BREXIT – What happened in February?
By Andreas Bernstoff
February 1-13.: In the beginning of February, Prime Minister Theresa May made a few trips to Brussels to fulfill her assignment from British parliament to renegotiate the terms of their deal with the EU. While in Brussels, she insisted that negotiations be reopened, especially with reference to the highly criticized “Backstop” terms that were made in the previous negotiations. The EU was not willing to renegotiate the fundamental aspects of the deal. But, in an effort to make the deal more favorable with the British parliament, they offered to publish special amendments to clarify some of the more contentious terms of the deal.
Because of the hardened positions on both sides, there was no movement.
February 14.: There was a second vote in parliament regarding the deal. As expected, May lost the vote again because the deal had not been improved or even changed. Directly after the vote May declared that there will be a third vote at the end of the month.
February 15.-25.: There was a little bit of movement in the negotiation. May seemed to be accepting the idea that negotiations will not be reopened. Thus, the EU and GB worked on an amendment. It is a difficult issue especially regarding the time limitation of the Backstop, because no one wants to back down in this matter. But with an additional legally binding statement, all parties should be assured that the Backstop is just a safety net and a temporary solution to a potential problem. But still, the Brexit-supporters want the Backstop removed from the deal. Thus it’s unclear whether a commitment via an amendment would change anything in the British parliament’s vote.
Also the EU pointed out its willingness to extend the Brexit’s deadline. But May has declined this option at this point, although the parliament’s support for an extension has increased within the last few weeks. Some Secretaries and Members of the British Parliament voiced the idea of taking control of the negotiation if May didn’t make any progress by the end of February.
Finally, May changed the date of the third vote to March 12.
February 26.-28.: May offered in the British parliament a vote regarding an extension of the deadline. The parliament grants May time to negotiate with the EU about the deal until March 12. On this date, there will be a final vote about the deal, in which the parliament decides whether to ratify or reject the deal with the EU. If they reject the deal, it will decide whether there will be a Brexit without a deal or an extension of the deadline. Generally, the EU is open to granting GB up to two more years in the EU, but because of the election of the EU parliament this summer, GB prefers only up to three months, before the new EU parliament assembles in Brussels.
Additional Issues: New issues occurred in February. In the EU there are elections in the summer of 2019. If Great Britain asks the EU to extend the deadline of the Brexit deal for a few months, then Great Britain has to be a part of the vote. For everyone involved, this wouldn’t make any sense because of the planned Brexit. Thus, politicians are looking for another way to solve the problem. One option could be that GB sends unelected politicians for the limited period of time that GB is still in the EU. But this question is still unanswered.
Another issue that occurred is that there are only four trade contracts negotiated with other countries as of today. This would lead to major problems in trade if there ends up being a No-Deal-Brexit.
Also, preparations in case of a No-Deal-Brexit have developed. For example, the negotiators arranged that for the first months after the official Brexit, British Airlines flights between two EU countries will not be affected.
Posted: March 07,2019.