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EU fears that UK cabinet crisis may lead to a ‘no-deal’ Brexit

What’s happening with Theresa May's cabinet?

So far this week three members of the UK cabinet have resigned in protest of Theresa May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations. They are Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, Brexit Minister David Davis, and the minister for the Department for Exiting the EU, Steve Baker. The UK government would appear to be in crisis at the worst possible time.

The Brexiteers in the UK government are concerned that Theresa May will opt for a “soft Brexit.” A “soft Brexit” would permit the free flow of goods, money, services and people. The UK would no longer be in the union but would still have access to the single market. Retaining the benefits of the single market would result in concessions on common rules. 

The Brexiteers would rather see a “hard Brexit” where the EU-UK relationship would be under international law and not EU law, thus maintaining sovereignty. They believe that May's "soft Brexit" plans would not ‘take back control’, but instead result in the UK giving up more than it did when they originally joined the European Community. The UK’s former EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers has said that May’s model would “result in the biggest loss of UK sovereignty since accession in 1973.”

After a 12 hour meeting last Friday, May came out with a plan that the group has collectively agreed upon. The plan was for the UK to seek a "free trade area" with the EU for agricultural and industrial goods, while preserving its access to EU markets and governed by a “common rule book.” But it would appear post meeting that there wasn’t a consensus. The plan was seen as "soft" by Boris Johnson and a number of other Brexiteers.

“It seems to me we’re giving too much away, too easily,” said David Davis before resigning two days later.

EU concerned

Commenting on the situation Donal Tusk, the president of the European Council said the UK cabinet resignations had deeply troubled EU members. 

"Politicians come and go… But the problems they have created for the people remain. The mess caused by Brexit is the biggest problem in the history of EU-UK relations. And it is still very far from being solved."

A ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Time is running out. With the next round of Brexit negotiations scheduled for next week, the instability of the UK government makes a potential ‘no deal’ Brexit a strong possibility in the minds of EU bureaucrats. If no agreement is reached by March 2019, the UK will have to cease all agreements it has with all EU member states. To avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit the UK will have to make more concessions in negotiations. 

The EU definitely expects more concessions from Theresa May if she plans to achieve a special partnership post Brexit. EU diplomats have said that the situation requires the UK leader to not only make a deal in Brussels, but to be able to implement the deal post Brexit. Otherwise, they believe that a ‘no deal’ Brexit is inevitable. The current crisis in the UK’s cabinet does not suggest that such leadership exists.

Despite this, the UK Prime Minister is displaying a front of confidence after the cabinet meeting this morning, announcing "a productive cabinet meeting" from Downing Street this morning.

While Brexiteers vent their anger towards Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister must focus on her meeting with Angela Merkel in London today where she will attempt to sell her Brexit plan to the EU. With May’s cabinet divided, and time running out for her to present her terms to the EU, the potential for a ‘no deal Brexit’ is looking more and more likely.

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