Brexit Brinkmanship

brinkmanship : noun brink·​man·​ship \ ˈbriŋk-mən-ˌship

the art or practice of pushing a dangerous situation or confrontation to the limit of safety especially to force a desired outcome


On Monday, a series of Amendments related to Brexit were voted on by the British Parliament. With a “no-deal” Brexit, or “hard” Brexit, two months away from the scheduled date (March 29, 2019), there isn’t much time left for action.

At odds are two groups: a sizable contingent within the Parliament who desire a virtually complete break with the EU, despite the issues it might create with the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; and a large contingent which desires to abandon Brexit entirely.

Prime Minister Theresa May has attempted to force a center road, calling for a Brexit with some strong ties, particularly on trade rules, to the EU and some subordination to the EU laws in that regard.

Yesterday, the key amendment which passed was the Brady Amenment. That amendment allows Theresa May’s negotiated Brexit deal to pass the Parliament…. IF, as Business Insider reports, she goes back to Brussels and convinces the EU to accept a different, as yet unspecified arrangement on the Irish Backstop, the arrangement about Irish border customs laws.

This might seem like a small thing, but the majority of the negotiations May has held for the past two years have centered around the backstop. The remainder of the deal is little more than “We agree to keep negotiating.”

The EU representatives immediately made clear that they will not renegotiate.

Theresa May immediately hit a brick wall in Brussels after being backed by MPs to reopen the withdrawal agreement, as Donald Tusk, with the backing of Emmanuel Macron, said the EU would not renegotiate.


In all, little changed yesterday except for the political appearances. By passing the Brady Amendment, the pro-Brexit forces have, in their minds, given themselves some political cover if the catastrophic effects which have been predicted by anti-Brexit forces come to pass. “I voted to accept the deal, May simply needed to renegotiate….” This is akin to saying that someone attempted to perform life-saving surgery on someone, but only after that person had been legally dead for two minutes.

The brinkmanship continues. Anti-Brexit opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has been refusing to even speak with May, but has reversed his course after the events of yesterday’s votes. This is also likely to be simple efforts at political cover, to avoid being seen as the intransigent person whose stubbornness helped cause a no-deal Brexit.

Two months remain. The odds of “no deal” rise every day, and politicians are showing the warning signs of scurrying to avoid blame.

I have favored a “negotiated Brexit” for months. Here is why: it will cost Britain dearly to do so and will lead to massive internal turmoil… but so will any of the other available options. It would leave in place, however, enough concrete ties to the EU in their legal system to allow for a steady transition back to EU membership if the internal frictions pushed the populace firmly in that direction.

The pro-Brexit forces hate the idea for that exact reason. They want an intense break, so that in the aftermath any effort to reverse course will be seen as too difficult to enact. The anti-Brexit forces hate the idea because it delivers a political win to the Brexit group, which, having set the stage for a retreat in the deal, would stand a good chance of being expected to lead that retreat in a time of turmoil.

All of that is just the political maneuvering, independent of the ideological reasons to favor of disfavor Brexit. But the notion of a “training wheel” Brexit which could be abandoned holds the most appeal to me.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what I, or Theresa May, or her friend Angela Merkel thinks. What matters is what the Parliament thinks, and what the EU feels they can let the UK get away with. And that seems likely to be a “no deal” Brexit.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.