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    UK Shouldn’t Go Into No-Deal Scenario Without Another Referendum – Researcher

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    The Independent reported, citing a government source, that British Prime Minister Theresa May has decided not to proceed with the emergency meeting on Monday, following disagreements within her Cabinet.

    Meanwhile, former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has accused Theresa May of forcing through a deal to keep the country locked in the EU customs union in what he called a "total surrender."

    Sputnik discussed the issue with Dr Kevin McNicholl, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh.

    Sputnik: In your opinion, why did Theresa May decide not to proceed with the emergency meeting on Monday?

    Kevin McNicholl: I'm not sure. It's probably to do with the very great difficulty it is to get any sort of Cabinet agreement on a deal that would be acceptable to both the EU and Parliament. There're a number of different perspectives within her party, within the Parliament, within the UK and within Europe, so it's a very difficult tightrope and she has to walk with this.

    Sputnik: How strong are the disagreements within Mrs. May's Cabinet?

    Kevin McNicholl: It's quite interesting that the most vocal opposition would be between those ministers that have sympathy for the backbenchers who are absolutely insistent on no form of permanent customs alignment with the rest of the EU. This is one part of what would be required to maintain some sort of a frictionless border if, indeed, Northern Ireland was to remain in a similar arrangement.

    READ MORE: Dangerous Oscillation as Brexit Deal Gets Banged Up & Time's Running Out

    They are absolutely insistent that there's at least a time limit on this. But there's also a recent resignation of Jo Johnson, who was actually a pro-Remain member of the Cabinet; so, he was insistent that there should be some sort of the people's vote. Both pro-Brexit and pro-Remain camps within the party; there's these disagreements on maintaining a customs alignment for any length of time.

    Of course, there's also this deal with the DUP, the Democratic Unionists; they would not prefer to stay in some sort of a customs alignment, but their primary focus is on maintaining the same regulations as the rest of the UK so that there's no kind of a wet border in the Irish Sea.

    Sputnik: Former Brexit Minister Steve Baker stated the Brexiteer Tories would not support Theresa May's Brexit deal; why is that and how can this impact Mrs. May's position within her party?

    Kevin McNicholl: It makes things very difficult. They would be so averse to the idea of remaining in the customs alignment primarily because it means that, as before, while the UK was within the EU, they had to remain in these EU-wide regulations; but now this would mean continuing as part of those regulations, even when they have no say in them, when they're outside with the EU. And that's not even something that many people, pro-Remain people, would have been in support of.

    I'm not sure they will vote against it, because once it actually comes to the vote, in the end, Theresa May would be presenting this as a vote between a deal that makes everyone slightly unhappy or no deal at all, which could potentially be catastrophic. I just don't know if it's a bit of a bluff from a pro-Brexit camp, whether they are really willing to vote for a no-deal or not. I think that whenever it comes to it, Theresa May may be very tempted.

    READ MORE: UK PM Cancels Monday's Emergency Govt Meeting on Brexit Deal — Reports

    If I was her, and mercifully I'm not, I would try and propose a deal that would get some sort of a UK-wide customs alignment for at least the foreseeable future so that would maintain the DUP support, perhaps the SNP, perhaps a huge proportion of the Labour Party; and if she was able to maintain the support the majority of the Conservative Party, she could walk away claiming some kind of a victory.

    Sputnik: We've just got a report that the EU's chief Brexit negotiator warned ministers from the other 27 member states that no deal has been sealed on Britain's departure from the bloc; are we about to see a no-deal Brexit?

    Kevin McNicholl: I don't know. It is a possibility, but there's very little appetite for it. I'm not sure. You'd have to be very confident that a no-deal situation could be resolved in a particular way. So, it could be very chaotic and it could, at worst, create some sort of an economic downturn in the UK, at least, and perhaps even wider. I think that there's a lot of support to try and avoid that situation if at all possible.

    I can understand that the pro-Brexit backbenchers would try and ramp up the tension; but I'm not at all sure. Once it comes to the vote, I think that people will probably vote for a marginally unpalatable deal rather than one that does bring a no-deal situation.

    Sputnik: In your opinion, should issues of vital importance be decided in public referendums or should people with expertise, that is politicians, address these issues? I ask you because in 2016, the people have spoken; they said "we want to leave the bloc"; and now, according to recent surveys and polls, these people say "you know what, we've changed our mind; we want to remain."

    Kevin McNicholl: That's a great question, actually, because on one level the people have spoken; there was a lot of pro-Brexit sentiment for very many decades. It was something that had been increasing in popularity, especially with the rise of UKIP and the sort of a xenophobic anti-immigrant sentiment that had been on the rise for some time. It was hoped that this would at least release some pressure there, but, indeed, the entirety of the EU and the relationship between the UK and the EU is a very complex and a very technical one; it's not one that many people understand fully.

    READ MORE: Britain's Armed Forces Making Plans for 'No Deal' Brexit — Defence Official

    It's a difficult balancing act; to maintain any kind of democratic legitimacy you do have to have public acceptance for it, at least on some scale. Whether this goes to another vote or not, I think there's at least a good democratic key to say that we shouldn't go into a no-deal scenario without a referendum, because that would be something that would be of enormous importance. But, of course, whenever leaders have to go into a negotiation, they have to be given a certain amount of freedom as to what they negotiate on particular issues.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr Kevin McNicholl and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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