How European Politicians Are Reacting To The Defeat Of The U.K. Brexit Plan

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This week, British lawmakers handed a stunning rejection to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for taking the U.K. out of the European Union. Brussels is the seat of the European Union. And so to find out how politicians there are reacting, we’ve reached Jeremy Cliffe, Brussels bureau chief for The Economist. Welcome.

JEREMY CLIFFE: Good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: When British parliament overwhelmingly voted down this deal that Theresa May had worked out with the EU, how did EU leaders react?

CLIFFE: They weren’t happy about it. This has been dragging on for almost two years now. The two-year period in which Britain is supposed to be negotiating its exit from the EU is almost up. And I think there’s a real concern, first of all, that Britain will leave the EU without a deal, which will have knock-on effects spreading widely across the continent, but also that this issue will continue to drag on in Brussels and take up more time that EU leaders would rather spend on other priorities.

SHAPIRO: Another – a number of British lawmakers said, we can get a better deal from the EU. Go back and re-negotiate. Is that realistic? Is that the view in Brussels?

CLIFFE: It’s not realistic within the U.K.’s existing red lines. Theresa May said, for example, that she won’t tolerate free movement of people between Britain and the rest of the EU after it’s left. And that makes it impossible, for example, to the EU to accept British full membership of the European single market. There’s a real gap between, I think, what many people in London think they can get and what the Europeans are willing to give.

In reality, though she’s made some tactical errors, Theresa May got the best deal out of the EU that she was going to get in the circumstances. It’s not going to get any better than this unless she changes her red lines.

SHAPIRO: Well, after that deal was overwhelmingly voted down, Parliament took a no confidence vote. And she narrowly survived. Do you think most people in Brussels were disappointed or relieved that she remains prime minister?

CLIFFE: They may not have…

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