Brexit: Brexit Minister Raab Resigns; May to Face Hostile Parliament. Update: Two More Resignations, Bringing Total So Far to Four, Now Six

It would be nice to go into some of the details of the Brexit agreement, but one point seems not to have gotten the attention it warrants. PlutoniumKun pointed out yesterday that May was putting a lot of emphasis on the draft status of the deal. Later in the day, Barnier remarked that there was a lot of work to be done. In reading the text, Clive noted that key sections, particularly regarding the Irish border, were so fudgy as to be ambiguous and therefore create confusion and disputes.

However, it seems clear that both sides expect more negotiation to happen….which makes it hard to understand the approval timetable. The plan was for the EU to sign off on the draft on November 25, and for it to go to Parliament in early December. Or is it possible that the EU would issue conditional approval, pending clarification of some issues? There is time for another round of negotiation before the EU Council meeting in December, if nothing else to clean up the text. But it’s not hard to expect that any tidying will wind up favoring the EU more than the UK.

Richard North does his usual fine job of unpacking the agreement, and describes how the key sections work together to produce what he depicts as a Brexit In Name Only. But that’s not quite right, since North is an expert on goods, and he appears to have ignored the services side. The EU is taking a bite out of the City, as we predicted. From Reuters:

The United Kingdom and the European Union have agreed a deal that will give London’s vast financial center only a basic level of access to the bloc’s markets after Brexit.

The agreement will be based on the EU’s existing system of financial market access known as equivalence – a watered-down relationship that officials in Brussels have said all along is the best arrangement that Britain can expect.

The EU grants equivalence to many countries and has so far not agreed to Britain’s demands for major concessions such as offering broader access and safeguards on withdrawing access, neither of which is mentioned in the draft deal.”It is appalling,” said Graham Bishop, a former banker and consultant who has advised EU institutions on financial services. The draft text “is particularly vague but emphasizes the EU’s ability to take decisions in its own interests…. This is code for the UK being a pure rule taker.”

Back to North. He pieces though how the UK is in a “single customs territory” through the end of the transition period, with lots of detailed provisions about goods standards, adherence to environmental and labor regimes, and so on, which North seems bothered about. I’m perplexed at his upset: if the UK is going to stay in the Single Market through the end of the transition period, it should seem obvious that it still has to hew to EU rules and compliance requirements. I find it odd that the draft lists them, as opposed to making a comprehensive statement, since it runs the risk of missing something important.

But then North gets to the part to get excited about:

Ostensibly in an attempt to clarify issues, there is a technical explanatory note and the Commission has published some additional fact sheets, with one on the protocol. These seem to confirm (unless I am very much mistaken) that the protocol reaches past the transition period and stays unless in force until it is superseded, in whole or in part, by a subsequent agreement.

This, effectively, is the “backstop”, and the fact sheet makes it clear that the single EU-UK customs territory is established “from the end of the transition period until the future relationship becomes applicable”. That effectively means the whole of the UK is locked into a customs union, after the end of the transition period, until a permanent solution to the border problem is agreed.

Yet, getting rid of these provisions is not going to be easy. The way it works, apparently, is that at any time after the transition period, the EU or the UK may consider that the Protocol, in whole or in part, is no longer necessary.

That party must then notify the other, setting out its reasons. This kicks in a “Joint Committee” – established in Article 164 of the Withdrawal Agreement – which considers the notification and may seek an opinion from institutions created by the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement 1998.

Following discussions in the Joint Committee, the EU and the UK may decide jointly that the Protocol, in whole or in part, is no longer necessary to achieve its objectives.

The way this Joint Committee is set up, it is required to adopt its decisions and make its recommendations “by mutual consent”, which means that the EU has a veto on when (or if) the UK can drop out of the customs union, with a final appeal to an arbitration panel. On matters of Union law, however, the ECJ has jurisdiction to make rulings, which are binding on the arbitration panel.

Any which way you look at it, this accumulation of issues raises many important questions. It is hard to see that the UK has secured the ability unilaterally to remove the “backstop” and, as the agreement stands, it is possible to see a scenario where the UK is locked in perpetuity into a customs union with the EU.

Put it another way, it is a bit too obvious that the EU got the upper hand. As Politico put it in Fog of Brexit war can’t hide Brussels’ win: “Brussels is happy. Westminster is in chaos.”

We’ll have to pause for now with the draft to turn to the events of the day. May is set to meet with Parliament and take questions, which will likely get plenty heated. As we indicate in Links, Blair has denounced the deal as not a compromise but a capitulation, and pundits and pols of other persuasions are also using the “c” word.

Resignations are coming faster than after Chequers, where it took David Davis and Boris Johnson a few days to decide to stomp out. Shailesh Vara, the Northern Ireland minister, admittedly quite junior, resigned promptly. More important, Dominic Raab, May’s Brexit minister, resigned this morning:

I had thought Raab resigning would pose a problem for May, particularly if he made clear he would actively oppose the deal. The initial reaction is similar to mine:

Mr. Market seems to think so too:

May is also expected to face a vote of no confidence today, but she seems very likely to survive it, which as vlade argues, would strengthen her in the short term. However, it might also give as sense the scale of Tory votes against the deal, meaning whether there are more than the 51 Stand4Brexit signatories.

The Blairite wing of Labour, which was where May could have hoped to find votes to make up for the Tories she will lose. In fact, Labour MPs appear to need to oppose Brexit as a matter of survival. As Fintan O’Toole pointed out in the New York Review of Books:

The Labour Party’s members are overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit: a poll in September showed that 86 percent of them say they want a second referendum. In a recent large-scale national survey for Channel 4 News, 75 percent of Labour voters said they want the UK to retain a close relationship with the EU. Surveys show that in Labour’s old industrial heartlands, where working-class voters strongly backed Brexit in 2016, opinion is swinging sharply toward a rethink.

Corbyn had roughed up May in Monday’s Question Time, calling May out for crossing her own red lines and winding up where “we are going to spend years with less say over our laws or how our money is spent”. He also tried and failed to get May to say whether “the sovereign right of the UK Parliament to unilaterally withdraw from any backstop.” Corbyn has not yet taken an official stance, but it seems that if the Corbyn and Blairite factions can cooperate enough to vote down the deal, they could control the next phase. As much as the formal rules and timetable don’t appear to allow enough time to do that, expect the EU to get very creative if they see a way to cut a path for the UK to back out of Brexit.

Of course, this is the last thing the Ultras want to enable, but they may be overly confident that there isn’t enough time to steer out of a nosedive before the March 29 deadline. And there is also the Tory loathing for letting a Corbyn-led Labour form a government, or even earn enough Brexit kudos to set them up to do that. As a result:

Also, as much as I was taken with vlade’s scenario that Parliament will first vote down May’s agreement, then be cowed by the markets falling out of bed and find some face-saving device for approving it on a second vote, some market analysts beg to differ. BlondMonday (hat tip Scott):

  • Much talk of a TARP style crash in FTSE or GBP that would “focus minds”
    • But politicians really don’t care about that. For TARP, markets were broken and had to be fixed. This time, there’s no such pressure. Markets are merely a pressure valve that will be employed by all elements to support their argument
  • Markets aren’t centre stage. It’s businesses that matter.
    • If you run a business, and find that this December, as you look into the new year, you aren’t sure who will be Prime Minister, whether or how we might have left the EU, and no end in sight to the uncertainty, you will have no choice but to activate the contingency plan

It seems unlikely that May will be able to secure Corbyn’s support, which says the odds of her getting Parliamentary approval seem remote, unless Labour comes to believe the EU won’t cut them breaks if May’s agreement founders (that appears to be a strong assumption of the Blarite faction). This is all very much in play, so reader sightings and views very much appreciated.

Update 5:55 AM: More resignations:

Update 6:45 AM: Financial Times’ live blog is headed Brexit deal in crisis – live updates. Summary:

Dominic Raab, the UK’s Brexit secretary, and Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary, have both resigned over the draft Brexit agreement, throwing Theresa May’s plans into chaos.

The prime minister is due to address MPs today after cabinet gave its blessing to the 583-page text last night. However, the departure of two cabinet members so soon raises serious doubts about whether the government’s strategy can hold.

23 mins ago:

Labour MP Chris Leslie has a pithy, if not exactly complimentary, summary of the debate so far.

“Not a single member or right honorable member has supported the plans the PM has set out,” Mr Leslie says, pointing out “‘we’ve been going for an hour now”.

12 mins ago:

So far very few MPs have had a good word to say about the Brexit deal.

7 mins ago (“Senior Tories come to May’s aid”):

The former Home secretary Amber Rudd – a staunch Remainer – gives the PM some relief by pointing out to MPs that the poorest people in the country will be hardest hit by a no deal.

Sir Nicholas Soames, another senior Tory, joins in by congratulating Mrs May on getting a deal in the most difficult of circumstances.

The Guardian also has a live blog. A tidbit from there:

Mark Francois, a Tory Brexiter and a member of the European Research Group, says there are 84 Tories who will vote against the deal, and the numbers are rising. The agreement was “dead on arrival”, he says. He urges May to accept the political reality.

The prime minister says when a deal gets brought back it will be for MPs to consider it, and their duty to deliver on the vote of the British people.

Update 7:50 AM: One more resignation, Ranil Jayawardena of the Ministry of Justice:

Update 8:20 AM: Guardian tally of resignations:

Four ministers have resigned, and two parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs – unpaid ministerial bag carriers, who are not members of the government but who are expected to support the government in all votes)

All of these MPs voted leave apart from Shailesh Vara, who voted remain.


Dominic Raab, Brexit secretary

Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary

Junior ministers

Suella Braverman, Brexit minister

Shailesh Vara, Northern Ireland minister


Ranil Jayawardena, MoJ PPS

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, education PPS

As the Evening Standard reports, Nikki Da Costa, director of legislative affairs in Downing Street (an official, not an MP) has also resigned.

Nicola Sturgeon harangued Scottish secretary David Mundel to resign.

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  1. Ignacio

    Raab’s resignation is being reported even in EU media that have had the ligthest brexit coverage. It is signalled as the beginning of the end of May. It seems by initial reactions in the parliament the draft does not satisfy brexiters neither remainers. Uh oh!
    Corbyn said not!

      1. Darthbobber

        I really can’t read those 6 points and say it’s clear at all that this agreement satisfies them. Enough room there for a fleet of worries to drive through. And maneuvering politicians require vastly less room than that. If there’s a dilemma, it’s not this.

  2. Clive

    I think the provisions of the arbitration authority are the main papering-over-the cracks.

    In any contract where you suspect a party might renege, it’s the dispute resolution clause(s) which need the most diligence. In essence, if the deal falls apart, what happens then? This deal seems destined to end in some sort of litigation futures.

    The arbitration panel fix gives both sides a way out of pretty much everything else in the deal. Assuming, of course, they can swing the panel.

  3. vlade

    I disagree that the politicians don’t give a toss about markets.

    Yes, crash in FTSE in the markets is bad – but most of the UK population is way less exposed to the FTSE in any direct way than the US one (quite a bit of the UK population is exposed to it via pensions and insurance companies w/o them even knowing it, but that’s a different story).

    Crash in sterling and gilts is an entirely different beast though. A 20% crash in sterling would have pretty immediate impact on the population via petrol and food prices. Gilt crash would also have impact.

    Either/both could also put BoE between the rock and a hard place – if BoE had to protect (and here’re talking not to stave off, but to just make it a bit more orderly retreat than a rout) sterling via upping the interest rates, whcih again would have direct impact on people via mortgages/rents.

    Dropping the rates – there’s not much space, and it would make any sterling rout worse.

    So politicians will pay attention to sterling/IR. Not to FTSE.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, Vlade.

      With regard to the BoE, let’s recall Black/White/Golden Wednesday in September 1992 when Badger Lamont had to raise rates twice in a day. When Lamont appeared on the Treasury steps, a floppy haired youngster called David Cameron, his “adviser” apparently, stood behind him.

      On the sardine can (Met line) home yesterday, I bumped into my ophthalmologist. He has a diverse range of clients from around the City and Whitehall. A Brexit department economist told him that a range of economic scenarios had been relayed at the bilaterals May held with cabinet ministers on Tuesday. The bravado from ardent Brexiteers was snuffed out. Also, Ministry of Defence planners got in on the act, saying that a collapse in the value of Sterling was making the UK’s toy guns (toys that the UK does not need and must be paid with money the UK does not have) even more expensive and diminishing the UK’s ability to project power.

      1. larry

        Colonel, what do you mean that the UK does not have money? It has as much financing as it, in principle, needs. Whether it wants to spend or thinks it a good idea is of course another question. On the other hand, it may not have the resources re a given spend, hence, no matter how much financing it could engage in, it can’t engage in the given spend. For domestic purposes, a collapse in sterling should make little or no difference. I know that for this government this may well make a difference.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Larry.

          This was my disarmament enthusiast speaking, in part after attending recent armistice events with my dad and godfather, both RAF veterans, and coming across politicians who talk tough / big, but won’t / don’t do any fighting.

          1. larry

            Ah, I didn’t realize. My father tried to enlist during WW2 three times. The first two times, the draft board gave him his physical after which they called his employer. Both times, his employer, a steel mill (he was a high up engineer who went on to be chief engineer), told the board that he could not be spared. The third time he showed up, the board rep recognized him and told him that if he came back, he would be reported to the authorities. My father was really put out by this.

            He had no time for bullshitting politicians. He would have hated Trump.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Um, updating the post again. The FT, which is normally neutral to optimistic on this topic, has a live blog up with the header Brexit deal in crisis – live updates. It looks like at least some of them slept on it and changed their minds.

        Guardian live blog says, as I just put in the post:

        Mark Francois, a Tory Brexiter and a member of the European Research Group, says there are 84 Tories who will vote against the deal, and the numbers are rising. The agreement was “dead on arrival”, he says. He urges May to accept the political reality.

        The prime minister says when a deal gets brought back it will be for MPs to consider it, and their duty to deliver on the vote of the British people.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I’d agree that for the population in general, the key economic indicator is the value of Sterling. People feel it immediately on holidays and see it very quickly reflected in fuel prices. I’ve no proof, but I suspect that actually the rising cost of Spanish and French holidays over this summer probably made more UK’ers reflect on Brexit than anything else.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, PK.

        I concur.

        I have come across some “pentiti” recently, including a couple who broke up over Brexit with remainer friends after fifty years of friendship. All very sad. They are all friends / former colleagues of my parents, who keep well out of such matters, all immigrants from Mauritius and doctors.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I’m visiting the wilds of the North Pennines this weekend. My friend who lives up there, a staunch remainer, was furious beyond words at all his neighbours – sheep farmers! – who voted for Brexit. I guess I’ll find out if they are still talking, or if those farmers have changed their minds.

          The odd thing is that my Remainer friend is in a business that would actually benefit from Brexit (domestic tourism).

      2. johnnygl

        Wealthy remainers getting sticker shock while on vacation will likely see this as fulfilling their fears. I’m not sure it will sway the working class pro-brexit crowd, though. Rising food and fuel prices resulting from a sterling fall might do the trick.

        How quickly is the pass through? If the govt looks in chaos and the sell-off accelerates, it may speed up the pass through into prices.

        Will voters make the connection? And will they change their minds? Or will they see it as ‘the price of freedom from EU regulation’.

        1. vlade

          I fly between the UK and Central Europe few times a month. The flight used to be pretty full of young, blue-collar brits, male and female, usually going for stage/hen parties.

          Even in the last year, the number dropped significantly. There’s still quite a few blue-collar travellers there, but it’s slowly changing.

          I’d point to the non-UK audience, that given flight prices from the UK to some parts of the Europe and cost of alcohol there vs the UK, it can be cheaper to go on a weekend bender in Europe (even with flights and accomodation) than a really boozy evening in a pub in the UK.

          As an example, an average cost of a pint in the UK is 3GBP, cheapest are around 2.50.
          In Prague, in a pub, you can get almost two litres of beer for 3GBP. If you’re ok to just sit outside in a park, for 3GBP you can get easily 10+ bottles of beer in a supermarket.

          1. ChristopherJ

            Thank you Vlade, problems of England being a high cost country.

            Like mine. Heading to Port Douglas for a couple of days (we both like golf, go figure). When I add in fuel, accom, meals and so on, cheaper for me to go to Bali, I kid you not.

            But then there’s the air travel and going through that border force… nah, can’t even take my clubs, eh?

  4. bold'un

    I’m still expecting Labour to ‘save’ Theresa May by trading an abstention for a quick election: this could be good for May as well since she gets a second chance to win a working majority while it’s not at all clear who is in the best position to lead the Tories AFTER the Withdrawal is enacted and signed.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t see how this makes any sense for Labour. First, their voters wants Labour to oppose Brexit, as the post shows. They don’t want Labour facilitating Brexit. They want a second referendum or a way out. Second, why should Labour stick itself with May’s mess?

      1. bold'un

        Labour certainly wants to ‘get their hand on the tiller’. As to a way out of Brexit, a second referendum now is too much of a throw of the dice; better for them to apply to re-join EFTA and then work to expand that Association (Turkey, Ukraine, the Balkans…) in order to gain negotiating clout and appear less BRINO. If that works, it’s a win; but if it fails, then—say 7 years’ hence—it’s time for a second referendum (EFTA ain’t working: so do we get further out or go back in?)

        1. porquoilefoi

          I imagine the current EFTA members, Turkey, Ukraine, the Balkan countries, the EU, and the British public might have some input into how that plan would work out.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I don’t see how this works – first off, I can’t see May agreeing to a quick election (in any event, its not in her gift, only Parliament can call an early election). If she lost both Brexit and ended up giving Corbyn No.10 she’d almost literally be lynched by Tory grassroots as would any MP who supported her. Although I still wouldn’t rule out her doing some sort of deal with Blairites to save her skin, although I can’t think what that would involve now.

      I also think that desperate and all Labour may be for power, getting into power right in the jaws of Brexit would be awful and could well be a lifeboat to the Tories if they can stick Labour with all the inevitable problems. Much better to wait until things settle a little (unless – and this is a thin straw – they can get into power on a mandate of withdrawing A.50 and then pray that the EU accepts this)

    3. vlade

      As PK writes above, if May was able to do that, it would be actually a pretty good Tory coup. Not that most of them would appreciate it right now, and it would be still a political-death sentence to her.

  5. efschumacher

    I can’t see that Theresa May is going through this with a sort of Pollyanna view that Labour, or SNP or Lib Dems, or the other Northern Irish parties will dance to her rescue. The Tory party is broken, and that was Cameron’s reason for calling the Referendum in the first place, so there is no visible way for this agreement to get through Parliament.

    So she has to have a plan for steering the inevitable aftermath. It was telling that in here lonely speech yesterday she offered three options: This draft agreement, No Deal or No Brexit. The draft agreement won’t survive Parliament. She may not survive if she calls a General Election. In order for her to keep control, she has to call a (third) Referendum, with the binary question: No Deal or Remain. Especially now that the Electorate is 2 years of looking into the abyss wiser than in 2016 and the Daily Mail and Express aren’t as loony Leaver as they were.

    Sure you’ll get bleatings from Rees-Mogg and his European Rejectionist Group that ‘Democracy has to be respected’. But of course any sequence of Referenda is still the same Democracy in action. And I’m pretty sure that an Informed decision (following the 2 years of exposure to all the horrors), gets a better democratic result than the uninformed decision of 2016 – informed only by the fomentings of ex-patriate Press Barons – and of course, the twathood of Boris and Nigel.

    As to Raaaaab’s resignation. I can’t see why markets and currencies would be especially exercised by the decision of a man who up until a week ago didn’t know that Dover was Calais’ parking lot, and vice versa.

    I predict a result of 60-40 for Remain.

    1. paul

      As to Raaaaab’s resignation. I can’t see why markets and currencies would be especially exercised by the decision of a man who up until a week ago didn’t know that Dover was Calais’ parking lot, and vice versa

      ….and until this morning did not seem to understand the withdrawal (if you can call it that) the department of brexitness was preparing under his leadership.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Paul.

        I am glad that you have chimed in about Raab.

        He grew up down the road / in the neighbouring constituency from me. His MP was Ian Gilmour. Mine was Timothy Raison. What a difference and an indictment of how the Tory party has degenerated over the past generation / since Thatcher took over.

        1. Synoia

          My memory is longer. I don’t recall any Tory Government better that the current one. I can clearly remember being aware of McMillan’s. Eden not at all.

          I started paying attention, probably with a large loack of comprehension from Hume onward.

          Eden – Suez?
          Blair? – Would he have been able to join the Labor party in the 1960s?

    2. Mattski

      I see a way to sell a referendum as democratic: The people voted for withdrawal. Now they know the terms of the negotiated deal. Do they want that deal or–having seen it–do they want to remain? That would be a reasonable way to frame it.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    I think Rafael Behr, one of the Guardians political correspondents, puts things quite well:

    These resignations confirm a fundamental structural problem with the whole leave prospectus: it was a fantasy, and as such incompatible with the mundane fulfilment of ministerial responsibility. Raab has come to the same conclusion that David Davis and Boris Johnson reached earlier in the year: it is easier to be on the team that accuses the prime minister of failing to deliver majestic herds of unicorns than it is to be stuck with a portfolio that requires expertise in unicorn-breeding.

    The loss from cabinet of the man whose job title literally implied ownership of the whole process also signals to the country that there is something intrinsically dysfunctional about the project – both May’s government and the deal it is peddling.

    and concludes:

    And there lies the second way in which Raab’s departure wounds the prime minister. It collapses one of the bridges along which other MPs might have walked, albeit reluctantly, towards supporting May’s compromises. She needs a critical mass of Tories prepared to line up with the cabinet, stand in front of a TV camera, conjure the twin horrors of no deal and no Brexit, and invoke duty to the national interest in endorsing what is advertised as the only deal on offer. Every conspicuous refusal to be part of that show has a knock-on effect disincentivising waverers with one eye on history’s verdict and another on their career prospects. Already Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Raab’s department, has followed her former boss. No one wants to be the mug who gambled everything buying shares in the prime minister when the rest of the market is selling like mad.

    Brexit has been a wild ride so far, exhilarating at first for those who wanted it, terrifying for those that didn’t. But the party is drawing to a close. The music has stopped. The place is strewn with cigarette butts and empty beer cans. The black bin bags are being passed around. The faces still in the room are wan and haggard. They know that there is nothing left to do but survey the damage, count the cost. Is it any surprise that the last wreckers in cabinet are making excuses and heading for the door?

    By this reading, May is finished – or to be precise, her deal is finished. She won’t even get a mandate to go back and maybe try to get some superficial concessions by the EU.

    Of course, the question is, where everyone would go from here. For me, the odds have significantly increased that it will be accepted by the Tory party in general that they have a straight choice between a catastrophic no-deal, or slinking away with a request to the EU to withdraw A.50.

    1. animalogic

      As an outsider I stand to be corrected.
      I believe May was a political corpse/ zombie from day dot.
      The concepts “Leave” & “Success” are simply inconsistent. She accepted a poison chalice – a cup not even Mithradites (IV ?) could have stomached.
      I am yet to read anything even vaguely credible that suggests that the UK can “leave” & “come out in front”.
      This is degrees of failure, destruction & pain.
      Negatives to be eternally sheeted home to May.

  7. Ignacio

    Does anybody think that once you have a brexit proposal (even if it is a draft) is the moment when you can subject the brexit question to referendum?

    1. Boomka

      No, as long as it’s a draft, you don’t know what you are voting for. Even if proposal has been finalized, referendum would need 3 options: no deal, no Brexit, current deal on offer. 3 way referendum would only make matters murky and offer no resolution.

      What you want is for draft deal to collapse, then you can have crystal clear referendum with 2 options: leave with no deal, or remain.

      Of course, there is no time for such referendum, so we would be relying on the kindness of EU to bend its rules and give UK extra time, and who knows what it would take for that to happen… Outlook is not good for anyone looking for optimistic scenarios of the remain sort.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I guess if anyone in the government had even a slight amount of strategic thinking and genuine desire for a good outcome, they would have proposed a ballot on the deal as part of the A.50 declaration 18 months ago. Although even that would be very difficult (what is the alternative? Go back and negotiate again? No deal? Request A.50 withdrawal?).

      But its an impossibility at this time as it would take at least 6 months to organise a referendum.

  8. The Rev Kev

    If May is looking for a new Brexit Minister, I understand that Avigdor Lieberman is at loose ends at the moment. He might make an interesting choice.

    1. Anonymous2

      FWIW the headlines of the Telegraph, Mail and Express are reasonably helpful to May this a.m. The Sun is the least helpful, I think, saying ‘we are in the Brexshit’.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I am looking now on the website of the Telegraph and I don’t agree. The one that looks sort of helpful, the AEP piece, isn’t if you read it. Or are your referring to the print editions, which would be pre-resignations? She was in much better shape last night than this AM.

        And this is the lead headline in the UK section (I am forced to see a US edition, so I assume this is the UK lead story) for the Mail:

        May in meltdown as TWO Cabinet ministers quit: PM is mauled in Commons by MPs from both sides of Commons, minutes after Esther McVey and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab both resign over her Brussels deal

        Not checking the Express…..need to turn in.

        1. Susan the other

          Thank you Yves for staying up all night. This is amazing stuff. I can’t believe it’s happening. Theresa has no clothes. That “draft” sounds even worse than the original agreement – it is so explicit with language that stitches up the UK even tighter than before. And not an inch on Ireland and not an inch on The City. These Tories make Chicago politics look honorable.

    2. Synoia

      It’s been a while since the British and French fought. Is that’s the pan Lieberman would make a good choice.

  9. vlade

    Gove offered ministry for Brexit. Considering either that, or leaving the government. Give the rat he is, it will be a good indicator of May’s survivability.

    What comes then is interesting though, as if there is a Tory leadership contest, there are really only two possible outcomes: Someone just slightly more Brexitish than May gets in (Hunt, Javid), but they will still want to push an agreement (with cosmetic changes) through. Or a hard, no-deal Brexiter wins, saying “f-k EU, we’re leaving now”.

    TBH, I’d consider a no-deal Brexit more likely in the first case, by accident (i.e running out of time). In the second case, I suspect enough Tory MPS would quit the whip to fail any confidence votes in the parliament and trigger a GE.

    Some strategists say that it’s possible a majority of Tory MPs would now prefer a vote on the 2nd referendum (which may be a technical vote, basically a show-of-hands) as it’s about impossible for May’s deal to pass, and they (Tory MPs) would prefer 2nd ref to a GE.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I think the realists will recognize the only not-crazy option is to find a way to retreat and somehow get the EU to go along. It will but it does have a lot of procedure, and someone will have to box everyone around the ears to get them to agree to no tribute for putting the EU through this (Churchill’s “magnanimous in victory”) or a sensible ask, like an agreement not to invoke A50 for X years, with X being at least 5.

      1. Clive

        I think there’s too many parliamentary manacles for a slope-away let’s forget this whole thing ever happened get-out. There is a legally binding withdrawal date which would require a full Act of Parliament (primary legislation) to overturn. Then you’d have to (taking the simplest first) get another vote passed to try to revoke A50 or, failing that, some second referendum legislation and we know how long a second referendum would take. Any attempt to bypass the Electoral Commission to short-cut the referendum question-defining would result in a legal challenge and the only way to get rid of the Electoral Commission is yet more primary legislation and the pulling out of the treaty which underpins why the commission was created in the first place. And, of course, a referendum is a gamble anyhow. Everyone knows it’s just a ruse to get Remain by another name so it’s got a credibility problem right from the start. And the question would have to have something other than a straight “pick one of the above” options because otherwise the Leave vote automatically gets split (between No Deal, The Deal and Let’s Do Some Magical Thinking And See If We Can Get Another Different Deal) so you’d have to come up with a transferable vote referendum (such as first, second and third preferences or something like that). What proportion of voters would really understand that and what they were voting for?

        Other alternatives are ditching May for a Remain leader of the Conservative Party (who would become PM) but where is that person going to come from? There’s no Remain potential leader in waiting. It needs a 50% majority of Conservative MPs to select the leader, if May was thrown into a ditch. I can’t see how 50% of the Conservative MPs will vote for a Continuity Remain leader. And even if you somehow got a Remain leader, where’s the Remain cabinet going to be found?

        Then you’ve got the idea of a new Parliament following a General Election option. But that’s even more fraught — you vote for an MP, not for Leave or Remain. There’s no guarantee you’ll be getting a Labour Remain (or Conservative Remain) candidate in your constituency. And Momentum is moving to instigate instant deselection for any Labour candidate who is even slightly Remain-ish. You could simply end up with two Leave candidates from the Conservatives and Labour — Hobson’s choice, in other words. No reason at all, then, why any new Parliament should be any more Remain-minded than the current one and just as much chance it’ll be as Leave-prone (if not potentially even more so). Plus there’s really only 50-100 (max) constituencies which are genuinely marginal. Most sitting MPs would be returned so unless you can say for sure that the marginal seats would pretty much all get a Remain MP, the makeup of any new Parliament won’t change substantially — not substantially enough to give a clear Remain majority.

        For me, that Path of Least Resistance is the one most likely to prevail. There’ll be three months of endless crises, showdowns, the odd panic, the throwing of all manner of strops. But in the end, no-one will be able to come up with anything better than the deal which is on the table. Or a No Deal. Given the deal which is on the table is about as good as anyone could have realistically hoped to get, it’ll take a lot to dissuade a political class, wearied by a war of attrition, to not go for it in the end.

    2. vidimi

      the only way a second referendum to be accepted without tearing the country further apart is if brexit is overturned only by a pre-defined super-majority, say of at least 60%. if remain wins 52%-48% the brexiteers would cry foul.

      mr cameron sure put his party and his country in a pickle.

      1. vlade

        I disagree – if there was a sudden super-majority requirement, the remainers would cry foul, since there was no super-majority requirement before.

        Say if there’s a super-majority requirement, and remain wins 55:45 (which is entirely possible based on latest few polls), and UK crashes out with no-deal. Do you think it would NOT tear the country apart? It would be worse to be a politician there than to be a banker in 2008.

        The problem is, as Clive said, there’s no good solution anymore, there are only bad solutions.

        The probably least-bad (politically) solution would be to go back to the EU, ask for A50 extension to negotiate “Norway” deal (i.e. membership of EEA and single market) – so very specific negotiations, with very specific goals.

        I believe it’s something that most of the country could live with (I’ll ignore for the time being whether EEA would), if for no other reason than to be done with it all. Sure, there would be the fanatical UKIPers and Remainers both crying foul, but it would work, and not require GE or referendum.

        I believe it’s even something majority of Tories could be ok with. But I don’t believe it would, under Corbyn, get the support it would need from Labour (assume DUP would go against it, as would anywhere up to 50 Tories). I could see it getting support from SNP and possibly even LibDem though, question is whether it would be enough and I suspect not.

        So the poor UK is going to be ripped apart in the name of party politics for quite a bit longer.

      1. Ignacio

        tic-tac, tic-tac,
        I guess that the 25th november special EU summit migth be cancelled…
        tic-tac, tic-tac

        I guess that EU warnings won’t help

      2. efschumacher

        Gove’s eye is on being the next PM, so he’s been taking the ‘Statesman’ line for several months now. His becoming Brexit secretary would be a career destroyer, so it’s obvious he would turn it down.

        The problem with the job of Brexit secretary is that all the truly swivel-eyed Brexiteers (Rees-Mogg and fellow travellers. And Nigel, who isn’t even in Parliament) want to do nothing, run out the clock and crash out with no deal. So what’s left is a lukewarm appeaser, or else the truly clueless, such as Dominic Raab.

        The last ‘snap’ General election took just six weeks. Pretty sure you could mobilize for another Referendum quicker than 6 months. Pretty sure the EU is on the Remain side, so A50 extension will be waved through.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I’m astonished that he was offered the job when it was obvious that the ‘political’ thing he would do is to refuse it. Why is it so hard for May’s team to sound people out before embarrassing themselves like this? It does seem like the cabinet is totally dysfunctional in every possible way.

        2. Kurt Sperry

          “The last ‘snap’ General election took just six weeks. Pretty sure you could mobilize for another Referendum quicker than 6 months.”

          Can someone please explain why a Referendum would take more than four times longer to execute than the last GE? I assume everyone saying it will has good cause to (why would they make that up?), but it doesn’t make any sense to me why it would.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            There is a long form answer here. Because elections are carried out using existing legislation, they can be done much quicker – however, there is a far more complex series of steps required for referendums, from the article::

            Legislation – Primary legislation is needed to provide the legal basis for the referendum and to specify details that are not in standing legislation, including the referendum question, the franchise, the date of the referendum, and the conduct rules for the poll (although the latter two are often ultimately left to secondary legislation).
            •Question testing – The Electoral Commission has a statutory duty to assess the ‘intelligibility’ of the referendum question, a process that usually takes 12 weeks.
            •Preparation for the poll itself – The Electoral Commission and local officials need time to prepare for administering the poll and regulating campaigners. The Commission recommends that the legislation should be clear at least six months before it is due to be complied with.
            •Regulated referendum period – The UK’s referendum legislation – the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) – specifies a minimum 10-week campaign period, during which campaign regulation applies.

            1. themassoftoe

              I had a thought(!), what if the question for a second referendum were exactly the same question as the first referendum… i.e. a mirror rerun.

              That might provide a way to skip the intelligibility tests etc., and might ass the fairness smell test for we ‘the people’.

              1. Clive

                This is not a valid question in the current circumstances “Remain in the EU or Leave the EU” because Article 50 has already been triggered. Leaving the EU is already baked in, legally. The only way the original question is viable is if the EU states explicitly that Article 50 can be unilaterally recinded and this would be the EU27 and U.K. constitutional equivalent of clicking your ruby slippers together three times and saying “there’s no place like being a Member State” and you end up back in Kansas as if your house had never been picked up by the hurricane.

                You’re neatly illustrating the whole conceited notions which the so-called “people’s vote” keep proffering.

                When there wasn’t a Deal it was all nice and simple — a second referendum could be an easy “Leave on No Deal terms” or “Remain” binary. The presence of a Deal is a fundamental change to the referendum dynamic. The ridiculous “people’s vote” boosters are having to go through the ignominy of going in front of the TV cameras and write their columns and having to try to finesse away the new complexity.

                I saw several being interviewed yesterday and even they knew their game was up — to avoid the clunckiness of some convoluted multiple choice referendum ballot, they had to say something like “oh, well, now that we have a Deal then the question should be do you want to Leave on the terms of the Deal or Remain; no, we don’t see why you’d need a No Deal Leave option…”. People’s vote? My arse. They just want the right sort of people picking the right sort of option.

    3. vlade

      via BBC:

      “Tory minister tells me if Brexiteers vote down Deal -he and others will openly campaign for a second referendum and to stay in EU.”

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Allan.

      Right Honourable members are members of the Privy Council, a body that used to advise the monarch and oversee certain matters, including acting as the final court. It has some oversight responsibilities, e.g. national security, and, restricted to judges, some judicial responsibilities. Most members of the Privy Council have no / do not take up such responsibilities.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’m sure there is a joke there about right honorable members stuck in the Privy that nobody has ever thought of before….

        1. Synoia

          None that schoolboys have not already made. However, the Irish are very inventive, excellent in their use of humor, and have confounded the English on many occasions. Perhaps they could produce a new joke?

  10. David

    These resignations have in effect always been inevitable, even if not necessarily exactly these people at this exact moment and under these precise circumstances. As I and others have long said, there was no real-world outcome to the Brexit story that could have united the Cabinet: any deal of any kind (or for that matter a decision to abandon a deal) would have produced resignations. Most of these resignations, I would suggest, are tactical, better positioning individuals to profit from the inevitable leadership challenge and the consequences. It would, of course, have been theoretically possible to put together a coherent Leave position after 2016, but this was not done, and would itself probably have involved too many compromises anyway. May’s only real option was to take whatever Brussels was prepared to give her, and try to sell it to the Cabinet on the basis of “if you think this is bad you should see the alternative.” Resignations must have been expected.
    The whole “draft” thing is very strange. Normally in negotiations anything, even if every word has been agreed, is a “draft” until it’s been signed off by the tope people. So May would be technically correct to call the document a “draft”, especially as even final texts normally get tidied up afterwards. But something more is obviously intended here. I don’t think there’s any precedent for national parliaments voting on draft texts. Separation of powers means that governments negotiate treaties and parliaments approve them, or not. (OK, the UK is different in that parliament has traditionally had no ratification role). But you can’t negotiate a 500 plus page document which hardly anyone will have read by parliamentary debate. I wonder whether, in fact, the point of calling it a “draft” is to pacify some of the major EU 27 states, who might feel they are being bounced into something and are being given a theoretical opportunity to propose changes.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, David.

      The impeccably English surnames of some of the Brexiteers resigning is interesting. Ils sont plus catholique / royaliste que le pape / roi!

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I see JR-M has called for a no-confidence motion, it seems they are very close to the 48 names needed.

      Ironically, I think this could be the best thing for May – she would probably win and it would significantly strengthen her.

      1. Clive

        Yes, the Conservative party is definitely an Ugly Contest. My next door neighbour (wife of a retired General) and Conservative Association (local grouping of Conservative Party members for those not familiar with this) hates — to the level of publicly despising, I’ve never seen her get so animated in hostility — Boris so as a data point, that tells me everything I need to know about his chances.

        Gove — totally lacking in any credibility.

        Fox — a useless cardboard cut-out of a politician.

        Javid — would simply be May with some added identity politics. Plus he’s got skeletons in his closet.

        Hunt — May with added charisma bypass surgery.

        Davis — Do I really need to type anything here?

        Rees-Mogg — The political equivalent of reading one of those adult “special interest” magazines I was once told about but have never actually seen myself (apparently these feature where people attach sharp objects to their nether regions, that’s bread-and-butter stuff compared to the prospect of Prime Minister Rees-Mogg).

        These are the better ones, there’s worse where that lot came from.

        May will walk it. I watched, on and off, her in Parliament earlier. She just whacked everyone and took on all comers with nary a hair unturned. For three solid hours. She knows she’s the only game in town. At which point, I will now flip through my “Emigration Made Easy” brochures and start searching the back of the kitchen cupboard for my emergency chocolate biscuit stash.

        1. Synoia

          Canada is looking for people. Toronto is jokingly called New York run by the Swiss.

          Montreal is the site of the biggest road construction job I’ve ever seen. Must be a pilot for the bet and raid initiative.

      2. Mirdif

        Concur. May is likely to win any confidence motion as the majority of MPs will prefer the known, the agreement she’s negotiated in place of what might come.

        As for Raab and McVey and now the letter from Rees-Mogg as well as the statement by the chief whip earlier today that the PM will not be bullied, this indicates a co-ordinated move against May in an attempt to topple her.

        1. Synoia

          The Tories will all agree that they, and only thy, have a right to rule. he will get behind May some with knives, and fight for a no deal Brexit.

          May’s governance stricture, a minister for Brexit, was guaranteed to produce a no result, in addition to Europe’s determination to have any agreement be punitive. The French did veto Britian’s initial application(s).

          No history there, no none at all.

        1. Mirdif

          No. It would be voted on by Tory MPs only and if she lost it would trigger a Tory leadership election. There is no obligation to hold a general election in case somebody else is elected as Tory leader.

          However, don’t be surprised if a confidence vote does not take place. There are a lot of blowhards in parliament.

  11. David

    Agreed. It’s like the joke about not having to run faster than the lion, just faster than the next fastest person. May just has to be the least unacceptable candidate.

  12. Andrew Thomas

    And now, May is quoted in the US as saying she believes in the agreement “with every fiber of (her) being.” In a draft. About matters entirely economic. She has clearly lost her mind. She needs to resign, move to the US, and start a second career as a talking head on cable news. She’s nuts, which is an absolute advantage. And, she can communicate her craziness in complete sentences, without sounding completely nuts, which would be enough of an oddity to attract some viewers. And she had a 0% chance of ever pulling this off anyway. As Yves, Lambert and so many of you have said, all of the politically possible solutions are practically impossible, and vice versa.

    1. Ignacio

      I think she has done quite a good job today in a Parliament filled with hyenas. Well focused, I believe.

  13. Mirdif

    Just watched May Parliament and must say she performed really well under a lot of pressure including coming across as quite passionate at times and not just the robot we’ve become accustomed to. She even batted away some of the MP’s who asked rubbish questions.

    I noticed Rees-Mogg in the background forever fiddling with his hair and glasses. Vain [four letter word that used to be banned on TV until about 20 years ago].

    The deal will pass parliament. Prediction: I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, there will never again be a UK wide referendum.

  14. Phichibe

    November 15, 2018 at 8:35 am
    No, as long as it’s a draft, you don’t know what you are voting for. Even if proposal has been finalized, referendum would need 3 options: no deal, no Brexit, current deal on offer. 3 way referendum would only make matters murky and offer no resolution.

    What you want is for draft deal to collapse, then you can have crystal clear referendum with 2 options: leave with no deal, or remain.

    Of course, there is no time for such referendum, so we would be relying on the kindness of EU to bend its rules and give UK extra time, and who knows what it would take for that to happen… Outlook is not good for anyone looking for optimistic scenarios of the remain sort.”

    I think this is an ideal place for using stacked-ranking voting. I’m generally sceptical of these schemes (see the recent mayoral election of San Francisco for an example of how these can lead to unpredictable results). HOwever, a three-choice Brexit re-vote seems the perfect application: everyone votes for their first choice (no-deal Brexit, May’s agreement, or no Brexit) and then their second choice if their first choice doesn’t make it to the top two. I have a strong feeling that the pro-Brexit camp might choose no Brexit as their second choice over May’s agreement, while the no-deal Brexit that what was their first choice is eliminated as the third-place vote getter.

    Then again, I could be wrong….


  15. RBHoughton

    TRNN has a report today – German manufacturing wants to maintain UK market; City wants to maintain Euro business; Both of them want Ireland to cooperate and as Eire is big German debtor, Dublin cannot argue.

    Secondly, NI is a far right wing government. May will limit immigration and TRNN says EU has conceded the freedom of movement of its citizens.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You missed the top of the post. UK lost on bank regulations. The EU has only given a short term waiver on Euro derivatives clearing. It will force that business to the Continent. The City has had surprisingly little influence on these negotiation. The German automakers didn’t even remotely have a seat at the table. The focus of the negotiations, aside from the special case of fisheries, were to accommodate the UK’s desire to have as “soft” a Brexit as possible.

      What TRNN says isn’t consistent with the draft deal. Substantial elements of freedom of movement are in the draft deal and if the UK never escapes the “customs territory” they continue.

      And if there is a crash out, there won’t be freedom of movement.

      1. Boomka

        No FoM in the draft beyond implementation period. Visa free travel for short stay for EU nationals, but no right to work. So it’s not FoM, or at least not FoM implied in the Single Market.

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