The UK government has requested an extension of the A.50 notification period until June 30th. This creates the awkward situation whereby the UK is still a member of the EU on the 23rd. May, when all members are legally obliged to hold European Parliament elections. It also created problems for EU leaders as the letter requesting the delay came too late for many EU leaders to consult with their parliaments – as they would normally do – before taking a position on it at the EU Council.
Donald Tusk, speaking on behalf of the European Council says “he believes a short extension to A.50 will be possible”, but only on condition of the House of Commons voting in favour of the draft Withdrawal Agreement. It is available to enable the required legislation to be passed, but not to engage in further procrastination or discussions on the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
Theresa May, for her part, has spoken directly to the UK People in a TV broadcast over the heads of MPs saying it is time for MPs to stop squabbling and engaging in arcane procedural wrangling. MPs have not responded well, branding her talk pointless, insulting, and arrogant. Dominic Grieve, a leading Conservative Remainer and former Attorney General says “he has never been more ashamed to be a member of the Conservative party” and that he will oppose the Prime Minister unless the Withdrawal Agreement is put the the people in a public vote.
A thousand days after the Brexit referendum, it looks as if everyone has lost patience and trust in Theresa May. Only an actual vote in favour of the deal in the House of Commons will suffice for the EU. Ironically for a process which was to enable the British people to “take back control”, the UK’s future is now largely in the hands of the European Council.
Theresa May’s maladroit handling of the crisis continues apace. She invited opposition leaders to Downing street for talks. Corbyn walked out when he realised former Labour MP Chuka Umunna was also an invitee. As Leader of the Opposition, he felt entitled to the one on one meeting he had asked for at Prime Minister’s questions. Clearly, Theresa May was not intent on having any serious negotiations with the only Leader who could have provided a majority for her deal.
Hectoring and disparaging her opponents has been Theresa May’s default setting, and both the EU Council and the House of Commons have had enough of it. Insulting the MPs she needs to support her deal seems a strange way of seeking their support. In reality it was a last throw of the dice. Theresa May is history, and she knows it.
The real question now is whether the EU would even agree to a delay to enable the election of a new Tory leader. Why facilitate the election of an extreme Brexiteer who would only ratchet up the rhetoric and tension still further? The EU has allowed itself to be the bogeyman and fall-guy in this process for long enough.
It is time for the UK to stew in its own juices.