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Brexit: Uncertainty, bitterness, rancor

Theresa May may yet suffer further defeats thanks to the shredding power of Brexit

Anti-Brexit demonstrators in London on Tuesday.
Anti-Brexit demonstrators in London on Tuesday.HENRY NICHOLLS / REUTERS

It might have seemed like the ultimate defeat, given the enormous scale of the parliamentary disaster endured by Theresa May – the worst in the last 100 years. But this is not so. More defeats could still be on their way. The efficiency of the Brexit shredding machine did not end on Tuesday evening, when parliament punished the prime minister with a severe and unprecedented rejection of her plans by nearly two thirds of the chamber.

Unfortunately for the British people, and perhaps also for Europeans, Tuesday was a historic day that does not preclude more historic days to come, each one of them overshadowed by the tragic clouds that typically accompany historical moments. The shredder will continue to do its work, fed by uncertainty, bitterness and rancor, the three dark feelings that May evoked in her speech following the defeat, like three evil spirits that grow with every passing day that the Brexit issue fails to be resolved.

This is the second time that the United Kingdom has rejected a deal with the European Union proposed by its government. The first time, at the referendum of June 23, 2016, voters rejected, by a margin of nearly four points, a deal renegotiated by David Cameron that would have granted the UK an even more special status than that which it already enjoyed. As a result, the prime minister immediately resigned. This time, the rejection has come from parliament, and even though the scale of it was much greater, it has not led to Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation, only to a no-confidence motion by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

May figures that she can still obtain from Brussels what Brussels cannot and will not give

It is self-evident what the future should be for a prime minister who has negotiated an agreement that is voted down, and even more so if the MPs who have rejected it also want the terms to be renegotiated in Brussels, regardless of the fact that the EU of the 27 has ruled out this option. Yet May will only go if she is kicked out, and only her own party can do that. The confidence vote on Wednesday is expected to produce a defeat for Corbyn, which will not be his last, either. After that there will be consultations among the conservatives before handing the issue back to Brussels, where May will stir fears of a wild Brexit on May 29, just as she did unsuccessfully among MPs to secure parliament’s approval.

Tuesday was a historic day that does not preclude more historic days to come

May figures that she can still obtain from Brussels what Brussels cannot and will not give: an improved agreement that Westminster can greenlight, which is something that only a new prime minister with sufficient parliamentary support could demand. And this means calling a general election at a time when there is barely any time left. All of which means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancor. After leaving behind the solid land of the only deal that seemed possible, we now set sail at full speed into uncharted waters, where more fear will be used to combat fear.

English version by Susana Urra.

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