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Brexit keeps going and going

Riegert Bernd Kommentarbild App
Bernd Riegert
October 20, 2019

In an unexpected twist, the British House of Commons put off a vote on PM Boris Johnson's plan for the UK to leave the EU. The entire Brexit process defies belief, writes DW's Bernd Riegert.

Charicture of Johnson on his knee pleading with a crying woman named Brexit

If Brexit were a TV series, the drama, with all of its unexpected twists, turns and political point-making, would have raked in the awards at international festivals. With the comedian Boris Johnson in the lead role and the House of Commons as a spectacular stage, Saturday's episode of "Brexit" would have brought in record ratings.

The problem for Britons and the EU is that Brexit isn't a TV soap and that in real life there's no remote control capable of changing the channel. And the longer the show goes on, the more excruciating it becomes to watch. Prime Minister Boris Johnson took his Brexit deal — the second one the EU has negotiated with a British leader — to the House of Commons and watched it get shot down by a former member of his own party.

The vote was delayed as lawmakers suspected that the PM would try to find a back door that would let him bring the UK out of the European Union on October 31 in a "hard Brexit." MPs wanted to see all the legislation for the country's divorce from the EU in place before voting on the agreement. Getting that done before the target exit date appears nearly impossible.

Riegert Bernd
DW Europe correspondent Bernd Riegert

That means the "Brexit" show will be extended for another season and the negotiations will continue so the House of Commons' demands can be fulfilled. The European Union will put up with some grumbling from France, but in the end will certainly offer yet another extension. London, theoretically, has to offer a plausible explanation for the delay, but it's no secret that the EU will do anything it can to avoid having to take the blame for a no-deal Brexit. If it comes to a no-deal Brexit, then make the Brits take responsibility for it, has been the EU's rule of thumb.

Read more: What's new in Johnson's Brexit deal?

It's understandable that Johnson has a hard time requesting an extension — he once said he'd rather be "dead in a ditch" than delay Brexit. In Brussels, Johnson, who even this week did not seem to truly understand Brexit's potential consequences, has lost all credibility with the other 27 heads of state and governments. On Thursday, he told other EU leaders he would get the freshly negotiated deal through the House of Commons with a broad majority. So much for that idea.

The European Union does not need to rush when it comes to reviewing the extension request. A special leaders summit a few days, or even hours, before the UK exit date of midnight on October 31 would get the job done. Even if the British Parliament passes the withdrawal agreement, the legislation needs to be ratified by the European Parliament as well.

For the people and businesses forced to live with the drama of Brexit, the show has lost all of its entertainment value. Thousands demonstrated on Saturday in front of Parliament for the UK to remain a part of the EU or to hold a second referendum on staying in the bloc. These are the people politicians in the House of Commons need to listen to. Brexit isn't a show — even though it's looking more and more like one.

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Riegert Bernd Kommentarbild App
Bernd Riegert Senior European correspondent in Brussels with a focus on people and politics in the European Union
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