Theresa May's third attempt to win the vote on her Brexit deal was unsuccessful. What now? A hard Brexit? Is there a plan B? The UK's withdrawal is a potentially lethal virus for EU politics, DW's Barbara Wesel writes.
Spite is nasty. However, witnessing Prime Minister Theresa May lose the theater-of-the-absurd performance that was the third vote on her Brexit deal evokes a certain satisfaction. Had she pushed through the exit agreement after using bribery, threats and a promise to step down, May might have been viewed as a heroine by some. Now it's clear that her concept of Brexit has lost.
Some of May's worst enemies in her own Conservative Party had relented in recent days, promising that they would eventually vote in favor of the Brexit deal. That came across as the peak of hypocrisy. Hard-liners such as Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and others who had recently outdone each other in their efforts to tear the Brexit treaty to pieces suddenly fell into line, apparently sensing that May's resignation, should the deal succeed, could be to their benefit.
All of them keep confusing the welfare of the country with their own careers and their investment funds. May, too, has always fought on behalf of her party, and not on behalf of Britain. In her final plea for the House of Commons to agree to her Brexit deal, she again invoked the good of the United Kingdom when what she had in mind was the Tories.
Though Conservative politicians reject a second referendum on Brexit as undemocratic, they see nothing wrong with the notion that the House of Commons might vote until it approves a proposal that fits the Tory agenda.
Seeking a backdoor
The worst-case scenario, a hard Brexit on April 12, could still be avoided at the eleventh hour — say, if Parliament agrees on a softer withdrawal or if May or her emissary offers an acceptable proposal to EU officials in the course of the coming week.
The past two years have provided endless stress for everyone involved in the negotiations. Brexit has highlighted the flaws of the UK's political system. The government is unable to govern because it is completely divided. May is a horrible prime minister because she is unable to forge a compromise. Her only weapon is her stubbornness, which does not seem to have any limits.
The Conservative Party has turned into a society for preservation of power and is driven by identitarian ideologues. Labour, in turn, is steered by a vanguard of ancient Marxists, whose worldview froze sometime around 1975. Neither of the two camps is capable of coping with Brexit.
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Even if a last-minute solution were found, the seeds of destruction have sprouted. Brexit has weakened the political center and strengthened the extremes. It has brought bigots into the arena and suffocated moderate voices.
Brexit has already taken down two prime ministers. In 10 days, a crisis summit in Brussels will determine whether the United Kingdom deserves one last chance or it is ultimately preferable to choose a hard Brexit and a miserable but quick end to the endless misery of this unending drama.