On 10 April 2019, the UK government was granted a further extension of the Brexit deadline to 31 October 2019. While this has apparently given the FTSE some immediate solace, the situation remains uncertain.
Although the Prime Minster has accepted the new deadline and preparations are now underway to contest the European elections, Theresa May is still insisting that Brexit should take place before the European elections on 23 May.
What are the options left?
The danger of a no deal Brexit is apparently subsiding. The Labour MP Yvette Cooper’s amendment had forced May’s hand in seeking the new extension and there remains no parliamentary arithmetic that would facilitate a no deal Brexit.
According to polling expert Professor John Curtice, of the 51.89% who voted in 2016 to leave the EU, the first preference of half of these is a no deal Brexit. Their second preference is a second referendum. Polling evidence suggests that if put to the vote, the Norway option will end up with similar results as Theresa May’s deal. Notwithstanding that a no deal Brexit has some credibility as the expressed will of a segment of the population, the current situation suggests that some form of a confirmatory vote is increasingly plausible.
What is most plausible given recent events is that an atmosphere of uncertainty will continue to prevail. The extension has merely moved the UK into another phase of uncertainty, given that there is scant detail of any agreement with the EU concerning trade, research, immigration, or any other matter that businesses and individuals require for planning and decision making. The forthcoming European elections and Theresa May’s precarious leadership are also factors for this uncertainty.
Negotiations will continue amidst the precariousness and the continuing risks of both economic harm and political turmoil. The issue of the Irish backstop references the fact that Brexit imperils the peace established by the Good Friday Agreement, signed exactly twenty years ago this week. That the EU has stood firm on the backstop is an encouraging sign.
As a no deal Brexit is no longer a real option, the realistic option is to agree a deal that is legally deliverable and that puts the interest of individuals and businesses before the politicians’ own agendas.
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