This article first appeared in The Herald on 20/09/18
By Catherine Stihler
Labour MEP for Scotland
Theresa May’s high-risk strategy in her meeting with European leaders for the latest Brexit talks is destined to end in disaster.
Her uncompromising stance means the UK is wasting precious time in a political battle where we all lose if a withdrawal agreement is not approved.
The clock is ticking.
In the European Parliament, there is increasing frustration with the UK government among our European colleagues.
They didn’t want Brexit to happen, but now that the government is hellbent on proceeding with leaving the EU, they want the UK to get on with it.
Yet with the Chequers deal looking like a dead duck and the Prime Minister insisting it is her way or no way, uncertainty looms. Let’s be clear: the Chequers deal is the Government’s negotiating strategy with the EU and not the finalised withdrawal agreement.
While the UK Government spends time debating a deal which is dead, the EU negotiates on the issues where there is commonality, working away with its UK counterparts. Instead of the UK coming up with realistic and workable solutions to the Irish border question – addressing the EU’s genuine concerns – the UK is wasting time.
It’s vital to remember that such a withdrawal agreement has to be approved by 28 countries and the European Parliament, not just the UK Parliament. With European Parliament elections looming, and Europe’s political parties looking at the impact of Brexit on their own countries, the UK needs to tread very carefully.
With just six months to go until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU and with around 80 per cent of the withdrawal agreement between the EU/UK almost agreed, it is the 20 per cent of what is not agreed which remains stubbornly stuck – including the border question between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
While the EU side has been clear about its red-lines of preserving the integrity of the EU single market, the internal politics of the UK makes it look paralysed.
This paralysis could lead to catastrophe for the country if a withdrawal agreement is not finalised before March 29. A no-deal Brexit means crashing out of the EU with no plan for the shape of the future relationship with our most important trading partner.
This is a disaster for UK jobs, for livelihoods and for those who have to work to earn a living. The wealthy in the country will be able to weather the storm while the poorest will suffer most from the Brexit tsunami.
It’s little wonder that support for a People’s Vote on the final deal is growing day-by-day.
It’s not too late for Theresa May to stop this tsunami – but she appears determined to wade into dangerous waters.