Two-and-a-half years after Britain narrowly voted in favour of leaving the European Union, no one has any idea what form this Brexit will take. The withdrawal agreement Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated with the EU, which would have committed Britain to still following most EU regulations, was roundly defeated by a vote of 432-202 in the House of Commons. May survived a no-confidence motion for the simple reason that no one in the Tory Party wants to be in charge of dealing with Brexit. If no deal is approved by March 29, Britain will have what is known as a hard Brexit. All its trading agreements with the EU will be voided and movement across borders will be restricted. This is something May has tried to avoid but is now hurtling towards. The other option is for May to ask the EU to negotiate a new deal that may be able to win the approval of the British parliament. That too is unlikely to work. The EU would hold all the cards in such a negotiation and would demand a deal that is even harder on Britain. This would surely be voted down by the pro-Brexit members of the Tories.
At this point, the best choice left to May is to seek an extension of Article 50, the legislation that has set the date for British withdrawal from the EU. She could then call for a second referendum, where the British people are given details of what leaving the European Union would entail rather than a single yes or no answer. The EU would likely be happy to grant an extension to Article 50 since it increases the possibility of cancelling Brexit altogether. At this point, Britain has no good options left and that is entirely due to the fecklessness of its leaders. May’s predecessor David Cameron favoured staying in the EU but allowed for a referendum to appease hardliners in his party, believing that the ‘Leave’ campaign stood no chance of winning. After the surprising result, the Tories have lurched from one crisis to the other as May has proven one of the most disastrous leaders in the country’s history. Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn – the one leader who has an even lower approval rating than May – has deliberately chosen to remain mostly silent on Brexit and has offered no solutions. Britain has created such an historic mess for itself that there may be no escaping the folly of its actions