The Business Times

How EU leaders can prevent a no-deal Brexit

Published Mon, Feb 11, 2019 · 09:50 PM

HAS British Prime Minister Theresa May outmanoeuvred all her opponents? By defeating Parliament's effort to rule out a disorderly "no-deal" rupture between the European Union and its second-largest trading partner, Mrs May has redoubled pressure on EU leaders to accept her demands by the Brexit deadline of March 29.

Holding a gun to one's own head is rarely a successful negotiating strategy, as Greece discovered when it threatened to leave the euro. But a collapse of trade with Britain is a far more alarming prospect. Moreover, the main concessions that Mrs May is demanding are literally peripheral to every European country except Ireland. It therefore seems reasonable to expect that EU leaders will blink as the Brexit deadline approaches and give Mrs May what she wants: exemption from any guarantees to keep open the Irish border and maybe even a promise of completely frictionless trade with the EU.

Mrs May also appears to have outmanoeuvred her domestic opponents. By persuading dozens of Labour MPs not to oppose her in the crucial votes on Brexit, she managed to discredit the Labour Party in the eyes of an entire generation of pro-European young voters. And by persuading Tory Brexiteers that she would magically erase the most objectionable features of the EU withdrawal agreement, Mrs May has won herself the possibility of staying in power until the next general election and perhaps beyond.

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