The dream is gone: Only a soft deal or people’s vote can salvage Brexit now

Britain was supposed to leave the European Union (EU) on Friday, March 29. But with the government’s latest defeat in parliament, that moment passed. With that, PM Theresa May’s divorce deal is dead, and she herself may be done and dusted with pushing her version of Brexit across.

However, reports emerged late Saturday, March 30, that May is reportedly pondering a fourth vote, even after the third defeat prompted an extension of Brexit deadline to April 12 and sparked about a second referendum.

Maajid Nawaz: “If it’s democratic for Theresa May to put her meaningful vote before Parliament for the fourth time, why is it undemocratic for the people to have a second say over which deal they prefer?”@MaajidNawaz | #Brexit

— LBC (@LBC) March 30, 2019

After MPs tanked the same deal again by a margin of 58 votes, the task at hand for British lawmakers is to work on an acceptable Brexit policy to approve over the next two weeks, or be prepared to delay Brexit further, perhaps till the next year.

But the PM may be under growing pressure from within her Conservative Party to lead Britain out of the EU in the next few months, even if it means a no-deal Brexit, The Sun reported.

Following her hat-trick defeat, May had said, “This is not enough time to agree, legislate for, and ratify a deal, and yet the House has been clear it won’t permit leaving without a deal. And so, we will have to agree on an alternative way forward.”

Analysts, however, have ruled out complete cancellation as a viable culmination, whereas the European Commission said an economically damaging no-deal split is now “a likely scenario”.

Although most British MPs are against a no-deal Brexit, without another delay, Britain will leave the bloc at 11 pm GMT on April 12 as per EU directives, without a divorce agreement to smooth the way.

The EU is planning an emergency summit on April 10 to discuss the future course of Brexit negotiations. The pound, meanwhile, recorded its lowest performance against the dollar this week.

Also read: Another Brexit failure for May: What it means for India and the world

The only way forward is a people’s vote

After May’s warning that Britain may be edging closer to a general election if her deal fails to make it past the Commons, the political crisis that has overtaken in the wake of the Brexit spillage has deepened even further.

Despite offering to quit as PM in a bid to get the deal over the line, the move did not reap the wondrous returns May had expected, largely due to the stoic Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s government.

While MPs will resume attempts to build a consensus around an acceptable form of Brexit on Monday, a growing section of the population are seeking another go in deciding if they want Brexit. An online poll calling for article 50 to be revoked and the Brexit deadline to be gathered over 2 million votes last week.

May has resisted the idea of a snap election so far, but if all her efforts ultimately fail, she knows she might have to hand the problem to voters.

Meanwhile, right-wing UK “yellow vests” who voted Leave have successfully riled other pro-Brexiters into staging demonstrations around the country on March 29; the Scotland Yard is on high alert.

A few things to be hopeful about

To avert the situation of a third “meaningful vote”, Speaker John Bercow will most likely ask MPs not to vote on the same, or substantially same, Brexit deal. Narrowing down the options to arrive at an agreeable blueprint for Brexit is the respectable way forward for Britain right now.

According to BloombergQuint, lawmakers will try to work out a way forward without May next week and will have a chance to choose their own preferences in a series of votes on Plan B options.

The best course besides a second referendum, according to many political scientists, would be if supporters of a “softer Brexit” in parliament join forces and combine elements of separate proposals to broker a compromise.

Most MPs want to exit the EU with a deal and already share a general consensus about instituting a permanent customs union with the EU (needing only six more votes to pass the floor).

Another referendum to approve the final deal may also be on the table (295 MPs are currently against the idea, while 268 are in favour). Whether they will be able to overcome the rest of their differences and, in turn, the deadlock remains to be seen. But May’s team has offered enough reason to believe that the result of these indicative votes will be taken into account.

Halting all attempts to insert legally-binding changes to the Irish backstop will be futile and must stop; that is an obvious but unsaid imperative.

In this last hour, and barring the second referendum that stands to divide the country further, democracy in on trial in Britain.

Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius

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