Theresa May is set to remain as British PM after Wednesday’s no-confidence vote despite a resounding defeat in the Commons, but she has nothing to celebrate, as the country is stuck in limbo over Brexit options, analysts told RT.
May suffered a historic fiasco on Tuesday, having seen her Brexit deal crushed by 432 votes to 202 – the biggest defeat in the history of British governments. The plan’s astounding rejection by parliamentarians prompted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to table a motion of no confidence, to be debated on Wednesday evening.
The failure of the deal was expected, if not on that scale, and has triggered concerns and condolences in Europe. Top EU officials led by European Council President Donald Tusk have seized the opportunity to remind May that there is still an option to reverse the result of the 2016 vote.
May will survive no-confidence vote as there’s no viable alternative
May might be cornered by her own party, the opposition and the EU negotiators, but her chances of remaining at the UK’s steering wheel are still high, Alan Sked, emeritus professor of international history at the London School of Economics, told RT. Her Conservative minority government relies on the votes of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has already signaled its support, saying that it “will give the government the space to set out a plan to secure a better deal.”
Wyn Grant, professor of politics at the University of Warwick, agreed, saying May is “determined to stay in office,” as there are no alternative candidates among fellow Tories. And, on the off-chance that the motion of no confidence succeeds, a general election may not turn out in Corbyn’s favor, Sked believes, since the Labour leader’s approval rating is even poorer than May’s. An opinion poll in December found that some 28 percent approved of the way May is handling Brexit, while only 16 percent favored Corbyn’s approach.
Despite edging out her most likely challenger, May has nothing to be proud of, Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of conservative think tank “The Bow Group,” told RT. He said May has “smashed the Conservative Party in government into a brick wall time and time again, not seeming to understand the reality of the situation” with her decision to proceed with the deal despite all indications that it would falter in the Commons.
What’s next for Brexit?
There are several directions in which the Brexit saga can go now, ranging from a “no-deal Brexit” or “WTO-terms Brexit” to an extension of Article 50, not ruling out the chance of a second referendum. Harris-Quinney told RT he believes that the only scenario the government can opt for now is the divorce with no deal. He argued that “hard Brexit” is what many who voted leave had in mind in the first place.
“Most Brexit supporters think of it just as Brexit pure and simple.”
That scenario is not going to sit well with the EU, which seems to have underestimated “just how comfortable” the public and the large part of Conservatives are with the plan, he said. Professor Grant, on the other hand, believes that to extend the negotiation process is the only way forward considering that, at present, the British Parliament is in complete disarray over the issue.
“Confusion is reigning in the parliament and the problem is the House of Commons does know what it is against, but it does not know what it is for. There is no majority for any possible ways out, so that’s why I think, in fact, there is need for more time to explore what the options might be,” Grant said. The EU won’t like this option either, however, as it could see the UK holding elections for the European Parliament, scheduled for May, “which I don’t see the European Union wants,” Alan Sked noted.
MPs out of touch with the public
In addition to showing that divisions within UK politics run deeper than party lines, the vote has exposed how unrepresentative the UK Parliament is.
“About 400 constituencies voted leave, with about 200 voting remain. So the significant majority in terms of representing the views of constituents should be with Brexit,” Harris-Quinney said, noting that since the departure of David Cameron, the UK has “a remain-supporting prime minister” and some 70 percent of MPs in the remain camp. Grant argued that the issue with MPs “sets up very clear tensions” between them and the public, and the old-fashioned system of British representative democracy is unable to cope.
Political commentator and journalist John Wight told RT that Brexit has been dominated by party politics and parochial interests rather than a genuine desire to deliver on the people’s will. “The gap between politicians and the public has never been wider,” Wight said, adding that the real burning issues such as austerity and poverty are getting neglected for the benefit of Brexit.
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