Despite three votes this week, the British Parliament is no closer to a deal — or even an understanding of what a deal would be — on the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. Instead, politicians appear to be digging in, clinging to positions that do not have majority support and have already been rejected by the EU. All that Britain’s politicians have agreed on is a delay of Brexit itself — understandable, and necessary, when there is no consensus on terms — but even that prospect alarms supporters of withdrawal, who fear it is subtle way of staying in the EU. It is beginning to seem that intentions are irrelevant: Key actors — businesses in particular — are making their own decisions, and Britain will pay a high price for its indecision.
As the March 29 deadline for withdrawal approaches, British parliamentarians voted this week against Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed deal, then rejected the idea of leaving the EU without a formal proposal — “hard Brexit” — and then supported delaying withdrawal — without a timeline and indifferent to EU views on the matter. Those lawmakers also decisively rejected a second referendum on the issue, and defeated, but only narrowly, an amendment that would allow Parliament to hold “indicative votes” on options to see if any terms command majority support.