112 Days to Go, Four Days to the Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Today in Brexit: Theresa May might need Brussels to help rescue the Brexit deal, but there’s a limit to what’s possible.

Please help. That’s what the European Union expects to hear from Theresa May at a summit in Brussels next week. But weary of Brexit and in no mood to reopen talks, the EU’s national chiefs are unlikely to hand the prime minister anything like an easy escape route out of the worst political crisis in Britain in a generation.

The febrile atmosphere in Westminster this week — where the U.K. Parliament has been debating the Brexit deal and wondering aloud about the scale of May’s defeat in the vote on Tuesday, if it even happens — hasn’t been replicated in Brussels. European officials have been concerning themselves with other things. There’s no plan being hatched to get May out of trouble. “We’ve been sitting on our hands,” said one official in Brussels. There really isn’t a Plan B.

European leaders can take some steps to help. There are several options available, including even a renegotiation of the political declaration on future ties. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, indicated yesterday where things might be heading, telling an audience in Brussels, “We will do everything not to have to use this backstop,” referring to the fallback plan on the Irish border. In the days ahead, expect many more statements from the EU side distancing themselves from the thing that British lawmakers hate most about the deal.

There are still six days before the summit, and officials in Brussels know a lot can happen before then. That’s why they haven’t made firm plans about Thursday’s discussion. They also know May could postpone Tuesday’s parliamentary vote. If the EU’s in the mood to help May just to get it over with, she might be able to turn that to her advantage.

Today’s Must-Reads

  • Rob Hutton looks at all the ways that Tuesday’s Parliament vote might not happen.
  • In the Daily Telegraph, Fraser Nelson says “Operation Stop Boris” is in full swing.
  • The Economist has nailed its colors to the mast: The best way out of the Brexit mess is a second referendum.

Brexit in Brief

Court Report | In a rare step, the EU Court of Justice sent a series of tweets seeking to put the record straight after people suggested that political motivations were behind a swift judgment about whether the U.K. can change its mind about Brexit. The so-called expedited procedure “allows a national court to request that its case be treated urgently in light of the special circumstances,” the court said.

Fin de Siecle | The FTSE 100 on Wednesday closed below the level seen at the end of 1999 and extended its declines yesterday. The benchmark gauge fell 3.2 percent, the worst drop since June 2016, matching the magnitude of the decline following the Brexit referendum on a closing basis.

Deal Delusion | Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said that lawmakers who believe May can go back and renegotiate her deal are out of touch with reality. “This deal is the best deal for leaving the EU that is available or is going to be available,” he said in the House of Commons. “The idea that there’s a better deal to be negotiated at the 11th hour is a delusion.”

Flying High | London Stansted airport, best known as the biggest base for short-haul discount giant Ryanair Holdings, plans to announce as many as three new inter-continental routes even as Brexit crimps growth. The airport added its first such service in June, when when Emirates began flights to Dubai.

No Deals | In a meeting at No. 10 Downing Street this week, a dozen executives from global private equity firms expressed concern about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, people familiar with the discussion said. U.K. Trade Secretary Liam Fox urged the buyout firms — part of an industry that’s sitting on more than $1 trillion in investment firepower — to support May’s deal.

Medicine Shortage | Pharmacists will overrule general practitioners to ration drugs under a no-deal Brexit, The Times reports, citing government documents. Ministers will order pharmacists to alter prescriptions without first contacting the patient’s GP in order to mitigate any extreme shortages.

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To contact the author of this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Fleisher at lfleisher2@bloomberg.net, Jones Hayden

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