British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence within her party on December 12th among concerns about her deal pertaining to the United Kingdom's anticipated exit from the European Union in March of next year.
May's Conservative Party voted 63% to 37% in favor of her remaining in her post. Most of the opposition stemmed from dissatisfied MPs who believe her Brexit deal to be "too soft" as it is currently negotiated with the EU.
With newfound confidence after the vote, May departed for Brussels to continue negotiations with her counterparts in the European Union, specifically as the state of things concerning the UK's land border with Ireland, a European Union country.
What this means, quantitatively, is that the Prime Minister likely does not have enough votes to pass her Brexit deal as it currently stands, or at least, not without the help of centrists from those outside of her party. It remains unclear how MPs in the opposition parties Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Scottish National feel about May's more centrist plan, though the indication is not strong in the plan's favor.
In convoluted terms, this means neither the Conservative Party nor Theresa May, has a working Brexit.
The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy, this creates an added aspect of chaos that we have not exactly seen with similar policy debates in the United States. Because the United Kingdom's Parliament does not have to wait for scheduled elections to occur before calling for one (though only a no-confidence vote in the current government or snap election called for by the government can trigger this) responses to policy initiatives can be more flexible in how they are debated.
This, of course, makes something as controversial as Brexit difficult to pin down.
Whereas in the United States, Democrats had to wait until the 2018 elections to offer up their direct response to President Trump and his ruling Republican Party, voters in the United Kingdom may do so at varying times throughout a government's time in office.
And given the often-unpredictable nature of elections, calling one of these early elections can be hazardous for parties and how they wield power.
Many on Britain's left have called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to declare for a Parliament-wide vote of no confidence in Theresa May with hopes of forcing new elections, and subsequently a new government. However, and it should go without saying, a Labour-positive result of this vote is less than assured.
To begin with, there is no guarantee that May would lose such a vote. Though over 100 members in her own party voted against her, would they really do the same again if it meant that their seat in Parliament would be on the line? What's more, the Democratic Unionist Party, with which May's government has a confidence and supply agreement, does not currently support a motion for a no-confidence vote.
Despite broad dissatisfaction with how the government has handled Brexit, there is no certainty that the Conservative Party would be voted out of office in such a scenario. Some polls give Labour a slight edge over the Conservatives in a hypothetical matchup, but even so the margin they lead by is well within the allotted space for error. And further, with the UK being a multiparty state, advances or losses by the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party, UK Independence Party, or other parties could shift the calculus that would result in either a May or Corbyn government.
The alternative to another election is another referendum on the prospect of Brexit. Many on the left have advocated for a so-called "People's Vote" to determine any final arrangement that manifests between the United Kingdom and the European Union. However, this is no more certain than a general election would be. Polls show some softening of support for Brexit, but with many who voted "Leave" merely upset with the May government's handling of the situation, the possibility of a second win for leaving is well within the realm of possibility. And even if a second vote were to return a "Stay" victory, what would that accomplish/say from a democratic standpoint? That sometimes voters change their minds and governments should never implement policy because of such fickleness?
Again, the mutability of UK politics is called into question. If American voters had the opportunity to reject Donald Trump every time he passed new legislation that was unpopular, would anything ever be accomplished? Would we be paralyzed by constant bickering and political pettiness, more so than we already are?
All of this to say that there is no easy way out of Brexit, and there are still some major disagreements that individuals have with one another, to the point of threatening to remove the Prime Minister from her office. While I think our allies in the United Kingdom need to come to a diplomatic and thoughtful resolution to this process, I also think it would do well for them to consider the words of the poet John Lydgate: "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time."