On November 25, 2018, a summit meeting of the 27 remaining countries of the European Union approved the Brexit deal agreed with the UK’s Theresa May. At the end of the summit, President Macron gave a press conference in which he announced how he would abuse the deal to blackmail the UK, thereby making approval of the deal in the UK Parliament unthinkable. This deal must be the shortest-lived treaty in history.
From the moment that Theresa May first presented the proposed Brexit deal to her cabinet on November 14 and to the House of Commons the next day, opposition to it has steadily risen among the MPs of her own Conservative Party. Also the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP), the coalition partner that gives her a small majority in the Commons, is unanimously opposed. May has earned respect for the resolution with which she promotes the deal amid a cacophony of opposed voices that offer no coherent alternative, but also amazement at the stubbornness with which she rejects any change to the deal, thereby ensuring its failure.
The Sticking Point
At the risk of repeating what everyone knows, let us explain the structure of the deal and the main sticking point that makes it unacceptable to many in May’s own party. The deal consists of two documents, whose cumbrous titles we shall abbreviate as the Withdrawal Agreement (November 14, 2018) and the Framework for the Future Relationship (November 22, 2018; this is the final version of a shorter provisional text that was made available on November 14). The first document has itself, basically, two parts. What we can call the Main Part consists of 185 Articles occupying the first 300 pages, together with the nine Annexes occupying pages 504-585 (the end). The other part consists of pages 301-503, containing three Protocols on Ireland/Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Gibraltar, which pertain to European issues arising out of the earlier history of the UK.