Rumours on the political street are that at next week's European Council summit, when Theresa May will ask for an extension to Article 50, the EU will only grant it if Britain significantly softens Brexit, or runs a second national referendum.
The BBC yesterday reported that some EU leaders might not grant the extension, because of the fatigue many leaders have over the Brexit process, and the fact that they want to seem to stand tough as defending Europe in the coming May EU elections. So, reportedly, the will of the EU to give us an extension at all was in doubt. And in fact, they said the EU might only give us it if we change our minds and agree to Theresa May's deal, and just hurry up and leave, already.
But I disagreed with that assessment. As I have been arguing for months, the EU is in the best position to stop Brexit. They largely don't want it, and my analysis and opinion on the negotiations that both sides have been going through is that the EU has played their hand precisely to to maximise the chances of Brexit being halted.
In November, when the PM agreed her deal with the EU, it was my belief that the EU new exatly what they were doing with giving us a deal that would prove extremely unpopular across our Parliament. They then, after having made some concessions, had the political high-ground in which to say "Look, we've done our part, now it's your turn. You have to be responsible and agree to this deal. And what's more, we're well within our rights not to give you any further revisions to this deal." That sort of thing.
So, since November, we've been in a deadlock - we're stuck with one deal and one deal only, but it's a deal everyone in our Parliament hates, and has consistently rejected. Thus putting us on collision course for either a no-deal scenario, or a referendum - and also an extension of Brexit to give us time to faciliate one of those two outcomes.
I believe that was largely premeditated and intentional by the EU. The intention being to stop Brexit.
Well, it's working - out of those two options, the no deal senario just got voted down by Parliament. So, by the clear will of Parliament, Theresa May's deal and no-deal are not options.
Only a referendum is left. It's the only long term solution that can exist - it would take a sea change of political pressure to reverse the huge majorities that have rejected Theresa May's deal.
So, as we are now applying for an extension, the EU is doing what I believe is the next step in their long-game plan: offer to us more time on the condition of a soft Brexit (which is what is pissing off Brexiteers already and so is unlikely), or have a new referendum.
Now, a new referendum isn't going to be something Parliament will at all swallow easily. Expect a lot of noise and complaining if this option is put to Parliament by the PM. It will still take work to convince them to go through with this. But what choice do they have? They literally voted no on the only two other options - her deal, or no deal.
We'll have to wait and see how our MPs react, but this is a major step forward in bringing forward a second referendum.
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