European leaders are about to approve a hard-won Brexit deal with the United Kingdom, thus opening the door to trade talks. But as British Prime Minister Theresa May is taking what was supposed to be a victory lap, she was thrown before a new hurdle and political embarrassment that underscores the extent to which she is being squeezed by different factions in her own party. As she was arriving at the two-day summit in Brussels, she said she was disappointed that her cabinet lost the vote on an amendment to the EU divorce bill but said it was still in a good shape.
“We are on course to deliver Brexit. We are on course to deliver on the vote of the British people,” Mrs. May said, referring to the 2016 Brexit referendum. Over dinner with EU leaders, Mrs. May said that while many considered the last few months as a sign of how hard the future talks would be, she believes that the progress both sides have made demonstrates what can be done with commitment and perseverance. Her remarks were greeted with applause from the other EU leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted that the EU leaders “made clear that Theresa May made good offers” that can allow for the trade talks to move ahead. “But there are still many outstanding issues. We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” she added.
However, as the UK political reality complicates the already difficult matters before the looming trade talks, there are growing concerns that lawmakers won’t be speaking with one voice. “As soon as she negotiates something, she has to go to the Parliament to get approval. This just makes it more complicated for the UK government,” said Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. He said the EU wouldn’t renegotiate the Brexit deal if the British Parliament rejects it. An EU official also noted that it was not good for the bloc to negotiate with a weak leader. “I don’t think it’s good that the prime minister who is negotiating with us is losing votes in the Parliament,” the official said. “It’s never good. We need a strong negotiator on the other side.”