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Theresa May's Brexit is being ruined by British democracy

British Prime Minister Theresa May is juggling many problems right now. Defending her government's role in the threat...

Posted: Apr 19, 2018 2:11 PM
Updated: Apr 19, 2018 2:11 PM

British Prime Minister Theresa May is juggling many problems right now. Defending her government's role in the threatened deportation of some legal immigrants, which has overshadowed the Queen's final Commonwealth summit in London, and controversy over her decision to join in airstrikes in Syria without a vote in Parliament, to name but two. With so many political crises swirling around her government, it is easy to forget that there is one problem that will not be solved for many months, if not years: Brexit.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister was defeated in the House of Lords in a key vote on Britain's departure from the European Union. Peers rejected a proposal to withdraw Britain from a customs union with the European Union after Brexit without a proper debate in Parliament.

The Lords is often seen as an outdated body -- unelected and aging -- but it has the power to inflict damage and cripple government policy when it sees fit. What's more, the seniority of members voting against May was considerable: they included five former Cabinet ministers, several former junior ministers and every living former Cabinet secretary -- the most senior official in the British government. A second defeat for the government swiftly followed the first.

The vote on the customs union is crucial because it marks what many see as the dividing line between a hard and soft Brexit. May's plan is to withdraw the UK from both the EU single market and any customs union with the EU, and is one of her negotiating red lines. Yet opponents regard this "hard Brexit" plan as detrimental to the British economy, and want the UK to remain in some form of customs union with Brussels.

But the customs union vote was also only the beginning of what will likely be a war of attrition on all aspects of Brexit between the Lords, where May does not have an overall majority, and the Commons, where the government's majority only exists because of the smaller DUP party of Northern Ireland. In the next few months, both houses of Parliament are likely to take apart her plans for a hard Brexit.

Later this month, the Lords are likely to defeat the government on plans to fix the date and time of Brexit for 2300 GMT on March 29, 2019, and on issues related to the Irish border.

While May can expect to overturn some votes when the legislation returns to the Commons, this is not guaranteed: several of her own MPs plan to rebel against the government, while the DUP could decide to pull support for the Prime Minister if plans for the Irish border post-Brexit are not to their liking.

There is alarm in both legislative houses over plans to implement a "no deal" Brexit if the carefully negotiated agreement between Britain and the EU is rejected by the UK parliament. May claimed in a speech last year that "no deal is better than a bad deal," but opponents insist this would damage the economy, inviting costly tariffs for businesses trying to trade with the rest of the world.

The timing of the defeat was made all the more awkward because it coincided with the year anniversary of May's decision to call a snap election -- which led to her losing her overall majority.

It also came as May's predecessor, David Cameron, gave an interview to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in which he said he had no regrets over calling a referendum on EU membership, adding that he "wished my successor well." The Prime Minister is going to need more than well-wishing if she is to survive the next year in Downing Street without being forced from office over Brexit.

So what can she do? A final deal on Brexit between the UK government and Brussels is expected by October.

This deal will need the approval of the UK Parliament before it can be implemented. Yet the House of Lords has started to reject a hard Brexit, and it is likely that the House of Commons, when it gets its chance to vote, will too.

If she wants Britain to leave the EU by March 29, 2019 she needs to start negotiating with MPs and peers and make concessions on the most contentious points, including membership of a customs union, to soften Brexit.

This would not go against the wishes of the British people, who voted for Brexit on a referendum question that gave no details on customs union membership. Otherwise, successive parliamentary defeats will mean her biggest problem is being able to hold onto office.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295295

Reported Deaths: 6724
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19690230
Hinds18812389
Harrison16722280
Rankin12725265
Jackson12603228
Lee9691160
Madison9466203
Jones7978147
Forrest7217138
Lauderdale6836226
Lowndes6031140
Lamar588480
Lafayette5736113
Washington5218130
Bolivar4612123
Oktibbeha441493
Panola430894
Pearl River4174130
Warren4130115
Pontotoc409771
Marshall403392
Monroe3990126
Union395674
Neshoba3817169
Lincoln3544103
Hancock347975
Leflore3376118
Sunflower318986
Tate302974
Pike300796
Scott293970
Alcorn291862
Itawamba290075
Yazoo289963
Tippah278965
Coahoma278668
Copiah278158
Simpson275879
Prentiss269858
Wayne254241
Marion252778
Leake252671
Covington248980
Grenada247578
Adams234678
George231845
Newton229952
Winston221777
Jasper213445
Tishomingo212365
Attala206569
Chickasaw201152
Holmes182370
Clay179251
Stone172429
Tallahatchie170939
Clarke169371
Calhoun157928
Smith152832
Yalobusha144836
Greene127733
Walthall124240
Noxubee122831
Montgomery122639
Perry121734
Lawrence120421
Carroll118425
Amite111734
Webster110631
Jefferson Davis101931
Tunica99023
Claiborne98429
Benton93524
Humphreys92827
Kemper90223
Quitman77214
Franklin76119
Choctaw69617
Jefferson62727
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey48917
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 494421

Reported Deaths: 9991
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson711451374
Mobile36184735
Madison32457458
Tuscaloosa24213412
Montgomery22636517
Shelby22020214
Baldwin19790284
Lee14980154
Morgan13693251
Calhoun13307287
Etowah13192320
Marshall11269209
Houston10102261
Elmore9408185
Limestone9376134
Cullman8903181
St. Clair8839224
Lauderdale8601212
DeKalb8465175
Talladega7552164
Walker6538258
Jackson6503103
Autauga630391
Blount6106127
Colbert5993119
Coffee5254102
Dale4648107
Russell405233
Franklin399478
Covington3970106
Chilton3883100
Escambia378172
Tallapoosa3596143
Clarke343753
Chambers3421111
Dallas3412141
Pike293372
Lawrence283684
Marion283495
Winston247368
Bibb245460
Geneva240270
Marengo236557
Pickens224555
Barbour212451
Hale210668
Fayette200957
Butler197566
Henry182641
Cherokee177139
Monroe166339
Randolph163840
Washington156635
Crenshaw145254
Clay145054
Macon142343
Cleburne137841
Lamar133133
Lowndes131251
Wilcox122525
Bullock117136
Conecuh106724
Perry105827
Sumter98632
Coosa89224
Greene88232
Choctaw55123
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