London, April 1 (IANS) British parliamentarians are set for another set of indicative votes on Monday designed to test the will of parliament on a way forward for Brexit. Last week, all eight such votes failed to achieve a majority complicating the already messy situation.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, also lost for the third time on the withdrawal deal she had negotiated with the European Union. This was in spite of her offer to resign if the MPs were to back her deal, realising that she had become deeply unpopular within her party and the country.
Nearly 30 ministers have quit so far from May’s government to vote against her deal.
May has lost control over her party and even her cabinet is not fully with her. But living with her reputation of an uncompromising stubborn leader, she is still considering bringing her deal back to parliament for the fourth time. But there’re no signs yet she will succeed.
To make matters worse, there’s also a ruling by the speaker that there has to be a substantive change in the deal before it could be brought back to parliament.
The party May’s government relies on for support, Northern Ireland’s DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), is still not prepared to back her deal.
Nor are dozens of MPs from her own Conservative Party who are unlikely to back any deal and would rather like Britain to leave the EU without an agreement. All opposition groups, including the main Labour Party, are also opposed to it.
If the impasse continues, Britain will crash out of the EU on April 12 without any deal creating chaos likely to seriously harm the country’s businesses and the economy.
The European Union has already called for a summit on April 10 to discuss any last minute proposals for an extension of the deadline if a deal is agreed by the British MPs. The EU is also opposed to a no-deal Brexit because it’ll also hurt their economies.
British political sources say MPs are likely to agree on a softer Brexit which will involve Britain remaining part of the EU Customs Union so that goods can pass through across the borders without checks. But hard-core Brexit supporters are strongly opposed to such an arrangement because that would not allow Britain to sign independent trade agreements with other countries. For them Brexit means a clear break up of ties with the EU.
The country’s deeply divided, the ruling Conservative is falling apart on this issue and even the opposition Labour Party is not on the same page over Brexit. The common man in Britain is fed up and wants the Brexit issue to be resolved soon so that other important issues are addressed.
Theresa May is reported to considering calling a snap general election if her deal is rejected by the MPs once again. But Britain has a fixed term parliament law and an election can only be called if it’s approved by a two-third majority.
Conservative Party MPs are furious and threatening to block a snap election in which many could lose their seats. Even more ministers are likely to resign over the issue. No wonder, the party wants to replace May as leader before any election.
A new opinion poll has put Labour ahead of the Conservatives instilling new fear among the ruling party MPs. May has already said she would leave before the next general election but that may not apply to a snap election. She wants to cling on to her post until the annual party leadership conference in October.
Some leadership hopefuls have already starting setting up their stalls by talking about their policies for the post-May Britain. Pro-Brexit MPs would like May to replace with one of their own with former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson being the favourite. But there’re some 40 Conservative MPs who are prepared to block the leadership of a no-deal Brexit candidate.
From India’s perspective as well, the Brexit issue needs to be resolved quickly as many Indian businesses are likely to be affected with the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. Some have not done any substantive planning for a no-deal Brexit.
If there’s a snap election in Britain, India will be closely watching the outcome. The current Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is not very popular with Indians. In a tweet condemning the Pulwama attack, he angered many by adding that “we stand with the people of Kashmir and in government we will work towards negotiations and a political resolution”.
From the Conservative side, some Indians may not be comfortable with a potential leadership candidate, the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, because of his Pakistani origin.
But the immediate question is, can British parliament pull together and agree on a Brexit deal? No one has an answer.
(Naresh Kaushik is a senior journalist based in London)