Brexit crunch coming

Everyone knows that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would be a very bad idea, except a cabal of very determined MPs. I’ll come back to that.

Everyone also agrees that Theresa May has done a staggeringly bad job at negotiating Brexit, but she’s still there. I’ll come back to that also.

Her latest speech telling the people that she’s on their side, but the other politicians are to blame has really upset everyone. Apparently the anger with politicians in Britain is real, and May has just made it worse.

Stephen Bush, political editor of the New Statesman, sends out a morning call. His last Friday effort is a good explainer.

    The European Union has agreed to extend the United Kingdom’s stay in the European Union until at least 12 April.

    Should the withdrawal agreement be passed before 29 March, the UK’s membership of the EU will be extended until 22 May, to give Parliament time to pass the necessary legislation to give effect to the UK’s exit from the EU.

    Of course, the chances of that happening are somewhere between “slim” and “none”. Theresa May’s thoughtless speech on Wednesday has hurt her hopes of passing the deal for two reasons: it has further increased the political incentive for Labour MPs to oppose her, and in appearing to put no deal back on the table, emboldened pro-Brexit Conservatives to maintain their opposition to the withdrawal agreement as well.

    So what will then happen is that the UK will have until 12 April to reach an alternative arrangement. That date is a hard, non-fungible deadline because that is the point when the British government would have to notify the European Commission that it intends to contest elections to the European Parliament, without which it cannot remain in the EU longterm.

    But there is no more chance of Parliament voting to hold European elections than there is of Parliament voting for May’s deal. MPs who are, for whatever reason, opposed to a second referendum know that voting against European elections kills the hope of staying in the EU deader than dead. The official People’s Vote campaign has never shown any inclination or ability to create up a parliamentary majority for anything and has just 20 days to a) discover that skill and b) execute it successfully. It’s theoretically possible but not particularly likely.

    It is on the floor of the House next week, when MPs will again have an opportunity to take control of the order paper. It is highly likely they will take it.

    But once they have it, will they be able to cohere around something else to put in its place? The expectation among many MPs is that next week will be the week when Jeremy Corbyn’s frequent trips to the Commission and his meetings with cross-party group of MPs looking for an Efta-type arrangement for the UK will bear fruit: in the form of some kind of pre-negotiated set of changes to the political declaration that have essentially already been signed off at the EU end.

    The trouble is, is that while there might be a majority for that, it will be very tight indeed. But the crucial difference is that the UK may soon have exchanged a technical cliff-edge with for a real and inescapable one.

Everyone also knows that May is finished as a leader, it’s just that there is not enough time to replace her before the UK is turfed out.

There has been talk of Parliament taking control of the situation, but any deal would require a large number of Labour MPs to agree, and that is no easy matter.

So the possibility of a no-deal Brexit looks high as UK’s emergency plans for no-deal Brexit begin to be put into action:

    Kent county council has activated no-deal plans to keep its roads, hospitals and schools open, as the government considers pulling the trigger on national contingency measures involving 30 central departments and 5,000 staff.

They are looking at 10,000 lorries parked in a queue on the road, difficulty in maintaining drugs and essential supplies to hospitals, keeping schools open, and much, much more.

The UK is staring at real pain. Earlier on the slogan was “no deal is better than a bad deal”, but this doesn’t bear scrutiny. Also there was a notion that the EU would be so badly hurt they would do what is necessary to keep the Brits in. Some academics took a look in Why a no-deal Brexit would be less costly for the EU than the UK.

Their finding is that a no-deal Brexit will reduce the UK’s GDP by a staggering 5.8% of GDP. The worst hit would be Ireland, with a 2% reduction of GDP, then Cyprus with 0.2%.

    the four biggest EU27 countries will face a small drop in their GDP in the case of a No Deal Brexit scenario. Germany faces a 0.16% drop; France, 0.17%; Italy, 0.14%, and Spain, 0.18%. Hence, the overall effect on the EU27 will be a fairly small decline in their combined GDP – a weighted average of 0.17%.

By contrast, if the EU is dismantled, GDP in EU countries would fall by 4.7% on average. Everyone suffers.

Europe will do just about anything to preserve the EU, but the Brits don’t matter all that much. Exemplary suffering on their part would be instructive for other countries that might want to exit.

There is a story now that some MP’s will look at May’s deal, provided that she promises to disappear after it is done. Stephen Bush’s Monday morning call ended with:

    After months of threatening to take control, Parliament may well be about to demonstrate that it has no better idea of what to do with it than the Prime Minister does.

22 thoughts on “Brexit crunch coming”

  1. A really brave parliament could say, with some justification, that it has tried to implement BREXIT without damaging the country and has found it can’t be done and the country will exit BREXIT.
    If it won’t do that it should at least allow Scotland to separate and stay with the EU as the Scots voted to do.

  2. Indeed, John.

    Just heard that Parliament has just voted to take over the agenda, and Corbyn says there are plenty of ideas.

    May has said she won’t necessarily take any notice of whatever parliament decides.

  3. May has said she won’t necessarily take any notice of whatever parliament decides.

    She would be in a lot better position now if she had decided to ignore the referendum result once the problems of the divorce became obvious.

  4. There is an interesting story at Huffpost – MPs Seize Control Of Brexit As Commons Wrests Power Away From Theresa May:

    The Commons voted by 329 to 302 in favour of a cross-party amendment by Tory grandee Sir Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Hilary Benn to set out a series of ‘indicative’ votes on solutions such as a softer exit and even a second referendum.

    Foreign office minister Alistair Burt, business minister Richard Harrington and health minister Steve Brine all quit their posts in order to vote against the government.


    To jeers from the Opposition, May said she would not “give a blank cheque” to the indicative vote results and stressed that neither a customs union nor a second referendum were in the Tory manifesto in 2017.

    Jeremy Corbyn warned May: “She cannot both accept her deal does not have the numbers and stand in the way of finding an alternative that may have the numbers.”

    I gather the parliament is going to workshop the various options, taking ‘indicative votes’.

    Sounds a good idea, but May controls the government and is threatening to stick to the Tory manifesto.

    Party über alles.

  5. May has said she is willing to resign as long as her deal is accepted.
    The following shows the parliamentary support for various options:

    The vote results
    Leave the EU without a deal on April 12: 160-400
    Leave EU but still in common market 2.0/Norway plus: 188-283
    Leave with Norway option (EFTA) but no customs union: 65-377
    Leave the EU with a customs union: 264-272
    Labour’s Brexit plan — customs union with alignment on future rights and regulations with the EU: 237-307
    Revoke Article 50/cancel Brexit in event of a no-deal: 184-293
    Any withdrawal agreement must be put to a second referendum: 368-295
    Malthouse Plan B, which would seek a standstill agreement with the EU while trade deals are negotiated: 139-422

    The only thing that got majority support was that any withdrawal agreement mus be put to another referendum. Given all the problems that have been recognized since the referendum taking the final options to the people doesn’t seem all that undemocratic even though some Brexit supporters claim a second referendum would be undemocratic.

  6. John, I’ve just listened to Ian Dunt talking to Phillip Adams about this. Dunt thinks May could not be trusted to honour such a promise. He also does not see Labour or the ‘remain’ Tories having enough unity to actually agree on anything.

    He definitely not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn, so we’ll see how it all works out. Doesn’t look good.

  7. Actually, after the first eight indicative votes failing Ian Dunt sees some hope, because it identified two that didn’t fail by much.

    He sees a multi-phase operation, where the propositions that have significant support are tweeked.

  8. Brian: Your figures on going back to a referendum appear to be the wrong way around.
    Given what has emerged since the first referendum it would seem most undemocratic not to have another vote with some options.

  9. “May willing to resign…”

    Now The Guardian quotes (anonymous) ‘senior Ministers’ saying Mrs May should go very soon.

    “No point in hanging around.”

    “She should go soon, because her power is draining away.”

    Having promised to resign, she can’t credibly lead her Party to a General Election if one was held to decide Brexit. Another MP said they doubted a majority in the Commons wants a General Election now anyway, and the question of holding one rests with Parliament, not with the PM.

    Interesting to see the lower House begin to wrest back some power from the PM and Cabinet.

    …. aided by Speaker Bercow; it’s said that senior Tories have threatened not to bestow upon him the (traditional) post-Speaker honours and he has told them he cares not a whit.

    Rum times, gentlemen!

  10. If May resigns it wont trigger a General Election.
    They just choose a new Leader and then new PM.
    That’s how she got the job initially.

  11. There is another possibility.
    If Mrs May should lose a no confidence vote in the House, then there is a fixed 14 day period in which to form a new government. If that can’t be done, a General Election must be called.

    That if course would mean further Brexit delay.
    (Source: Guardian, “”How might PM be deposed?”

  12. Heck, every time I think of commenting on Brexit, there’s a major shift.

    What I cannot understand at all is that no matter whatever stupidity is committed by the arrogant Brussels Boofheads, they always come out smelling of roses in the mainstream media. The Brits are far from perfect – and I’m certainly not on their side – but they can’t be blamed for standing up for themselves against the EU’s provocations . As for Donald Tusk, send him back to Canada – non-metropolitan Nunavut would be just fine – and he can take his Council of Clowns with him; I’m sure a lot of non-aristocratic mainland Europeans would be happy to pay the one-way fares for them..

  13. The best odds Sky gives are 10/3 for Michael Gove, who looks very grumpy. However, that looks like a typo and might be 10/1

    They say the favourite is Boris Johnson at 4/1, which must surely be a joke.

  14. ?? Just a guess…. Could Mr Gove look grumpy because all he can see is a poisoned chalice?

  15. Greenland is the only country that has left the EU. Interesting article well worth reading in the Brexit context.
    Having watched what is happening to May I can understand why potential leaders don’t want to be the one that led the UK out of the EU.
    Should Scotland and Northern Ireland be given the option of leaving the UK before the stupid Sassenachs make the leap? (Switch to the sound of bagpipes wailing north of the border.)
    Should Scotland invade England while the attention of the Sassenachs is diverted elsewhere?
    Cameron is a good Scottish cattle stealing Clan name. Was the Brexit referendum a Scottish plot?
    Lots of questions to be answered.

  16. Here is an article on EU exasperation at Brexit:

    John D.: Actually, it would make political, social and economic sense for both Scotland AND Northern Ireland to secede from the United Kingdom, then immediately unite as a single nation and seek membership of the European Union. Protestants in Northern Ireland would probably be quite comfortable with having English Protestant protection replaced by Scottish Protestant protection, if any such protection was felt to be needed at all these days; everyone in Northern Ireland would be happy with not having any Customs barriers at the Republic of Ireland border.
    However, the news media seems to have forgotten that Britain is still a nuclear military power. Yes, the Ukraine, Belorus and Kazakhstan were kind enough to hand any atom-bombs they had over to Russia when the USSR broke up and, of course, we hope that Scotland and Northern Ireland would do likewise by send any atom-bombs on their territory to England – but would they? Given all the illogical, irrational and downright silly things that have happened over Brexit, there is no guarantee that stocks of all sorts of nasty weaponry would not become used as Ace cards in games of political manipulation, domination or just plain spite.

  17. SBS “Dateline” this coming Tuesday evening will cover the effects of Brexit on the Northern Ireland peace.

  18. A morsel from the Manchester Guardian, bastion of British liberal thought and apparently now with branch offices in the Colonies and former Colonies:

    Conservative MPs from across the party are threatening to vote down any attempt by Theresa May to lead them into a snap election, warning it would split the Tories and exacerbate the Brexit crisis.

    In a sign of the collapse in authority suffered by the prime minister, cabinet ministers are among those warning that there will be a serious campaign by Conservative MPs to vote against an election headed by May, a move she hinted at last week to break the Brexit deadlock.

    The threat of an election immediately angered both pro-Brexit and pro-Remain MPs. May would need a two-thirds majority in the Commons to secure one, meaning a serious rebellion by Tories could block it. May would then be forced to secure an election by backing a no-confidence vote in her own government, which only requires a simple majority of MPs.

    Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan said: “If we have a general election before Brexit is resolved, it will only make things worse.”


    Apparently a recent work of fiction, “Brexit” by Franz Kafka (Penguin) is not selling well.


  19. I’m thinking that Britain’s election voting system with first past the post yields an ossified two-party parliament where the other side is considered off the planet. The Brits have had no experience of political compromise such as is common experience on the Continent.

  20. Brian: It’s not just first-past-the-post that has served the British so poorly; their lack of compulsory voting is one of the roots of the Brexit mess.

    Not quite off-topic but as the saying goes, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good” and the Brexit mess probably delights everyone in China. At long last, the nation that inflicted two unequal treaties on All Under Heaven and then “carved it up like a melon” is now in a miserable situation; further, the Pound Stirling will inevitably suffer no matter what happens with Brexit. Adding to Chinese joy, the main long-term rival to their Yuan as the world’s trade currency, the Euro, is likely to suffer as well. Forget the U.S. Dollar: the unstable King of America might turn it into a Peso overnight – though it will be a while before 100-Yuan notes will pay for a burger-and-fries in Abilene TX or Oneida NY. Effects of the Brexit mess can spread far-and-wide.

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