Parliament handed beleaguered British Prime Minister Theresa May another defeat as the members rejected her Brexit deal for a second time.

They shot it down 391-242, even though May sought out “last minute legal assurances on the backstop from Brussels.”

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29.

What Happened Today

Fuzzy blogged on Monday that May flew to Strasbourg to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in an attempt to save the Brexit deal. She announced after the meeting that she received the “legally binding changes” demanded by some members of parliament.

I guess that didn’t work. From Fox News:

Much of the opposition to the deal on the right comes from concern over the “backstop” — a safety net by which the U.K. temporarily remains in a customs union until a trade deal in secured, so as to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“Brexiteers” have pointed to the lack of a unilateral exit mechanism in the backstop as evidence that it could lead to Britain never leaving the bloc, or being forced to accept unfavorable trading terms. May returned late Monday from a last-gasp meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and announced that she had in fact secured “legally binding” changes to the agreement to prevent a permanent backstop.

But May’s brief hopes of it moving the needle were dealt a blow on Tuesday when Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told the House of Commons that while the new clauses “enhance” the agreement, it does not change the fundamental risk.

That fundamental risk? The Northern Ireland border.

Going Forward

Since parliament rejected this deal, May will hold a no-deal vote on Wednesday, which means the UK can leave the EU without a deal. Parliament will vote on Thursday to postpone the May 29 deadline, but in order for that to happen, the EU has to agree with it.

If the UK leaves without a deal, then Britain would revert “to World Trade Organization (WTO) terms with the E.U. Business groups.” Pro-Remain members of parliament believe this “will cause havoc” while the pro-Brexit members call their fears “overblown.”

From The Telegraph:

Experts believe that, if the UK plays its cards right politically, a managed no deal could emerge. EU officials have speculated about an extension of Article 50 for a few months, to create a “parachute” to put temporary measures in place.

Charles Grant, the director of the Centre for European Reform, is confident that if the crunch comes EU member states will strike bilateral side-deals with the UK to cushion the blow. “For now the Commission is taking a strong line, but EU member states will have to look after their own interests”, he predicts.

Mujtaba Rahman, the head of Europe practice at the Eurasia Group agrees. “The EU is tough but not stupid,” he says. “It will be keen to minimise disruption in the event the deal doesn’t fly.”

So for all the catastrophist predictions, the reality of a no deal is likely to be disruptive, but not world-ending. Or in the earthy phrasing of a senior diplomat from an EU trading power: “no deal won’t be an explosion, it will be a wet fart.”

As you can see, while some believe a no-deal Brexit could cause the end of the world, the EU and UK would be wise not to let that happen. I’m sure the EU will do what it can to make the UK’s life miserable after exiting, but to what cost? Is it willing to sacrifice its own citizens just to make the UK pay because they don’t want to belong to the bloc?

The UK has the world’s fifth-largest economy. The EU would be dumb to not place nice if the UK leaves the bloc without a deal.

 
 
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