour Party, said if Labour won an ensuing election, it would abandon May’s red lines and seek to negotiate a new deal with the EU on Brexit.

No-deal Brexit is the disaster everyone wants to avoid

With the deadline for the March 29-exit approaching nearer, Britons are not putting the possibility of a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all past them.

A no-deal Brexit is one where the UK leaves the EU but without any agreed arrangements covering things like how trade or travel will work in the future.

In view of old and new obstacles to May’s Brexit and with growing demands for a second vote, parliamentarians are also preparing for contingency in case May’s deal fails the floor vote again. MPs on both sides who do not want the UK to leave the EU without a deal are reportedly in cahoots to limit the government’s financial powers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper along with Conservative Nicky Morgan said that the Parliament must rule out a no-deal in case May’s agreement is voted down next week, and should MPs fail to devise a third course of action before the deadline.

Meanwhile, May answered a question on whether she would push the House of Commons to vote on her deal repeatedly, saying, “nobody has put forward an alternative” that delivers on the referendum result and on protecting jobs and the economy. Warning her Parliamentary colleagues opposed to her deal, she said in an interview to BBC on Sunday, “Don’t let the search for the perfect becoming the enemy of the good, because the danger there is we end up with no Brexit at all.”

A second referendum

The recent poll of more than 25,000 voters was commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, which has been pushing for a second referendum on Brexit in view of the extensive economic damage a no-deal Brexit could cause. Even business lobby groups have urged ministers to “stop the clock” on Brexit and consider the case for another referendum.

May has been against holding a second referendum, saying it would be divisive and disrespectful to those who voted to leave in 2016, with the assurance that her deal will protect the jobs that Britons depend on.

On Sunday she pointed to the approaching deadline saying it leaves very little time to hold a new referendum. Those opposing her deal because they either want a second referendum, or a different version of Brexit, “must realize the risks they are running with our democracy and the livelihoods of our constituents,” she said.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius

BrexitYouGov poll