The Archbishop of Canterbury blasted political squabbling in the English Parliament on Monday for greatly reducing the U.K’s chance of cleanly breaking with the EU on time.
Archbishop Justin Welby said that the chances of the U.K. breaking with the EU by the deadline of March 29, 2019 were “infinitesimally small,” thanks to political infighting in the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May’s loss of majority in Parliament, according to Reuters. The U.K. invoked article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty when it first announced the EU split, which began a two-year period starting March 29, 2017, during which the U.K. and the EU must negotiate the terms of the break.
“There are literally thousands of separate agreements to come to,” Welby told BBC Radio. “If each one of those has to be argued as a point of confidence on the floor of the House of Commons, the chance of getting this done in what’s now roughly 18 months is infinitesimally small.”
May’s loss of parliamentary majority created a temptation for the U.K.’s 11 political parties to bring every disagreement on the terms of the break to a vote of confidence, according to Welby. Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier corroborated Welby’s prediction, telling EU ambassadors that the lack of progress during initial discussions of the terms made it less likely that negotiations concerning the future relationship between the EU and the U.K. would start in October as planned.
Welby called for a cross-party commission on Brexit to streamline the decision-making process for points of the terms that are not huge political issues.
“Can the politicians not put at the front of their minds the needs of the United Kingdom to come out with a functional working system for Brexit and agree that certain things are … off the political table and will be decided separately in an expert commission?” Welby asked.
The deadline to reach terms on Brexit between the EU and the U.K. can be extended, but only if all 28 members of the EU agree.
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