Brexit Britain From Abroad: Does May’s Opportunism Help Her Brexit Plan?
Opportunism May Pay Off
Until now hardline Brexiteers on her backbenches have been supportive of her approach, but that support could crumble once hard compromises become necessary.
Whitehall sources suggested on Tuesday that May’s decision was influenced by the emerging timetable for Brexit negotiations, which could see substantive talks about a free trade deal with the EU postponed until after Britain leaves in March 2019.
Before Tuesday’s announcement May faced the prospect of attempting to leave the EU with a partial deal, against the background of a slim parliamentary majority, and a general election looming within months.
If she is returned to power in June with an increased majority she will not have to face voters again until 2022, by which time Britain will not only have left the EU but will perhaps see the end of its transitional arrangement in sight.
The new electoral timetable could also reduce the likelihood of Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal as it eases the domestic political pressure bearing down on the prime minister in the final stages of the two-year article 50 negotiation.
Denis Staunton, The Irish Times
Lioness May: The Second Thatcher
As with so much of May, there was just a hint of menace in her approach. Friends if possible, watch out if not. She ruthlessly reorganised her cabinet, sacking long-term ministers she didn’t think would carry the Brexit message with conviction.
The reason I say this is all a telling example of the genius of the British political system is because mainstream British politics has, uniquely in Europe, been able to deal with the crippling infirmities of the EU. The British didn’t have to elect a Marine Le Pen or a Donald Trump to produce the change they wanted.
Elections are more fun for the politically inclined than a day at the races. This splendid British contest will take twists and turns aplenty.
Greg Sheridan, The Australian
A Stark Choice Before Brexit Negotiations
The British election will take place simultaneously with elections in France and Germany, and at the end of the summer the new, or re-elected, leaders of the three largest countries in Europe will sit down and try and work out the Continent’s future.
Another political advantage of holding the election in Britain now is that the Brexit process has not yet caused major turmoil in the country's economy, so it's better for the government to go to the polls now, before that happens.
For the British, the choice between May, 60, and Corbyn, 67, is an odd one. This is the first time in 66 years that both leaders of the main parties are sexagenarians. After a generation of young centrist leaders, as it faces an uncertain future outside Europe, Britain will be choosing between two representatives of very different British political traditions: Theresa May, the daughter of a vicar and epitome of conservative (with a small "C") England, and veteran left-wing campaigner Jeremy Corbyn, an eternal rebel even within Labour.
Britain hasn’t had such a stark choice facing it in a generation.
Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz
May’s Risky Gamble
There was initially no statement from the EU Commission on May's coup. President Donald Tusk said that he had talked to May and had a good conversation. In a Twitter message, the Pole compared the planned EU exit with a thriller .
In the afternoon, the European Union's Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, called the snap election a chance for British citizens. They would then have the opportunity to say "how they see the future relationship between their country and the EU". Brexit will be the central choice. Verhofstadt announced he would work with the future government for a "best possible common future".
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel recommended stability to the British government: "Any longer uncertainty is certainly not good for political and economic relations between Europe and the UK," he told the Spark media group.
The echo was different among German economists: the President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Marcel Fratzscher, expects political and economic uncertainty for Great Britain. "The early elections are a risky game for Prime Minister May." They could weaken the Prime Minister and also lead to a significant delay in the Brexit negotiations.
The Crisis of British Progressivism
Unfortunately, for anybody hoping that it isn’t too late to defeat the government and halt Brexit, things aren’t so simple. May’s decision to call an election only makes more clear that progressivism in the United Kingdom faces a crisis. In an ideal world, all the pro-European, internationalist, and progressive forces in the country would come together to transform the upcoming election into a second Brexit referendum—which conceivably could be won. But the opposition to May is so weak, divided, and compromised that this doesn’t appear to be an option.
The main problem is the Labour Party. During last year’s referendum, the Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran leftist, campaigned on the Remain side, although without much enthusiasm. (Some leftists still regard the E.U. as an inveterately conservative, pro-capitalist club.) Earlier this year, Corbyn flipped to the other side, ordering Labour M.P.s to support the bill giving May authority to trigger Article 50 of the European Treaty, which countries are obliged to invoke if they want to leave the E.U. It was only with Labour’s support that May amassed such a large majority for the Brexit bill.
John Cassidy, The New Yorker
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