Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Whither Brexit? Place Your Bets; It's Still Up in the Air

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Whither Brexit? Place Your Bets; It's Still Up in the Air

Article excerpt


To Brexit, or not to Brexit, that is the question (apologies to Shakespeare). The answer as to whether the United Kingdom will pull out of the European Union as a majority of voters favored in a 2016 referendum will be decided this month. Maybe.

Prime Minister Theresa May has told Parliament that debate on the deal this week will be followed by a vote next week. The vote had been set for Dec. 11, but Ms. May pulled it, fearing the measure would be soundly defeated. She since has been engaged in intense lobbying with parliamentarians who favor staying within the European Union. She has offered special posts to those who end their opposition. This tactic appears to have worked with several members of parliament who have flipped from "no" to "yes," prompting strong criticism from anti-Brexit members.

There is no guarantee Ms. May has the votes to proceed and some are speculating she may again call for a delay, further demonstrating a weakness in leadership that was revealed last month when she barely survived a no-confidence vote.

London Times columnist Matthew Parris is a leading anti-Brexit voice. In a Dec. 29 column, he claimed voters were "misled" in the run-up to the 2016 vote. He favors another vote, believing the outcome would be different.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary and a leading Brexit supporter, told the Sunday Times the chances of Britain leaving the EU are "50-50" if MPs reject the deal.

The issue is complicated because it involves money, power and the future of Northern Ireland. No one wants to see the restoration of a border between the North and the Republic of Ireland, which almost certainly would lead to the violence that mostly ended following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which was negotiated with the help of the Bill Clinton administration.

There is a "backstop" strategy in case next week's vote goes against Ms. May. It would effectively keep the entire U.K. in the EU customs union for a limited period until another vote could be taken, which, the government hopes, after more horse trading, would produce a positive outcome. …

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