Yesterday’s furious back-peddling by embattled Prime Minister Theresa May has ended with no solution to the Brexit impasse. In what initially looked like progress May announced that she would allow Parliament a vote to remove the ‘No Deal’ option from Britain’s negotiating strategy.

The deal that May has already introduced with the EU has been rejected by a historic margin and is expected to be similarly rejected when put to Parliament for the second time on March 12. The day after that expected rejection, Parliament will be asked whether they support a ‘No Deal’ exit from the EU.

As such an exit would involve the UK necessarily losing tariff-free access to the European market, and to all the extra-EU markets with which the EU has concluded trade deals, it is expected that it too will be rejected.

Given that Parliament will then have voted for a deal, but rejected May’s deal, on 14 March they will be given the option to extend the time period within which the UK will exit the EU. Such an extension is the only logical conclusion for a Parliament which has rejected the deal on offer but also voiced its desire to have a deal of some sort.

The EU Position

The EU has insisted that it cannot re-open negotiations on the Brexit deal itself as any such approach would involve input from its 26 remaining member states.

But they have always been amenable to providing written guarantees on the temporary nature of the Northern Irish backstop.

The backstop was initially offered to accommodate May’s stated desire to remove the UK from the EU customs union without creating a hard border in Ireland. As such, the EU see it as something which was created in response to the requirements of May herself, something which the Republic of Ireland still requires, and something which might be imposed by an international treaty and its associated memorandums, in the form of the Good Friday Agreement.

The EU has stated that they are willing to extend the time period for Britain’s departure, but only if a viable solution to the impasse, is in sight.

What Happens Next?

May’s Brexit party members, the self-styled European Research Group (ERG) reacted calmly to the news. They have re-stated their position that they will not accept any deal that contains the Irish back-stop and the Telegraph reports their warning that an extension might be an attempt to block Brexit altogether.

On Sky News, their Chairman, Jacob Rees Mogg, also referred to the so-called ‘Malthouse Compromise’ again. This initiative came in the wake of the ERG’s failure to advance their promised viable technological solutions to the Irish border problem and involves presenting the EU with two choices; that of a May like deal without the Irish backstop, or a managed ‘No Deal’ exit. The EU has already rejected any such ultimatum as being outside of the deal they already negotiated with the Prime Minister.

According to the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister reports that she is close to gaining concessions from Europe that will allow the ERG to support her deal thereby negating the need for an extension. With a deal that allows Britain to exit the Single Market and the Custom’s Union, take back control of its borders, its fisheries and its agricultural policy, already on the table, she is already very close to appeasing the ERG.

As the European Union continues to state that the Irish back-stop is a temporary measure until alternative methods of maintaining an open border on Ireland are found, and the ERG was once confident that such solutions were easily found in the form of technology, one hopes that Brexit will not be allowed to die, by the very people that promoted it most loudly.

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