This article appeared in the January 30, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Playing chicken with Brussels on Brexit: How will May fare?

Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AP
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Prime Minister Theresa May, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox following the results of voting on amendments put forward by Members of Parliament over the government's Brexit deal in the House of Commons in London Jan. 29. On Tuesday Ms. May won a few weeks to salvage a Brexit deal but headed toward a clash with the European Union by promising to overhaul the agreement.

There are now fewer than 60 days until Britain is slated to leave the European Union. But while Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday united her fractious Conservative Party behind one more attempt at negotiations with the EU, a resolution to Brexit looks no closer to reality.

Ms. May on Tuesday promised to reopen the withdrawal agreement with the EU in order to find “alternative arrangements” to the “Irish backstop” – a fallback solution for keeping the UK-Irish border open if negotiations drag out. The backstop has been bitterly opposed by the most pro-Brexit Tories, so May’s promise helped bring them into line with her Brexit proposal.

But that proposal shows little likelihood of success. Top EU officials like French President Emmanuel Macron say the withdrawal agreement – which May herself negotiated and had promised was final – is not going to be reopened. And others said Britain wasn’t being clear about its concrete goal. The British government “must now say quickly what it wants, because time is running out,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Though some Brexiters view the EU’s position as a bluff, Europe has shown no indication of giving ground. That leaves May’s prospects in Brussels looking grim. For while she may have kept her party from fracturing over Brexit, the possibility of a no-deal Brexit – something May says “would be a calamity” – seems no less likely.

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This article appeared in the January 30, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/30 edition