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.