Brexit vote delayed in UK Parliament amid uncertainty of government’s future

UPDATE 2 — 12/17, 8:18 p.m. EST: Following Theresa May’s postponement of a Brexit vote in the House of Commons until mid-January, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a “no confidence vote” on Monday for the U.K.’s prime minister.

While the call for such a measure is surely an embarrassment for Ms. May, the vote would be non-binding and not trigger snap elections.

 

UPDATE — 4:03 p.m. EST: The BBC is reporting Theresa May has won a vote of confidence from Conservative Party MPs by a vote of 200–117, allowing her to remain as U.K. prime minister until the next election when she has vowed to resign.

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May recently called off a vote scheduled for Tuesday on her proposed Brexit deal, as it became clear that she did not command sufficient support from her own Conservative Party caucus. In the previous election, the governing Tories were reduced to a parliamentary minority, meaning they need the support of at least one opposition party to pass legislation within the U.K.’s multi-party House of Commons.

Hardline critics within her own party, primarily led by MP Jacob Rees-Mog, have slammed May’s tentative agreement as a “betrayal” which would keep the U.K. tied too closely to the European Union, particularly in terms of regulation and trade.

Exacerbating her situation, the right-wing Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland, with whom the Tories have temporarily partnered, have expressed serious concern the agreed upon “Northern Ireland Backstop” will threaten the province’s constitutional status within the U.K.

Long plagued by sectarian conflict and sharp divisions over its constitutional future, many in Northern Ireland fear Brexit may threaten the successful Good Friday peace agreement and lead to the re-imposition of a hard border with the neighboring Republic of Ireland.

The “back-stop” was conceived as a means to prevent this: If the British government cannot find a way to avoid a hard border between northern and southern Ireland, Northern Ireland would remain within the EU customs zone after the rest of Great Britain withdraws.

Mural Northern Ireland

One of Northern Ireland’s many murals from “The Troubles” of 1969-1998. The sectarian conflict ended with a compromise peace which many fear a Brexit deal will threaten.

Northern Ireland, like Scotland, voted against Brexit in 2016.

Compounding a complicated situation further, Scotland’s devolved government has protested that it is not being afforded the same option as Northern Ireland. According to a recent poll, a large majority of Scottish voters would prefer independence over a no-deal Brexit agreement. The prospect has also energized support for Irish unification.

The unpopularity of May’s Brexit deal among members of her own party became clear after 48 Tory MPs formally requested a “no confidence” vote on her leadership. This challenge forced the prime minister to quit last-minute negotiations with EU leaders in the hopes of renegotiating key provisions of the deal.

EU President Donald Tusk has stated that no renegotiation will be possible and other EU leaders have discussed the need to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The leadership vote is slated to begin at 1:00 p.m. EST and will be conducted by secret ballot.

If May lose’s the vote, the governing Tories would remain in power but under a caretaker prime minister until the next election could be called. However, as the vast majority of Tory MPs have openly expressed their support for May, including every cabinet minister, it appears likely that she will survive this vote.

Although it may not be the last challenge to her leadership as the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is openly mulling a no confidence vote against her government. This vote would be held among all MPs, and if adopted, would force a snap election.

At the moment, the future of Theresa May’s premiership, Brexit and the constitutional integrity of the U.K. itself would appear uncertain.

 

[BBC] [Reuters] [The Scotsman] [New York Times] [CBC] [The Guardian] [RT] [Photo courtesy Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images]