Earlier in February, Theresa May promised that the government would make a statement to parliament on 26 February if no significant progress in talks is achieved and if the lawmakers refuse to approve the current deal by then.
Sputnik talked about a possible delay of Brexit with Adam Garrie, a geopolitical analyst and director at Eurasia Future, based in the UK.
Sputnik: In your view, how high are the chances that the UK’s withdrawal date will be postponed?
Adam Garrie: On the face of it, it seems highly likely, to borrow an infamous phrase, that May will in fact postpone; even before the recent reports from The Telegraph, there’ve been a lot of whispers and murmurs that the only way to get something done that would avoid the so-called no-deal Brexit, a Brexit on WTO terms, would be to delay the actual withdrawal, which is supposed to happen on 29 March and a deal is supposed to be in place by mid-March. That seems to be increasingly unlikely, because the clock is ticking, and it’s ticking increasingly fast. On the other hand though, there’s a counterintuitive explanation for what’s going on. Publically, May has always stated that the 29th will be the day and that she doesn’t want to delay and that she has no intention of doing anything but either exiting on that day with, ideally her plan and her view, or, if need be, a so-called no-deal Brexit. So, there is a possibility that she is allowing these reports to be leaked only for her to then appeal to the Brexiteers and say “Look at me, I am heroically sticking to my promise in spite of the fact that many people want me to delay — aren’t I a great Brexiteer after all”. Many hard-core Brexiteers are actually very sceptical, and always have been, of May’s premiership. So, those are the two explanations. On the face of it, it would seem like a delay is inevitable; but on the other hand, she might be allowing these stories to penetrate the general consciousness in order for her to then look heroic by opposing them.
Adam Garrie: If there is a delay, the singular aim of the delay would be to get some sort of deal between the UK and the EU and avoid the so-called WTO Brexit. So, if May does actually go for a delay and if those who have long been advocating for a delay, in one form or another, are to get their way, then absolutely it increases the chances of some sort of formal exit deal and likewise decreases the chances that the UK will so-called crash out.
Sputnik: How much support would Mrs. May receive from her party if she continues pushing her deal as it is?
Adam Garrie: That’s the proverbial 64-million-dollar question. Her party has two wings and they both dislike each other very much. There’s the right-wing, pro-Brexit side of the party that would view any delay as a betrayal, these are the kinds of people who in many ways are closer to the perspective of Nigel Farage than the perspective of anyone on the front benches of any party in the UK’s House of Commons at this time. However, there’s a left wing of her party which is either overtly pro-EU, or otherwise totally against a no-deal Brexit; three of these people have already left the Conservative Party to join a new, as of yet unformed, party, but a grouping which now exists. And one of its main goals is either to delay Brexit, water Brexit down, and some would say to stop Brexit altogether. So, May is not prone to gambling in her personal life, she is quite austere in that sense; but she’ll certainly be looking at the various political gambles that can be taken. She has to ask herself, and almost certainly is asking herself, whether there is a greater danger of splitting the party by alienating the pro-Brexit right, or whether the danger is greater if she were to say that “no, the 29 March we’re leaving with no deal if nothing can happen in the next couple of weeks”. And that could well lead to, some are saying upwards of 100 defections, from the left of her party to this new, as of yet undefined, group. So, it’s all about the party-political arithmetic for her, while at this point it seems more likely that the left of her party would be alienated by a WTO Brexit, she at the same time can’t discount that she could alienate quite a few of her right-wing MPs, and there are lots of them, who might well defect and go to Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party. So, it’s not easy days for Theresa May, I’d put it that way.
Adam Garrie: That is actually an accurate statement, because she’s not particularly allowing for other options. So, in that sense, even though Corbyn’s own Brexit camp’s proposing new ways of getting around the issue have not really gone anywhere, in terms of that specific statement, he is actually telling an objective truth.
Sputnik: What is the public opinion in Britain saying about the possibility of a Brexit delay and how much confidence is there in the government?
Adam Garrie: There’s a lack of confidence in the government all around; it’s an unpopular government; even with Theresa May’s DUP colleagues providing the confidence and supply that she requires, it’s still a minority government and the first numerical minority government that Britain has had since 1978, that’s a long time in parliamentary politics. So, confidence is low, but in terms of public opinion, I would say that it’s still roughly split along the exact same lines that it was in 2016. In other words, 52 percent of the country, maybe slightly less around 51, would feel a total sense of shock and betrayal if Brexit is delayed, because that would be seen as an attempt by those in power to either water Brexit down or give an opportunity for those who want no Brexit at all to actually get their way. On the other hand, close to 50 percent, probably just under 50 percent, of Britain as a whole would welcome the delay because of the same reasons; they view a watering down of Brexit or a possibility of no Brexit at all as a positive thing. So, UK-wide it really is 52 percent one way and 48 percent another way, and it’s also very regional. In Scotland it’s overwhelmingly pro-EU, pro-watered down Brexit as a second best, in the Midlands of England and in Northern England it’s the complete opposite – many of those voters think the harder the Brexit the better; Southern England is a bit more mixed, but London itself is incredibly pro-Brexit. So you see that it’s regionally controversial, but in terms of the country as a whole, there is still a slight quorum, a slight majority in favour of Brexit by any means.
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