No easy way out of Brexit quagmire

Editorial | Mary Ma 11 Jan 2019

The idea of a second Brexit referendum appeared to have aroused great interest lately as bickering over British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal intensified at Westminster.

However, pundits are going by their gut feelings in betting there won't be a second referendum, as wished for by some remainers. Oddschecker, for instance, is offering odds less favorable to the occurrence of an encore popular vote.

Unfortunately, a Brexit deal or no deal is more than a game. Though the politicians hammering one another in parliament are all pundits, they're gambling with the British public's future rather than their own wealth.

May has already suffered two successive defeats in parliament ahead of Tuesday's crunch vote on the deal as a result of Tory rebels joining forces with the Labour opposition. Intriguingly, the Tory dissidents included not only hard Brexiters but also some remainers.

While it's clear hard Brexiters disliked the "backstop" arrangement over the Irish border that May has reached with Brussels - and would rather leave without a deal - those defiant remainers may be hoping overturning the deal would force her to call a fresh Brexit vote that, sadly, would be wishful thinking.

The odds are on the rise in favor of a no-deal Brexit. As members of parliament wrap up debates and cast their ballots on Tuesday, it's more likely than not the deal that has taken some two years to reach will be torn to pieces.

What would all this mean for Britons?

Any suggestion that life would be normal would be fake. Jobs at the Canary Wharf financial center would be threatened, as financial institutions would lose their so-called passport right to clear transactions on behalf of the European continent.

Prospects for fresh graduates to find well-paying employment would diminish. Imports from the European Union would be severely delayed, as both sides will find it hard to adapt to customs clearances after having gotten used to the free flows of goods for decades.

Also, supermarket shelves could be short of popular, affordable items as the British pound becomes extremely volatile.

That's a situation having everything to do with uncertainty.

Brexit hardliners would argue there's never a lack of alternative plans, such as a free-trade deal following the Canadian model, or an arrangement after the Norway example. But are these realistic options? If they were, wouldn't they have been reached already?

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is aiming to be the new master at No 10 Downing Street, challenging May to call a general election if her proposed agreement is defeated next week, and boasting that a Labor government would strike a new deal that the Tory couldn't.

I fail to understand why he's so confident he would win more concessions from the EU.

It's true there isn't a lack of alternatives ahead - for example, leaving without a deal, a referendum on May's deal versus staying in the EU, or even a new election. The problem is none of these enjoy the majority support of MPs or the British public.

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