Brexit: May’s Handbag

The new hope for the UK being rescued from Brexit (as if there were any solution that not leave large swathes of the citizenry feeling bruised) is May’s handbag. I am not making that up. From The Times:

Theresa May will seek to emulate Margaret Thatcher by travelling to Brussels to demand a better Brexit deal in a last-ditch attempt to save her government from collapse.

Ministers and aides have convinced the prime minister that she needs “a handbag moment” with EU bosses if she is to have any chance of persuading her own MPs to support her.

They expect May to announce tomorrow that she will launch a final throw of the diplomatic dice with a dash to Brussels, a move that could result in Tuesday’s vote being postponed.

The odds are decent that May will put off the vote. The Conservatives were demanding answers on what their MPs would do on Tuesday, amid rumors of a catastrophic defeat. And the sharks are circling. Javid has put himself forward as a PM candidate, and Boris is again making the rounds.

Here is how ConservativeHome assesses the likely outcomes:

If the Government motion fails, and all amendments fail, then there are several things that might happen:

  • May could face a vote of no confidence in the Commons. Kier Starmer has said that Labour would table a vote, but with the DUP stating that they would support the Conservatives in such a vote, this is unlikely to succeed. If the Government did fall, there would be 14 days for another Government to win a vote of confidence in the Commons, or the country will have a General Election.

  • Conservative MPs put in 48 letters, and the party has to have a confidence vote in the Prime Minister. If 48 letters go in, this would require a swift vote of confidence, where May must win more than 50 per cemt of the 315 eligible MPs. If she lost, the party then has to elect a new leader. Given the incredibly short timescale before 29th March, the Conservative Party would be signing its own death warrant to do this.

  • Labour tries to table a censure motion about May – this is effectively a personal vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, which is what happened recently to Chris Grayling. This would potentially allow Tory MPs to vote against the May without bringing down the Government. However the Government is under no obligation to provide time for an Opposition Day before Christmas, so this is unlikely to happen.

  • The Prime Minister goes to negotiate with Brussels and brings back an amended deal. This would then require the Government to win a vote on its renegotiated deal, using the procedure outlined above. If no negotiated deal can pass through the Commons the UK will leave the EU without a deal.

As we’ve indicated, the Tory loathing of Corbyn is so great that the odds are high that May would survive a vote of no confidence, and that would keep her safe from another challenge for a year. They’d need to be confident they could settle on a new leader in the 14 day window before a General Election process would kick in. The DUP would be certain to join, since as the linchpin to a coalition, they’d continue to enjoy their veto power.

But May’s and the UK’s desperation has not produced any new options. Worse, British officials are touting non-starters. Amber Rudd flogged the “Norway” plan after Norwegian leaders rejected it, and Norway has to consent for the UK to join the Efta. Similarly, Guardian reported that Tory ministers are now divided over the question of a second referendum, and it turns out that Labour is now divided too, per The Times:

Labour’s fragile truce over a second referendum broke down further today as a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn said that it should be held only as a last resort.

Jon Trickett, the shadow cabinet office minster, said that Labour would be “rightly” in difficulty with its voters if they felt that the result of the 2016 referendum had been reversed by a “privilged political elite”.

Labour’s MPs, its union backers and its grassroots are deeply split on the question of a second referendum on EU membership.

Mr. Corbyn is being pulled towards one by John McDonnell, the shadow minister, backed by Momentum, the activist campaign group that helped him to win and defend the leadership.

The Telegraph reports that the Government is considering a second referendum without a Remain option (that would go over well) and several outlets stated that she’d called EU Council President Donald Tusk, but there was no detail on what they discussed.

Needless to say, all these struggles reflect the fact that the UK leadership is, astonishingly, still refusing to come to grips with the fact that the clock is ticking and the EU is not on board with any of these ideas. The latest evidence is from the Washington Post:

Europeans have gone slackjawed at London’s political chaos, with normally demure diplomats comparing the process there to a slow-motion car wreck. They say they can offer little other than cosmetic tweaks that might help May save face with her own Conservative Party. And they have begun to accelerate their emergency planning to prepare safety nets that could avoid some of the humanitarian and economic chaos that might happen if Britain crashes out of the European Union on its deadline of March 29, with no other plan in place…

If May loses, she could go back to Brussels, cap in hand, and ask for further concessions, as early as next [now this] Thursday at a previously scheduled summit. She would hope that any tweaks to the deal, plus perhaps panic from the markets, would be enough to persuade lawmakers to support it at a second vote…

In Brussels, officials say they are willing to keep discussing the deal — just so long as nothing of substance changes. They could offer nonbinding declarations to make clearer that the remaining E.U. members do not want to lock Britain into an economic marriage against its will. They could tweak the part of the Brexit deal that lists the aspirations for their future partnership, which does not have the force of law. If talks seem to be on track, they could nudge the Brexit deadline from March to late June, when a British-free new European Parliament will be seated.

“Usually there are some — I can joke — tricks,” the frank-talking Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said last month of the way the European Union finds consensus among its many members. “We promise to promise.”

And the article describes why the EU isn’t willing to make more concessions to avoid a crash-out:

Advocates of a hard Brexit claim that they still have leverage in Brussels because the chaos of a deal-free British divorce would also snarl European economies.

E.U. negotiators say the British are badly deluded and that their own business leaders actually fear a no-deal Brexit less than concessions that could give British businesses advantages in the vast E.U. market without the obligations of E.U. regulations and taxes.

Consistent with the EU not being inclined to be conciliatory to the UK, the EU is getting tough with Switzerland on its “equivalency” arrangements for financial institutions. Recall that the EU agreed, after originally rejecting the idea, to allow UK financial institutions to have access to the EU under a similar regime. The tightening of the Swiss scheme is meant as a warning to the UK. From the Financial Times:

Switzerland faces the threat of financial sanctions from the EU after its cabinet refused on Friday to endorse a deal aligning the small Alpine nation more closely with the bloc.

In decision that could have ramifications for the UK after Brexit, the Swiss federal council, or cabinet, declined to agree a proposed new “institutional framework” to govern EU trading relations with Switzerland, which is not an EU member….

Friday’s Swiss move opens the way for retaliation by Brussels, which warned beforehand that if Bern did not approve the new framework it would withdraw “equivalence” status for the Swiss stock exchange — meaning EU banks and brokers would no long be able to trade there.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission president, will lead a discussion in Brussels on Tuesday to decide on whether to allow the equivalence to expire on January 1, as had been threatened if there was no decision. One alternative is to extend the equivalence for a matter of months to allow the consultation to run its course.

The commission’s use of the equivalence decision as a weapon sets a potentially worrying precedent for the UK’s financial sector, which is likely to face a similar regime post-Brexit….

Since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, Brussels has sought to recalibrate relations with “third countries” and ensure Switzerland’s package does not become a model for a post-Brexit UK….

Failure to agree an institutional framework could hit Swiss access to EU research programmes — and will prevent talks on future EU market access deals, including for Swiss banks.

And last but not least, the ECJ ruled this morning, consistent with its advocate’s opinion last week, that EU members can unilaterally withdraw an Article 50 notice. What is surprising about the decision is that it didn’t have some of the restrictions that the advocate described last week, such as what amounted to a good faith requirement.

As indicated, I’m an outlier in not seeing this as having much significance for Brexit, since the EU had repeatedly made clear it would allow the UK to rescind its Article 50 notice up to the very last minute. However, it does appear that the ruling has legitimated the idea of backing out of Brexit, perhaps because having the UK be able to do it without EU27 assent would make it seem like less of a climbdown.

Similarly, even though EU leaders may be upset at the idea that the ruling could allow EU members to game the system by putting in A50 notices to gain leverage and then withdraw them, again I see that as extraordinarily unlikely.

First, 19 EU members are also members of the Eurozone. As we’ve discussed at great length, creating a new currency requires massive IT changes which will be made largely by parties outside the exiting country’s control. Of course, that could lead a country that was serious about a Euroexit to go into reverse when they realized two years wasn’t enough time and they’d be left with a non-functioning banking system if they persisted (see what happened in Greece in 2015, albeit for different reasons, for an idea of the consequences).

Second, despite the austerity-producing policies of the EU, even diehard Euroskeptic Ambrose Evans-Pritchard deemed Italy to be the only country for whom an exit would be economically attractive, and he also said the window of opportunity would have closed by now. And Evans-Pritchad hadn’t factored in the difficulty of introducing a new currency.

Finally, trying to play the system is a hugely risky political move. If a country can muster up whatever it takes constitutionally to put in an A50 notice, it would have to have a shifting in political forces to reverse it. The public will have been played if A50 is used for gaming by elite interest, and the public and businesses do not take well to being gamed. They’ll see how Brexit has torn the UK apart, cost it GDP, and led the EU to move out the HQ of important EU agencies, which the EU is very unlikely to move back even if the UK relents.

If a government launches A50, it has no assurance it will be able to manage the forces it has unleashed to turn the process around. And the UK demonstrates that there is a big GDP cost too which does not make incumbents popular.

Needless to say, this is a very big week for the UK and the EU, and we’ll know more about how things might shake out in a few days.

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  1. emorej a hong kong

    ECJ ruled this morning, consistent with its advocate’s opinion last week, that EU members can unilaterally withdraw an Article 50 notice

    Does this remove the EU’s ability to condition A50 withdrawal on terminating Thatcher’s rebate?

    If so, then isn’t the ruling likely to create a majority of MPs who (at least secretly) regard withdrawing A50 notice as the best possible result (starting from where they are now)?

    Of course, in order to convert secret views into public votes, each party, faction and individual would need to develop an argument enabling them to escape or minimize blame in voters’ eyes (especially in comparison to other parties, factions and individuals) for “undemocratically reversing the democratic result” of the Brexit referendum.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Regarding your first point, that was an EU threat, but Article 50 doesn’t allow for a conditional revocation and any revocation requires approval of the EU28, not the EU27. The fact that there wasn’t any discussion I saw as the case was progressing of this issue suggests that cooler heads thought this wan’t like to come about.

      Regarding the second point, there are a lot of people who voted Remain who are opposed to a second referendum. Polls show despite a majority now preferring Remain, they also show that the public wants Brexit over. 50% do not want a second referendum and only 40% do. The public also polls as against even an extension (I forget the percentages there and forgive me for being too time stressed to look it up). MPs do not want to be seen as going against the referendum, which is why no one has yet to even hint at the idea of rescinding Article 50 without a new referendum blessing it.

      And there are still a lot of people fantasizing that what the UK needs is a better Brexit, not no Brexit, and surely the EU can be persuaded or bludgeoned into going along.

      To your final point, the divisions are way too deep to develop any coherent messaging. And most important, the press barons would have to go along. They drove the train early on with their enthusiasm for Brexit and I can’t imagine you’d see them all or even mainly sing from a “Never mind Brexit” choirbook. For instance, the Sun is screeching against a second referendum, let along a reversal:

      Britain will BURN like France if there is a SECOND BREXIT REFERENDUM warns IDS

      And some hard core Brexiteers are thinking of comebacks:

      Nigel Farage Hints He Might Launch A New Political Party If Brexit Is Delayed

      1. emorej a hong kong

        Yves, you are persuasive that an MP voting for (much less leading) a push to withdraw the A50 notice would be simultaneously making him/herself unelectable. The most surprising thing to me throughout the Brexit ‘process’ has the apparent failure of City money to provide enough golden parachutes to persuade a majority of MPs to cast votes making themselves unelectable — as their parting shots before pulling their gold rip chords.

        Although May has been warning Corbyn-fearers that only her negotiated agreement with the EU can prevent Corbyn from winning power after a no-Brexit, it seems more plausible to me that Parliament’s approval of this agreement (without many Corbynite fingerprints on it) would increase the likelihood of an eventual Corbyn government, along with the ability of the Corbyn or other Labour government to argue “the mess under us was inherited from the Conservative May government”.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          It’t not that I’m persuasive, it’s that the overwhelming evidence in the press is that this is how the MPs are behaving, that no one (now) is willing to suggest revoking Article 50 without a second referendum clearing the way. Now it is not out of the question that that could change if the pols and press abandon their unicorns (“Norway” and getting the EU to relent on the backstop) and they get it through their heads that there will be no referendum before even an extended A50 drop dead date. But the UK collectively has been remarkably resistant to realism on this topic.

          1. dingus

            I agree with all of the above. I would say though that brinkmanship looks likely to be the deciding factor here. If the deal is suppressed for long enough withdrawal of Article 50 becomes a lot more palatable for open discussion as the only practical way to buy time and avoid the disastrous no deal Brexit the country is completely unprepared for. This would gather support (there already seems to be a growing undercurrent of support), if only because it postpones slaying any unicorns for the time being. Even the current Tory government may be forced to do it in desperation (assuming there isn’t a general election before March 29th, in which case withdrawal of A50 to ‘buy time’ for the new government would seem the most likely outcome). It would be a political death sentence for May but so is not getting her deal through and her hand may be forced, resignation and new leader would be likely.

            On the other hand, the anti-deal side may cave first, accepting some cosmetically watered down deal, likely only because it avoids an immediate Conservative party meltdown. Kicking the can a little further down the road with something nobody is really happy with. This is why the numbers against the deal are important at this stage, it’s a likely measure of this side’s resilience.

            Of course the big risk with brinkmanship is what happens when neither side gives in, this is the no deal scenario and we all can see how bad that will be. Either way it looks likely to go to the wire.

      2. Avidremainer

        The ECJ ruled that the UK can revoke its notice to quit as per Article 50 and needs no permission or agreement from anyone else to do so. Probably doesn’t mean much but there we go.
        The power of the press barons can be overestimated. Remember the headlines in 2016? May was going to get a majority of 100! 150! or more. She was going to destroy Labour. What happened was that Momentum mounted a staggering counter attack and nearly nullified the press baron’s influence. We have seen too many outcomes that were thought to be impossible in the last few years for anyone to say anything for certain.

  2. Disturbed Voter

    Resurgent BRIC nationalism and anarchy across Europe, do not bode well for the new Globalism set loose in 1992. It may have run its current course.

  3. voteforno6

    I realize that this is incredibly naive for me to ask this question, but why doesn’t someone propose that, since May’s government has made such a mess of Brexit, Parliament should rescind the Article 50 notice, so that it could buy time, and go back to Brexit once it has its act together. I’m sure that this would be poorly received by large swaths of the population, but it seems like this may be the best of only very bad options to choose from.

    1. Anders K

      The probable political costs for whoever suggests this are high, and the costs for actually executing on it are even higher.

      Aside from that, Parliament can not *directly* rescind the Article 50 notice, from what I have gathered, but can only tell the Government to do it, and if the Government does not, they have to put in a vote of no confidence in order to get someone in there to do it for them. While unlikely, this makes it possible for the Government to run out the clock of the decision since Parliament is not united (yet) to even do the first step, as they keep on coming up with ideas that are less likely to pass muster outside of the UK and scrabbling for support in Parliament for them.

      Basically, Parliament is hoist on its own petard, what with giving significant weight to an advisory referendum in order to get political coverage for their actions.

      The discussions that are now happening in Parliament should have happened before – LONG before – they triggered Article 50, and to admit that they failed is – so far – a too significant loss of face for them. It does not help that anyone advocating a “let’s admit we were fools” strategy would be attacked for being “against the Will of the People” and possibly de-selected the next time their seat was up for grabs.

      So, with both personal and political reasons for not admitting they were wrong, they continue on their current course, desperately seeking any raft in the oncoming storm.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        To add to your commentary, it would take primary legislation to rescind Article 50, at a minimum 2 measures: one to undo the hard coding of the Brexit date in the bill authorizing the Article 50 notice (or nullifying it entirely) and one instructing the Government to revoke A50.

        Private bills, as in ones initiated by MPs, as opposed to the Government, virtually never pass. So you’d have to have the Government take the lead. That means getting May out, since she is not willing to revoke A50 or sponsor a referendum (even if that were possible, which as we’ve explained isn’t).

    2. vlade

      I don’t think rescinding A50 only to re-issue it once a plan was made up would be well received by anyone. I’d not rule it out, but it’s a far shot.

      1. voteforno6

        At this point, what would they have to lose? It seems like that would be slightly less bad than the course they’re on right now. What this whole mess has revealed is just how lacking the leadership of the UK is, pretty much across the board.

        1. Darthbobber

          “At this point, what would they have to lose?”
          For the tories-power.
          For labor-the chance of power.
          For some mps-their seats.
          For present party front benchers-their positions in leadership.

          Oh, you were talking about the NATION’S interest. That only comes foremost if
          A. Enough mps are unfrightened by their calculations regarding the above items, or
          B. A sufficient number of them decide to go the self-sacrifice route, and commit something they evaluate as likely political suicide for some belief in a greater good.
          Not literally impossible, but not what I’d bet on.

  4. William Bowles

    This from True Publica, a forthcoming book:

    THE BOOK: Brexit – A corporate coup d’état. The great con that will ruin Britain

    Well before David Cameron announced the EU referendum, powerful, often shadowy foreign actors had been lobbying for years to install those who shared their vision of Britain’s future into critical positions of influence. Right-wing free-market fundamentalists agitating for Brexit secured positions in high office and the very corridors of power. Collectively, they established and built authoritative organisations to ensure that Brexit was not a wasted opportunity to push forward the next stage of the global reign of free markets.

    1. flora

      an aside: related to the point of corporate wishes, Piketty and others have a new proposal to increase progressive taxes on big business/corporations and the wealthy to offset the regressive taxes/budget cuts/austerity on everyone else.

      “Following Brexit and the election of anti-European governments at the head of several member countries, it is no longer possible to continue as before,” says the document.

      “We cannot simply wait for the next departures or further dismantling without making fundamental changes to present-day Europe.”

      The usual suspects dismiss his ideas as unnecessary since it is ‘reinventing the wheel’. (I think the ‘wheel’ is coming off the wagon under the current EU neoliberal economic paradigm.)

      1. larry

        Unfortunately, Piketty’s manifesto is neoliberal in its economics. Its social aims are laudable but macroeconomically it’s seriously flawed. Piketty’s book suffers from the same flaw. Great data but flawed macroeconomic neoliberal argument.

        1. flora

          I wonder if Labour’s seeming paralysis in what should be an open opportunity is because they, too, are still inside the neoliberal TINA box, and cannot think outside that box. (The US Dems seem wholly captured by neoliberal economics. )

    2. Mattski

      When I first moved to NY I wrote lots of reviews for Kirkus. One was about a scholarly work on Conspiracy Theories, which I (hopefully subtly) panned. But I did come up with my own working theories about why they thrive and why they are often wrong. First, there is plenty of evidence that people do “conspire” to direct events, but often their conspirations are more or less legitimately arrived at withint the confines of a system that tends–admittedly–to have rules for the rest of us, fewer for itself.

      People want an explanation–a fairly simple one–when things go very wrong. Conspiracy theories tend to narrow the ambit of the explanation beyond their actual bounds.

      My biggest takeaway, though, was that it’s far easier to espy a couple of scapegoats than to identify the system itself–its failures–as the overarching culprit.

      Having said that. . . I also have no doubt that the reactionary forces that drove the vote were happy to take money the fast f*scists who saw the opportunity to enact a new-wave neoliberalism in Britain (think the transition from Jeb Bush to Rick Scott to DeSantis in FL and you might have a rough parallel). Or that those who can will work to drive the narrative to their own ends going forward.

      The system, in my view, is the main conspirator. And if that’s too reductive for anyone then we can say that the systematic aspects of the drive for financialized superprofits are the overarching evil at work.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I am going to have to remember this phrase: “Conspiracy theories tend to narrow the ambit of the explanation beyond their actual bounds.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? Please read the post. We discussed that at length. The EU has said repeatedly that they’d accept a UK withdrawal of its Article 50 notice up to the very last minute. This ruling does not make any difference as far as Brexit is concerned from the EU side, although some worry that the lack of restrictions on revocation might lead to adventurism by other members (we discuss why we think not).

      In other words, like pretty much everything Brexit in the UK, the widespread reaction that this is a gamechanger is a monster misreading of the state of play. The biggest effect is that it has made it acceptable to talk about revoking Article 50 in political classes in the UK.

  5. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    The EU-CH arrangements were very much a creature of their time. There was an expectation on the part of the EU and CH establishment that the Swiss people would come round to the idea of EU/EEA membership, so the EU could afford to be flexible / generous and such a stance would avoid the hassle of renegotiation later, expected to be sooner rather than later.

    At City conferences I attended in 2013, the EU representatives made it clear to the UK and Swiss attendees, ministers and officials, current and former, that the arrangements with CH would no longer be made. A master / framework agreement would be the EU’s preference, take it or leave it. It appears that the UK and CH were not listening.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        I forgot to add that whilst the EU could afford to be flexible / generous towards Switzerland, it was never intended that such arrangements would be allowed for larger economies.

        1. Mattski

          Reining in a certain kind of shadow capitalism that flourishes in Switzerland would be a helpful development–is there any suggestion of this in the EU’s hardened stance?

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, Mattski.

            Not really. Why? So many of the EU elite, including politicians, hide their money in Switzerland.

            The EU sees a master agreement as less bureaucratic to manage.

  6. Ataraxite

    Yves, there are actually two types of “No Confidence” motions, and you appear to be conflating the two:

    1. There is a motion of no confidence in Theresa May as leader of the Conservative party. This motion can be triggered by 48 backbench MPs sending in their “no confidence” letter to the head of the 1922 committee. If those letters are sent in, then a vote will be held *only within the Conservative party” to decide if they have confidence in her to stay as leader. If they do not, then the Conservative party will start its process to elect a new leader, who will become Prime Minister.

    2. There is a motion of no confidence in the government as a whole. By convention in Westminster systems, the government is the party/coalition who can command a majority of the House of Commons – this is commonly expressed as having the “confidence” of parliament. A motion of No Confidence of this type is moved on the floor of the House of Commons, presumably by Labour. Should this motion be passed by the Commons, it can then be said that the Government has “fallen”, and the 14 day clock in the Fixed Terms Parliament Act begins. In the 14 day period, if there is another party or coalition who can get a vote of confidence in them passed by the Commons, it will then become the government. If not, after 14 days, a general election is held.

    These are two separate processes, and there is only a political interplay between them, not a legal one.

    1. Anders K

      Eh? The excerpt from ConservativeHome seems rather straightforward that the four things they mention can happen, and not exclusively from each other (leading to a number of weird outcomes, like May with a new deal returning from Brussels to find themselves without the confidence of their party *and* a GE called in spite of said success).

      What parts did you think they missed? I do realize you add further detail to what happens at each of the two instances you point out, but in broad strokes they seem to have covered what you mentioned, other than the possible interpretation that only one of the four can happen (which is quite likely but not necessarily true).

      1. David

        I suspect this is not a reference to the ConservativeHome excerpt, but to Yves’s statement that “…. the Tory loathing of Corbyn is so great that the odds are high that May would survive a vote of no confidence, and that would keep her safe from another challenge for a year.”
        There are indeed two different things here: a leadership challenge to May, and a vote of no-confidence in the government as a whole. May might survive the first, but not the second, or she might face the first as a result of losing the second. I think what’s clear is (simplified version):
        – the government is highly likely, if not certain, to lose the vote on the draft withdrawal agreement.
        – this will be seen politically as a defeat for May personally, and might or might not lead to a leadership challenge.
        – if there is a leadership challenge she may or may not win.
        – if she wins she is safe as party leader (but not necessarily Prime Minister) for a bit.
        – there may also be a vote of confidence in the government as a whole.
        – the Tory party is likely to vote for the government, since the most likely alternative would be Corbyn.
        – if the government wins, then May’s position will be politically stronger, But she might still face a challenge as party leader.
        – if the government loses, then another party or group of parties has 14 days to form a government. This may or may not lead to a subsequent challenge to May as party leader (in practice it probably would), but not immediately.
        – if no government can be formed there is a general election. The Tories could fight this with or without May as leader, depending on what they thought would give them the best chance of winning.
        – if the Tories win, and May is already the leader, she will stay.
        – if the Tories lose, and May is leader, there will be a leadership challenge, assuming there is enough of a party left to make this worthwhile.

        1. vlade

          One thing I’m not entirely sure is what happens if there’s a leadership challenge and May loses.

          Because if someone like Boris/JRM is voted in as a leader, there are Tory MPs which will bolt. Which likely would mean that the newly elected leader would risk a GE if they wanted to be PM right away, so could well be a very short-lived PMship.

          So I suspect, they could wait till after Brexit, unless they could see a chance of say A50 revocation, when sinking the government with the chaos in between could very well be their plan to avoid that.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you, Yves.

              Javid is a shark. His former colleagues at Deutsche in London, Hong Kong and Mumbai have little time for him as a person and an employee / colleague. His behaviour at Chase Manhattan was equally reprehensible.

              Unluckily for Boris, Javid and Rees-Mogg are wealthier and can afford to wine and dine MPs, journalists etc. more often and buy good publicity.

              1. Colonel Smithers

                I forgot to add that a colleague’s daughter, a journalist at the Evening Standard, recently reported an attempt by the Mail, who share the same Kensington HQ, to get dirt on Javid. It made me wonder who the Mail will back and Osborne’s Standard, too.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I think its considered a truism of Conservative internal politics is that you can never be party leader if someone hates you enough to destroy their own career to bring you down. There are plenty of MP’s who I think would be willing to go kamikaze to stop him. I think he’s a busted flush.

            But its also true to say I think that almost all Tory MP’s will do anything to stop Corbyn getting in power and could see disaster if there is an election, so I find it hard to see any sequence of events that would lead to the Tories voluntarily going into another election.

        2. Anders K

          Ah, I see. I read that as referring to only the internal Tory 1922 stuff, i.e. being about the “Tory leader” only, but I can see how it is a bit vague on what she is a leader of – though one could argue that currently, the accurate description is “not much.” :)

          What happens if a 1922 challenge is performed, May wins, then a GE is called? Is there a new way of changing party leader, or are the Tories stuck with May for the next 12 months (barring her abdicating) in spite of a GE coming up?

    2. notReallyHere

      Thank you for pointing that out. The article is, as always, an excellent rundown of events but the bullet points do an injustice to the rest of it because it encourages confusion between house rules (a vote of confidence called by labour) and the 1922 committee rules (48 letters, two rounds)

      IIRC the 1922 rules committee gets 48 letters to trigger a vote, candidates for the leadership can then put their hands up and the PM must win the first round by a minimum majority or the whole thing goes to a second round. When the Torres ousted Margaret Thatcher they “conspired” to give her a majority but not one sufficiently large to avoid a run off. Ken Clarke spoke to her to ensure she fully understood that this was a huge defeat, that she had lost the confidence of the party and had to go. Theresa May has said she will go all the way no matter what the first round vote says (translation: if you boys dare to take me on I will tear the whole party apart)

      A vote of no confidence can happen any time, but obviously the opposition won’t bring one if there is no hope of winning.

      The “safe for a year conclusion, I believe refers to the 1922 rules and not to a house vote.

  7. flora

    Thanks very much for this post.

    an aside: The EU pressure on Switzerland seems as worrying as everything else I’ve read.

    1. Anders K

      It is concerning and does validate some fears about EU “bullying”, but Colonel Smithers above mentions that this is not something that Switzerland should be surprised by. Perhaps they kept quiet about it at the time; but to act now as if it is a surprise comes across as disingenous at best and makes me suspect more of the “let’s blame the EU for our own decisions” as has happened before, as well as an attempt to squeeze by the EU regulations while they’re distracted by Brexit (or not willing to push CH around in plain view due to Brexit).

      I am not in favour of national politicians hiding the impact of the EU from their citizens, but I am even less in favour of them doing so and then blaming the EU for decisions made – at least officially – by the EU and said national politicians. It would be good to have a discussion about where each nation wants to go with the EU, and where the EU wants to go, and resolve them as amicably as possible (perhaps having the Eurozone go one way, towards the EU superstate, and the rest becoming associate states, outside of that further integration).

      There is an undercurrent of “you can’t handle the truth!” from the rah-rah EU superstate FTW people that annoys me, and I am very much *for* further integration (EUR integration only after it has gotten its financial control bureaucracy in place, though).

      1. Clive

        I’d agree, but I would add that any society which is not, at this very moment, trying to consider and work out internally…

        * Which matters can be discussed and resolved locally?

        * Which matters should be discussed and resolved nationally?

        * Which matters could be discussed and resolved regionally?

        * Which matters must be discussed and resolved globally?

        … is a society that is, presently, in denial. Sooner or later, it will have to confront these questions and come up with answers that it can live with. I see a lot of trying to stuff this into the “too difficult” box, when I cast my beady eye around the world. It’ll stay there for a while. But not, I can guarantee you, be containable indefinitely.

        The UK is evidently in the throes of this national dialogue and so, too, apparently, is Switzerland.

        Now, it’s all very well for the EU to say to the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Greece (or whoever) that it is from here on in adopting an approach of being tough on cakeism, tough on the causes of cakeism. But in doing that, it can hardly, ah-hem, cherry-pick and try to make out that it’s just being some passive disinterested outside observer which doesn’t care about what the national decision ends up being. It is inserting itself front-and-centre into these national debates.

        1. Anders K

          With those criteria, I do have to wonder if there are societies which are following all of those. I know for sure that Sweden doesn’t. Unfortunately, just as we need to act together the most, we seem to be the most divided (though how much of this is the online filters allowing us to consider the slightest difference of opinion as utter heresy), and the old ways of establishing (I almost wrote manufacturing) consensus are failing in the democracies.
          Interesting times indeed.

          I do hope that EU gets out of its desired role as “remote but wanting-to-be-benevolent”, but it is not likely to happen quickly, what with how change-adverse big organizations are as well as with how much problems that will give them with the current problem members; I am not entirely sure Italy or Hungary wants a pro-active EU, and while the Greek might have liked a pro-active EU, they most likely want one that had started being pro-active at least a decade ago.

  8. Redlife2017

    I will be one to put my hand up for not taking seriously the Tories saying they would vote against this a second time, but was correct that at the end this is about the DUP allowing a zombie government. Even if Javid and his power-pose are able to take over Number 10, it’s still a zombie government. So, we crash out and have a paralysed government to deal with the massive issues attendant with it. Hoorah!! Well done Britain. I’ll presume we might have migrants trying to get into Ireland and France. Should be interesting when British middle class economic migrants get tear gassed by the French. I mean they don’t mind doing that after all.

    Oh, Britain. You know how to have the worst of all worlds. The British are naturally a cynical and slightly depressive bunch – which strangely has meant that collectively they can’t see that it could go terribly wrong. Also it doesn’t help (as per a lovely conversation with the fabulous Col Smithers) that you have arrogant [family blog] running around who came of age in the 80s during Thatcher’s reign who cannot believe they are not only never wrong but that they can make the world anything they want. There is no society! So it’s all about me!

    Perhaps this is the British equivalent of Jonestown where people knew they were drinking poisoned Kool-Aid (as Jim Jones drones on over the speaker saying crazy things, but calmly) but only a few of them ran away into the jungle?

    So, Comrades, Ladies, Gentlemen – are we going long Spam and baked beans? Cause I have no idea how the British will deal with not having an entire aisle dedicated to baked beans in their supermarkets. I’m thinking riots over baked beans and bread. Also, deffo need to get lots of Gin. It can double as an antiseptic…

    I’m wondering as well if we need to start channelling the great Gonzo man himself, Dr Hunter S Thompson, and remember his timely words: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro

    1. David

      Much as I despair of Britain at the moment, and what passes for its leaders, I don’t think the case is unique, or even that unusual.
      What we have here is a disconnect between internal logic (the logic of personal and party success in politics) and external logic (the logic of national interest). There’s always a tension between these two things, of course, but Brexit is an example of a head-on collision between these two. All of the prizes will go to those who privilege their own and their party’s interests above the interests of the country, although it’s true to say that the stakes here are higher than is usually the case, so the consequences of this clash will be much worse. But after all, few politicians in any country these days have ever been observed sacrificing their political career for the nation.

      1. vlad

        I agree – and the only politicians who want to do a bit of nation building want to do it with them as the semi-permanent heads. we’re so f-ked as a species.

        1. Redlife2017

          I suppose I could say that there have been politicians who rose above that (FDR, Attlee), but it was so bloody long ago that it may as well have been a fairy tale. Going against one’s class interests? Bah humbug.

          I am cranky although the best thing to do right now is to walk the dog.

      2. ChrisPacific

        Much of the time I think the two are actually orthogonal. In every democracy I’ve had personal experience of, there has always been an undercurrent of suspicion that the economy, markets etc. are going to do what they’re going to do, and the real influence of politicians over it is limited to nonexistent. It’s certainly true that their powers are very limited in practice – they can’t end a housing bubble, for instance, or make a recession go away except by running its course.

        In a sense that can be quite frightening for politicians, as it means your career is largely at the mercy of events outside your control. But it’s comforting as well. Nothing you do is going to make that much difference, so you don’t need to be an expert. You can even, if you wish, go full Boris Johnson and spout rubbish all day long, and build a support base by making emotionally satisfying (if meaningless) statements. If you then fail to deliver on anything you promised, well, voters never really expected anything different.

        Brexit is a different beast. Decisions made by politicians actually matter. It’s a complex issue, and if you aren’t properly informed on the complexities you run the risk of holding positions that are contradictory, ridiculous, or nonsensical. Politicians are always telling people to vote for them so that they can avert disaster, but for once they have the power to actually do it, or conversely to bring disaster upon the nation if they screw up. It turns out that this is something they are not remotely qualified to do – or for those that actually are, the system does not reliably select for them.

    2. fajensen

      So, we crash out and have a paralysed government to deal with the massive issues attendant with it.

      Could be worse: The government could pull the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) and get to work on those evil dissidents, spies and saboteurs that are spoiling Sparkly-Unicorn Brexit, according to Section 22 of the Act.

      They could confiscate those warehouses that Amazon bought up before Brexit or even compel Amazon to be shipping regardless of them making any profits (The howling from that should be amazing to behold).

      1. Redlife2017

        Ah, yes, one of those nice post-9/11 laws. I bet Blair’s angry he won’t be the one to use it!

        I certainly wouldn’t put it past the government to use that law. There are reasons laws like that are passed and rarely for nice democratic reasons too.

    3. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Redlife.

      It was great to meet and enjoy with you.

      @ Yves: Many thanks for facilitating.

  9. shtove

    What is surprising about the decision is that it didn’t have some of the restrictions that the advocate described last week, such as what amounted to a good faith requirement.

    Looks like the judges were wise to step away from that qualification, because it would lead to justifiable claims of interference with internal constitutional matters. I don’t think they even mention it in the judgment.

    I’m surprised they found there was a genuine dispute, rather than a hypothetical issue, and expected that would lead to controversial jiggery-pokery. But the judgment looks measured and principled, and actually reinforces the status of member state sovereignty.

    1. David

      I think there’s a general assumption (I can’t remember if it’s actually in the Vienna Convention) that states will act in good faith in negotiations, so it doesn’t really need to be spelt out, and it was probably wiser not to. In any case, I don’t understand all the fuss: I would have been astonished if the Court had decided otherwise, although they might well have refused to rule, given that the question (so far) is still hypothetical.

  10. Andrew

    You were right about the odds of tomorrow’s vote being postponed. It has been. Might be back on in the new year. Who knows?

    1. shtove

      May is sticking by her deal, will go to Macron and Merkel. Labour on the fence about motion of no-confidence: to be unleashed only at moment of of maximum effect. I guess she lives to fight another day.

  11. DJG

    Thanks, Yves Smith. Your coverage of the “Norway option” made me wonder why Norway doesn’t want the United Kingdom in the EFTA. Lifting from Wikipedia:

    The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.[3] The organization operates in parallel with the European Union (EU), and all four member states participate in the European Single Market and are part of the Schengen Area.[4] They are not, however, party to the European Union Customs Union.

    The four countries in the EFTA have a combine population of some 12 million. And they are supposed to take in the UK, with 60 million? And the UK, with its history of non-cooperation with giants like France and Germany? Imagine how the UK would deal with Iceland.

    On the other hand, I suddenly see a place of refuge for an independent Scotland…

    Talk about fantasy worlds. Wow. So the English elites are off to make England a large tax shelter (Cayman without the palm trees) with the occasional royal wedding or royal pregnancy to increase tourism.

    Thanks for making me do the research.

    1. vlade

      The usual way to quote GBPEUR is GBP/EUR, i.e. how many EUR one GBP buys. That’s 1.12, about 1% down. That’s not hammered (it’s not good). Hammered would be below 1.10 say (on the day).

      A lot of hedgies are betting on USDGBP going below 1.20. Which IMO for a no-deal is optimistic, but I guess you could have got cheap options at that strike sometime last year or so.

      No deal would IMO bring the pound down by 25-30% (on the day it would be clear no-deal is inevitable).

  12. critical friend

    As per the Times (Murdoch press) “Labour’s fragile truce over a second referendum broke down further today as a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn said that it should be held only as a last resort”.:

    From the Independent (also not the most pro-Corbyn news outlet) from 25 Sept: ‘The wording of the motion was hammered out by delegates during a tense six-hour meeting on Sunday night.

    Labour government should delay Brexit, says Emily Thornberry
    The resulting text states that Labour should demand a general election if Parliament rejects whatever deal Ms May negotiates with Brussels, or if no deal is agreed. If this is not forthcoming, then the party should consider backing calls for a public vote.

    The motion reads: “If we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.

    “If the government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from, they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.”.

    This LP policy and Corbyn has been consistent in following (the democratically agreed by the LP) in following this. The route map is:
    1. The vote on the ‘deal’ (withdrawn today by May -I assume unilaterally, so much for democracy)
    2. A vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Government (Brexit notwithstanding, we have total chaos on poverty/Universal credit; a run on the pound, the FTSE losing some 12% in capitation since this time last year; Interserve (another Carillion) on the brink; transport chaos (Cross rail postponed and extra costs around £2 billion), a failing economy……. The vote of no-confidence is not only about Brexit, but about the utter shambles of this Government .
    3. A General Election
    and then 4. (eventually) a second vote on Brexit. Interestingly the british media have today been lukewarm about the ECJ ruling about Article 50 being non-binding.
    Everybody castigates Corbyn for ‘not stopping Brexit’. He does not hold a majority in the House of Commons. His policy has been, and is, consistent with what was voted on by Labour Conference.

    I hope for a peaceful 2019,were walls are removed; we do not need yellow vests, an end to neo-liberal economic programmes for Puerto Rico to the EU, and a return to sanity in politics.

    1. vlade

      *sigh* we’ve been through this sooo many times, it’d really just be a FAQ.

      I do not castigate Corbyn for stopping Brexit. I castigate him for way worse offense – being compliant in this unfolding disaster by totally failing to hold the government decisions to any levels of scrutiny, and failing to come up with any solutions that do not involve unicorns.

      The LP is either completly incompetent in the same vein as Tories are, or is willing to put the means (catastrophic Brexit) as a way of getting to power.

      I would be hard pressed to decide which is worse, but probably the second, as it’s going to make the lives of plenty of Brits way worse for a generation – intentionally! – while chasing a possible goal – because there’s not even guarantee that the Labour would win any post-catastrophic Brexit elections (we have seen miscalculations like that in history before). This is a gamble equal to Cameron’s calling the referendum.

      Gambling with lives of other people (without them accepting it knowingly) is, in my eyes, the worst thing a politician can do – no matter how “worthy” the goal they look to achieve. Which is why I well and truly despise most of the UK politicians, of all colours and stripes.

      1. larry

        vlade, to a significant extent, I am with you on this. I have been simultaneously flummoxed and irritated in equal measure by Labour’s various Brexit positions and Corbyn’s seeming inability to make a telling goal in PMQs. Others disagree with me on this, but I still maintain that May’s performance has been so terrible that a number of good goals should have been possible. Maybe it is his personality which hinders him in going for the jugular when he could have and perhaps should have?

        1. shtove

          I reckon the best outcome for Labour is May staying in the saddle till she’s forced to revoke during a sterling crisis. Corbyn then runs on a manifesto of constitutional convention followed by second referendum. We could even get rid of the HoL, FPTP and MI6. I refuse to believe nothing good can come of this!

        2. vlade

          TBH, I’d say that majority of the country will ignore PMQ. For me it’s more inability to tell the country what were the major options (no-deal; FTA; May’s fudge in absence of EEA possibility; no Brexit) and what can be done within them, and what Labour believe is the best course.

          Instead he keeps pushing unicorns.

          1. Anders K

            Isn’t his (or maybe Labours) fear that if he pushes the cold, hard truths, the voters will run for the (Tory) hills, where they get promised sparkly ponies instead of the drab, dreary reality?

            I am not jealous of making the decision between risking permanent Tory majority and risking entertaining delusions in ones voters.

            That said, I do feel that sometimes you have to rip off the band-aid, and if voters are going to be unreasonable children demanding to be told that there will be cake even when the cupboard is going to be bare, then perhaps getting a party that is smaller but better aligned with reality is an improvement.

      2. Oregoncharles

        @ Vlade: there aren’t any solutions that don’t involve unicorns, especially at this point. I think NC has made that perfectly clear.

        From the proverbial 50,000 ft., the likeliest outcome: the wheels come off the UK, meaning NI and Scotland go their own ways (conceivably together; but EU membership makes that unnecessary), while England and Wales go through their own Great Depression by way of Brexit. What comes of that isn’t predictable, but England has survived worse.

        To make the times even more interesting, the wheels are coming off of the EU at the same time: Britain, Italy, France, Hungary, Poland – that’s a lot of crises, all at once. Evidently there was something wrong with the original design.

        Unfortunately, hard times in Europe probably mean that the US Empire gets one last lease on life, unless Mr. Trump manages to wreck it altogether – which, it could be worse.

        Back in the 60’s, I really didn’t expect the times to be quite so interesting at this point in my life, even though I considered myself a radical of sorts.

        1. vlade

          There were solutions, and still are that don’t involve unicorns.

          But they involve pain.

          In fact, all the real solutions (from no Brexit to no-deal Brexit and any spectrum in between) here involve considerable pain, which is why no-one, Tories or Labour, is interested in talking about them. Because the voters were sold unicors, not pain. And there is no current politician willing to sell pain – even though I believe that when voters see the pain as a way to get somethign better, more than a few of them would go for that bargain.

        2. Anders K

          Admittedly, there’s the article 50 revocation and then (somehow) dealing with the Leaver rage, or leaving the EU with the deal, getting (some) rage from both Leavers and Remainers, or finally to leave the EU with no-deal or what-not, first getting the Remainer rage and then getting everyone to go nuts at you once it shows how bad things will get.

          I guess it depends on what group you get the most support from. Unfortunately, all major parties (excluding both Lib-Dem and SNP for size reasons) contain both Remainers and Leavers, hence why postponing decisions is so attractive.

      3. Critical friend

        Pmqs is available online. Have you watched any? Failing to hold the government to scrutiny? Every Wednesday. Has this received any media analysis? Nada. “Sigh” is some kind of weasel ellipsis. I can only hope that a ‘ post Brexit catastrophic’ election matches clement atlee in 1945.

        1. vlade

          I’ve watched more than a few PMQs. Corbyn totall fails at them – and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

          What do PMQs have to do, apart from being a theatre, with holding government to an account?

          Holding government to an account would mean for example:
          – not calling for immediate trigger of A50 the day after referendum (showing he has no clue)
          – on getting a clue, calling for an outline of plan as a condition to vote A50. They didn’t have to vote against, they could always abstain
          – not whipping MPs against any motion that would imply Labour would be willing to consider any sort of solutions, but actually offering a non-unicorn solutions (“six tests” are six unachievable tests).
          – not claiming that Labour, unlike Tories, can deliver the unicorns and ponies, just because Labour would negotiate better. There ain’t no unicorns or ponies to be delivered. Full stop.

          And that’s ll a generous assumption that this is not a Labour the worse-the better stragegy which would be beyong despicable.

          I can see you’re reading what you want too, not what one writes. I did not writey “post brexit catastrophic elections” I wrote “post catastrophic brexit election”. The word order matters.

          I’d call your attention to what happened in Germany post WW1, where BOTH left and right parties supported the war, and the war was not felt “lost” but “betrayed”.

          Be careful what you wish for, lest you get it.

  13. Clive

    Definitely metedata and not anything handbag related, but May is speaking in the Commons now, and the beads on her necklace are simply ginormous.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have to say I am jealous of her having figured out a sophisticated version of a uniform. I’m a big fan of uniforms (as in men have no idea how much time and money they save relative to women by having suits as their attire for office work). And I’ve never seen the same necklace twice on her.

      Flip side is she regularly wears jackets that are an unflattering length on her (too short).

      1. Lee

        I am a total sucker for women in uniform or business attire. And, on an even less serious note, don’t you think May walks funny? Maybe it’s the high heels.

        1. shtove

          Her curtsy is amazing. The Royal must imagine looking down into the water to see a spider crab desperate to climb aboard.

        2. Clive

          Try being tall and not ending up walking funny later in life. Melania manages to avoid this pitfall and no doubt only because she’d had it drummed into her as a model that you don’t stoop, you have to look after your posture. And use height to your advantage.

          I’m not tall tall (2 metres) but I find I now have to expend constant effort to not bend either my neck down or half-bow when walking. You can pick up a bad gait all too easily.

      2. Clive

        Merkel pulls off the same trick I think (women will have to correct me if I’m mistaken) — black trousers (pants for the benefit of my US reader) and single-coloured, tailored (but not over-the-top chichi fashion statement tailoring) jackets. The use of accessories — as in, the lack of accessories— is especially clever.

        Hillary tried the same, but lacked the rigorous consistency needed to achieve the required results. Ended up being showey without an interpretable running theme to the show. And not infrequently was talked into, or talked herself into, designer garb that looked costumey.

        Cameron was very successful — and Trump either copies the same code (or arrived at it himself). Always exquisite made-to-measure sober suits (black or very very dark gray), always a white shirt and plain, non-patterned neck tie. You could tell he’d (Cameron) been in advertising and knew how to create an image without apparently having a specific, noticeable one. Unfortunately he is a complete turd.

        1. orange cats

          You have a keen eye, sir. One characteristic of the upper class is that they arrive at their style in the early years and..never..change. Successful, ambitious people understand this principle. (Credit to Paul Fussell )

    2. Olivier

      Why, Clive, this is just marvelous! We must invent a name for what you just did. What shall we call the british equivalent of kremlinology?

  14. disillusionized

    Currently i’m reading that May is postponing the vote, to seek legally binding assurances that the UK won’t be trapped in the backstop forever – Not seemingly understanding that the backstop is the legally binding assurance that NI will remain in the backstop forever – Kill me now…
    They can get a clause saying that they can sell out the DUP if they like, but that’s not going to help her.

    In regards to the referendum (unicorn, i know) if it’s an option between May’s deal, and no deal (the only conceivable options if remain is excluded) – there is a very, very scary scenario that’s bound to happen then, as it will be perfectly rational as a remainer to vote no deal, banking on either remain, or chaos, and then rejoin. The only argument against it is ‘think of the country’ to whit any remainers (if they are anything like me, but not a national so grain of salt) reply would be; LOL.

    1. larry

      Hannah Bardell, SNP, is shaking with rage at May’s really poor responses and inability to adeauately justify what she has done. May has said she is going to provide a robust defense. That will be a first. The Maybot is not known for this. Rather, she is known for incredible intransgence and rigidity.

  15. Mattski

    All this takes place at a time when the EU badly needs to flex its muscles, on all fronts, prove its legitimacy and raison d’etre within the community and internationally–not the best moment for a dithering Tory government to continue ridiculous demanding posturing.

    Latest Guardian piece notes EU will absolutely not alter terms but only provide more details of existing plans. May is going to get her handbag handed to her.

    Britain’s Tory leadership has badly harmed the country and let the people of England down. Keeping May in office for another year may only help Labour assume leadership with an absolute mandate to govern. But at some point Corbyn et al have to provide a vision.

  16. David

    If reports that she is going to try to see Merkel and Macron are true, she’ll find one a dead duck and the other hiding under the table until it’s safe to come out. I suspect Macron would rather have a case of rabies than a visit from May at the moment.

    1. vlade

      Who knows, he may treat it as a valid distraction and massage his ego at least in some way – that there’s still someone who’s worse off than him and begging him to do something.

    2. Ignacio

      Imagine the impossible. Imagine she obtains any real advantage from Merkel and/or Macron. The rest of the EU would show the central finger given how things have moved so far. Merkel and Macron ARE not the negotiators there. Somebody should instruct May or, as usual, it is all about teatrics

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Apologies, did not include quotes of Tories telling May to deploy her handbag (per the Thatcher reference). For instance (and this is from two days ago, impressive call by the Daily Mail):

      Theresa May to delay Brexit vote as she seeks to emulate Margaret Thatcher and have her own ‘handbag’ moment to demand a better deal with Brussels

      According to the Sunday Times ministers and aides have convinced her she needs a ‘handbag moment’ – to emulate Margaret Thatcher – and demand better terms from the EU.

      A senior cabinet source told the paper: ‘People in No. 10 think she needs to have a “handbag moment” where she says: “Up with this I will not put.”‘

      1. Anonymous2

        The story has been traditionally told as Mrs Thatcher swinging her handbag at the other European leaders until they surrendered to her superior willpower. If my information is correct, the truth was more complex and less melodramatic. The UK was in an alliance with Germany to push for reform to the Common Agricultural Policy, with France and Italy of the big four on the other side. Mrs Thatcher cut a deal whereby the UK abandoned Germany in return for support from France and Italy for a larger rebate for the UK.

          1. Clive

            It’s actually quite a complex British cultural reference and encroachment on how, when women exercise power, we’re not entirely sure how to respond. It is a topic that is explored in pantomime and a long tradition of English theatrical drag e.g.

            I was never entirely sure if Thatcher was secretly sending herself up and playing on these sorts of cliches. But since she didn’t have a self aware bone in her body or any discernible sense of humour, perhaps not.

      2. Eduardo

        What is “a handbag moment?”

        I can see references that say May should have one and that Thatcher did.

        Can anyone define it? And, I’m curious where the expression comes from.

        Urban Dictionary (via google looking for a definition) is not much help:

        Or, is it?
        To shove or push someone in the face. Unlike striking.

        Mainly British. A pointless and worthless argument, deriving from the image of old ladies having a handbag (purse) fight at the bus stop.


        1. shtove

          In rugby, handbags describes a fight between several players with oak-tree thighs, where it’s all shoving and no punching. And that’s just the women. Ba-dum t’sh.

  17. Terence callachan

    A no deal crash out Brexit will avoid the NI backstop.
    A no deal crash out will end Theresa Mays position as PM
    A no deal crash out will not avoid a general election
    A no deal crash it is what Theresa May has wanted all along she presented herself as a remainer but never was a remainer she has been a brexiter all along , most people recognise that now.
    The conservatives will win a GE ,who will they choose as PM ? Who ever it is will not be able to stop a Scottish independence referendum
    A Scottish independence referendum may well result in Scottish independence
    Scottish independence will encourage NI to have a reunification referendum and may well result in reunification with Eire.
    Wales will be left to decide if it still wishes to be tied to Westminster where it will as now vote continuously for Labour and get the Labour government it wants once or twice every hundred years.
    The only thing that can prevent all this happening is abandoning Brexit but that will cause civil war in England and political strife in Scotland NI and Wales which may still be severe enough for Scotland and NI to abandon Westminster and UK

  18. George Phillies

    And if there is a second referendum, by and by some party or group will start campaigning for a third,

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