No way out on Brexit?

Is the UK stuck no matter what it tries to do?

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How does the next prime minister progress with Brexit?

By Joe Harker

The Tory leadership contest and by extension the selection of the UK's next prime minister will be one of the key moments in the course of Brexit.

A new leader might have a different approach to leaving the EU than Theresa May, with several taking harder lines than she dared consider.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator for Brexit, said a new prime minister would not solve the problem as the issues blocking the UK's exit from the EU are not about who is leading the government.

The promises and pledges of campaigns look set to be given a rude awakening by reality. Is there a way forward on Brexit?

The Claim:

Let's run down the possible directions on Brexit.

First is leaving with a deal. Theresa May's withdrawal agreement is dead in the water and the EU has said there won't be a renegotiation of what's on the table.

To underline the point they have broken up the negotiating team that struck a deal with the UK, a sign they don't expect any more negotiations regardless of who leads the UK. Attempts to secure alternative arrangements

If there is to be no deal that parliament can approve then it may be a no deal Brexit when the deadline comes on October 31, except parliament hates the idea and has voted strongly against the notion on every single occasion.

Speaker John Bercow has been adamant that parliament will continue to have a say and they will get an opportunity to block no deal Brexit with a vote should it come to that.

Some Tory hopefuls such as Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey have suggested proroguing parliament to force through no deal, suspending them without dismissing them.

Bercow has said that isn't going to happen while others have warned that it is a dire attack on democracy to force through a no deal Brexit against the clear wishes of parliament.

Michael Gove has suggested asking for another Brexit delay, though this is not something the Conservative party at large wants and many within the EU really don't want to give the UK yet more time. It's unlikely he'd have the backing of his party to secure a deal.

Hopes of a second referendum are dimming as there appears to be no time to hold one before the deadline, the UK would have to first decide on having a referendum then go back to Brussels asking for another extension.

Similarly, calls to revoke Article 50 are not yet backed up by the support of a majority of parliament. The numbers have been clear and without a general election are unlikely to change.

The Counter Claim:

Leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt believes German chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to renegotiate a Brexit deal if the next prime minister has the "right approach".

Initial hopes on Brexit back in 2016 hinged on the German car industry putting pressure on Merkel, who would in turn put pressure on the EU to offer the UK a good deal.

While that failed to materialise last time, Hunt is confident a leader with the right outlook could prompt a rethink of the deal. By that he means himself rather than his rivals such as Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab who have been more vocal in their criticism of the EU.

Hunt said an "ultra hardline person" would encounter an "ultra hardline response" which would mean someone with a softer rhetoric on Brexit would be needed as the next prime minister.

The next Tory leader will be the next prime minister and by extension the person who dictates the next attempt to leave the EU, any hope of having another crack at working out a deal would require a conciliatory leader.

The Facts:

To actually get Brexit done requires three things: the support of parliament, the approval of the EU and for your solution to actually work.

The deal on the table, leaving with no deal, holding another referendum and either extending or revoking Article 50 all lack the numbers in the House of Commons to pass.

Seeking alternative arrangements or renegotiating the existing deal with the EU has been shot down by Brussels and would require a significant U-turn.

Proroguing parliament to force through no deal looks impossible, as does suggesting some wonderful technological solution will present itself and solve all problems.

The Financial Times reports that the Tories desperately need an honest debate about Brexit, one that acknowledges the truth of the situation rather than an exchange of unicorns.

The apparent solutions proposed by many candidates appear to be similar versions of things Theresa May tried. They are failing to acknowledge the reality of the situation and will hit the same problems she did.

To whomever takes charge of the government and has Brexit to deal with as their main issue, good luck.

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