Brexit: Squabbling among MPs is pushing UK towards no-deal – leader comment

MPs’ inability to agree any course of action on Brexit – in contrast to the united front presented by the 27 other European Union states – is pushing the UK towards a no-deal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street (Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street (Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in recent times, it’s that there is little unity about Brexit among MPs. When a series of ‘indicative votes’, designed to reveal the policy a majority could accept, were held during Theresa May’s ill-fated term of office, every single idea was rejected.

So it was perhaps naive to think there was much chance of a ‘Government of National Unity’ being formed, even if it had just two tasks – delay Brexit and call an election. After a meeting of opposition parties, sources claimed Jeremy Corbyn was willing to take part in such a government – but only if he was the leader.

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The Lib Dems, Independent group and others were reportedly willing to do the same – but only if Corbyn was not the leader. Nicola Sturgeon may have spoken for many hoping to avoid a no-deal Brexit when she suggested both sides “need to grow up”.

Boris Johnson will be pleased if the impasse remains and not just because it means he may avoid becoming the shortest-serving Prime Minister in British history. He has insisted keeping no-deal on the table will help persuade the EU to cut a deal, even suggesting politicians trying to prevent no-deal were engaged in a “terrible kind of collaboration” with the EU.

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But there was a plaintive note as he remarked that “we haven’t really heard” from the EU about his “very fair, generous and reasonable” proposed Brexit deal.

“It’s time for us to get together and really thrash this thing out,” Johnson added.

Harsh lesson for UK

Perhaps the Prime Minister isn’t quite as dismissive of the dangers of no-deal as he suggests but, whatever his view, it’s long past time to sort this out, given the current exit date. It is beyond ridiculous that Brexit is three weeks away and we do not know what’s going to happen.

Disunity among the Brexiteers saw some vote with Remainers against May’s deal. Now opposition disunity threatens to scupper efforts to stop a no-deal, an outcome that most MPs say they do not want and which, almost certainly, does not have the support of the country.

Hope of avoiding no-deal on 31 October appears to rest on the EU agreeing to fudge their own rules or the Benn Act’s attempt to force Johnson to ask for a delay.

In contrast to the chaos in the UK, the 27 nations of the EU have remained remarkably united and consistent. The UK may be about to learn a harsh lesson about an abject failure to work together in the national interest.