Labour MPs Should Vote Against Theresa May’s Brexit Deal. It Is a Poison Pill

Yves here. Due to the hour, I am running this Brexit post with less of introduction than I might otherwise. Recall that we flagged Shadow Brexit Minister Kier Starmer’s “No deal is a bluff” messaging as perhaps the talking point of the week or just astonishingly badly informed.

We’re now seeing the Starmer lines being taken up more broadly. This is occurring as Tony Blair is making noise everywhere that will give him a microphone about having a second Brexit referendum. So at best, this strategy is a way to give Labour MPs a principled cover for voting down May’s deal. Notice that this post is explicitly pressuring Corbyn to follow the Blairite’s strategy and was set before May and the EU presented the draft agreement. Corbyn was fairly negative immediately before May’s presentations about the deal and ever more so afterwards.

But the worst is that it appears that the Blairites really believe what they are saying, that if they vote down Brexit, May will be forced to retreat and withdraw the Article 50 notice. Notice this post doesn’t even try to pretend the EU would agree to move back the Brexit date by the better part of a year to allow the UK have a second referendum.

In other words, a push is on for Labour to unite and play a game of chicken with May.

By Sunny Hundal a journalist, commentator, and the social media editor at openDemocracy. Originally published at openDemocracy

The time has come. Theresa May is about to unveil her Brexit deal to MPs in Parliament and call on them to support it. Take it or leave it, she will say. It’s either my deal or the chaos of no deal.

I know it has been extremely difficult to stay on top of the news. Keeping track of Brexit news felt like wading through a swamp sometimes: it was thick, incomprehensible and full of dread. I’m not going to recount anything. Instead I want to take a step back and offer the broader picture.

1. This Was a One-Sided Deal

Brexit was a polarising vote but the support for and against it was spread across party lines. Many Conservatives were opposed to leaving the EU and many Labour voters can’t wait to get out. Theresa May had an historic opportunity to take a non-partisan approach to Brexit negotiations and work with Labour to achieve consensus.

Instead she did the opposite. The Tory party kept becoming more extreme in its approach to Brexit and she kept going with it. Prominent Brexiteers said there was no need to leave the EU Single Market (here’s Boris Johnson). Now they are dead against it. They said Brexit wouldn’t mean leaving the EU Customs Union. Now they are dead against staying in that too.

The PM didn’t bring the country together. Instead she sought to polarise opinion in her favour and appease the extremists in her own party. David Cameron had made the same mistake. Now, Jacob Rees-Mogg became all powerful.

2. ‘No Deal’ is a Bluff

“I reject this false choice between the PM’s deal and ‘no deal’ chaos,” wrote Tory ex-minister Jo Johnson last week when he resigned. He was right.

The government would be mad to let Britain crash out without a deal, and everyone knows it. Our way of life is too intertwined with the EU to leave without a deal. No deal would wreak havoc on businesses across the country, create food and medicine shortages, possibly even spark riots. To be offered this as a serious choice is an insult. As IPPR’s Tom Kibasi has pointed out, “Panic over crashing out of the EU is being whipped up deliberately to railroad parliament.”

3. Theresa May Is Hoping to Take Corbyn Down With Her

There’s only one conclusion to draw from this. Labour MPs must hold firm and reject the deal that Theresa May offers them.

Why? Because it will take Britain out of the EU Customs Union without an alternative. And worse, it will do so a few years from now, thus prolonging uncertainty and decline. It is the worst of all worlds. The Tories had promised their deal would deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union. It doesn’t. It wants a clean break without any alternative. Businesses have rightly pointed out that this would be reckless and dangerous. Even Tory ministers have said it.

The Prime Minister has been so eager to appease extremists in her own party, she has ignored the interests of the country. Now she is hoping to pressure Labour MPs to bail her out.

Corbyn has said Brexit is inevitable. But if Corbyn votes to support Theresa May’s deal, this will be his Iraq.Voting for this Brexit deal will be catastrophic enough to sweep away any Labour MP, including Corbyn. Anyone who votes for it could never lead the party.

The damage to the country due to the deal will be too great. May is asking Labour MPs to vote for a prolonged poison pill. They would be foolish to take it.

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    1. el_tel

      In other words, Corbyn’s policies interfere with liberal market rules. They are, actually, forbidden by the EU, but on occasion exceptions are made

      Twas only recently that NC produced evidence that the “no nationalisation etc” rules are nothing like as strict and, well “rule-like” that they are portrayed and to portray the counter-examples as mere “exceptions” is over-egging things. So I worry whether Walsh is as up to speed on constitutional issues as some of the people here. Which makes me worry about his central argument. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with lots of his sentiments – neoliberal transnational supply chains are simply not viable any more if and when the dire predictions of the climate specialists come true and the EROI drops too low. Corbyn may have good intentions (if his “gaffes” dating right back to the General Election piece in the Independent throwing REMAINers a bone are in fact calculated acts to get into power) and might be playing a smart game……but I suspect (now) that if Labour “win”, then “If this is victory, then our hands are too small to hold it”

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You are being more polite than this deserves.

        Vlade has debunked this line from Pontin at least twice, in considerable detail, pointing out that WTO rules contain the same restrictions. We should not have to waste time making sure readers are not misinformed people who have no excuse for not knowing better.

        This is yet more bad faith argumentation and agnotology. It’s one thing to get stuff wrong by relying on uninformed sources, it’s another to persist. Pontin was already in moderation for previous violations. He’s refused to clean up and that’s that.

        1. el_tel

          Fair enough….my ruder instincts have got me into trouble before so in trying to play nice I’ve probably not dug out enough rebuttals of the type you refer to in order to show magical thinking in action!

            1. el_tel

              Thanks. Though I’ll probably let the “usual suspects” who have the counter-arguments at their fingertips already (written in the right way) do the roughing up in future, so we don’t get long sub-threads retreading old arguments :-)

  1. Mirdif

    Angela Merkel

    “We have a document on the table that Britain and the EU 27 have agreed to, so for me there is no question at the moment whether we negotiate further,”

    This deal is the only game in town. Attempts to renegotiate this are likely to lead to something more permanent with much harsher conditions as it would be concluded with the cliff edge being so much nearer and the government being so much more desperate.

    The political declaration is vague enough that it is likely to allow Britain, and it is more than likely to be Britain and not the UK (it could even be England and Wales – Little Britain??), to either re-enter the EU or move to a new pillar of the EEA created specifically for Britain.

    So it’s better to take this deal than the chaos of no deal. The country is looking at a lost decade at least as I don’t expect anything permanent to be concluded before 2027.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I appreciate you pointing out the realities, but you are missing the point of the post. We had the better part of 18 months of the Government engaging in delusions about what the EU would give them, to the degree that even the Chinese were joking about the UK being like a woman who’d asked for a divorce but still wanted to live with her husband, spend his money, and have sex with him.

      The rest of the political class that hasn’t been paying attention is now doing the same sort of thing but on new issues. Look at the Independent pushing hard for a second referendum. Per Starmer and others, they refuse to accept that the only alternative is “no deal”. For instance, the Government lost on trying to change procedure to prevent amendments to the text of the Withdrawal Agreement. The Independent is specifically pushing for an amendment to require a People’s Vote on it. So what if that or some other amendment gets attached? If the bill is approved with that, then the EU says no and the UK has to go though Parliamentary hoops…and the EU nixing Parliament may embolden more to vote against the bill without amendments (even charitably assuming it passes with it…people of various political persuasions think May lacks the votes to get it passed). The UK could well have the clock run out by various forms of obstruction, some by design, some by accident.

      And Barnier’s remarks on the UK being welcome to rejoin made clear it would have to go through the required procedural hoops.

          1. oliverks

            Thank you for posting that. It doesn’t make it any clearer yet, but at least I have a better idea of the situation.

            It does seem to put some pressure on Labor to support a deal, if they don’t know that a deal can be undone. I am of course assuming the current deal is better than no deal. I am basing this off the impression than no deal could really be pretty bad (at least in the short run).

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            The EU has said it would let the UK out of Article 50 even up to the last minute if it asked. So I don’t see the point of the case, given the EU’s willingness to cooperate. The case is about whether the UK can withdraw its Article 50 notice without EU consent.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                Huh? Voting against the deal assures a crash out. MPs are not willing to vote against Brexit, as in authorize the Government to withdraw Article 50, without the cover of a referendum. There isn’t enough time to do one before Brexit date. The EU has stated the conditions under which it might agree to delay the Brexit date, and a second referendum has never been on the list.

  2. Marlin

    As usual from the Labour supporters in the UK, complete waffle. The author doesn’t predict any future apart from what will not be the future, e.g. it will not be no-deal, but this is actually the most likely outcome if May’s deal is voted down.

    Tories and Labour went into the last election – 9 months after the referendum, so enough time to think 5 minutes about it – with promises to honour the referendum result, e.g. leave the EU.

    The deal is the best deal available if no major checks in the Irish sea between GB and NI are acceptable.

    So what does the author expect to happen in case May’s deal is voted down? That parliament demands to attempt to rescind the notification letter? If so, why doesn’t he state explicitly that? That the deal is renegotiated? The deal is already – contrary to what is written – one, that keeps the UK very close to the EU and the EU will most likely not change the substance of the deal anymore. A second referendum? What would be the options? About a third of the UK population currently favour no-deal. The author says, it

    To be offered this as a serious choice is an insult.

    So he would prefer a referendum, that doesn’t list as an option what about a third of the population would vote – and potentially more after a campaign and with May’s deal not as an option or what?

  3. emorej a hong kong

    If May accomplished this:

    3. Theresa May Is Hoping to Take Corbyn Down With Her

    … her performance (since the disastrous steps of triggering Article 50 without carefully reading it, and complacently assuming that Corbyn-led Labour could be routed in snap election) will have subsequently been a triumph.

    Per the Ian Welsh comment linked above:

    May has chosen to take more rules that are “no socialism” and less rules that are “treat your people decently.”

    … which would be a double-triumph.
    It’s all looking like a giant game of “chicken”, which makes Starmer’s position look like Corbyn’s only choice.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      See the comments above. Welsh’s interpretation is wrong and I am tempted to rip the opening comments out to stop this misinformation from propagating.

      1. emorej a hong kong

        — but please note that Welsh refers to “no socialism” prohibitions spelled out in text which apparently is a copy of the draft withdrawal agreement, and thus his point does not depend on a mis-understanding that related

        “EU rules are inviolable”.

        Thus, it is not evident to me that the EU track record of not enforcing its rules on these same issues would prevent the EU from more strictly enforcing the agreements terms on these issues.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The Withdrawal Agreement is subject to an arbitration process and anyone could easily point to precedent that EU rules on this very issue are not inviolable. Moreover, Corbyn could defy the EU and let them try to chase him. He could even pretty it up by documenting how often the EU has not treated these and other rules as inviolable.

          And I told you to drop this. I don’t like being heavy handed but you keep challenging what I told you. Keep this up and I will not only rip out the thread but put you in moderation. I have very low tolerance for disinformation.

        2. Detlef

          What exactly are these “no sociallism” prohibitions? A genuine question.

          Lots of water, gas, public transport and electricity grid utilities in Germany are owned by local authorities. And taken back into local ownership. Remunicipalisation. Not forbidden apparently.
          “Deutsche Bundesbahn” the major railway company in Germany is 100% owned by the German (federal) state.
          The German state of Lower Saxony owns a “Golden share” in Volkswagen. Allowed by the ECJ.
          Building social housing is allowed too. Subsidized so that rents are 50% or less of the “free market” price per square meter.
          The Co-Determination Act in Germany is still valid. Which gives unions and workers a place at the board.
          A state owned regional development bank to support for example business start-ups? Buy your home? Make your home more energy efficient? Or help a business to save energy, grow the company, start exporting? Look at the German KfW bank. Allowed by the EU.

          Zero hour contracts aren´t an EU invention, they are allowed or banned at the member state level. And only a minority of states allow them without any regulation. Some have them heavily regulated, others have banned them outright.

          The EU (member states) wanted to raise tariffs on Chinese steel in 2016, it was vetoed by the British government.

          Now I wouldn´t call that socialism but apparently these are some of the things Corbyn would like to do? At least according to British media. And I did read a few articles on British media websites and blogs which pointed out that – despite what Corbyn said – many of the things he wants to do aren´t actually forbidden by the EU.

          What he can´t do is nationalize companies and then subsidize them so that they can sell their products cheaper. But that´s a WTO rule too.

          Now I´m certainly not saying that everything is perfect with the EU but I do believe that the British (most of them) actually don´t know that much about the EU?
          More than 20 years of British governments blaming the EU whenever a political decision was unpopular. Plus British media like the Daily Telegraph simply inventing stories certainly didn´t help.

          It seems to me that the problem quite often isn´t the “EU”. It´s member state governments. Knowing that an action is unpopular at the national level and unlikely to pass their parliament they do try and push for EU “action”. And then shrug their shoulders and say don´t blame me, it´s the EU.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Thank you. That is another point made here more than once, that even though the EU has embraced neoliberalism, the fact that the EU has gone that way is to a significant degree due to UK influence. The idea that the UK would not have sponsored neoliberal policies all on its own is spurious. One of the reasons at least some of the Brexiteers are pushing for Brexit is that they want to escape EU environmental and labor regulations.

            1. Ignacio

              That is true to the fact that many EU socialists are happy with brexit with or without deal. Many consider the UK a drag in social policy.

    2. emorej a hong kong


      …in the sense of preventing the UK from experimenting with Corbynism, a prevention for which ‘failed politician’ May could expect to enjoy life-long rewards from the elites of virtually every country in the world.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Please stop with this or I will rip out all comments referring to the Welsh piece.

        May is terrible but the EU has allowed nationalization in the UK and WTO rules are similar, so leaving the EU provides no benefit on this front. This is a false set of charges against the EU and Bill Mitchell, who is not very well informed about the EU, has played a big role in propagating it. He’s great on MMT but does not seem to have a good appreciation for the limits of his knowledge.

        Moreover, even with this deal, UK GDP will take a hit. If Labour were to take power, the pound would tank because bankers hate Corbyn. MMT is constrained by inflation, and a weak pound = inflation, particularly in food and petrol, which would hit lower income families hard. We’ve documented before that a cheaper pound would not give the UK an export boost, as demonstrated when the pound was weak during and after the crisis. So aside from WTO state aid restrictions, Corbyn would also be constrained by limited ability to spend.

        1. el_tel

          Whilst I understand your desire to rip out such comments may I request that discussion regarding Mitchell’s (mis)understanding of this issue be allowed to remain and be discussed? If his position has been comprehensively discussed before I’ll happily be quiet….however people like me who are generally amenable to MMT but who have independently recognised, well, I’ll just say “somewhat strong views that stray beyond one’s area of expertise” in the writings of Mitchell, would appreciate the “usual suspects” putting concise counter-arguments that preferably are in “MMT-like language” and which show concisely where he has gone astray.

        2. John k

          Echoing el tel…
          Would love to see a thread, or article, discussing what U.K. can do to mitigate damages post crash out as this looks likely. Such as
          Printing can’t import fuel but can maintain or restore full employment without inflation?
          Train schedules can be restored? And NHS?
          Maybe less military, which gobbles fuel? Ie become a modest sized country without a seat at the table, surviving on tourism?
          London bankers will take a big hit, city will lose much clout pretty soon. Real estate prices will fall. But few tears in the countryside on that account, particularly if people remain employed.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            The state of the NHS has absolutely nothing to do with the EU. Have you not noticed that France and other EU countries have health care systems that are functioning better than the NHS? The NHS is regularly held up around the world as the sick man of public health care systems. That in turn is due to a significant degree to austerity policies implemented by the Tories. Brexiit won’t change anything on this front.

            1. John k

              I’m thinking of what policies might be implemented by a wise, anti austerity post brexit gov aware of mmt. Unemployment presumably will rise, so printing can put people to work without inflation, at least keeping the bottom 2/3 on an even playing field as they compete for scarce food and fuel.
              So fund nhs
              Refurbish rail.
              Send somebody to start talking about barter, maybe autos for food with nz and oz, maybe Argentina. Charles? Neither sovereign or mp, could talk off record. Would do him some good.

              1. Anonymous2

                The UK can abandon austerity without leaving the EU. Being outside the Euro zone it is free of the constraints on fiscal policy imposed on EZ members.

        3. Donald

          For the benefit of people like me I hope you keep the threads in. I am the sort of person whose eyes glaze over on this issue— I know it is extremely important and I tend to just assume that Brexit is a terrible idea because the experts I trust ( like you) say so, but we can’t all be smart or well informed about everything.

          However, I am starting to make more of an effort to comprehend the issue. I saw the Welsh post and so it is helpful to see short explanations about why it is wrong.

          1. Donald

            To be clear, even I realize this issue is about the conditions under which Brexit happens and about how stupid it is to assume “ no deal “ is a bluff. Anyway, keep in mind you might have clueless lurkers reading these posts who can benefit from experts who point out what to them are obvious points they have made before.

            1. Laughingsong

              Yup, like me. It takes a lot of different views, sometimes the same views rephrased, for me to catch up with the smart set here. And as a dual US-Irish citizen, I’m desperate to understand this and be informed. I get so much more out of the thread staying in, along with all the rebuttals.

              If you need to take it out due to lack of time, Yves, then I get that, no worries. I just want to add that I get a lot out of the thread.

              Wish I were smarter. Sigh.

  4. Clive

    Absent an EU intervention to volunteer an extension to the Article 50 notice period in order to hold a second referendum or for a general election to occur (which they can’t prima facie do unilaterally — the Article 50 text is a little vague on this point:

    “… unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”

    … so it sounds like only the Head of Government in the leaving Member State can discuss this with the other Heads of Government in the Council, the Council can’t make a public invitation to the Member State generally) there’s only two possible options: Deal or No Deal. The Ultras are so despised by everyone who isn’t an Ultra (and that’s anywhere between 60-90% of both MPs in Parliament and the UK population at large) that, in the Game of Chicken (as this is so righty characterised as being), it’s the anti-Ultras who will chicken ultimately out.

    We are unfortunately in for two as a minimum, more likely three, months of this kind of cacophony. Endless speculation (I’ve heard this word a dozen times already this morning and I’ve only watched the news coverage for less than half an hour), scheming, plots, counter-plots and a deluge of crazy-making half-baked what-if’ing. Which will achieve nothing because it all comes down to the point made above.

    To which, I can’t, of course, wait to add my bit to the morass. I’ll limit myself to taking apart this one: “2. ‘No Deal’ is a Bluff”. No, No Deal is not a bluff. It’s baked into UK law. Absent new primary legislation (a process which uncontested takes six to eight weeks and there are only 4 sitting weeks until Christmas and then another 5 until 25th February by which time a No Deal is unstoppable) the UK leaves on 29th March with No Deal. To call that a bluff is like me buying a chocolate biscuit, taking a bite out of it, holding the remainder in my hand, saying I’m going to finish it off, then have someone saying I’m bluffing about eating the rest of it and there’s no chance whatsoever I’ll do that.

    I do feel a little sorry for the author as they had nothing better to go on that an emotional appeal “please someone, think of the country!”. A tad late to be doing that now.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It isn’t just “the author”. He is faithfully echoing Starmer as spokesman for the Blarite wing on Brexit. I was stunned by how nonsensical his position was but he’s not backing down. Starmer has been doing media rounds and is hammering his “No deal is a hoax” line. You underestimate the power of repetition of appealing slogans.

      In other words, this has the potential to be way more serious than you think. The fact that openDemocracy, which I read as solidly to the left of Third Way types, is amplifying this says the Blairites are committed to this gambit, as nonsensical as it seems. The ost logical position I can come up with is what I said from the start: either they believe the EU won’t deny them a second referendum if Parliament votes for it or that if May is confronted with a crash out, she’ll knuckle under and do what it takes to back out of Brexit.

      Now this talk may all die down in a week, but after being out in the wild for about that long, so far it’s getting traction rather than fizzling out.

      1. emorej a hong kong

        either they believe the EU won’t deny them a second referendum if Parliament votes for it or that if May is confronted with a crash out, she’ll knuckle under and do what it takes to back out of Brexit.

        3. They believe both, or
        4. They believe that they will be better positioned to pick up the pieces after a crash-out than either Corbyn or the Tories.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t see how that could be the case if they would be blamed for the dislocation of a crash out. Their “crash out is a bluff” is an explicit statement that they believe a crash out is so terrible May would never allow it to happen. So their own positioning says they don’t believe #4.

          1. emorej a hong kong

            “so terrible May would never allow it to happen”

            … could and perhaps should be restated

            City-invested titans of finance would never allow Ms. May to allow it to happen”

            I know nothing about Starmer as an individual, but my guess is that Blair-ite leaders as a group have a good understanding of the City’s red lines and powers of persuasion.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              The City has had remarkably little influence. I’ve posted in Links that the City got way way less than its ask. The reason for May not allowing a crash out is things that have been discussed in the press, like shortages of foods and medicines, the need to turn highways into parking lots to deal with the chaos at ports.

            2. Anonymous2

              Starmer is a friend of some of my friends. They consider him highly intelligent and likely to be a better PM than May or Corbyn. If he is saying dumb things, I suspect therefore that he knows that they are dumb and is doing it for political reasons.

              Doing my usual perusal of the local supermarket newspaper shelves, I noticed that the Telegraph headlines a plot by 5 cabinet ministers to demand changes to the draft agreement so perhaps that is going to be one of May’s next problems. She will presumably find out shortly if she faces a leadership challenge next week. The talk of one being imminent seems to have cooled a little so perhaps her enemies have decided that they don’t have the numbers to oust her at present. As they only are allowed one shot every 12 months maybe they will decide to wait a little in the expectation that a defeat in the Commons will make her position untenable.

              FWIW the Mail and Express headlines were broadly helpful to May, probably reflecting the arrival of a more moderate editor at the one and new owners at the latter. Probably too late to have very much effect in the short run but I guess they can bolster her position a little at present.

      2. Clive

        You might be right. I just steeled myself and tackled this morning’s Guardian. Not given huge prominence on the front page but a similar line of thinking (if I may dignify it as such) as openDemocracy.

        (there’s so much wrong with that opinion piece, I don’t know where to start, but I’ll confine myself to why on earth would the EU succumb to 4 to 6 months more of UK dicking around while it decided whether or not to shoot itself, this time in the head rather than the foot? Or why the columnist thinks a new parliament will be any better than the current one?)

        They must be putting stupidity drugs in the water supply. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

        1. Inert_Bert

          I was about to bring up the Owen Jones piece, as well as this Paul Mason piece in the Statesman, to illustrate Yves’ point from earlier this week that a lot of prominent media-Corbynites are in lock step with the Blairites.

          This is all very worrying. Not just because the strategy is dangerous in and of itself, but because their arguments show that these prominent representatives of the British left haven’t seriously engaged with the realities of the Brexit-process. (And if they cannot be counted upon to do that, the idea that they will succesfully implement any substantial leftist policies seems fanciful.)

          Job 1 of any British politician should be to prevent no-deal. Job 2 (staying in the SM or similar) can be done later. All major parties signed up for this when parliament authorized May to send the article 50 notification without first setting conditions. That is also when Remain was taken off the table as a serious prospect and is now not a reason to play chicken with peoples’ lives.

  5. makedoanmend

    I would have thought it was a no-brainer from a UK Labour Party standpoint to vote against the “draft”, if only to make sure the entire fetid mess remains within the confines of Tory politics. There should be more then enough ammunition within the text of the draft to give the Labour Party cover for voting against the draft. They do not need to introduce extraneous and often erroneous information to befuddle debate even further at this very late date.

    The UK populace deserves clarity at this juncture. It needs it. It should be demanding it.

    Assuming the current mob falls, a majority of the people at this point would probably appreciate a Labour stance that recognised the need to maintain some sort of integrative cooperation with the EU, if only from a more distant legal stance than being part of the trading bloc. It could be an election winner for Labour, and give Corbyn the chance to enact the changes Labour wants to see.

    Can Corbyn forgo his instincts against integrationist globalist capitalism and forge a different path in order to achieve his immediate goals? He could possibly achieve more this way than simply trying to buck the entire global system.

    He needs to step forward and be decisive, but I have my doubts he has it within him.

    And at some point the EU must just say – “fug it” and walk away. The Tory negotiating strategy has hardly been conducive to forming reliable if changed relationships with their European Union counterparts. The UK Labour Party would need to react very quickly and in a constructive diplomatic manner in order to get some room to negotiate an extension. Does the Labour Party have this diplomatic nuance and experience or the ability to attract people who do on short notice? And will the EU play ball at this point?

    (As for Ian Welsh and Brexit. I love his stuff about Toaism, philosophy in general and many political issues, but I think he’s somewhat out of his depth on this issue.)

    1. Marlin

      You are not differentiating enough between the withdrawal agreement, which is the only binding document foreseen for now and the future relationship. If Labour wants to exit the EU with a deal, the only available deal is one with an NI backstop. If Labour wants a type of future relationship, that makes the backstop unnecessary, the withdrawal agreement is pretty inconsequential.

      In the Tory party, there are enough MPs willing to go for no-deal, that the Tories will not have a majority for the deal on their own. There might be enough MPs to go for no Brexit at all in this case, and perhaps parliament can be brought towards voting for remain. But the bulk of the votes would have to come from Labour and they would have to start making the case for remain in the near future, if not now. They haven’t even started.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No, your comment about the future relationship is incorrect. It is a non-binding statement of political intent. The EU has been consistent and insistent that the backstop be “all weather”. Nothing said about the future relationship solves the backstop problem.

  6. David

    It’s all very well trying to play chicken and 9-dimensional chess simultaneously so long as you are sufficiently intelligent and have a clear set of objectives. It’s been obvious for some time that the Leavers don’t have either, and now the EU (not May except by extension) is saying “take it or leave it”, as several European leaders made clear yesterday.
    But just think what would be required to make this Labour strategy (if you can call it that) work. Labour MPs have to vote against the deal in sufficient numbers, which may be likely but can’t be guaranteed on an issue that crosses party lines. The deal then has to be rejected by a convincing number of votes. May then refrains from making political capital of this, by blaming Labour for being ready to destroy Britain, the Labour Party is racked by internal divisions but fails to split, in spite of everybody blaming Labour for the forthcoming chaos. But May then decides to commit probable political suicide in the national interest by withdrawing the Art 50 notification (which she has the ability to do) This is supposed to benefit Labour in one of a variety of ways, which might include a General Election. The EU 27, meanwhile, have to go along with whatever is the result. There’s no doubt they would accept a revocation of the Art 50 declaration, but whether, as others have suggested, they’ll just hang around indefinitely waiting to see what happens, seems unlikely.

    “The government would be mad to let Britain crash out without a deal, and everyone knows it.”
    Yes, but they are mad, and it’s dangerous to underestimate the capacity of the insane to cause damage.

    On Clive’s point above, the Art 50 text obviously requires a decision at 28, but there’s plenty of precedent for telling someone, “if you come to the meeting and ask nicely, the result will be yes.” There’s little doubt that there are mechanisms for extension if the political will is there to use them.

    1. Monty

      “Yes, but they are mad”
      I wonder if those with the real power to direct things, are working towards an unspeakable, damaging, and yet sane (for themselves) agenda. It just looks mad because they cannot reveal their true selfish goals.

      1. Brian (another one they call)

        One has to wonder at this point about just who is mad. Plans never work out for the EU except when taking or giving other peoples money away. I am being simple of course but there is no agreement now and little to agree upon for the preservation of democray or what ever the EU calls itself. But think if it were only France and Britain negotiating the Calais border, which was determined by Brussels. They don’t consider this representative government do they?
        Everything is still down to Deutschland and Belgique. The trade with EU for the UK was listed at about 8% of UK GDP. This is a big chunk, but is it catastrophe if it is only 4% long enough to make new trade arrangements with countries outside the EU? Do several EU nations think the whole thing is going to cause them harm if the UK is suddenly not a partner? Will this cause them to phone Berlin and tell Merkel they won’t abide by her destroying a relationship when she is on the way out? Or Juncker? Is Oceania going to come to the rescue, hilarious.
        Britain appears ungovernable. Tories and Labor appear to distrust people in the middle of the road more than each other. They can’t give up their tiny demand for big ego gain to win a real gain. It is hard to believe that Northern Ireland has this much say without having the kind of fighting weight required. They are a single number in Parliament propping up the May government because she has given their tiny demand more credence than than Eire, Scotland or England’s needs. The farce is nearly complete. Perhaps Eire is waiting for NI to crash out. There are far too many parts of the “UK” that are not united in the kindom at all.
        One thing that makes it all surreal is the idea that people in the UK would prefer being ruled from Belgium and give up all of the imaginary rights remaining to them after Thatcher. But Italy may steal the spotlight by saying goodby before the UK can even make a decision or hold new elections.
        Paging Mr. Blair, courtesy phone….. Not Tony Blair……… Paging Mr. Orwell, courtesy phone

    2. Marlin

      Submitting Art 50 required a vote in parliament. Even if somehow it would be accepted in the UK, that May can try to rescind Art 50 without parliament, I would expect the EU not to accept this without a vote in parliament. There needs to be a high degree of confidence, that not 3 weeks later another PM restarts the Brexit process.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      You seem to be operating for the assumption that Labour would vote for the deal. The default is to vote against it, not for it.

      Labour has been against the deal pretty much all along. Labour has repeatedly said it’s not voting for it. It fails Corbyn’s six tests.

      I have an article in Links today from the Spectator where someone goes through the math with very conservative (as in low) assumptions re Ultras not voting for the deal (only 20 v. the 51 who have signed up for Stand4 Brexit) but also factors in a small number of Jo Johnson type moderates who are so unhappy they will also vote against it. There aren’t enough Labour MPs to cross the aisle for the deal to pass. I’ve guesstimated the max at 35, which is not enough. That is why the assumption has been that it gets passed on a second attempt after Mr. Market has a hissy, but if the opponents or even the naive sort of supporters run the clock out with amendment or other games (like the Ultras launching their “no confidence” gambit right before the voting on the bill starts to chew up some more time), they may not have the runway for a second vote, even assuming that would change things. If any amendments get attached and the EU has to say formally, “No way,” that will not only create more delay but a firestorm of negative UK press and more no votes.

      The UK has to formally ask to extend Article 50. Please tell me the process by which that happens. May can’t do it on her own even if she wanted to. Parliament is sovereign. So you’d have to have her bill go down in flames and then a vote for a reversal without a referendum to give MPs cover. Tell me how much time that takes and what the odds of that passing.

      And an extension would require a unanimous vote of the EU27 per the treaty language. You could have someone throw a spanner, specifically Italy demanding approval of its budget in return for its vote.

      1. David

        No, I was assuming they would vote against it.That was the whole point. I was agreeing with you.
        In general, withdrawing from treaties, like signing them, is an Executive privilege, which does not require parliamentary approval. (I think this is even true in the US, but I am open to correction). In the case of the Article 50 notification, the Supreme Court held, by a majority, that, whilst the government generally has a prerogative power to change treaties, in this case withdrawal would mean effectively changing UK domestic law, and affecting rights that had been acquired since 1972. For that reason, and not because parliament makes decisions of principle about treaties, the judges said that parliament had to be involved. A decision to withdraw the Art 50 notification, however, would be a decision not to change the law, and not to change peoples’ rights. It’s hard to see why parliament would need to be involved in that, because the situation is quite different.
        The UK parliament has not, historically, ratified treaties, or even necessarily discussed them. This time is different, and and nobody really knows what will happen in a discussion of the “draft”. As far as I know there is no procedural precedent for parliamentary discussion of a draft treaty, although it’s clear from various remarks over the last few days that EU 27 leaders are not going to put up with MPs monkeying with the text. It will be interesting to see the text of the government motion, which I don’t think has been published yet. By convention, amendments to government motions of this type are essentially procedural (eg “This House declines to approve ….” ) rather than substantive, but obviously ultras and others will be out to create as much fuss as possible.
        Labour has a very long history, dating back to at least the 1960s, of doubts about the (then) European Community. Don’t forget that it was a Labour government which “renegotiated” the 1972 agreement, and put it to a referendum.
        Article 50 (3) makes it clear that, at least formally, the responsibility for extending the period lies with the Council, which “decides” to do this “in agreement” with the UK. The normal diplomatic rules would apply, which is to say that things would be teed-up behind the scenes first. Whether the EU would actually agree to do this, and agree unanimously, is, as you say, another issue. Most of the smaller countries could be whipped into line, but Italy could be a real problem.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          OK, so you are arguing that procedurally, if Article 50 is defeated 2x, Labour is betting May will withdraw it without Parliamentary consent. taking off on May’s comment that the three options are her deal, no deal, or no Brexit.

          The problem is that IMHO the Article 50 approval process took this decision out of where the PM can act unilaterally. Parliament authorized the Government to submit the A50 notice and make the required legal changes. You can’t go back on A50 without undoing the authorization re domestic law, which means you can’t get around Parliament. And the name of the Tories would be mud for a generation for acting in such an undemocratic matter when (uninformed) demands for a Second Referendum are all over the press. So I think at a minimum May would put it to Parliament to withdraw A50 as the implication of voting down her deal, to make them own it.

  7. bob mcmanus

    Fine then, you don’t like Welsh, recommend some actual British leftist or Lexit writers, left of Corbyn and McDonnell. Are you reading any? I still look for Richard Seymour. Mark Fisher has a recent posthumous release of his k-punk blog posts. I follow Varoufakis.

    I do read Eureferendum, Guardian, others but I find most commentary centrist, partisan, and obfuscating in the way that “deep in the weeds” intricate detail so often appears as a weapon against the left. Clinton used it against Sanders, it is being used against Ocasio-Cortez. I remember being so disheartened by the complicated commentary on banking and Grexit that I gave up on radical social change in Europe for years.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We don’t believe in fealty to orthodox lefties since they have failed in delivering for working people for the last 40 years. The reason the left keeps losing is it ignores the very technical matters you dismiss. You want to keep losing, this is just the way to do it.

      Not wanting to get into the weeds is tantamount to not wanting to govern. Designing policies, devising well crafted laws and regulations, building bureaucracies to implement, all involve detail and having to make tradeoffs. Purism is great for academia and debates, not for running a government and delivering services.

      Richard North opposes Brexit the way it is coming out, in case you missed it. Varoufakis’ Diem 25 is to reform the Eurozone, not to break it up. Re Brexit, in a recent interview, he said:

      Keen to lighten the mood, I asked him whether there might be any sort of possible upside to Brexit. He was willing to concede only the slightest bit of ground, and said, “Well, like all challenges, I guess there must be a silver lining somewhere. But it depends on the specifics of the deal. If this is done rationally and gradually, giving businesses 3-5 years during which to adjust, some businesses may eventually do reasonably well if unshackled from some of Europe’s current regulations.”

      1. bob mcmanus

        You govern after you gain power. You gain power with slogans, not wonkish accuracy.

        Well, in no mood right now to argue meta-politics or theory. I’ll ask the readers to think about how the last ten years have gone. And whether blaming the far Left (rather than the center-Left) for forty years of wage suppression is accurate or fair.

        What happens when it all crashes (and it will crash) should be amply demonstrated by 2008 (or 1933). If the opposition does not have a radical programme in place and are willing to go to the streets to defend it, the Right will win.I don’t think the McDonnell program is enough.

        Here is some Richard Seymour on Brexit, if anybody is interested, and Smith leaves this up. Seymout calls no-deal “Red Exit” rather than Lexit.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          I’ll take Yves (and PK, Clive, Vlade, etc) over leftist sloganeering every time.

          (and might not be my place, but I would remind and remember that we’re guests here…)

            1. lambert strether

              It’s a big Internet. I hope you find the happiness you seek elsewhere.

              I don’t know why this fetish for [genuflects] “the streets.” (Which streets?) Real power is in the workplace…

          1. Wyoming

            It is astonishing how often that threat gets thrown around here. And moderation also. Such things are necessary at times but when used so often as threats they do not work to make for better discussions.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Our comments section is cited in journalism schools as a model of both reader engagement and informed discussion. Agnotology is explicitly against our site Policies. Someone repeating arguments that multiple readers debunked on previous threads and the offending party never was able to refute is not on. This is two violations at once: bad faith argumentation and broken record.

              Your response further says I should simply rip out threads by readers who are engaging in a repeat of rule violations after having been warned, since other means of enforcing our written site Policies seems to offend you.

              Our telling readers they are at risk of losing their privileges is giving them an opportunity to shape up. You want us not to give them a second chance? Or have us shut down comments entirely, as we have in the past, to let people know we are serious?

              Honestly, it’s like getting annoyed at the fact that garbage trucks can tie up traffic.

        2. Clive

          I’m a Labour Party member, I give a fair wodge in donations and am broadly supportive of Corbyn’s aims, most of his policies and his overall approach. Party politics, which is how our systems work, is a package deal and you have to take the rough with the smooth.

          That is, until you find your party loyalty tested beyond breaking point due to some action which is so unbelievably dumb that you do throw baby out with the bath water. Somehow or other (luck, mainly, plus the EU being level-headed and pragmatic way, way beyond the call of duty and deserving great credit for brokering a liveable-with compromise everyone can walk away from more-or-less unscathed (perhaps stagger, trying to avoid the gutter and looking for a box of bandaids in the U.K.’s case) the Deal gives the U.K. a not-dismal option.

          So for Corbyn not to be yanking Starmer’s chain good and hard is unforgivable. Even if it is political posturing, it still doesn’t benefit Labour or make it look like a responsible alternative to the crazy, anti-Europe theocratic Conservatives. Ultimately it is doomed because Labour will either inadvertently slide into a No Deal Brexit or else Labour will end up having to cave anyway and back the Deal (or abstain).

          Looking schmuck-ier than the Conservatives a) takes some doing and b) is a vote-loser. The left needs to pick its battles to stand a chance against the right and the neoliberals. Acting like it doesn’t know what day of the week it is suggests Labour is reverting to its old doctrinal ghetto which is a long, long way away from power. Haven’t we been here enough times already?

          1. orange cats

            As a depressed lefty (my first vote ever was for Jesse Jackson in the Democratic primary) I understand what you are saying and, you know, agree. But there will always be a part of me that thinks the late Alex Cockburn was right in chiding the left for their gloomy spirit. He advocated cheering on the sinking ship rather than keeping it afloat with endless compromise. I know how unfeeling that sounds, never mind. I live in Northern California and can’t go outside due to smoke from fires that have no precedent….

          2. David

            Agree with this, with the rider that I’ve been a spectator of forty years of failure by the “Left”, and I’m not sure I can take any more. In 1997 I thought that the overwhelming Labour victory might actually change something for the better. Silly me.
            Slogans are not enough. You need a strategy for winning, which in turn means a determination to do what is necessary to win, and to accept the realities of power rather than the purity of opposition. But you then need to actually have a programme, which you are prepared to implement, in the face of what would be, for a Labour government, violent opposition. Wilson and Callaghan, for all that they were criticised at the time, actually did this. And as you say, Labour’s recent behaviour, and Corbyn’s failure to rein in Starmer doesn’t give us a lot of confidence.

          3. ChrisPacific

            The only possible way I can see this making any sense is if Labour secretly wants to reverse Brexit but doesn’t feel able to come out and say so. If there was an election and they won the balance of power, then they would be in a position to make that happen and could probably count on the EU’s cooperation in doing so.

            The minor problem with that is that everything I’ve heard suggests there is no consensus within Labour for anything of the sort, and in fact their collective policy still tilts to the Leave side. If they were to suddenly tack for Remain I expect they would face political challenges every bit as difficult as the Tories have, if not more so.

            So I think we can rule that one out, and I’m having trouble coming up with any others that are rational. That leaves us with the irrational ones to consider. Occam’s Razor suggests to me that it takes your average UK politician over a year of exposure to the kind of setbacks, humiliations and general disconnection with reality that May has experienced in order to finally come to grips with reality and recognize that there are no other choices beyond the ones she’s stated. Even that might not be enough unless you know you will ultimately be held responsible for the final outcome (definitely true of May, debatable for anyone else).

            Much as it pains me to say, if that’s true then Labour in power would likely be far more dangerous than May’s government. The timeline simply doesn’t allow for them to go through the same mental adjustment that May has. If they continue to insist that alternatives exist, win power on that basis, and then end up failing to deliver and producing crash-out Brexit when a deal was on the table, it will destroy them (along with much of the country).

            May strikes me as having entered “Zero Fucks Given” mode. She is obviously convinced she is right about the viable alternatives and that this is as good a position as any to stake her political future on. If she fails and is overthrown then there are very good odds that the eventual outcome will be worse than the one she is advocating, and there will be plenty of chances for her to smugly refrain from saying “I told you so” on the sidelines.

            1. vlade

              Actually, I can see it exactly the other way around. Corbyn and his leadership have shown, I believe, for quite some time that they want Brexit, and not a Single-Market, soft, Brexit (as they believe it would collide with their plans).

              Unfortunately, they have the wrong Labour party memebers, who just don’t give up about wanting as soft Brexit as possible. So how do you reconcile it?

              Here they have been given a golden opportunity. You say May’s Brexit is the wrong kind of Brexit and will vote it down.

              Then you call for a GE, or even second referendum. In a very safe knowledge, that this is undeliverable on any existing timeframes, and that voting against May’s deal delivers the hard Brexit you always wanted but couldn’t say publicly.

              You keep your members happy (“we tried to stop the bad Brexit deal, really, it was the dastardly May/Tories/EU that stopped it”), while getting your hard split from the EU.

              1. ChrisPacific

                That could be true if you equate hard Brexit with no-deal Brexit. I think that would be a mistake, and one would be far worse than the other. Having said that, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this whole fiasco it’s never to underestimate the ability of politicians to believe things that aren’t true. And you are much closer to the situation than I am and probably better able to get a read on Labour.

                My understanding is that while a referendum would be undeliverable in existing timeframes, a GE might be, because (a) there are established constitutional procedures for it already and (b) it’s one of a very small number of qualifying events that the EU have said they’d be willing to delay Article 50 for. If Labour were to win then I suspect the EU would devote considerable efforts to making sure they had a genuine chance to accept the deal on offer, which would make it difficult to spin no deal as anything other than a deliberate choice by Labour.

                Now if they remain in opposition it’s easier, because all they need is air cover for voting against whatever the Tories propose, and in the British parliamentary system it’s expected that the opposition will do that anyway except under truly extraordinary circumstances. But as Clive noted, adopting policies that only make sense in opposition just feeds the whole ‘lefties can’t be trusted with power’ narrative.

                1. vlade

                  The problem is that GE will not solve anything, really – unless a third party (the EU) gets involved. Which all in the UK treat as somoene who they will tell what to do and the EU will deliver. We’ve seen how well that worked so far.

                  There’s very little difference between hard brexit and no-deal brexit at the moment. Hard Brexit needs some basic agreements too. None of those can be negotiated w/o a withdrawal agreement. Which Labour opposes, nudging the UK towards no-deal (this is another source of confusion in the UK. WA is NOT the final agreement. But what can be seen from the WA is that the EU doesn’t trust the UK to negotiate anything reasonable anytime soon after it left. Even hard-Brexit agreement. Because for NI, Hard Brexit means Hard Border, and there’s no squaring of this particular circle).

                  Unless Labour negotiated in parallel with the EU, and can take a rabbit out of the hat in a form of fully formed agreement that both sides are ok with, and can be approved before March 30 2019, nothing would change by Labour winning GE.

                  The EU is extremely unlikely to give A50 extension just so that it can start the whole process again with somoene else. They have other fish to fry in addition to Brexit.

                  While I would not rule A50 extension, it’s, IMO, likely to happen only for a very well defined set of results. Not a process with an unclear outcome. For example, I could see A50 being extended for a referendum (on a relatively short timeframe, say no later than June or so) that would call for one of three clear outcomes – no deal, May’s deal, or no Brexit. All of those are well defined in outcomes (which doesn’t mean you can’t argue the questions that should make it so till cows come home).

                  It could also extend A50 for a few weeks if say, after GE it gave Labour a few cosmetic concessions (remember, EU states are grumbling about the WA as it is, the UK got an unexpectedly good deal, as Clive said, the UK should try and stay in the backstop forever) and it would need it to get via new parliament and the EP.

                  Again, this would be well defined process with known possible outcomes and a known timetable.

                  But not for a restarting the whole process.

                  Implying otherwise is IMO just lying to the voters. It ignores the third party in the room, and the one that has the most power in this situation.

                  Oh, and I keep repeating my prediction, that Labour would not win GE outright. At best, it may be in a position to do a multicoloured coalition, that would likely need to involve LibDem and SNP.

                  Let’s look at the electoral map, from 30k feet.
                  There’s 650 seats, so you need to get 326 seats to get majority.

                  Scotland is 59 seats. Labour currently holds 7, and I doubt it would do much better than that in any GE, given the opposition to Brexit in Scotland. All Tory seats had a runner-up from SNP. The number of closely run seats with Labour/SNP on the first two positions is about the same

                  Northern Ireland has 18 MPs. No Labour at all.

                  So that leaves 650-59-18 = 573 English and Welsh seats. Labour gets its 7 in Scotland. So it still needs 318 seats from England and Wales.
                  Out of 573. In other words, it needs 56% of all English/Welsh constituencies that are available. Conservatives would have to land less than 255 seats.

                  The current districting helps Cons in England. I think Labour has to get somethign like 6-7% more in popular vote to get >50% of EW seats.
                  Currently, they don’t poll anywhere near that, either on aggregate or per-consituency basis.

      2. RBHoughton

        What a heart-warming delight to read that first para. I sincerely hope the doyen of British socialism reads it too and calls the party to order.

  8. peter

    The discussion reminds me somewhat of what happened in Germany after the last general election. The SPD felt after lengthy discussion it was their “duty” to again support the CDU under Merkel, and I with a lot of others were sure that this would be the doom of the SDP in Germany. After the last elections in Bavaria and Hesse exactly that came to pass with heavy losses relegating the SPD to third or fourth place.

    To support the plan for Brexit as it is formulated now with Britain to further have to abide by EU regulations without having any influence into the decisions cannot sit well with the Brexiteers, and will likely have the same effect on the electability of Labour as the support of Merkel had on the the fate of the SPD and a further move to the right of the electorate..

  9. rtah100

    Yves, please explain why there will be British shortages of food and medicine in a hard Brexit. You keep hauling this bogeyman out to frighten the children but it is false. If the UK controls its borders, it can let anything in – including, if necessary, uninspected items. We are free to recognise foreign food and medicine as acceptable, including EU products that are the same as they were the day before. There is **no impact** on our imports. Our exports may be screwed, especially in just in time sectors of agriculture or manufacturing, but not our imports. I would expect a more discriminating analysis from you, you are not normally one to overplay your hand.

    (obviously, there may be knock-on shortages on UK of items that originate in the UK but require final processing in EU before re-importation but these will be in short supply throughout EU **because of EU decisions to refuse recognition/circulation of UK intermediary goods**. To the extent any of these items are necessities, this seems like UK leverage for amicable terms. Same as with decertification of UK aerospace parts, e.g. Airbus wings. That’s a global problem!)

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The UK imports 40% of its food. This isn’t a bogeyman, it’s a real issue. The UK will have chaos at its ports. In emergency legislation, the UK is going to charter ships to bring in food to alternate ports, but using container ships is s poor substitute for the system in place now. There will be trouble with getting the stuff out of containers and onto trucks which will result in spoilage, And the confusion will be massive. How do food retailers track, account, and pay for food that is now routed in a novel manner, particularly when they are stuck with way more spoiled wares than normal? As Richard Kline wrote:

      The intrinsic problem which Britain will face regarding food supply in the event of crash out is not the ‘food’ term but the ‘supply’ term. That is, there will be sufficient food and the funds to purchase it, but the supply chains are due for a systemic failure over a duration of months. ALL such supply is now done in a just-in-time basis, while after crash out Britain will default to a full-time+stoppage-time functioning of the supply chain. The UK’s arrangements in moving food internationally are leveraged on its status as an EU Member State. Britain will not have separate agreements in place with most supplier countries. This will add an enormous amount of delay and negotiation just to do deals until bilateral agreements are brought on line. It will remain logistically possible to move just as much food but from the regulatory standpoint even if Britain were to wave import inspection an exporting nation might worry about, for instance, legally binding mechanisms for getting paid and determining liability. These are nontrivial issues. More to the point, they are absolutely sand in the crankcase for just-in-time, impediments individually small but collectively just gritty enough to seize up normal commerce.

      Trucks sitting in Dover is a misperception: containers sitting in Canada and Brazil is more like it. The result can be extreme disruptions in the movement of products. A ship that doesn’t move in one place means another ship has to be lined up to take away what it would have. A truck stuck in inspection is one that doesn’t show up to haul a container to a small city depot or retailer the following day. The negative ripple effects can be large—and there is no fall back system for just-in-time so everything in the supply system will have to be put on a different footing. We are looking at bankruptcies in delivery firms; and who takes their place, then? Cost typically jumps enormously in such situations: who is going to be absorbing that? When one has a system which has to work with near perfect efficiency to work at all being impacted by major inefficiency, it is more likely to work not at all than to work less well.

      This isn’t just a matter of rules, it’s a matter of logistics. Pharma cos have been warning of shortages so that isn’t made up either.

      1. John k

        Maybe, but pharma loves shortages.
        Less just in time = less globalization, transition to local production not always smooth.
        Migrants likely to begin preferring eu to U.K., so fewer people to feed, whether they are sweepers or bankers.
        And maybe Brit expats spend more time in Spain.

    2. Jeff

      If you let in uninspected items, what makes you believe you get food? Just recall that Ukrainians have been caught importing motor oil for cooking oil, Chinese have been caught selling formica as baby formula, the French have been caught selling bones and hides as meat etc.
      If you stop all inspections, you can expect crazy stuff (eg 1000s of people entering illegally, drugs, weapons…). If you do inspections, even partially, you need (currently non-existing) people and infrastructure. And inspections take time. So your food and medicine, even non-inspected, will be waiting in a queue somewhere, getting hot, wet, or stolen.
      Who is going to drive all the trucks? Not the foreigners (UK don’t want no foreigners in their beautiful country), not UK drivers (the total amount of UK drivers allowed in a year in the EU is less than half a day of current Dover traffic – not counting air freight that will need to take a boat as well). Unicorns?
      And how do you count to pay for all this? In pounds that are of no use outside UK? If you want to use other people’s money (euros, dollars, yens…) you need to sell them something of value – what you don’t have today.

      1. juliania

        I can’t say much about the logistics except that systems were in place before the switch to the EU that worked. I apologize for being simplistic, but isn’t it a lot like saying you can’t have paper ballots counted and recounted by little old lady volunteers, because the system is now so ‘faultlessly’ streamlined that there is no alternative?

        Russia’s a big country and nothing like Great Britain, but it faced a similar cutoff and sure, there were hardships, but the morale of the country advanced exponentially and they made do. I know, this isn’t the practical analogy, but sometimes being set free from modern technical advances envigorates the human spirit. Sort of like going camping.

        I’m trying to be deliberately stupid here, but that’s how this seems to me. It’s what New Zealand was originally doing, before they got caught up in spying on the world and being a tax shelter – feeding the folk in the home country. Great Britain doesn’t stand alone; there is a Commonwealth out there.

        1. Ataraxite

          The commonwealth is, at best, a sad fantasy which still exists so the British can pretend they’re still at the center of an empire.

          Australia, New Zealand or anyone else is not going to offer preferential terms to the UK on the basis of old loyalties and nostalgia for the world as it existed before WW2. Trade will happen if, and only if, it’s profitable for it to happen. And if more money can be made by an Australian or Canadian selling some particular commodity or item elsewhere than the UK, I’ll give you one guess as to what happens.

        2. Anonymous2

          The trouble is that Brexit was sold on the basis that there would be no downsides. The politicians will have a very difficult time switching to a ‘we always knew it was going to be tough ‘ position now.Especially as opinion polls now show a consistent majority favouring staying in the EU and growing support for another referendum. The politics of this are nightmarish especially given that support for Brexit came from the old who of course are dying while the young coming on to the electoral register are consistently said to be strongly pro-EU. The current situation is a recipe for intergenerational conflict for years to come.

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          “Before the EU” might as well be the stone ages in comparison to modern logistics. How long will it take to put your new system in place, particularly after key middlemen have gone bankrupt? And how many people go without food in the meantime?

          And this isn’t a decentralized system like local voting, where changing what happens in one district does not have knock-on effects. Grocers in the UK have warned of a train wreck of epic proportions, but you know better?

          I suggest you watch this video. Feeding the UK is a task of considerable logistical complexity and that all border logistics (as in getting stuff in) will become a nightmare. Even if transit times at the border go merely from 2 minutes to 4 minutes (and it is highly unlikely things will go that well) the result is a seize up.

        4. vlade

          In 19th century the UK had a thriving import/export industry. How’s that relevant? The world has changed. How logistics worked even 20 years ago is different to how it works now.

          But I guess you don’t see that – because NZ stopped feeding the UK in 70s. Exactly becasue the UK become part of the EU, which killed NZ agri exports overnight.

          Which there’s a plenty of older Kiwis who remember it well how the “mother country” dumped them then. As do Aussies.

          Yes, Commonwealth is out there. And it remembers well the treatment they were getting from the UK for years – and don’t give a toss about it anymore.

          Welcome to the 21th century.

  10. Pavel

    I spend at least an hour or two each day following Brexit news and analysis, obsessed as I am. On Youtube there are hundreds of “analysts” of various levels of quality and pedigree, and I listen to callers to LBC as well (James O’Brien’s show is particularly focussed on Brexit). A few thoughts:

    –many of the pro-Brexiteer callers and Youtubers just want a no deal outcome now. This might be 20% or more of the country, hard to say. They now despise May as much as their hated “Brussels bureaucrats” and Jean-Claude Juncker et al.

    –I don’t think a “People’s Vote” (silly name IMO) or Second Referendum is possible. Hard to arrange logistically and it would tear the country even more in two. I wish anti-Brexit people would stop focussing on it so much.

    –Labour claim to want a new General Election and they would then “negotiate a better deal” with the EU. But surely the EU won’t give anything better to the UK? The former’s goal is to punish the latter and scare other countries away from their own *Exits.

    T. May had two years to sort out some sort of deal and somehow she managed to concoct something that nobody likes. The worst PM in history — save for the feckless David Cameron who caused this fiasco in the first place. Where the hell is he hiding out?

    1. Fx.Elsewhere

      The issue of the a second referendum is moot. There is an actual law dealing with such, it’s comples, funding is an issue and there are built in time considerations. Britain has a in at least name a representational democracy. Time for parliament to do its’ job. But that does bring up a legitimate issue, who do they actually represent?

      1. larry

        Funding is not an issue. The UK operates its own soverign fiat currency, so the only limitations on its spending are the resources it has available to it.

      2. Synoia

        The Ruling Class, as always. No need for hypothetical questions.

        The often repeated crack about “Dictatorship by Parliament,” typifies the quote “there’s truth in many a jest.”

      1. Troutwaxer

        With his pig. We can’t forget the pig, and we certainly shouldn’t forget that the pig is smarter than Call-Me-Dave.

    2. Andrew

      May’s biggest mistake was triggering Article 50 before getting her ducks in a row (as stated on this site before it would be the equivalent of putting the country on a war footing). Then holding a pointless GE where she lost her overall majority. And putting that donut David Davis in charge of negotiations (his bluster and bs went down like a lead balloon). No wonder we’re in the mess we are. As the old saying goes, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. We’ve got that in spades right now.

  11. Ataraxite

    I’m going to offer a little prediction here. Don’t laugh until you’ve read it.

    I think, within the next couple of weeks, Boris Johnson will come out in favour of a second referendum.

    This is not some act of principle – after all, I’m talking about Boris Johnson. But it’s the way the tide seems to be turning in the UK at the moment, and Boris is all about making Boris PM. He’s realising right now that he’s thrown his lot in with a corpse, as the ERG has demonstrated they have nowhere near the numbers to topple May, and there is absolutely nothing like a parliamentary majority for no deal (even by inaction). If he keeps on as he is, he will be tied to the losing side in almost any permutation of future events. (Let alone an actual no deal, where the ERG will be held responsible for the many, many things that go wrong.)

    Yes, you can point out the many logistical, legal and political difficulties of a second referendum. Boris doesn’t care.

    Over the next few weeks and months, what we are going to see is the political temperature in the UK rise very considerably, as the politicians desperately try to find a way out of the ugly choices that confront them: a suboptimal deal that everyone hates, a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all.

    Do not underestimate the siren call of a second referendum. As MPs start to realise – in the Tory party, in Labour and even in the SNP – that whatever choice they make a significant portion of their constituents are going to be deeply pissed off at them, the thought of throwing the decision back to the electorate is going to become more and more tempting.

    There are difficulties to this approach, but not insurmountable ones, and for their part, the EU has made it pretty clear they’ll do almost anything they can to facilitate it, provided “Remain” is an option. With the spectre of a cliff-edge no deal hanging over the heads of the UK, the various difficulties there to hold a referendum under a shortened time frame can likely be overcome.

    My base scenario is that May’s deal gets rejected by the House of Commons, but after Mr Market has his way with the FTSE 100 and the GBP, helped along with a fortified version of Project Fear, the House of Commons will vote again, but this time for the deal after a few weeks of panic.

    But I wouldn’t rule out a second referendum by any stretch.

    1. fajensen

      What ever will they do then when the second referendum goes for “Brexit, the harder, the better it is for us”? A “Remain” vote is not guaranteed at all and even the EU can see this.

      It takes a lot more work and time than just rolling Tony Blair out to unwind 20++ years of Murdoch propaganda concerning the evils of the EU, the French and The Boche and the inevitable collapse of the EU real-soon-now.

      Even if they can somehow get the support of the Murdoch press, then there are still the state-sponsored troll farms and private initiatives such as Steve Bannon trolling the Internet!

      An informed election is not possible any longer!

      Parliament is the actual authority here, they should start exercising it, not defer every unpopular thing to what is essentially random outcomes of voting whenever parlament finds itself in a pickle. Specifically, The A50 cancellation option will require parliament to get solidly enough together, in a rare but convincing display of national unity to pull off, and it will still cost some concessions to the EU and take months of political work to pull off in the UK and in Bruxelles.

      If they are not going for A50 reversal, they should be 100% on working on the deal for now, even as a mere stop-gap measure, even if it is not the Brexit anyone would like.

      Wasting precious time and energy on more referendums will block the A50 work, block the treaty work and guarantee the default option, which is a hard Brexit, I.M.O.

      Boris Johnson is a clown. Of course he will propose some easy way out that doesn’t work. Of course Bruxelles won’t buy it. It has to be Parliament who decides to make an impression.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Boris wanted “Canada plus plus plus” too. What difference does it make what Boris wants? He’s been unable to mount a successful leadership challenge.

      The EU has effectively ruled out a second referendum. They said they would only give a few month extension (not enough for a referendum) if the negotiations made that necessary. And it isn’t interested in indulging the UK when the result isn’t a given. So what happens if Leave wins again, which is entirely possible? Recall that May looked set to deliver a fatal blow to Labour when she called the snap election. Her move was seen at the time as a masterstroke.

      The UK can have a second referendum. It would wind up being a replay of the Greece 2015 referendum on the bailout offer that had already expired” a referendum on a question that was moot.

  12. Dr. George W. Oprisko

    Pardon me, but why can’t the UK tell the EU how they are going to leave as follows:

    1 Mar 19 the UK is fully sovereign in it’s laws, not subject to EU regulations, or EU courts.

    1 Mar 19 – 31 Dec 2025 existing trade legislation continues to exist, with 20% of goods and services reverted to WTO rules annually, at UK discretion.

    Take it or leave it……..

    OTW the UK leaves NATO and forges an alliance with Russia…….


    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The UK is not complying with EU trade rules if it is not subject to EU regulation and does not accept the jurisdiction of the ECJ. So your scenario is a non stater.

      If the UK were to forge and alliance with Russia, the US would slap sanctions on it and its banking system would collapse in not too long a period of time. The US might be a bit more incremental than so as to cause a global financial crisis. Try importing with no banking system. Greece effectively had its banking system shut down by the ECB in 2015. It was having petrol shortages, fish was rotting on the docks, and shortages were starting to show up in the food system in less than 3 weeks.

      The lousy deal that May got makes clear the EU has the much better hand. The UK has no bargaining leverage. It needs low/no friction access to the EU. It would have had to do a ginormous amount of preparation otherwise and it hasn’t.

  13. Synoia

    the UK is going to charter ships to bring in food to alternate ports, but using container ships is s poor substitute for the system in place now. There will be trouble with getting the stuff out of containers and onto trucks which will result in spoilage…

    Ports are a business, and may not have much extra capacity.

    Unloading containers in ports is madness. There is not the people, equipment or land available for this activity at modern ports.

    Alternate ports: I questing their existence. Dover is a ro-ro port, I believe Tillsbury and Felixstowe primarily container ports. The next nearest port to London is Southampton, which is not really a freight port.

    Hull and Liverpool are a little too far to serve Southern England.

    Maybe the plan is to use the UK’s canals. I suspect the canals too small for Containers.

  14. Kurt Sperry

    The US–well Wall St.– will eat a post crash-out Brexit UK for breakfast. And it’ll be one of those wonderfully unhealtthy English full breakfasts with the works too. The City will be at the center of the plate. Dammit, now I’m getting hungry.

  15. kk

    How many times was it stated on this blog that the right wing press would tear into pieces anyone who gave way on brexit?
    Now the daily mail is sweet reason and so is the lunatic daily express, both supporting mrs May and atacking those who don’t recognise the ‘deal’ as the best thing on offer.

    This is the U.K., we have no constitution, we are a monarchy run by a small elite, the members of our upper-house inherit their jobs – do you honestly think they care tuppence what people voted for? Brexit is one part of the elite trying to grab power from another part of the same elite and they have failed; the attempted coup is over. The newspapers, the ‘pressure groups’ and the ERG are creatures of the government, the government is the creature of big money and does what big money wants, whilst keeping some pretence of democracy; ergo what will happen is BINO or stay in. We have a march in the 100,000s of people who want a People’s vote . Who managed to move all of those people, feed them, organise them, give them banners and tv time and get them home?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, don’t straw man what we said. We said the press was tearing into everyone who dared question Brexit and that had intimidated pols into not criticizing Brexit or suggesting it be undone. We said the press barons were powerful but we didn’t forecast where they’d come out; we’ve pointed out that what stance the Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Sun took on May’s deal would be important to MPs.

      Look at Corbyn of all people in Der Spiegel 10 days ago. The full throated pro-Brexit screeching for the first year appears to have intimidated businessmen into not complaining. Recall it was the Japanese automakers, the party you’d least expect to be the most vocal, who were the earliest to make pointed warnings. We’ve seen others speaking up pretty much only after the EU and UK started publishing “no deal” impact papers.

      The change in tone now is late in terms of having impact. For instance, the Mirror ran front page stories that were friendly to May’s deal. Same issue had an online poll on it. 87% of the respondents were against it.

  16. Pavel

    Just read in the Graun that the EU has told T May that if she asks for an extension to sort out the backstop etc (as she has mooted) it will cost the UK an extra £10B for a year’s extension (and that would be the minimum period allowed). So much for that idea!

    May told an EU leaders summit last month that she might ask for a “few months” extra time if that was what was needed to complete an EU-UK trade deal and prevent the Irish backstop from coming into force.

    But on Saturday night Brussels was making clear that if the UK wants an extension of the transition – during which it is tied to the EU economic system but with no say over its rules – it must last at least a further year.

    A year-long extension would cost about £10bn on top of the £39bn divorce bill already agreed. Such a prospect will appal hardline Brexiters who already complain that the UK will have to spend almost two more years tied to the EU after Brexit on 29 March next year.

    –Brussels tells Theresa May – delaying Brexit will cost UK £10bn

    They are really turning the screws in Brussels. This may make a hard Brexit even more likely, if May can’t get some extra time to tweak the deal and the “Ultras” would go insane at paying even more money. On the other hand, the EU would no doubt be thrilled to get another £10B and they would benefit from more time on their end.

  17. rtah100

    Sorry, Yves et alia, but you are still sheet-waving.

    1) we don’t inspect more than a fraction of current traffic. Opening the borders is an acceptable risk compared to “food riots” and “medicine shortages” (scare quotes, because). The risk is further mitigated because the real relationships are between buyer and seller: Boots the Pharmacist buying from Roche Basel or Lundbeck Denmark or the wholesaler they have used for years is still in the same commercial relationship and no more or less likely to get screwed. At the bottom of the food chain, buying “no name” meat carries risks but (i), facetiously, Tesco sold a perfectly decent line of horseburgers unwittingly for years and nobody died and (ii) there are plenty of upright suppliers in Argentina, NZ and even good forbid the USA (no, I don’t want chlorinated chickens and I think we can get by without them but in extremis, like old age, they are better than the alternative if the French inexplicably refuse to price-gouge us on black market capons, despite being within rowing distance (in the sense of boats, not bouts)).

    2) I don’t buy the delicate supply chain argument either. If we prefer full bellies to empty principles, the French lorry drivers can just roll in and roll out again via Dover. Our lorry drivers will be stewing in a lay-by while they do, assuming the EU refuses to let them work inside its borders, but, again, it’s better than starvation and does not lead to logistical chaos – just fat profits for the French in a crisis.

    The latest nonsense is a claim that the country will run out of Mars Bars. Apart from this being in line with government policy to reduce sugar consumption, it is also balderdash. We can import the ingredients if we open the borders – and the last time I looked, most of the sugarcane or cocoa was grown in third countries (and processed in them too – hullo, Switzerland!).

    By all means argue about the long-term impact of a hard Brexit but don’t try to shout “fire!” to an entire country to scare it into staying in the EU. It’s anti-democratic and deplorable.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you watch this video by people who know what they are talking about. Grocery and Big Pharma execs also disagree with you, vehemently. Tell me why you are more expert about their own business than they are. For starters. I’ll bother quoting from the first, Pharma Logistics:

      This risk is particularly acute for the pharmaceutical sector given the complex and time-critical supply chains and the need for many medicines to be kept in cold storage during transportation.

      Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are stockpiling on orders of the Government:

      The Government’s papers confirm those concerns, and they have every reason not to be alarmist.

      Trucks rolling in won’t be able to roll out to France, etc,, so they’ll quickly pile up on this end. And there are issues re drivers permits which further reduces trucking capacity. I forget the details but the video describes it in length.

      1. John C McLeod

        To be fair, might that be scaremongering on the part of those execs because they are very pro-EU/anti-Brexit? I’m definitely not taking sides in the debate, I just wanted to point that out.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I have trouble understanding why warnings that things would be bad is “scaremongering” when EU and UK impact analyses have said the same thing. And see the video we’ve linked to, the “Three Blokes” one. They go on chapter, book and verse of why and how logistics for all sorts of activities would be utterly messed up.

          I further have trouble seeing how it is “pro EU” to warn about a crash out when:

          1. The UK would suffer much more than the EU

          2. The businessmen have their own interests above all to consider

          3. The press ignored the possibility of a crash out until pretty recently (we’ve been warning about it for a while; the press didn’t even distinguish between a hard Brexit and a crash out, when they are very different things)

          4. Key UK pols have been clueless, such as Raab saying grocers would stockpile to prevent food shortages (they shot that down) and later saying he’d only just realize how important the Calais/Dover trade route was

          As vlade has pointed out, it has been shocking to see how little executives have said.

          And the Japanese automakers (and the Japanese in general) don’t play in foreign politics. This was about what they needed for their operations not to be seriously disrupted.

          Having said that, the German automakers have proven to be a different case. The UK assume (you’d see this from the press and pols) that they’d push the German government for a softer Brexit. Instead, the German automakers took the point of view that defending the EU was paramount (as in any short-term bennie of cutting a special Brexit deal that was out of line with the parameters of other pacts would undermine the EU and in the longer run hurt them). Fairly late in the negotiations, as in late last summer, the heads of two important German industrial lobbying groups spoke up on the topic of Brexit and basically said a crash out would be bad and the UK needed to be more flexible to avoid that.

      2. Mike Hall

        Really Yves, you should be ashamed of yourself putting up those substance bereft links as some kind of factual argument? Absolutely none of those sources could be described as trustworthy.

        You don’t seem to understand that once whatever ‘deal’ is agreed, there’s going to be a long transition period where all existing arrangements continue whilst a parallel operation begins to identify what is needed to keep the trade flows going in both directions.

        To pretend it’s impossible to achieve this, over a period of years is frankly absurd – you should know better.

        1. Ray Blaak

          Have you actually watched the Three Blokes video? “Substance bereft” and “not trustworthy” make it clear to me you have not.

          It definitely provides good points to think about, and really explains how trade will be messed up.

  18. rtah100

    @ Synoia,

    There is plenty of port infrastructure in southern England, some it mothballed:
    – Dover
    – Folkesktone (RoRo)
    – Ramsgate ?)
    – Newhaven (RoRo)
    – Portsmouth (RoRo)
    – Southampton (a major freight port – I don’t know what your sources are but they’re not very accurate. RoRo to an extent, I believe)
    – Weymouth (closed; might be possible to reopen)
    – Plymouth (RoRo)
    – Falmouth (not RoRo, AFAIK)

    Plus all the Irish sea ports are available, for both Irish produce from North and South (meat and potatoes, milk, Guinness!) and trans-shipments from EU.

    Finally, if you look at the fresh product in a UK supermarket, a disturbing amount is air freight, e.g. green beans and flowers from Kenya. Where spoilage is an issue, the premium items will go by air if they have to. Tinned food, dry goods could happily take the long way round and even come in containers if it has to.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Come on. Who is going to man and run these ports? The Government has only gotten as far as plans for chartering container ships. They aren’t looking into trying for alternate ro-ro options, so na ga happen.

      We said it would take a war level mobilization effort to make sure a hard or worse a crash-out Brexit didn’t result in a huge hit to the economy and serious disruption. It is way way way too late in the game to be talking about ideas like this.

      1. el_tel

        And is the government really willing to effectively nationalise (put on war footing) a bunch of infrastructure at certain ports that are owned by their friends? Folkestone – do you know who (directly or indirectly) owns a bunch of the land on which it sits? (Clue – it’s a Cambridge University College. I learnt this in a Tutor’s dinner for his students in the early 1990s.)

          1. el_tel

            Nope! I’m not saying Trinity doesn’t own some of it….it is far and away the richest, but there is another rich college that owns key bits :-)

            (FWIW I think it led to arguments between college Fellows at high table….my economics Director of Studies was an old school Cambridge left-winger who had in common with Adam Smith a hatred of “economic rent” and I’m almost certain hated his college’s role in collecting this. He was an SNP supporter long before the SNP became a power-broker for reasons related to economics in a period when Blairism was in the ascendancy.)

    2. Anonymous2

      You need to think about the traffic in the other direction, over to France. The UK is pretty much in the hands of the French here. If Macron decides to play hard ball (and why wouldn’t he?) then the UK has a serious problem. Ro-ro lorries need to know that they can get back without inordinate delays.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        It’s not hardball. France as an EU member does not have the latitude to treat a “third country” as if it were in the Single Market. Crashout = a hard border.

        1. Anonymous2

          I absolutely agree Yves that France has to play by the EU rules. The point I was hinting at was merely that there are degrees of lattitude available to authorities within the rules as to the degree of rigour with which they police them.The French authorities in my experience are pastmasters at making life difficult for people if they are so inclined. My original comment was aimed at rtah100, which I should have made clear.

    3. vlade

      You cannot increase capacity of those ports by 100%+ on a drop of a hat. There was a post by North some time back, reposting an industry report saying that pretty much all UK ports run at capacity.

      Think about it this way. Given how congested Calais/Dover is right now, if business had a choice, why wouldn’t it use less jammed Southern England ports already?

      You cannot take out mothballed capacity quickly either – it’s months, not days.

      On airfreight – yes, the premium items. Shipping beef by airfreight is not an option.

  19. VietnamVet

    The Brexit catastrophe is the culmination of the loss of the consent of the governed and the supremacy of supranational corporate institutions. The outcome is guaranteed to be bad. The Elite are looking out for themselves not society. It is no coincidence that with the rise of neoliberalism, Americans and Englanders like Russians after the fall of the USSR are dying younger. Thanks to the lure of the wealth, Liberals don’t see what is happening or competently fight for the restoration of democracy and good government. Instead, Boris Yeltsin, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage sprung forth.

  20. Boomka

    I think what’s lacking in the press is a proper, objective analysis of what the draft deal actually means for UK. Right now everything you can find is fairly confusing and contradictory. Partly I think because nobody read the whole 500-page thing carefully, and partly because so much in it is vague on purpose. Lots of commentators are bashing the deal for it’s backstop clause which could become semi-permanent, as in stay in place for 10 (but not 20 surely?) years while FTA is agreed.

    In the meantime backstop acts as an FTA of sorts, and as such, maybe it’s not a bad FTA? Richard North thinks it does guarantee frictionless trade. At the same time, UK government gets their FoM wish, as EU nationals will no longer be able to work in UK without visas. That starts to look like 3 freedoms out of 4, which should be considered a win for UK, even if they do have to follow EU regulations. On the other hand, on this blog it was pointed out that financial services access is becoming limited, so perhaps all 4 freedoms are being curtailed in some way? Is Richard North misreading something?

    Similarly, the irish border compromise to seems like a reasonable one. While DUP are unhappy that there would be certain provisions that apply only to NI but not whole UK, at least there is no physical border anywhere. Even passport checks are not going to be carried out, despite FoM restrictions. So I don’t think it threatens DUP politically, as most ordinary people would hopefully see this as preserving status quo.

    Perhaps the real difficulty is because none of these questions are black and white. It’s not whether there is frictionless trade or not, but “how frictionless is it on a sliding scale from 1 to 100?” Is it 100% like Single Market? 93% 71%?
    Same with NI – is it still 100% united? 99.7%? 91%?

    1. orange cats

      Is it possible the opposition is simply about remaining in the customs union and single market, no matter how supposedly temporary? I’m thinking of one opinion piece that insisted the people voting leave meant LEAVE–the union, customs, single market.

      1. vlade

        If you look at the history of leading up to the vote, very few, if any (can’t think of any of the top of my head) leave pols were advocating leaving single market. In fact, a number of them were pro-single market.

        “Leave means leave” started only AFTER the referendum. This has been touched on before. “leave” was an amorphous blob, where voters who wanted no-deal rubbed shoulders with those who wanted Norwa/EFTA, cakeism or anything in between.

        So “leave means leave” betrays the most the LEAVE voters, not remainers.

  21. henry

    If I may sidestep a bit and ask this question, in the hope that more informed readers can clarify this doubt – According to this website – – only 37% of the electorate voted for brexit and 35% against. That means there’s no clear majority and that a larger amount of people disagree with either vote. So, how can brexit even be considered legit enough for any government to act on it? Is there any legal backing for this?

      1. henry

        Yes, I am counting the stay-at-homes. They are part of the electorate. Why shouldnt they be considered when considering brexit?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Because they had the opportunity to weigh in and chose not to. I’m not sympathetic to defenses of non-voters in countries (unlike the US) which have decent voting systems (the UK does hand count paper ballots in public and appears to have good access to polls (I can’t tell for the Brexit vote, but I assume the polling hours were the same as for the general elections, 7:00 to 22:00). They chose to let other people make the decision for them. In Scotland, for its independence vote, turnout was 85% versus ~72% for the Brexit vote.

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