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The Continuing Agony of Brexit

Those who are calling for a second referendum on the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union overlook an inconvenient truth: Leavers detest the EU more intensely than Remainers love it. So we must hope that Prime Minister Theresa May gets her amicable divorce when Parliament finally votes on it in January.

LONDON – So British Prime Minister Theresa May lives to fight another day. The Conservative Party in the House of Commons reaffirmed its confidence in her leadership by a far-from-resounding 200-117 vote. It is hard to think of another British prime minister whose leadership has been in such continuous crisis. Not so much an iron lady as a stubborn and dogged one, May has begun another round of effort to extract a few further concessions from European leaders to make her divorce agreement more palatable to her party, if not a majority of the public.

The British people decided in June 2016 to leave the European Union, by a slim 51.9%-48.1% margin in a national referendum. After invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, the United Kingdom is due to leave on March 29, 2019. But the Irish question, the Conservative Party’s internal politics, and parliamentary arithmetic have made the Brexit process anything but straightforward.

The UK and the Republic of Ireland share a land border separating the latter, which will remain in the EU, from Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. Brexit, therefore, would leave Northern Ireland outside the EU’s customs union, and the Irish Republic inside it. Hence May’s agonized efforts to secure a deal that prevents a “hard” border with customs checks.

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