The Malta Independent 18 February 2020, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Brexit - A day of high drama

Tuesday, 15 January 2019, 09:59 Last update: about 2 years ago
The crunch day, the day of reckoning, has arrived.

The House of Commons will today vote on Theresa May's Deal with the European Commission on Brexit.

There remain barely two and a half months to go before the 29th March, Brexit day.

With remarkable persistency, May has been stringing the Commons and the UK along, for months now. Today's vote was due to be held last December but then it was postponed. That decision was universally interpreted as saying that May was certain her Deal was not going to be supported by Parliament. Hence the postponement.

Since then, as also before that, May has been travelling to Europe seeking to get perhaps something from the EU officials which she could present as a change in the EU's stance. She got nothing substantial, as was to be expected. Nevertheless, she persisted until the very last minute.

She has also doing a fair share of scaremongering. First her government carried out at least one exercise which tried to show the queues that a no-deal outcome would create on the way to Dover and the continent.

Then a huge campaign was mounted to show the confusion, the disruption, that a no-deal would engender. May herself said that a no-deal scenario would be very dangerous for Britain.

The situation is now highly charged. According to last night's Evening Standard, an MP, Tulip Siddick, has postponed her caesarian operation so that she could attend Parliament and vote today, carried in a wheelchair by her husband.

The outcome, of course, depends on the results of the vote itself and nobody is betting on which way the House will turn. It may be that some Conservative MPs are persuaded to back her, but it may also be that some Labour MPs vote against the deal.

So far, and prior to the vote, only speculation can be made. The outcome depends on the vote after which things should be clearer.

The British public, patient beyond measure, has been watching closely. So far, the conflict has not spread to the streets, as it has, for other reasons, in France. But all bets are off after today.

It is not just in Britain that the outcome of today's vote will be followed. According to a newspaper report, a meeting called by the British High Commissioner in Malta last week for British citizens drew a packed audience (and also derision at a Maltese government official who tried to placate the anxiety by some pious hopes).

Beyond that, the anxiety is shared by so many Maltese who have relatives in the UK, by so many tourist businesses which deal with the UK, and by so many businesses with UK interests.

Lastly, the so-often trumpeted opportunity for Malta and its financial sector to benefit from Brexit has not materialized. British banks and financial services have been moving to Paris, Ireland, Frankfurt etc - but not to Malta. One does not have to wonder why this has not happened.

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