Radio Sputnik discussed the chances Theresa May stands in her attempt to prevent Tory rebels from voting down her proposals with Dr. Ben Williams, a tutor in politics and political theory at the University of Salford.
Sputnik: What chance does Theresa May stand in her attempt to prevent Tory rebels from voting down her proposals?
Ben Williams: I think this suggestion that might move things quicker is an attempt to try and call her opponents bluff, catch them a bit unawares, and get it to the Parliament before they can react. But there is a significant number of concerned MPs who are unhappy with the current proposal, the so-called Chequers agreement, and they will certainly be poised to vote against unless she makes some alterations to it.
Sputnik: Two years on issues pertaining to Brexit are far from being solved and we're looking at two weeks that are going to be pretty hectic — there's this two-week deadline; what are the chances of any breakthroughs happening within this timeline?
Ben Williams: The EU and the UK governments are both indicating that they want to strike a deal, but the problem is now that the time is appearing to run out. It's a very difficult question to say whether there will be a breakthrough. A number of summits are taking place. There's one in the middle of October where they'll be meeting to thrash out any last minute settlements. In some ways it a bit of a game of brinksmanship; they're both in a negotiating position where neither of them is willing to back down. As the days go on, the prospect of a no-deal does seem to become more possible.
Sputnik: How stable is Theresa May's position currently? Her premiership was put under question a number of times and, surprisingly, she is holding her ground despite all this backlash. What happens if she fails to get the lawmakers to ratify her deal? What would be the next step?
Ben Williams: She didn't initially want the deal to go to Parliament; there was a legal challenge and Parliament is now going to have a say in the final deal. What happens if the deal isn't approved by Parliament is a very good question. Some people have suggested that if she doesn't get the deal through Parliament, she would have to resign. That, obviously, would be a decision that would hardly materialize near that time. There are some people saying that her position would be so undermined and her authority would be so damaged that she would have to go. That isn't automatically going to happen.
The opposition Labour Party and actually some of their MPs are suggesting that if that did happen and there was no deal or Parliament rejected her deal, then there should be a 2nd referendum, a people's vote as they're calling it, to review the decision of June 2016. In an extreme case it has been suggested by some people within the Labour Party that actually a general election could take place. Whatever way you look at it, there would be a rather unstable situation if Parliament rejected the deal. You're looking at the resignation of the Prime Minister, a second referendum or a general election; and they are all quite big and significant events.
Sputnik: The Ministers have said that they are aiming for a breakthrough on the biggest sticking point — the future of the Irish border — already next week; could this actually happen?
Ben Williams: They've been negotiating this for some time. It's one of the most complex elements of Brexit which I'm not sure anyone at that time fully understood when it was debated. The issue is that Ireland as a geographical entity is split in two — the north of Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland is a separate nation. And, of course, if Britain leaves the EU, then the border of the EU falls at the border between North and Southern Ireland. That creates difficult problems for people who have businesses, who need to travel or have family or work commitments on either side of the border in terms of joining that border and the implication of that for the UK. That is a very difficult position because the British government doesn't seem to have a clear answer.
The solution that has been suggested by some, which is apparently part of the so-called Chequers deal, is that a new border would appear, and all checks on businesses and all checks on trade would effectively the Irish Sea, so the sea would be the border. But the problem with that is that it then classes Ireland as a single state; and that, of course, is not what the northern unionists want. They want to remain part of the UK and the Democratic Unionists are of course, the party that is apparently keeping Theresa May in power as a minority partner supporting her government.
So, if she pursues this option of having the Irish Sea as some kind of border for border checks on trade, she risks the rough of her allies supporting her in government in Northern Ireland, and it's an absolutely nightmare complex situation and I don't really envy the diplomats who were trying to sort that out. You will hope they can come to a solution but I think the explanation I've just given probably explains that it's really complicated and difficult to please everyone.
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