BRUSSELS – While the carefully crafted divorce agreement between the European Union and the European Union is on the verge of a failure in the British Parliament this week, European leaders are bracing for more chaos around Brexit – and warn that they have little to offer at the price of London.
The historic 585-page deal, a bunch of legal jargon that pulls Britain out of the European Union after more than four decades of membership, has turned out to be politically poisonous in Westminster. Everyone from hardcore Brexiteers to pro-E.U. The British find things to dislike. But British Prime Minister Theresa May and US The leaders warn that the deal is the best on offer, given the red lines on both sides of the bargaining table.
Europeans were caught unawares by London's political chaos, with usually sober diplomats comparing the process to a car wreck in slow motion. They say that they can only offer cosmetic adjustments that could help May save face with his own conservative party. And they began to speed up their emergency plans in order to put in place safety nets that could avert the humanitarian and economic chaos that could arise if Britain left the European Union at the time. March 29 deadline, no other plan in place.
"It took a long time to understand that the situation was as bad as in the UK," said Lotta Nymann-Lindegren, former Finnish diplomat who focused on Brexit-related issues and is working now at the Miltton consulting firm. "It has been a real revelation that a problem like this can cause such internal political chaos."
Although May can still win a surprise victory, talks in London and Brussels revolve around the expected margin of his defeat on Tuesday. Dozens of conservative lawmakers have already announced plans to rebel against May.
"I think the government will lose this vote next week, I hope – I'm afraid to say it – that it loses the vote next week. And then, either this prime minister, or another prime minister, if he does not want to do it, must report it to EU and change it, "said Zac Goldsmith, a conservative lawmaker.
The agreement reflects a delicate balance on the island of Ireland, where Dublin has attempted to maintain an open border with Northern Ireland in order to avoid rekindling violent conflict that rages there. London, in turn, lobbied to avoid any border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. If the negotiators failed to reach a different deal during a 21-month transitional period, the UK would be locked into a customs union with the EU, subject to many US . regulations and unable to conclude most trade agreements with other countries.
The compromise is painful, but May and her allies say it is necessary.
"This deal is the best way out of the EUU. who is available or who will be available. The idea that it is possible to renegotiate at the 11th hour is simply an illusion, "said British Chancellor Phillip Hammond in Parliament this week.
If May loses, she could return to Brussels, heading in hand, and ask for further concessions, as early as next Thursday, at a previously scheduled summit. She hoped that any adjustment of the agreement, plus perhaps the panic of the markets, would be enough to persuade lawmakers to support it in a second vote.
If that fails, there could be a leadership contest, a general election, a new government, or even a second referendum. As May likes to point out to the hard Brexite specialists, there is also the possibility of not doing Brexit.
In Brussels, officials say they are ready to continue discussions on the agreement, as long as nothing changes in substance. They could propose non-binding statements to clarify that the balance of the US units Members do not want to lock up Britain in an economic marriage against his will. They could change the part of the Brexit agreement that enumerates the aspirations of their future partnership, which does not have the force of law. If the negotiations seem on track, they could delay the Brexit deadline from March to the end of June, when a new European Parliament, released from the UK, will sit.
"Usually, there are tricks," I can joke about it, "Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told the franchise last month about how the European Union is reaching consensus among its members. many members. "We promise to promise."
Supporters of a tough Brexit claim that they still have a weight in Brussels because the chaos of a British divorce without agreement would also have negative repercussions on the European economies.
Fervent Brexiteer and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned from the May government because of his dislike for his Brexit plan, continued to ask May to threaten the EU. that Britain would come out of the trading bloc without any agreement – to give the country more weight.
"But what I think people want to see, is a bit of spirit of this country, a little willingness to tackle these problems, and a little leadership," he said. Johnson told the ConservativeHome political website on Friday.
EU. Negotiators say that the British are very deceived and that their own business executives are actually fearing a Brexit without agreement less than concessions that could give British companies advantages in the vast EU market without the obligations of EU regulations and taxes.
Both parties are developing emergency plans on how to minimize chaos should the worst happen. On the side of diplomats involved in the talks, preparations have accelerated in recent weeks, as the depth of British chaos becomes clearer. And on Friday, the British government warned of a disruption of the border that could last up to six months if the UK collapsed out of the EU.
In a few days, the EU and Britain could impose measures to allow planes to continue flying, medicines and food to continue flowing into the UK, and to British citizens living in Europe from all over the world. stay there. But all plans will be temporary, analysts say, leaving deep uncertainty.
William Booth and Karla Adam in London and Quentin Ariès in Brussels contributed to this report.