Strategic observation

Commentary: British PM fighting uphill battle on two fronts over new Brexit plan

2018-08-09 01:56:08 (Beijing Time)         English.news.cn

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by Xinhua writer Gu Zhenqiu

LONDON, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May is fighting an uphill battle on two fronts to win support for her latest compromised version of the Brexit plan, which was hammered out during a cabinet meeting at Chequers in early July.

The fighting on the two fronts is going on at the same time both at home and abroad.

Her Tuesday trip to Scotland was designed to seek unity on the Brexit stance after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made it clear that a no-deal or "blind Brexit" was unacceptable and challenged May to set out a "plan B".

May urged Sturgeon not to "sow division" over Brexit and called for Scottish support to her negotiating position, insisting that "a good deal for the UK is a good deal for Scotland". The just-concluded meeting was described by British media as a showdown between the two leaders.

The Scottish leader, who has been opposed to Britain leaving the European Union (EU), said that May's Brexit blueprint seemed to be dead, arguing the prime minister should set out an alternative to avoid Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

The Scottish and UK governments have long been at odds over Brexit, having failed to come to an agreement over the future of devolved powers which saw members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) refuse to give their backing to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

May kicked off the visit to Scotland at a time when voices calling for a second Brexit referendum have been getting louder. More and more people are upset by the fact that two years after the Brexit vote, the British cabinet is still negotiating with itself while the real talks in Brussels have barely started.

The Edinburgh visit was May's first domestic appearance since she cut short her summer holiday for talks last week with French President Emmanuel Macron on Brexit.

The France tour came just days after the new British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, raced straight to Paris from his trip to China. At the same time, British Brexit and business secretaries also went to France with dire warnings of "no deal" if the EU rejects the Chequers proposal.

"Their movements reveal the conclusion they have reached: France is the biggest national obstacle to a Brexit deal and the key country to unlock a change of attitude in the European Commission," William Hague, the former British foreign secretary, said in his article carried by the major Daily Telegraph newspaper on Tuesday.

"President Macron may not be inclined to facilitate Brexit, but it would be in all our interests if he did," Hague said.

The British foreign and trade secretaries, among other senior government officials, said that they saw the no-deal possibility increasing day by day.

The no-deal rhetoric was seen as a strategic tactic by London to threaten Brussels, but the EU does not buy it.

Britain-based businesses, both British and foreign, said the no-deal scenario is harmful to London and Brussels, and preparations must be made for this unwelcome possibility.

Neither eurocrats nor EU countries have accepted May's request to add Brexit to the agenda for the summit in Salzburg on Sept. 20.

Downing Street insists Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz, who will host the summit, has agreed to put Brexit at the top of the agenda.

However, no such message has been heard from Austria, and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, remains undecided, according to reports on Wednesday.

Despite the ongoing domestic lobby and diplomatic push, May needs to make more painstaking efforts to sell her new Brexit proposals both at home and abroad.