As the UK faces a big freeze the Prime Minister’s position on Brexit has thawed slightly – although the reception from the EU remains decidedly frosty. On Tuesday MPs were asked to look again at Theresa May’s Brexit Deal which they so forcefully rejected earlier in the month – the biggest government defeat in history, remember that? Well, this time they were asked what they would like to see changed in order to finally move forward, and with less than 60 days to go until the UK is set to leave, moving forward seems like a jolly good idea. The day’s debate and voting resulted in two changes to the PM deal, firstly MPs voted for a non-binding amendment that rejected a no-deal Brexit (although the fact it is non-binding means the government could just ignore it if they wished). But the star of the show was something called the Brady Amendment which stated that MPs would pass the PM’s deal but only if she went back to the EU and negotiated changes to the backstop element of the agreement.
Illustration by Rhiannon Powell
‘What the bloody hell is a backstop!?’ I hear you cry. Well, the PM’s deal contains a transition period which effectively keeps the UK linked, but not a member, of the EU until the end of 2020. The idea, and I stress this is only an idea, is that during this time the UK and EU would singe several agreements setting out their relationship going forward – the custody case after the divorce if you will. The backstop is there to ensure that, in the (likely) case that these negotiations fell apart or did not finish before 2021, no hard border (i.e. customs checks and passport control) would pop up between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic of Ireland (EU). This would keep part of the UK within the EU customs zone whilst the mainland stood outside it, leading many critics of the backstop to suggest this could spell the break-up of the UK or may even become permanent scenario. May has been sent off back to Brussels with the vague job of negotiating that the backstop is replaced with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border.” So, all she must do is change this one little thing and then parliament will pass her deal and a no-deal Brexit will be avoided once and for all and we can all live happily ever after. The End.
However, the EU has repeatedly said no, nein, non and nie to the idea of reopening what they see as a done deal. In their eyes, the PM’s problem with getting it past the UK parliament is very much her problem, not theirs. So, the UK is left in check, advantage EU. May is running out of options and can now only pray the EU changes its collective mind and allows her another attempt at negotiation but even then, there is no guarantee that she will come back with something the UK parliament deems a suitable replacement for the backstop. We’re left waiting to see who blinks first as time runs out.
But fear not because a saviour has been sent from God, lo, he comes with clouds descending, it’s President Donald Trump, hallelujah! Yes, that’s right, this tiny-handed, spray-tanned messiah was sent to save America according to his press security Sarah Sanders. In an interview with the US Christian Broadcasting Network on Wednesday, Sanders stated that “I think that He wanted Donald Trump to become President.” Divine intervention is clearly what clinched it for Trump, must have been God who leaked Hillary Clinton’s emails then. There is as yet no word on whether God intends on supporting Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign – but watch this space any further divine political punditry.
As snow grips the wintry heights of West Hampstead, I’ll warm myself on the coverage of England cricket’s test match series against the West Indies in the sunny Caribbean. Although their total batting collapse in the first test was enough to make any fan shiver. Let’s hope for warmer weather, happier news, and higher batting averages next week eh?