Before we turn to the meat of today’s post (short because I am still recovering from a bad bug), it’s disappointing to see Corbyn make such a hash of things. I really would like to be able to cheer Labour on, but the party isn’t looking any more competent that the Tories.
Yesterday, Corbyn threatened the stunt of a vote of no confidence in May, as opposed to the government, which would have no practical effect even if he were to succeed. Then this happened:
— Joanna Cherry QC MP (@joannaccherry) December 17, 2018
This is where things appeared to stand at the end of the day per the Guardian:
Labour and the Conservatives were embroiled in a high-stakes row over whether to stage an immediate vote of no confidence in the government after the opposition chose not to table a binding vote on the issue on Monday night.
The opposition accused Downing Street of “running scared” because it had refused to allow time to debate an alternative, non-binding no-confidence vote in Theresa May as prime minister.
The Tories hit back, saying that Labour had “bottled it” by failing to exercise their right to force a no-confidence vote in the government when it looked like they might not win it.
Corbyn appears to be way too eager to be Doing Something when he should be following the maxim attributed to Napoleon: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
On top of that, the very last thing Corbyn wants to do now, or in January, is win a no confidence vote. That would virtually guarantee a crash out. We’ll go through the timetable in a post soon, hopefully later this week, but the drill is:
14 days to try to form a new government. If not, then the general election process starts.
The election process is twenty-five working days, or a minimum of five weeks, per statute.
That means seven weeks on the tightest possible timetable. As Clive adds:
And it is just fanciful to suggest that Parliament could come to a hard-stop after the 14-day period had elapsed without at least a few days to have an orderly wind-down and passing over caretaker government responsibilities to the civil service. Similarly that Parliament could sit the very next day after an election result. While the invitation to form a government, the Queen’s Speech and the State opening are largely ceremonial, there is a constitutional requirement for the Sovereign to set out, in broad terms, the agreed legislative programme for the Parliament and for the Parliament to be legally opened and its sitting to commence. Otherwise, laws passed could not have valid statutory force.
I think it is therefore 8 weeks start-to-finish – cutting it to the barest possible timeframe.
If there was a hung Parliament (which you couldn’t rule out, especially with politics being, as they currently are, all over the place) and coalition negotiations were needed, you’d have at least another week, possibly several.
Understand what this means. Let’s say Labour were to win a motion of no confidence on the heels of Parliament nixing May’s Withdrawal Agreement. That vote is scheduled for the week of January 14. Parliament would take no meaningful new action prior to a new Parliament being seated and a government being formed, which would be mid-March at the best.
It would take legislation to allow the new Prime Minister to run and beg the EU for an extension to Article 50, since the exit date is hard-coded in the Withdrawal Act. Think that could get done in two weeks? And how close to the wire is the EU likely to accept an extension request?
As vlade wrote:
To be honest, I believe this is the ERG strategy – get in a GE in Feb/March, ensuring no-deal Brexit, get Labour to win it, and then run around blaming it all on incompetent handling by Labour, ensuring Tory time in wilderness is short. Given that it’s IMO quite likely Labour would have to rule in a coalition (it would lose Scotland voters to SNP, and quite a bit of city votes to LibDem that it picked up in 2017), it may not be even that long.
It pains me to say, but even as incompetenet nutcases as ERG seems to have a better strategy than Labour.
Now to the two officially dead unicorns of the day, although Sir Ivan Rogers, among others, have already given them their last rites a long time ago. And let us not forget that the UK has a thing for zombie unicorns. Too many pols and pundits are still talking up the clearly putrified ideas of “Canada plus” and “Norway plus”.
The first is the oxymoron of a “managed no deal,” where we turn to Sir Ivan’s speech in Liverpool, posted December 13:
Besides “Canada +++” or SuperCanada, as it was termed by the former Foreign Secretary, we have Norway +, which used to be “NorwaythenCanada” then became “Norwayfornow” and then became “Norway + forever”. And now even “No deal +”, which also makes appearances as managed no deal” and “no deal mini deals”.
What is depressing about the nomenclature is the sheer dishonesty. The pluses are inserted to enable one to say that one is well aware of why existing FTA x or y or Economic Area deal a or b does not really work as a Brexit destination, but that with the additions you are proposing, the template is complete…
“No deal+” is brought to us courtesy of all the people who told a great free trade deal would be struck before we even left because the mercantile interests of key manufacturing players in Member States would prevail against the pettifogging legalistic ivory tower instincts of the Brussels ayatollahs.
Forgive me for pointing out that, as some of us forecast well over 2 years ago, it did not turn out like that. And that the Brussels theologians exhibited rather more flexibility than the key Member States when it came to the crunch.
And that not a peep was heard from the titans of corporate Europe. Except to back very robustly the position in capitals that the continued integrity of the Single Market project was vastly more important to them than the terms of a framework agreement with the U.K. A position which won’t change during the trade negotiations ahead either.
The “no deal + “ fantasy is that if we just had the guts to walk away, refuse to sign the Withdrawal Agreement with the backstop in it, and withhold a good half of the money the Prime Minister promised this time last year, capitals, suddenly realising we were serious, would come running for a series of mini deals which assured full trading continuity in all key sectors on basically unchanged Single Market and Customs Union terms.
I don’t know what tablets these people are taking, but I must confess I wish I were on them. It will be said of them as it was said of the Bourbons, I think: “they have learned nothing and they have forgotten nothing”.
It’s now official, courtesy leaks from Europe. From the Telegraph:
The European Commission will put forward measures to reduce the worst damage of a no deal Brexit when it publishes delayed contingency plans for Britain crashing out of the EU on Wednesday but will rule out any British hopes of a “managed no deal”.
The strategy will, if backed, allow the EU will unilaterally declare the extension of agreements in selected sectors for between six to nine months to give its member countries time to strike bilateral agreements with Britain.
The plans are likely to be seized upon by some Brexiteers as evidence that Brussels could accept a “managed no deal” but, according to the commission, no deal will mean an end to all Brexit negotiations with the UK.
An EU official said, “The underlying principle is it has to be temporary to bridge a significant disruption. They will only remedy the most disruptive elements of Brexit in case of no deal.” Because the measures are unilateral they could be broken off at any time, an official said. “We’re not talking about engaging in parallel negotiation with no deal deals with the UK.”
Moreover, as you can infer from this Bloomberg story, not only are these measures temporary, but the EU will decide unilaterally when to cancel them:
The European Union will rule out doing mini deals with the U.K. to ease the chaos of Britain crashing out without a divorce agreement, stepping up pressure on British lawmakers to approve the deal that’s on table or risk disaster.
If the British Parliament fails to ratify the withdrawal treaty before the country’s scheduled leaving date of March 29, the EU won’t seek a “managed no-deal,” according to an EU official.
Instead, it will take unilateral steps to protect its interests, putting in place a bare minimum of emergency measures, and only if the U.K. reciprocates with its own actions, the person said….
The EU is preparing no-deal measures in eight areas. The European Commission will say that steps generally won’t last longer than until the end of 2019, when it publishes details of proposed EU legislation on Wednesday. The areas are:
The EU will allow airliners from the U.K. to fly over the EU, land in the EU and fly back to the U.K, and make refueling stops in the EU.
The EU would allow the U.K.’s derivatives clearinghouses to continue serving banks in the bloc — under a so-called equivalence arrangement — for 12 months after Brexit in the case of no deal.
The EU will levy duties and taxes on U.K. goods and is stepping up arrangements to carry out customs checks at entry points from the U.K.
Permits will still be given to U.K. truck drivers but these would be far more restricted than is currently the case under EU membership.
EU climate change legislation won’t apply to the U.K. The Commission will take steps to ensure its emissions trading system isn’t affected.
Rights of citizens
The EU will say it is taking a “generous” approach to British citizens living in one of its 27 countries at the moment of Brexit and will enable them to obtain long-term residency status if they fulfill the necessary conditions.
Livestock and animal products
The EU hopes to allow the import of live animals and animal products from the U.K. as long as the country meets sanitary standards. Disruption will be expected, however, because new checks will have to take place on entry into the EU.
If the U.K. leaves the EU with no deal, the country will be governed by the rules covering international transfers, which makes it far more difficult to exchange personal data.
On the referendum front, someone in the UK has finally worked out what we have been saying for a while, that there is not even close to enough runway for a second referendum. However, the UK press and pols being hopelessly narcissistic, the issue we’ve cited, that no way, no how is the EU willing to extend the Article 50 deadline long enough to allow for UK MPs to be seated in the European Parliament, is now being spun as a UK issue. We said that the European Parliament trigger date was the absolute limit, but we weren’t sure what the trigger was, and was hoping some lawyers would get on it and report back. That has happened. From the Telegraph:
The Government has taken secret legal advice on extending Article 50 which it argues effectively rules out a second referendum, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
The advice states that Britain will be legally obliged to take part in European Parliament elections in May of next year if it extends Article 50 and subsequently send British MEPs to Brussels. It warns that there will be a “high risk of a successful legal challenge” if the UK refuses to take part in the elections because doing so will be breaching people’s rights as EU citizens.
Ministers who have seen the advice argue that this means that July 2nd, the start of the next five-year session of the European Parliament, is a “hard” deadline for extending Article 50. They say it will take at least a year to complete preparations and hold a second vote, making it technically impossible to have another EU referendum.
If we’re lucky, MPs and pundits will sober up over the holidays and the pressure of Brexit in a mere three months will focus a few minds come the new year. But by then, the options will be few indeed.