The media has almost unanimously agreed on the headline of their report on the last episode of the "Brexit": "The British Parliament - they said - takes control of the Brexit". The headline, although justified in the literality of parliamentary discussions, has almost nothing to do with reality. The truth is that the issue of the Brexit in the United Kingdom is not controlled by anyone. It is a political process that seems to have acquired a life of its own and feeds on the profound disagreement between the political parties, the internal division, the absence of institutional leadership and the territorial gap that the abandonment of the European Union has opened up, seen very differently in Scotland than in England and surrounded by the uncertainty of its possible effects on the coexistence of the two communities in Ireland.
The British Parliament may believe that it has taken control of the Brexit, but only if it forgets that the successful outcome of the process depends on a "withdrawal agreement" which Brussels rightly refuses to reopen. Anything that insists on renegotiating the agreement, in a way that is more favourable to the often-delirious claims of the Europhobes, is nothing more than repeating the mistake and feeding the illusion that the Union will end up giving in to those who have decided to leave. The UK failed in its initial strategy of trying to "bilateralise" the negotiation and divide the European front. The attempt was not successful and has had to face a partner who has been acting with a high degree of cohesion.
Theresa May is right when stating that what she has achieved during withdrawal negotiations is the best possible deal. In that sense, the extension of the deadline for the British exit agreed at the recent European Council is no more than an attempt to palliate the British mess, which will unlikely help to find a solution anytime soon. The problem is not Brussels. The problem is, and has always been ever since the referendum, the United Kingdom, the political debacle associated to the Brexit and the British public opinion shifting towards an anti-Europeanism sustained by a rhetoric riddled with unfounded allegations against Europe, more than debatable data and expectations that clash with reality.
For the time being, the idea of a second referendum revoking the previous one is a unsuccessful fantasy that has not settled in within the institutions. Virtually no one in Westminster retracts from the acceptance of what the electorate decided almost three years ago. "Brexit means Brexit. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom is already res judicata. The Labour party, who has accepted the possibility of a second consultation, will only propose it as an endorsement of the agreement for the UK to leave the EU, not as a review of the decision to leave. The early dissolution of Parliament, which is highly unlikely, depends on the Parliament itself who should accept it by qualified majority. As unlikely as a hypothetical motion of censure, which even if successful, would not lead to new elections but to the possibility of a conservative government with another prime minister who would obtain the support of the House. It seems that Parliament, which now believes to be in control of the Brexit, is taking a long detour to end up in the same place.
An orderly Brexit remains the desirable option but, as the European Commission argues, the risk of an exit without agreement is on the rise. The Brexit can become a new historical case of sleepwalking, a new case of those who move towards a harmful outcome without being aware of what that end entails. There is time to avoid it, but a dose of prudence, pragmatism and an effort for consensus would be necessary, a set of values that, to the surprise of all those contemplating this spectacle, seem to be scarce in British politics today.
Translation by Carmen Amado Paredes