The Malta Independent 22 August 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial: The runaway Brexit train

Monday, 4 February 2019, 10:17 Last update: about 8 months ago

One can just look at the news – Barclays Bank relocates to Ireland, Nissan decides to build its new car outside of the UK, there are plans to airlift the Queen to safety if the no deal Brexit leads to riots on the streets …

And to listen to what is being said in whispers at ground level – that supermarkets expect to have empty shelves after 29 March for at least a number of weeks after Brexit Day.

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The UK seems like it is on a runaway train that nobody can stop.

And meanwhile, politicians bicker and manouvre with leaks and speculations on petty issues like who will replace Theresa May, which proposal can get the approval of the House of Commons and whether a substitute for the Backstop can be found.

Never in the past decades has the UK been in such dire straits. People look ahead at the coming two months and cannot fathom what will happen. The sheer uncertainty is what has made serious companies like Barclays and Nissan think twice about remaining in the UK. It has made other companies, lesser known, relocate at least some of their assets, to the EU continent and made individuals who could do so move to France or other countries.

But not everyone can do so especially people with families depending on them.

Even at this late hour, there are still solutions that are possible. The problem is whether these solutions can guarantee passage by the deeply fractious House of Commons.

The EU is famous for its last minute fixes where salvation is grasped from the jaws of failure. Can the UK become so too?

Prime Minister Theresa May has been playing a dangerous game of chicken, building on fear of a no deal Brexit to get enough MPs to back her own deal with the EU. So far, this brinksmanship has backfired badly – the defeat the MPs from all parties delivered on her deal with the EU was a historic one. Any other premier would have resigned and gone into hiding after such a defeat. She struggled on, whether from pig-headedness or whatever one does not know. Seen from this viewpoint today, she risks going down in history books as a foolhardy politician – against Brexit at referendum time, she then undertook to manage “Brexit means Brexit” and kept pushing this line even when it became clear that her deal with the EU meant the capitulation of the UK, no less. Her own red lines and her non-communication with the Labour Opposition (itself to blame because of its political ambitions) led her to the deal that was thrown out by the vast majority of MPs.

No one wants a No Deal outcome and no one wants to be held to blame for what will come as a result, but the most probable outcome, at least seen today, is precisely that – a chaotic exit which will hurt people. It is a measure how things have really deteriorated that you will even find politicians ready to say a No Deal outcome will not be so bad.

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