Sputnik has talked about Theresa May's alleged plans with Dr. Simon Usherwood, politics professor at the University of Surrey.
Sputnik: What is your take on this reported plan by Theresa May to rush her Brexit deal through parliament?
Dr. Simon Usherwood: I think the important starting point to remember is that Theresa May has committed to having parliamentary approval of the deal that she brings back. So she was always going to have to do this, and I think that the calculation that she's trying to make is where is the opposition going to come for that deal. So trying to keep the timeline short probably reduces the chances of alternative plans being put forward and potentially derailing the process.
Sputnik: Yes, but how difficult is it going to be for the lawmakers to meet the two week deadline?
Dr. Simon Usherwood: One of the wonders of the British parliamentary system is that there's an awful lot of flexibility. So we have seen in very extreme cases, for example, in counterterrorism legislation go through basically in 24 hours; from start to finish, through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. So if the government wants to move things quickly then it can. The danger here though is that it's previously made commitments to allow time for MPs and Lords to discuss the provisions of that agreement and that deal. And if that time isn't really stuck to then lawmakers might feel that they can't give their approval to it. So it's a bit of a risky strategy. It depends very much on whether party unity can be held, what the different parties choose to do, and I think that she wouldn't be doing it if she didn't feel she had a reason reasonable chance of success.
Sputnik: Let's talk a bit about Theresa May's position currently and how rebellious fellow party members are at the moment?
Dr. Simon Usherwood: Well as listeners know there's been a lot of debate here in the UK about Brexit not least within the Conservative Party and there's a lot of opposition to the Chequers proposals that Theresa May advanced and had approved by her cabinet back in the summer. However, it's really important to stress that the withdrawal agreement largely is not about Chequers. So it's about ending the UK's membership rather than what Chequers talks about which is what the new relationship would look like.
So potentially she has a way out of this particular impasse, and I think it's also really worth stressing that despite the unhappiness within the party they haven't yet taken the opportunity, and it doesn't look like they will take the opportunity, to remove Theresa May from office. They have enough numbers to certainly cause a leadership challenge if they wanted to, but not enough numbers to be sure of getting someone more suitable or amenable in her place. So I think a lot of the noises that we've heard in the past week, not least at the party conference from people like Boris Johnson are more about the post membership period that will start in March when I think she will find that things will change very quickly. But for the time being it's convenient for everyone to leave her in post, to let her make the difficult choices, the compromises and then once the UK is out that will be a different kettle of fish.
Sputnik: I wanted to ask you more about the issue of the North Irish border, how and when in your opinion could it be resolved?
Dr. Simon Usherwood: Well, this really does remain the key sticking point. The EU is very concerned about compromising the current relationship between Northen Ireland and the Republic which has been underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement that's been in place for the last two decades. And equally the UK is concerned about not having a different settlement for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, not least because potentially then Scotland might want the same kind of deal. So there's not really been a whole lot of movement on that issue and what we are hearing at the moment is that potentially there are some ways of dealing with the different checks and border controls that might be needed once the UK leaves.
But we still aren't very clear about what the long-term solution is. And I think at the moment what's likely to happen is that we will find that there is some kind of compromise language where the EU will get their backstop commitments to make sure that the current situation isn't undermined and the UK will get some language saying that everyone will work to finding another way of dealing with that. So I don't think we're going to get answers now, but clearly everyone knows that this is a problem that needs much more attention.
Sputnik: Now, let's get back to the party conference, how would you assess the results of Theresa May's performance and her party conference this week? And, of course, you mentioned Boris Johnson and other people have also been targeting Theresa May, what they say does it make any waves or is it just words that they put out there but they don't really affect anything?
Dr. Simon Usherwood: I think it does make a difference, clearly, there a lot of people who are sincerely unhappy with the Chequers deal, with the way Theresa May is going about things, but ultimately if we think about where we are this morning compared to where we where a week go before the party conference then we haven't really seen any substantial change. Theresa May is still committed to her plans. She has an opposition within her party which, as I've said, doesn't seem to want to move to replace or remove her, so I think it's really about laying down positions for later on, next spring.
I think that's when it's likely to happen, when we will see real change and real movement, but for the time being I think Theresa May will feel reasonably happy about how this week went; that she was able to show that she could withstand the pressure within her party, that her opponents weren't going to move in for the kill. And also yesterday her speech was at the upper end or what people expected, certainly compared to last year when she had a very poor speech in a number of different ways.
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