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Brexit hangs in balance as ministers quit

China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-19 07:59
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference at Downing Street in London, Britain Nov 15, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Editor's note: British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Wednesday that the United Kingdom Cabinet had agreed to her draft Brexit deal. But a day later she was battling to save the draft divorce deal with the European Union after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey resigned, saying they could not support the deal. Two experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Pan Yixuan. Excerpts follow:

Difficult for UK and EU to meet Brexit deadline

Given Thursday's developments, the challenge for the UK and the EU is to reach a deal before the former formally leaves the European bloc on March 29, 2019. Otherwise the two sides will encounter turmoil.

Britain and the EU agreed on a draft deal signaling the beginning of the final phase of Brexit negotiations. The deal provided a basic element for the EU to discuss and sign the Brexit deal at a special summit on Dec 25. Still, the agreement will not pave the way for Brexit.

Most obstacles in the way of a final Brexit deal are internal in nature on the two sides, especially Britain. May seemed to have overcome the first barrier, her Cabinet, until Thursday when two of her ministers suddenly resigned citing their disagreement with the deal. The most serious problem comes from May's Conservative Party. The Brexiteers in the Conservative Party, who want a clear divorce from the EU, are now planning a vote of no confidence against May because they regard her deal as a compromise to the benefit of the EU and at the cost of UK's interest. If the Conservatives do not agree to the deal, it will be rather difficult to pass it in the British Parliament.

Britons are having different thoughts including a "soft Brexit", a "hard Brexit" or a no deal, even withdrawal of the exit deal from the EU, or another referendum. But there is no perfect solution to Brexit. The EU is more willing to negotiate on a "soft Brexit" deal, though, which May wants.

Brexit may still go through but not before encountering a bumpy road.

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department for European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies

Uncertainties lie ahead for Brexit process

The UK-EU agreements, with the apparent backing of the British Cabinet until Thursday, seemed to have laid a foundation for the UK and the EU to reach a final divorce deal.

But because of some serious disputes within the Conservative Party, the British Parliament and the EU-and the sudden resignations of two UK ministers-one still cannot say the existing Brexit deal with sail through. The deal faces a great challenge within not only Britain but also the EU. Even if Brussels agrees to a deal at the special summit on Dec 25, the deal will be still up for vote in the parliaments of EU member countries, which will increase the uncertainties for Brexit.

The future of Brexit seems uncertain now, but as a demonstration effect, the problems Britain is facing to leave the EU might have prompted the other EU members thinking of following Britain out of the bloc to give it a second thought.

The impact of Brexit will be felt by China, too. And it has to adapt to the changes, as the UK and EU markets will not be one whole for China anymore. As such, China should be ready to negotiate anew its trade and other deals with Britain and the EU separately. Maybe a Britain without EU regulations would be better for China-Britain cooperation.

Feng Zhongping, vice-president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

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