Despite not even being from the UK, my newspaper (and political commentators, etc) are talking about what's happening in the UK, with May failing to get support for a deal.

Why is this such a big deal? I fail to understand it.

There are 2 options: 1) some sort of deal or 2) no deal. Nobody wants no-deal: The economy would break overnight, companies would flee, trade would collapse. Everybody knows this

So it stands to reason that regardless of how long it takes May to get a deal, a deal will happen, because all she has to do is wait until deadline and then say

All-right peeps, I tried my best, here's my last deal, and it's either this, or no-deal. Your choice

and then everyone will vote for her deal, even if they don't like it.

So why are the current on-goings in UK such a big talking point?

The analogy I would make is if there was a person with only chicken in their fridge, and they don't want to eat chicken, so they look for other food in their house, but there is no other food. So they are starving and starving and they consistently fail to find other food. This situation is not a big deal, because we all know that once this person gets really hungry and out of options, they will eat that chicken in the fridge.

Yet the exact same thing is happening in the UK (May's deal is the chicken), and everybody is talking about it? Why?

  • 1
    "All-right peeps, I tried my best, here's my last deal, and it's either this, or no-deal. Your choice" I was under the impression this was implied since the EU has signalled its unwillingness to negotiate a different deal. Is that not the case?
    – yannis
    Jan 16, 2019 at 3:18
  • 7
    @yannis Much as they did prior to the brexit vote itself, certain MPs and pundits are pushing the idea that the EU will give them whatever they want, and in particular would renegotiate under a new (particular) leader, and the only reason May hasn't gotten these things is because she hasn't really tried or doesn't have the power to get them. But they would. For usually unspecified, and likely non-existent, reasons. Jan 16, 2019 at 4:34
  • It's not so much eating chicken as playing chicken: some faction has to surrender in order for this to happen.
    – pjc50
    Jan 16, 2019 at 9:48
  • Related: politics.stackexchange.com/q/38102/130
    – gerrit
    Jan 17, 2019 at 10:15

1 Answer 1


There's more to the situation than what you describe.

The first is that the UK has a deadline to leave the EU - 29 March 2019 at 11 pm UK time, to be exact. If no deal is in place by this point, then we could very well see a no-deal Brexit. You could say that "nobody wants it", and maybe that's true, but if the only options are 1) stay in the EU, 2) May's deal, and 3) no deal Brexit, it's very possible some people will choose #3.

The other is that May's position as prime minister is not strong. She's already leading a minority government. If she loses a vote with as major ramifications as this one, her government could be threatened. A motion of no-confidence might be filed against her (in fact, as of time of writing, such a motion has indeed been filed), and if that passes, she might be forced to resign.

So what if May resigns and her government is toppled? Someone still has to manage the UK when the deadline rolls around, and that someone is certainly not going to agree to exiting the EU with May's deal (since it's already been decisively rejected). In other words, we could have:

  • A general election. Maybe.
  • Another referendum of some kind.
  • Renegotiation. The new leader tries to renegotiate a new exit deal with the rest of the EU. This will likely involve ...
  • Postponing the official leave date. Some people will not want this, preferring to leave at once with no deal. It's also possible the EU will not want this (any extension needs every EU member country to agree), in which case the UK would be forced to leave the EU on the agreed deadline.

tl; dr: you assume that people will take May's deal as opposed to no deal. That's not necessarily true. Some will prefer no deal, some will want to renegotiate, some will want to say damn it all let's stay in the EU, etc. In all cases, May's deal failing to pass is a significant milestone.

  • Given the deadline imposed unto them declaring their intention to leave the EU, can they even get any type of time extension to begin with?
    – Leon
    Jan 16, 2019 at 7:48
  • 3
    @Leon yes, they can. They need the rest of the EU to be unanimous in approving the request, though.
    – Allure
    Jan 16, 2019 at 8:25

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