Cal Thomas: The Brexit battle

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, January 3rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Next up, Cal Thomas weighs the chances of Britain making a clean Brexit.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: To Brexit, or not to Brexit, that is the question. We’ll know the answer later this month. Maybe.

A majority of British voters opted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum that threw the country into political turmoil. The conflict between pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit politicians has only deepened since then.

Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated a Brexit deal with the EU. But almost no one likes it. Parliamentary debate on the deal will resume January 7th. May has scheduled a vote for the following week. It was originally set for December 11th, but May canceled it over fears the measure would suffer a sound defeat. She has worked since then to woo lawmakers who favor staying within the European Union. Her enticement? Special posts for those who end their opposition. That tactic appears to have worked. Several members of parliament have flipped from “no” to “yes,” prompting strong criticism from anti-Brexit members.

Still, there’s no guarantee May has the votes to proceed. Some pundits speculate she might again call for a delay. Where would that leave Britain?

International trade secretary Liam Fox, a leading Brexit supporter, told The Sunday Times the chances of Britain leaving the EU are “50-50,” if MPs reject the deal.

There is a “backstop” strategy in case next week’s vote goes against May. It would effectively keep the entire UK in the EU customs union for a limited period until parliament could take another vote. The government hopes after perhaps more horse trading that would produce a positive outcome.

As with the U.S. government shutdown, passions are strong on both sides when it comes to Brexit. One side fears Britain will effectively be shut out of Europe. The other is fed-up with Brussels dictating policies they see as diminishing British sovereignty.

History can be amusing. This is not the first referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe. That occurred in 1975 when the Conservative Party that now favors withdrawal enthusiastically supported Britain’s continued membership in what was then called the European Economic Community or EEC. The party’s new leader, Margaret Thatcher, called for a “massive Yes” to remain in the EEC and led a nationwide campaign in its favor. On the withdrawal side was the liberal Labour Party, which now wishes to remain.

Scheduled implementation of Brexit is set for March 29th. But that presumes a yes vote in Parliament and no more delays. What are the odds?

In 2016, bookies claimed a 60 percent chance voters would reject Brexit. They lost. Today, as Liam Fox says, the odds are just 50-50 that Brexit will actually happen. That makes it just about anyone’s guess.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas in London.

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May announces that her Cabinet has agreed to a draft Brexit deal with the European Union after “impassioned” debate, outside 10 Downing Street in London, on Nov. 14, 2018. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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