Why can’t Leavers just accept that the country deserves another say?by Jonathan Lis / April 11, 2019 / Leave a comment
It must have been the culmination of Theresa May’s worst nightmares. First she pledged we would leave the EU on 29th March. Then she insisted we would not participate in the European elections. After that she guaranteed she would not accept any Brexit extension beyond 30th June. And finally she agreed to the fait accompli the 27 other European leaders had prepared for her while she waited in a different room, and postponed Brexit until 31st October.
The date was a compromise between the 26 heads of government who wanted to give the UK breathing space, and the president of France who wanted to breathe down its neck. In the end it scarcely mattered. The chosen day could have been 31st December, 31st March or 12th April 2029. May would have agreed because she had no leverage and no choice. The moment she did so, she terminated her premiership, her deal and, quite possibly, Brexit itself.
The Brexit process has hinged more than anything else on the matter—and power—of time. May has attempted to blackmail both sides of the debate with the threat of the clock. The Brexit hardliners had to back her deal because the alternative was a long Brexit delay. Labour and the Remainers had to back it because the alternative was a no-deal cliff-edge. And the European elections on 23rd May provided a useful cut-off point for the prime minister to secure her ultimatum.
Today that strategy lies in ruins. The Brexit hardliners have now seen the inevitability of a Brexit delay, and they are apoplectic. In their eyes they were betrayed first by May’s deal, then by the long extension, and the purest zealots have no intention of endorsing either, ever. Indeed, they are now even less likely to back the prime minister. Why would they succumb to a new humiliation of helping someone they consider to be the architect of their misfortune? Rather, it seems the ERG will spy an opportunity. A long extension gives them the chance to remove May and replace her with a true believer. Meanwhile the European elections can help them show up the government’s current strategy and spur their campaign for a no-deal outcome.
For their part, the DUP are as far away from…