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Brexit likely to be Britain's greatest disaster

Barbara Wesel Kommentarbild App *PROVISORISCH*
Barbara Wesel
January 16, 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May has earned her defeat in Parliament and only has herself to blame. No matter how this Brexit drama ends, the damage will remain, DW's Barbara Wesel writes.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May
Image: picture-alliance/PA Wire/House of Commons

Theresa May has suffered a crushing defeat in the vote on the UK's withdrawal agreement with the EU. A prime minister would normally step down after such a historic defeat, but May nipped the question of her resignation in the bud. She said she had taken on the role of prime minister in order to implement Brexit and would fulfill this task. And that's that.

May will also survive the opposition's confidence vote. This is because the conservatives will close ranks again as soon as it's a matter of holding on to power. But for British politics, May's persistence, which has long bordered on stubbornness, is a disaster.

Read more: Brexit: What happens next?

DW's Barbara Wesel
DW's Barbara Wesel

The prime minister deserves this defeat in Parliament because she herself is to blame. Brexit has divided and deadlocked her government and British politics in general — and that's May's fault, too. From the outset, as head of government, she only had her Conservatives in view. She spoke only to her own hardliners, trying to keep the party together at all costs. In doing so, she failed to build alliances, reach out to the opposition and sound out compromises.

May's hostility toward EU workers in Britain and against the European Union itself, has only deepened the rifts. And she has not made any friends among her European colleagues, whose support she will be depending on when the UK leaves, as well as afterward. May lacks the stature of a head of government. She is not showing any responsibility for the future, or for Britain's welfare. As a politician, she is too small-minded and too narrow, too rigid and unimaginative for the difficult times that Brexit has brought about.

Britain needs a new prime minister, but opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn is plagued by the lack of unity within the Labour Party. And so far, there has been no one else in sight to take on the role. It seems that common sense, compromise and any historical insight into the international role and possibilities of the country have disappeared from British politics overnight.

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More to come

Britain's political institutions have shown that they are not up to facing the challenges of Brexit. The government is at loggerheads and failing. And until now, Parliament has only been able to make decisions against existing proposals and remains unable to find a way out of the crisis.

The House of Commons is Britain's only chance to escape the Brexit horror show. Members of Parliament will have to find a majority across party lines. That could mean a softer Brexit, such as remaining in the internal market. Or it could mean a second referendum, when the Labour leadership finally breaks away from its socialist illusions.

None of this would be easy to achieve; there's no guarantee of a good outcome. But this shows Brexit's unprecedented destructive power: It is not tearing apart the European Union as expected, but, rather, it is tearing Britain apart. Brexit will likely prove the country's greatest disaster.

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