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WorldBrits pretend they’re sick of Brexit. But truth is they’re obsessed.

00:41  26 march  2019
00:41  26 march  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

Europe offers UK a little more time for Brexit

Europe offers UK a little more time for Brexit European Union leaders are offering the U.K. a bit more time to ease itself out of the bloc, delaying by several weeks the threat of a chaotic British exit. The EU says Britain could postpone its March 29 departure to May 22. But that's only if the U.K. Parliament approves Prime Minister Theresa May's divorce deal with the bloc next week. May says the EU decision underlines "the importance of the House of Commons passing a Brexit deal next week."

LONDON —Your average Brit will tell you they’re sick and tired of Brexit, that the country has had enough, it’s knackered. But clearly, they have not had nearly enough. Britain is obsessed with Brexit.

It’s a national humiliation, pretty much everyone agrees. But it’s mesmerizing — like a train wreck, on a loop.

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The brinkmanship, the dozens of “last ditch” and “cliff edge” summits and debates, the snakes and ladders — for those who like political drama, these are gripping times. It’s “Game of Thrones,” final season.

The big talking points of this week: Will Prime Minister Theresa May survive? Can Parliament seize control of Brexit through a series of “indicative votes”? Can it avoid a no-deal withdrawal and the economic chaos that would bring?

The prime minister told Parliament on Monday that she doesn’t have the support, yet, to pass her Brexit deal. She warned of a “slow-motion Brexit.” So new episodes are still being scripted.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people hurry home to watch Parliament Live TV in the evening. The streaming service — Britain’s low-rent C-SPAN — is posting record-breaking numbers for a seemingly endless number of “nonbinding” votes.

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House of Commons Speaker John Bercow — the “Order! Order!” fellow with the colorful ties and erudite put-downs — has become a rock star, in need of a bodyguard.

Brits pretend they’re sick of Brexit. But truth is they’re obsessed.© Will Oliver/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock A pro E.U. demonstrator campaigns outside the British Houses of Parliament on Monday.

In ways once unimaginable, the public now knows who Chris Grayling is. The hapless transport minister paid a fortune to a company to run ferries if Britain crashes out of the European Union with no deal, only to discover the company had no actual ferries.

More than 5 million people have signed an online petition to cancel Brexit. The website has crashed. Multiple times.

Organizers said turnout for the “Put It to the People” march in London on Saturday exceeded 1 million, making it one of the biggest demonstrations Britain has seen — ever.

Oh, they care.

They brought their children to London. They brought their dogs. They made costumes.

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Helen Farr, 41, a university lecturer, traveled from Southampton with her two children, ages 1 and 5, to be at the march. This was nonessential travel on packed trains with a child in diapers.

“You don’t travel across the country with two small children to spend hours walking in crowds unless you really, really feel it’s important,” she said, pushing her buggy through throngs waving blue flags of the European Union.

The atmosphere? “Positively febrile,” according to the British press. We had to look that one up. It means fevered, intensely and nervously active.

An overexcited foreign correspondent in Brussels told the BBC this was “the biggest E.U. story since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Across the pond, the report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is big news.

But in London, the press revealed that the Ministry of Defense has set up an operations room in “a bunker” at its main Whitehall building to deal with a potential no-deal Brexit, under the banner of “Operation Redfold.”

The last time the British government was operating out of a bunker in Whitehall? The Blitz.

Brexit options: Stick close to EU, crash out, think again

Brexit options: Stick close to EU, crash out, think again Britain is running out of time and options for Brexit. U.K. lawmakers have three times rejected the divorce deal struck between Prime Minister Theresa May's government and the European Union. They also voted on a series of alternatives, from leaving the bloc without a deal to holding second referendum on Britain's EU membership. All the options were defeated. The U.K. now faces a deadline of April 12 to present the EU with a new Brexit plan or crash out of the bloc that night. British lawmakers plan another round of votes Monday to see whether they can come to an agreement on a way for Britain to leave the bloc.

On Sunday, the airwaves were filled with stories about “coups” and “plotters” and how May was on the way out, in days if not hours.

The Sunday Times front page: “Cabinet coup to ditch Theresa May for emergency PM.”

The very same newspaper on Monday? Never mind.

The Sun tabloid printed a front-page editorial, “TIME’S UP THERESA! Theresa May has shown courage — but to seal her deal and deliver Brexit, she needs to resign.”

This made a big splash, for about 10 minutes.

It’s not that some “plotters” wouldn’t mind seeing the prime minister off.

Conservative lawmaker and super-Brexiteer Boris Johnson, one of the favorites to replace May should she resign, wrote in Monday’s Daily Telegraph that the government had “chickened out” on delivering Brexit, and that if May wants to win support for her deal, she needed to show that the next phase “will be different from the first.” This suggested to some that he might be willing to back the deal, as long as May promises to step aside.

But here’s the problem. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told BBC Breakfast on Monday the government was “constrained by the fact that we have a Leave electorate and a Parliament that leans towards Remain, and the government doesn’t have a majority in the House of Commons.”

Finance Minister Philip Hammond told Sky News: “Changing the prime minister wouldn’t help us. Changing the party in government wouldn’t help us. We’ve got to address the question of what type of Brexit is acceptable to Parliament, what type of way forward Parliament can agree on, so we can avoid what would be an economic catastrophe of a no-deal exit.”

“Catastrophe” — his words, not ours.

This was supposed to be the week Britain left the European Union. But an extension has prolonged the agony. Tune in to the talk shows, and it’s more of the same debates over and over again: the vexing issue of the Irish “backstop,” the arcane internal tensions of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, the complexity of the customs union and, yes, the “Norway option.”

What might happen this week? What time is it? The state of affairs could change between luncheon and tea time. Or it could remain stuck where it is.

william.booth@washpost.com

karla.adam@washpost.com

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