Theresa May has earned her defeat in parliament and only has herself to blame. Brexit has developed enormous destructive power. No matter how this British drama ends, the damage will remain, says DW’s Barbara Wesel.
Theresa May has suffered a crushing defeat in the vote on the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union. The British Prime Minister should actually step down after this historic defeat but Ms May nipped the question of resignation in the bud. She said she had taken on the role of prime minister in order to implement Brexit and would fulfill this task. And that’s that.
She will also survive the opposition’s no confidence vote. This is because the conservatives will close ranks again as soon as it’s a matter of holding on to power. But for British politics, Ms May’s persistence, which has long bordered on stubbornness, is a disaster.
Ms May deserves this defeat in Parliament because she herself is to blame. The fact that Brexit has resulted in her government, Parliament and British politics in general being so divided and deadlocked is also due to her particular political inability. From the outset, as head of government, she only had her Conservatives in view. She spoke only to her own hardliners, trying to keep the party together at all costs. In doing so, she failed to build alliances, reach out to the opposition and sound out compromises.
Ms May’s hostile rhetoric against EU workers, for example, and against Europe itself, has only deepened the rifts between the camps. And she has not made any friends among her European colleagues, whose support she will be depending on when the UK leaves, as well as afterwards.
Theresa May lacks the stature of a head of state. She is not showing any responsibility for the future, or for Britain’s welfare. As a politician, she is too small-minded and too narrow, too rigid and unimaginative for the difficult times that Brexit has brought about.
The British would have needed a different head of state, but opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn is not even considered suitable by those in his own ranks. And so far, there has been no one else in sight to take on the role. It seems that common sense, compromise and any historical insight into the international role and possibilities of the country have disappeared from British politics overnight.
But the real nightmare is that the Brexit wrangling is far from over. Britain’s political institutions have shown that they are not up to facing the challenges. The government is at loggerheads and failing. And until now, parliament has only been able to make decisions against existing proposals and remains unable to find a way out of the crisis.
The House of Commons is Britain’s only chance to escape the Brexit horror show. Members of parliament will have to find a majority across party lines. That could mean a softer Brexit, such as remaining in the internal market. Or it could mean a second referendum, when the Labour leadership finally breaks away from its socialist illusions.
None of these solutions will be easy to achieve or guarantee a good outcome. But this shows Brexit’s unprecedented destructive power, which is not tearing apart the EU as expected, but rather, is tearing Britain apart.
Brexit is likely to be Britain’s greatest disaster.