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Prime Minister Theresa May might be the last person in Britain to think her Brexit deal isn’t dead. But, evidently, she thinks it might not be a bad idea for someone to call it an ambulance.
After a day of drama in Westminster and Brussels, May addressed the nation to say that despite writing to President of the European Council Donald Tusk to seek a Brexit delay, she was still determined to get her twice-defeated divorce deal approved by UK parliament.
There’s a lot more stick than carrot these days, and the fallout from that will worry members of her already divided Conservative Party. But the reality is that May is out of options.
And if she’s going to get this thing done, that means threats. And make no mistake, that’s exactly how this will be seen by politicians on both sides of the Brexit divide.
May was blunt. Asking Members of Parliament if they want to leave the EU with a responsible deal; do they want to crash out with a potentially catastrophic no deal, or do they want to stop Brexit altogether?
The message couldn’t have been clearer: the delay is your fault and you are letting down the nation.
Sometimes, after days of political drama, it’s worth reflecting on where we have ended up.
As we go into the final EU summit before the UK leaves the EU, we knew that the UK needed to extend Article 50. The question was, how long could EU leaders swallow having Brits sucking up oxygen in Brussels?
Here in Brussels, the picture is still pretty damn murky.
Ever since it became known last week that the UK would request an extension of the article 50 process, it’s been all eyes on Brussels. The key question: exactly how long would EU leaders allow Brexit to be delayed? The picture is murkier than ever.
Early on Wednesday morning, Downing Street sources surprised everyone by leaking to journalists that May would request a short extension. All week, for reasons that should in retrospect be examined by all involved, the expectation was that in the absence of the withdrawal agreement being given the nod in parliament, May would ask for a lengthy extension.
After a day of blind panic about how the EU would respond, Tusk made it clear that he could cope with a short extension – probably shorter than May requested for various reasons – if it meant the withdrawal agreement getting approved.
But he would say that: it’s the EU’s preferred option by a mile. Why? They don’t want the UK hanging around, the EU has a list of problems as long as your arm to be getting on with.
Indeed, some European diplomats cannot quite believe that the UK is still dragging its heels over this and are privately angry at how many concessions were given to a country soon to be outside the union.
So it’s Meaningful Vote three, it seems. May’s Brexit deal might not be dead. And, despite everything, it might not even be dying. But if it doesn’t stop taking body shot after body shot, it’s running out of time to recover in any meaningful way.