LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (PARLIAMENT TV) – With just 50 days to go until Britain is due to leave the European Union, the chances of British Prime Minister resurrecting a deal with the bloc hangs by a thread.
The United Kingdom is on course to leave the EU on March 29 without a deal unless Prime Minister Theresa May can convince the bloc to reopen the divorce agreement she reached in November and then sell it to sceptical British lawmakers.
Frustration runs deep among European leaders over the British parliament’s rejection of the divorce deal and May’s demands that the EU now give up on key principles or face disruption in just 50 days.
As companies and governments across Europe step up preparations for a disorderly no-deal exit, diplomats and officials said Britain now faces three main options: a no-deal exit, a last-minute deal or a delay to Brexit.
For May, failure to deliver a revised deal would shatter the fragile unity in her Conservative Party, leaving her already-diminished authority in tatters, and ramping up uncertainty in financial markets over the fate of the British economy, the world’s fifth largest.
The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU has strained ties between its constituent parts: England and Wales voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.
May has said she will seek an alternative arrangement which avoids the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland, or legally binding changes to the backstop to introduce a time limit or create an exit mechanism.
Brexit has snagged on the 310-mile (500-km) frontier because there is disagreement on how to monitor trade without physical checks on the border, which was marked by military checkpoints before the Good Friday peace agreement.
Under the divorce deal agreed in November, the ‘backstop’ would come into effect if the two sides failed to come up with a better idea to keep the border open.
EU officials are asking May to embrace a proposal by the opposition Labour Party to join a permanent customs union with the bloc.
Such a move could remove the need for the backstop and, some in the EU believe, may win approval in Britain’s parliament. But officials have low expectations ahead of the prime minister’s visit to Brussels on Thursday.