As British Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Brussels for more negotiations on changes to the Irish Backstop that she hopes will allow Parliament to vote through her vision of Brexit next week, open party divisions have made that quest far harder to achieve.
May will arrive in Brussels today with three fewer Members of Parliament (MPs) than she had at the beginning of the day. That could be crucial as her majority in Parliament was only secured by the 10 votes from Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The resignation of Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen from the Conservative Party, in order to join the Independent Group of MPs established by seven Labour MPs on Monday, leaves the Parliamentary mathematics even more complex and a “no deal Brexit” more likely.
Members of the Independent Group now number 11 MPs with an eighth Labour MP, Joan Ryan, joining the cluster today, giving the group a superior number of votes to the DUP and putting it on a par with the Liberal Democratic Party.
Further complicating the issues for May is her decision to drop the so-called Malthouse compromise, which allowed May to win the last vote in Parliament as she agreed to seek changes to the Irish Backstop. This week’s events will make next week’s vote in Parliament uncertain. And that has left the European Union (EU) doubting May’s ability to command a majority in the House of Commons.
The Financial Times reported today that, “One senior EU diplomat said there had been an ‘evaporation of trust’ with London and warned that Mrs. May was ‘not even close’ to a realistic negotiating proposition.”
The BBC reported a European Commission spokesman said that the 27 remaining members of the EU will not reopen the withdrawal agreement and that the EU cannot accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause.
Given the increasing uncertainty it has made a palpable shift towards a no-deal Brexit that will disrupt the movement of freight into and out of the UK.
Pauline Bastidon, the head of European policy and Brexit at the Freight Transport Association said, “The UK politicians are on one planet and the EU are on another, I can’t see it ending any other way than a no-deal.”