Britain will now almost certainly vote in the European Parliament election in May. The pro-European British electorate will show up in force, while the pro-Brexit electorate will be more inclined to sulk. A recent poll suggests the opposition Labor Party leads the Conservatives comfortably, but that support will erode if Labor in its manifesto does not back a second vote on European Union membership.
It will be hard to see a pro-Europe vote in the European Parliament as anything other than a gauge of changed British sentiment and grounds for a second referendum.
Meanwhile, May will keep trying to find a workable deal. Negotiation with Labor is her latest gambit. Labor wants a customs union with Europe as part of a soft Brexit, an idea that’s anathema to hard-line Tories. It’s also a bad deal in that it leaves Britain signing on to all European Union trade deals while no longer having any say over them.
The talks will probably founder. The Tories may try to throw out May in favor of a hard-liner like Boris Johnson. They may force a general election. Either way, they are looking wounded and weakened.
Peter Oborne, the former chief political commentator at The Daily Telegraph, has also changed his mind. In a much-noted piece, he recently wrote, “It has become clear to me, though I’ve been a strong Tory Brexiteer, that Britain’s departure from the E.U. will be as great a disaster for our country as the over-mighty unions were in the 1960s and 1970s.”
After a devastating analysis of the crippling economic effects of Brexit, Oborne turned to the breakup of Britain. “I failed to understand,” he wrote, “how the E.U. is part of the glue which holds us together in the United Kingdom.”
Scotland wants to remain in the union. Northern Ireland does not want a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, a member of the European Union. An open intra-Irish border was a cornerstone of the 21-year-old Good Friday peace agreement. Put bluntly, absent the European Union’s benign offsetting influence, internal tensions in the disunited kingdom would soon reach a breaking point.
This, too, has become clear. That round and riveting black hole, a place where everything vanishes like a dream, would be a good final resting place for Brexit.
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