Deal or no deal: Theresa May's withdrawal agreement and the politics of (non-)ratification

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Abstract

The defeat of Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement in the British Parliament is often ascribed to the prime minister's precarious situation in Parliament and her inability to negotiate a deal that satisfied domestic stakeholders. But the contradictions of Brexit were always going to produce a least-worst agreement and patterns of support for the deal were largely invariant to changes in its contents. Drawing on the literature on ratification, this article sets out an alternative explanation for the demise of the Withdrawal Agreement. It argues that the government's ability to threaten MPs with a ‘no deal’ outcome placed the executive in a strong position following the referendum, and that the primary source of ratification failure was the breakdown of this ability over the course of the negotiations. This account helps us understand why the government was initially unwilling to seek the support of stakeholders outside of the Conservative Party for its Brexit proposals.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalJCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies
Early online date8 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Brexit
  • Theresa May
  • withdrawal agreement
  • ratification
  • two-level games

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