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How EU Leaders Can Prevent a No-Deal Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategy of threatening a no-deal Brexit requires a hard deadline that forces her opponents to capitulate. Without that, “running down the clock” becomes “kicking the can down the road,” which more accurately reflects May’s paradoxical combination of robotic inflexibility and exasperating indecisiveness.

LONDON – Has British Prime Minister Theresa May outmaneuvered all her opponents? By defeating Parliament’s effort to rule out a disorderly “no-deal” rupture between the European Union and its second-largest trading partner, May has redoubled pressure on EU leaders to accept her demands by the Brexit deadline of March 29.

Holding a gun to one’s own head is rarely a successful negotiating strategy, as Greece discovered when it threatened to leave the euro. But a collapse of trade with Britain is a far more alarming prospect. Moreover, the main concessions that May is demanding are literally peripheral to every European country except Ireland. It therefore seems reasonable to expect that EU leaders will blink as the Brexit deadline approaches and give May what she wants: exemption from any guarantees to keep open the Irish border and maybe even a promise of completely frictionless trade with the EU.

May also appears to have outmaneuvered her domestic opponents. By persuading dozens of Labour MPs not to oppose her in the crucial votes on Brexit, May managed to discredit the Labour Party in the eyes of an entire generation of pro-European young voters. And by persuading Tory Brexiteers that she would magically erase the most objectionable features of the EU withdrawal agreement, May has won herself the possibility of staying in power until the next general election and perhaps beyond.

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