Let’s say that you lived in a share house where you were in a dispute with the landlord over the lease.
You tell your housemates the deal on offer and they refuse to even consider it, angrily insisting that you go back and get an unrealistically better agreement while also being very vague about what such a deal would actually entail. And your landlord is rapidly losing patience and wondering why your household dispute is now their problem as the deadline appears.
That’s roughly the position in which UK Prime Minister is as she attempts to carry out the plan to leave the European Union.
The deadline for Brexit is ten weeks away, there’s no deal on the table, the European Union have been clear about what the options are and don’t know why the UK are still dithering, and May’s own party have been continually rejecting her proposed deals while not doing anything helpful like, say, proposing halfway plausible alternatives.
Regardless of what one thinks of Brexit as an idea or May as a leader – for the record, I’m not a supporter of either – the fact remains that she’s actually attempting to do her job.
David Cameron, the last person in her position, chickened the hell out when he realised what a challenge it was going to be. The most high profile men in May’s party – Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson and their odious colleagues – aren’t even trying to do their jobs. May’s legitimately attempting to tidy up the mess left for her, and no-one’s even offering to help fill a bucket.
Neither is the opposition Labour Party being especially helpful – they’re not even particularly pro-Remain, but leader Jeremy Corbyn is still yet to give any indication of what sort of Brexit deal would get their support, even as they reject May’s proposals.
There are many sticking points but one really big one is that no-one wants a hard border in Ireland between the independent nation of the Republic (which is part of the EU) and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.
However, leaving it open for travel and trade within Ireland either requires a border technological fixes which don’t yet exist or the UK remaining bound by EU trade and migration laws, which sort of defeats the point of having a Brexit in the first place.
It would also require the UK to negotiate a trade deal for the Republic of Ireland-slash-EU, presumably through the World Trade Organisation, and that would take months-to-years rather than the weeks that last between now and the Brexit deadline. Who’s up for installing a Berlin Wall in every Irish border town? Anyone?
So what are the options for Brexit? Look, they’re not great.
1. Accept the current deal that May has hashed out with the EU. You know, the one which the UK parliament overwhelmingly voted against? That one. Yeah, not a superstrong hope there.
It’s still possible that the parliament might accept it’s the best option they’re going to get, although it’s hard to imagine anyone being happy with it.
2. Negotiate with the EU for a Brexit extension. That’s assuming that there’s enough goodwill for such a move, which is an open question.
3. Have no deal in place when the deadline hits and simply let chaos reign. That’s the default position if nothing else is done and therefore seems the most likely outcome. What will happen to trade and borders and people’s travel documents and phone roaming and a billion other things? No-one really knows!
4. Cancel it altogether. The European Court has ruled that the British parliament has the power to unilaterally call the whole thing off and leave things as is if they want since the referendum was advisory, not binding – but doing so would be political suicide since it would mean a parliament ignored the Will Of The People.
5. Reintroduce Roman rule. It’s a long shot, but maybe doing a hard reset to the England of around 100 AD would give everyone a chance to start fresh. At least, until King Arthur finally returns.