Theresa May doesn’t seem like much of a risk-taker. She‘s hardly the sort of flamboyant and charismatic populist who has the power to talk people into doing something monumentally stupid and genuinely dangerous.
But, belying her rather grey personality, the Prime Minister is once again loading a metaphorical revolver with a single bullet to play a game of Russian roulette with the economy of the UK, the jobs and livelihoods of millions of people.
On Friday, as things stand, Britain will leave the EU without a deal, a situation that has virtually united business leaders, unions, bankers and other assorted experts in expressions of horror. The effect on the economy of the UK’s overnight removal from the EU has been compared to the 2008 financial crash by the Bank of England, an assessment that bears repeating as Cabinet ministers like Andrea Leadsom claim it would be “not nearly as grim as many would advocate”. Note she doesn’t actually say it wouldn’t be grim, just not as grim as some suggest.
The last time the country was in this position, in the week before the original ‘Brexit Day’ on 29 March, a no-deal was only prevented at the 11th hour when UK law was hurriedly changed. The vast majority of UK and EU politicians do not want a no-deal Brexit to happen and May is planning to ask for another extension until 30 June at an emergency summit of EU leader tomorrow, just two days before the UK is due to leave.
The response is entirely dependant on the agreement of all the other 27 EU states; a single dissenter would prevent a further extension.
Perhaps lulled into complacency by the endless wrangling, our politicians seem far too confident that there will not be a last-minute hitch in the process of postponing Brexit yet again; the 11th-hour intervention seems scarily close to becoming accepted as the norm.
If the UK’s request for an extension is accepted, will the country find itself in the same situation again in the last week of June? At what point will the patience of a single EU member state run out?
There are clearly British politicians who want a no-deal Brexit and who are trying to make that happen. But there is no public mandate for such an outcome. Given the ‘will of the people’ in 2016 was only narrowly in favour of leaving the EU, it is delusional to suggest a majority would be in favour of doing so in such a willfully reckless way.