Analyst: Brexit deal now so damaged, "I don't think it's going to happen"

There is now less than three months until the Brexit deadline in Great Britain. (The lights go out on March 29th absent some drastic change of course.) The deal that Theresa May cut with the EU Parliament has pleased pretty much nobody and shows no signs of being able to be approved in the House of Commons. An effort by the Prime Minister’s own party to remove her from office failed, largely because nobody else really wanted the job. So we’re heading for a No Deal Brexit, right?

Perhaps not. Lara Marlowe, a correspondent for the Irish Times in Paris and experienced Brexit observer, opined this week that the No Deal isn’t really a done deal at all. In fact, as she sees it, the odds are in favor of the entire process being derailed over the next two months, with a second referendum being called. (

Speaking to France 24, Ms Marlowe said: “I personally – and this is just a hunch, it’s not empirical because you cannot be empirical about Brexit because it’s the biggest mess we’ve ever seen – I don’t think it’s going to happen.

“I think there will be a second referendum. Theresa May has now postponed the parliamentary vote on her negotiated plan until January. There’s a lot of pressure.”

Brexiteers have rejected pleas from Theresa May to back her divisive deal – with prominent Leave supporter Sir Bill Cash making it his New Year’s Resolution not to back the Prime Minister’s terms.

Ms Marlowe continued: “Her own party is torn apart between Remainers and Leavers and so on and so forth. I think there will be a second referendum.

While I’m not entirely sure I agree, let’s just say for the moment that Marlowe is correct. How would the Brits go about doing it? They can’t schedule another referendum without the Prime Minister going along with the idea and May has stated repeatedly that it’s not going to happen. A new Prime Minister could call for the second referendum but there’s no indication that the entire House of Commons would agree to a vote of no confidence to remove her. So what are their options?

According to Marlowe, Parliament could force the situation in the same way Congress shuts things down in the United States. She suggests that some UK lawmakers, both among the Remainers and the Brexiteers, are looking at shutting down a large, upcoming finance bill, precisely the same way we’re currently holding up the next spending bill over the border wall. This would halt the collection of roughly one-third of the government’s taxes, shutting down many services. In order to restore financial order, they would demand a second referendum in return.

That’s some serious, hardball politics if she’s correct, but the United States stands as proof that it could work. And if government services shut down in a more socialist society like Great Britain, things could turn ugly fast. It’s much easier to remove a Prime Minister than it is an American President, so May might find herself out the door or be forced to concede on the referendum.

Do opponents of a No Deal Brexit have enough votes to pull this off? It’s certainly possible, if not likely. But here’s the final question posed by Marlowe which is worth considering. Would a second referendum have two choices or three? If it’s a simple up or down question, recent polling suggests the Remain contingent would win by a wide enough margin to carry the day and the entire Brexit debacle would have been for nothing. But they might offer three options: Remain, No Deal Brexit or the deal May negotiated.

If they split the vote three ways, there’s no telling what might happen. Either way, the Brexit crazy train still has a long way to run before it pulls into the station. And anyone who tells you they know how this story ends is probably fooling themselves.