Brexit: Unicorns Rampant

I had hoped to give readers a respite from Brexit, but we are in an overly dynamic phase. I’ll endeavor to stick to the salient points:

May and her pleas for relief got an even rougher smack-down at the EU Council meeting than even pessimists expected. Yours truly thought the forecast in Politico that we quoted yesterday, that the EU Council had draft language saying that they intended to start having EU members ratify the deal, was already plenty dire for May.

May managed the difficult feat of making her perilous situation worse. From the Financial Times:

Theresa May’s attempt to rescue her Brexit deal ran into serious trouble in Brussels last night… during an hour-long presentation, Mrs May succeeded in alienating many fellow leaders after making a series of ambitious proposals to appease her domestic critics, including a one-year time limit on the Irish backstop.

After Mrs May left the room, many leaders were despondent. During more than two hours of talks over dinner, EU leaders agreed to scrap plans for a formal process to provide reassurances to Britain until Mrs May decided what she wants…

Michel Barnier, EU chief Brexit negotiator, claimed that Mrs May was not seeking reassurances but was reviving old ideas rejected during Brexit negotiations. One EU diplomat briefed on the talks said Mrs May was “unprofessional”.

Another EU diplomat claimed that there was even a suggestion that it might have been better if Mrs May had been ejected from Downing Street in this week’s abortive coup by Tory Eurosceptics….

But her presentation, which also included a suggestion that the non-binding political declaration on future UK/EU relations should be given a legal footing as an annexe to the legal withdrawal treaty, went down badly.

“It was Salzburg all over again,” said another EU diplomat, referring to the acrimonious summit in September…

In a sign of the concern among the EU27, draft summit conclusions were rewritten to remove the observations that the backstop did not represent a desirable outcome for the EU and would be in place only for a short period…

Another paragraph, saying the union stood “ready to examine whether any further assurance can be provided” on the backstop, was cut entirely. One diplomat said that despite general goodwill towards Mrs May, she “didn’t get anything, basically”.

Donald Tusk’s short statement contains the formula that Politico wrote about yesterday (see at around 1:30), that the EU intends to proceed with ratification of the agreement.

As vlade pointed out by e-mail:

What I can see from here, the comments from politicians/media for the EU consumptions are along the lines “what the hell? We don’t understand what you’re asking for, and some things you’re asking for are already covered. Read the bloody thing and come back with specific items – not that we’re going to change anything really”.

Czech Republic, the most eurosceptic of the EU27, has (with exception of some fringe loonies) lost all patience with the UK – not just politicians, but the normal people (who were originally quite supportive). For a lot of people in the central Europe the whole long-built picture of the UK as rational, pragmatic etc. etc. country literally crumbled in the last couple of years

The EU anticipates they’ll have to hold a summit in January.

Brexit unicorns are very much alive. Silly me! I was naive enough to think that the combination of May proving her deal would not be approved by her scuppering the vote on it, in combination with the EU not blinking at that and reaffirming that they were not going to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement might lead to some sobering up.

From the Telegraph:

Seven Remain ministers are now urging the Prime Minister to hold a series of non-binding “indicative” votes on the different Brexit options including Norway, Canada and no-deal.

Those pushing for the approach are Amber Rudd, David Lidington, David Gauke, Karen Bradley, Greg Clark, David Mundell and Damian Hinds. They believe it will “test the will of the House” for different options.

One Cabinet source said that it will show there is no consensus around any of the options, bolstering the case for a second referendum. “She is not going to get the numbers,” one Cabinet source said. “More and more options are being taken off the table. We are getting closer to a second referendum.”

This is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Ultras intend to force a no deal Brexit. As we said, all the Ultras need to do is obstruct to bring about a crash out. Not that their end is a surprise, but now we are learning a bit more about the intended means. From the Telegraph:

The Tories erupted in civil war on Thursday as Chancellor Philip Hammond was branded “a complete moron” for referring to Eurosceptic colleagues as “extremists” and Brexiteer MPs vowed to block the passage of the Government’s withdrawal agreement into law.

Within hours of Theresa May winning a vote of no confidence, Conservative in-fighting spilled out into the open, with Mr Hammond referred to as a “t—” and an unnamed minister reported to have bragged: “I’d like to punch the ERG in the face”, a reference to the European Research Group of Eurosceptic MPs which led Wednesday’s attempted coup.

Hardcore Tory leavers are now threatening to “disrupt” Mrs May’s Brexit legislation if she does not return from Brussels with her promised “legal and binding changes” to the withdrawal agreement. They may also go “on strike” over non-binding legislation.

An ERG source said: “Even if she wins a meaningful vote, a bill still needs to get through parliament and there will be many opportunities for rebels to disrupt it to ensure we get to March 29 without a deal.”

Another senior Brexiteer added: “We need to polish up the language around no deal and turn it into something that sounds attractive rather than frightening. No deal isn’t a cliff edge – it’s a get out of jail free card.”

Labour is not making a good show of itself. Labour looks to be all tactics, no strategy, fixated on trying to wrest power from the Tories but no conviction about what it would do if it were to catch the car. From the Guardian:

Jeremy Corbyn will seek to increase pressure on Theresa May in parliament next week in a bid to prevent the Tories running down the clock on Brexit…

May’s spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that “there will be no meaningful vote before Christmas”, while the prime minister negotiates with her EU counterparts…

The Labour leader has held meetings with the shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, who has been pressing for the party to table a motion of no confidence in the government before parliament rises for a Christmas break next Thursday.

That option has not been ruled out – depending on the reaction of Conservative backbenchers and the DUP when May reports back to MPs from the European council meeting on Monday.

But the party is also studying alternative, less drastic options, including tabling an urgent question on the government’s no-deal preparations; and demanding a three-hour emergency debate to allow parliament to set out its expectations for the latest negotiations over the backstop.

It could also demand a full parliamentary debate of regulations readying the financial services sector for a no-deal Brexit, which are currently due to be considered in a committee.

“Essentially we can throw the parliamentary kitchen sink at them,” said another senior Labour source, “with all the trimmings”.

Some shadow ministers are more sceptical about calling a no-confidence vote early, fearing it would only unite the Conservatives behind May. One told the Guardian: “We’ve got to wait until January now.”

But Corbyn is keen to keep up attacks on the government, amid pressure from grassroots activists to fight Brexit – and there is nothing to stop the party tabling subsequent motions if it loses.

Conservative MPs have been warned by the chief whip, Julian Smith, not to absent themselves from parliament next week, because the government must be “alive to opposition tactics in the run-up to the recess”.

The “meaningful vote” is now set for January 14 and the opposition is sure to attempt to depose May shortly thereafter if they have the votes. But they need some Tories to defect if they are to prevail, and it’s hard to see that as any more likely then than it was in December.

And the final concern: just as May (and the rest of the UK political leadership) has misjudged what the EU might give them, so too is she likely to misjudge timing, confirmed by the failure to even consider that the EU won’t give the UK the runway it needs to complete a second referendum. Has anyone worried their pretty head over how much lead time the EU would need to extend the Brexit deadline? It appears not, and that would be par for the course for this sad affair.

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130 comments

  1. Mirdif

    Rumours abound that the vote will be delayed until March and possibly to 28 March, thus forcing MPs to choose between no deal and this deal. At that moment Labour and the other opposition parties will vote for the deal along with the overwhelming amount of Tories thus nullifying the opposition to the deal.

    Reply
    1. Biologist

      Will that timing work though?

      Legally, is a crash-out prevented solely by parliament ratifying the withdrawal treaty? Or does more domestic legislation need to pass to prevent that, for instance a UK law implementing the treaty? I suspect the latter, and surely that would take time, and provide ample opportunity for more obstructionism, no?

      Reply
    2. windsock

      Wherever that rumour came from, they are not cognisant of British Parliamentary procedures. If it passed the Commons on 28th March, it would still need to get past the Lords. There would be no time. We would still leave on 29th March without a deal.

      Reply
      1. Mirdif

        It can go to the Lords first, AIUI. It would be unconventional to do so but there is no impediment. The Lords is likely more Europhile than the Commons.

        Reply
        1. efschumacher

          This is exactly why Europe is going ahead with the procedures necessary to ratify the Agreement, even without Britain having done so (yet).

          Throughout this whole mess, Europe has been an open book model of planning and procedure. The fractured Tory party and its revolving government has shambled back and forth blind and drunk with no planning, no procedure, no transparency, no attempt at consensus, no Hope and no shred of decency for our appearance to the world.

          Strong and Stable Government!

          Reply
    3. Ignacio

      I think it is rigth to think that the theatrical game May is playing is meant to delay parliamentary voting until she is sure everybody accepts that there are only two options and a majority will support the deal or abstain.

      In my view May’s performance in Brussels was in fact internal policy. She knew very well the result. She expects some day the message that there is no deal or her deal and nothing more will finally be understood. Then the deal will be voted in parliament until it passes.

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    4. c_heale

      The 28th of March will be too late. Bouncing people into voting for her agreement has always been May’s plan imo, and with her WA she has stopped FOM (in my opinion the only thing she is interested in). However we’re not going to have any vote on the 28th because

      1. Labour are expecting to win any subsequent election if there is no deal.
      2. The DUP seem increasingly estranged from May. If it looks like she is trying to bounce them into something which includes the backstop, then I expect them to remove their support (countervailing this, I expect the DUP to come under increasing pressure from businesses and farmers in NI to support a deal).
      3. If there is no decision made by that time, there will be complete chaos anyway. I expect the pound to come under increasing pressure in the next few weeks. Businesses will have to plan for a no deal, so expect a lot more redundancies in the Brexit voting areas, and more damage to the UK economy, I can see chaos arriving well before the 28th.
      4. Speaking to friends (I am a UK expat) in the UK that support Brexit, they don’t care if we have a deal or not. There is also a lot of Brexit fatigue now among remainers.
      5. The EU also has Brexit fatigue, as can be seen by the comments at the latest meeting. They are going to ramp up their preparations for no deal, and if it is left to 28th, I think they may not accept any withdrawal agreement.
      6. Labour, remainers, the ERG and other politicians are already getting sick of May kicking the can down the road. Labour is already threatening to throw the kitchen sink at May, and I think the DUP, ERG etc. may join with Labour to force a vote in the next few weeks.

      The 28th imo will be a defacto no deal regardless of any vote.

      Reply
  2. paul

    As a side issue the UK supreme court ruled on scotland’s continuity bill yesterday.

    Craig Murray writes about it here.

    A pithy response from mike russell here

    They’re certainly getting their powers back, if only from scotland.

    Reply
    1. wilroncanada

      Could someone in the NC commentariat with background and knowledge of the relationship between Scotland and England within the (supposed) UK provide more information? From Craig Murray’s piece it seems Scotland has about as much real power as a Canadian native reservation.
      It must, I know, be more complex than that.

      Reply
  3. peter

    in alienating many fellow leaders after making a series of ambitious proposals

    Funny the difference between a US paper and the Independent:

    Accounts of the meeting suggest the prime minister’s speech, in which she called for help to get the agreement “over the line”, was repeatedly interrupted by Angela Merkel asking her what she actually wanted from them.
    Senior UK government officials admitted that the prime minister did not bring any documented proposals with her to the meeting.

    The approach puzzled EU diplomats, who for days before the conference had said they needed to see what proposals Ms May had come up with before they could respond to her request for aid.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-theresa-may-eu-angela-merkel-scraps-plan-meeting-juncker-european-council-summit-a8682786.html

    Now what is it: strong proposals or utter incompetence?

    Reply
  4. GlassHammer

    I think Michael Hudson has a phrase that goes something like “We know it can’t be done, we are just arguing over how it can’t be done.” I think of this phrase every-time I read the latest Brexit update.

    Reply
    1. Inert_Bert

      Most Ultras are truly delusional, have no idea about how international trade works (or indeed the rest of the UK’s economy) and believe every snake-oil salesman that comes around, promising free efficient trade based on transparent misrepresentation of trade-law, appeals to imperial nostalgia and some assorted libertarian dogmas: they don’t believe a crash-out is actually bad.

      Others are slightly less delusional and at least know there will be chaos and highly unpredictable de facto deregulation. These people think they are well-positioned to grab a nice slice of the UK’s national assets in the case of a no-deal scenario. Richard North described some of those kinds of brexiteers (or rather, their backers) here. Note that the main players at the Legatum Institute he mentions have since moved on to the Institute of Economic Affairs, a similar think-tank, where they lobby for the same ideas – the idiotic dogma that the aforementioned delusional Ultras actually believe.

      Reply
      1. Jon Cloke

        I think you’re being overly kind to the ‘Ultras’; these are not stupid people but they are voracious, amoral and predatory to an extent that’s hard to credit. And they are going to make themselves rich in the event of no-deal.

        Just as Lilley and Lawson use their privilege and position to rubbish climate change because they are heavily invested in fossil fuels and the status quo, so Fox and Johnson (in particular) are working with billionaire corporate commercial interests through their relations with the AEI, Heritage and Murdoch to get their pound of flesh from helping the corporate US to hoover up the remnants of UK public services, if the no-deal they’re working towards happens.

        These guys stand to become very wealthy indeed from assisting in the detachment of the UK from, then the break-up of, the EU. And as for what happens to the rest of us, why would people prepared to lie about the species-extinction-level event that climate change can potentially be worry about the mere economic catastrophe that no-deal will surely be?

        It ain’t personal, it’s just business…

        Reply
  5. Tim Smyth

    The FT’s Wolfgang Munchau(a prominent German anglophile)in his EuroIntelligence briefing is implying this morning that the UK and May can hang tough as EU27 unity will break apart the closer we get to March 29th.

    Reply
    1. Ataraxite

      Maybe. But the unity of the EU27 has been pretty impressive so far, and one of the important results of Barnier’s work is that even if there is a no deal Brexit, and it does have dire economic effects in Ireland, the Netherlands etc, the leaders of those countries now have ample political cover and will likely not be blamed by their voters for any economic consequences.

      Reply
      1. James Agenbroad

        In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king. From here, it’s not so much that EU27 is unified, but that they are actually less divided than the United Kingdom.

        Reply
    2. peter

      Keep on dreaming. The Brits want something NO member of the EU wants to give: preferential treatment for a future non member.
      Anyone who thinks something like that will fly smokes something stronger than dope….
      The EU in contrast to GB is preparing for a crashout. And they rather take that than giving cookies to some clueless british political nincompoops.

      Reply
    3. David May

      That would mean stuffing Ireland. Why would the EU f*** over a loyal member state in favour of a spoilt-brat ingrate? The UK has to be seen to pay a price for its bad behaviour.

      Reply
      1. gallam

        You seem to think that the EU is running some sort of prison camp (for nations) that needs to shoot any escaping prisoners. Contrast that with a good quality hotel, which thanks its guests when they leave. Now consider why people might have a slightly jaundiced view of the EU.

        Reply
        1. Troutwaxer

          It’s more like this. There is a nice hotel. You can stay there, and accept the hotel’s terms and conditions for being one of their guests. The hotel is nice and warm, the food is good, they serve 3 meals a day, and there is reasonable freedom within the hotel.

          But there’s a blizzard outside. And evil snow-mutants who do bad things to the humans they find. Furthermore, the presence of a blizzard and snow mutants is clearly and obviously not the fault of the hotel…

          But you can check out if you want. The hotel recognizes that you are a free person and you’re welcome to leave. But you’re going to have to handle the snow, cold biting winds, and snow-mutants on your own.

          Reply
          1. gallam

            Quoting David May:

            “The UK has to be seen to pay a price for its bad behaviour.”

            Did you miss the bit about being shot in the back as you leave to face the snow, etc. The EU currently have better relations with Russia than the UK.

            Reply
            1. thrasius

              The EU isn’t going to force a member state to break one of it’s treaties: the Good Friday Agreement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s the EU position that a hard border will violate that treaty. Furthermore, May publicly promised the Republic of Ireland that there would be no hard border. It’s not so difficult to understand. Because of all that, the backstop is inevitable.

              Reply
              1. gallam

                If the UK leaves with no agreement with the EU, Eire will come under great pressure to put in place a hard border in Ireland to prevent smuggling. The pressure will be coming from the EU.

                In the event of no deal, how do you see the Irish border working out? The UK will have no incentive to put in any meaningful border infrastructure and Eire will not want to reverse the de facto united Ireland which is currently in place.

                So who is going to put the border in?

                Reply
    4. finlandstation

      And as much as i hate to share any judgment with Munchau or anyone at the FT, he be right. In the short run, it’s a game of poker, and odds are that Merkel will blink before the deadline – in short order executives from BMW and Mercedes will pay her a visit; but especially now after seeing what’s going on in Paris with its naughty misbehaving Provinces (how dare they?).

      In the long run Britain will be FAR, FAR better off. No question.

      The hysterics remind me of hair burning that went along with Y2K. Short term disruptions will accrue as long term advantages. In fact, Paris, as revealing as the current situation makes almost too clear – for anyone willing to actually see – the situation in Italy is even worse. Italy’s economy is dying under Brussels. There is no possible way out or way forward inside the European model of German design. Period.

      And just for added political context, without the Brits the age old tensions between the French and Germans will accumulate and become publicly irreconcilable. But then the Italian story will probably burn the house down well before France can complete a new Maginot Line to hide behind.

      And I didn’t even mention Poland, Czech Republic, Spain or Austria.

      No need – The European Project is and was always doomed.

      Reply
      1. c_heale

        I think executives from Mercedes and BMW will have visited Merkel by now. Tbh Merkel seems like a lame duck anyway, (like Macron) so I think that any negotiations with her will be a waste of time.

        There are a lot of questions about what will happen to the UK after Brexit. But from here, FAR, FAR better off seems dubious, to say the least.

        Just because the EU and the EURO are a disaster, it doesn’t mean Brexit isn’t. It’s not a zero sum game. I think Brexit is an ill wind that blows no-one any good.

        To make my own assertion, a massive global recession/depression is on the cards anyway due to due to the lack of cheap energy. The oil age is coming to an end, and we are going back to the middle ages, whether we want to or not.

        Imo humans are doomed due to Global Warming.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You are missing what Politico has reported and others reported earlier. The auto execs support Merkel and the EU’s position. There was even an FT story a while back where the leader of the German automakers lobby and the head of its industrial federation (as in two heavyweights) made public statement that a crash out would be unfortunate and the UK needed to be flexible. They message was clear: the UK needs to get over itself.

          Reply
      2. peter

        The French and the Germans did just fine after the war and when things had settled down. It was always the Brits who were the odd man out, and according to their history of fomenting strive on the continent to protect themselves I never understood why they either wanted to join or why the rest of Europe let them in, as they surely knew the Brits would be troublemakers.
        De Gaulle knew what it was about when he refused to let the Brits join the EEC. No love lost between him and the English at all.

        The article from Mr. Munchau is the typical wet dream of an anglophile – which I apologize for once was as well.
        Which does not take anything away from the probable future demise of the EU, which will have nothing to do with the Brits leaving or not.
        With a Mr. Macron stating that democracy ends with elections and the plebs better be quiet in between and the same understanding in most European countries I do not see a rosy future for Europe either, add to that a “Democracy Deficit” – https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/european-law/eu-democratic-deficit.php and the idiociy economically very disparate countries countries joining a common currency that rather increases economic difficulties than helping them to solve.

        Reply
    5. Yves Smith Post author

      Munchau is not the columnist he used to be. His Brexit commentary has almost without exception has been as ungrounded in the state of play as the UK press has been.

      The EU is fully aware that a crash out will have large costs but the business community is not willing to cut the UK further breaks, which would give it advantage over them. In addition, there is zero domestic political support in any country for being nice to the UK even before the latest fireworks from the UK. Their press was not covering it and the latest stories have been about how UK politics is a train wreck.

      Reply
  6. Kevin R LaPointe

    Admittedly, I may have dropped out of the loop here. So essentially England came to the table with the sheer delusion that it somehow had leverage over the E.U., spent years maintaining this illusion domestically, while the E.U. has over the previous said years respectfully refrained from pointing out the fact that, as far as larger geopolitical and economic forces are concerned England is not a major player and that they are not living in the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century; and now an entire country is barreling towards a cliff, with a subsequent economic free fall, with no plans and the full expectations that there is going be some eleventh hour Hail-Mary pass of legislative give on the part of the European Union. Is this the gist of the situation?

    Reply
    1. GlassHammer

      “sheer delusion that it somehow had leverage over the E.U”

      Yep, we have gone from cynical politicians who tell the public stories that they themselves don’t believe to delusional politicians who tell the public stories that they themselves do believe. Its not surprising, the public has been convinced that the reason things don’t work out for them is because their leaders don’t believe the stories strongly enough. So with each election our cup runneth over with leaders who deeply believe in stories but are highly skeptical of reality.

      Reply
    2. JTMcPhee

      And in the bigger picture? We talk about, and sort of applaud, the EU actors being consistent and direct and all that. But isn’t it just as true about the globalized “economy” and “trade,” and its players and elites, that remark about “barreling toward a cliff, with a subsequent economic [and looks to be social, too] free fall, with no plans” other than personal gain (like ship wreckers that used fake navigation beacons to lure mariners aground, or flocked to unfortunate stranded vessels, where they were looted and any survivors killed, https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Smugglers-Wreckers/ )?

      Seems to me we mopes are always hoping that there will be “some adults in the room” who will “adopt sane policies” that will keep the whole growing thing spinning. There’s a lot of Bernays sauce being ladled out to reinforce that hopeful notion, born out of the understood need (by other than anarchists, maybe) to have a hierarchy of leaders to lead us all into the new Eden.

      Current population is at 7.7 billion, curve is asymptotic upward, toxins and products of combustion-consumption and “plastics” flood the biosphere, rats and roaches and maybe those recently noticed huge masses of unicellular organisms under our feet, waiting their turn…

      What are the EU actors doing that is any better or different than the rulers pretty much everywhere else, the Brit Ruling Class being just maybe more clueless and selfish?

      Reply
      1. Kevin R LaPointe

        All too true, and perhaps too late. By the way, I just got around to readying Lippmann and Bernays; they were all too true in their own sort of way. In the end Western Society may have done a little too well of a job in manufacturing “reality” to the point where no one actual knows what going on save for the Biologists, and of course the few people who recognize that things went of the tracks after psychologists when mercenary and some people got a little too paranoid about Marx.

        If we manage to survive as a species, I would give anything to read the historians make heads and tails of our society a few hundred years from now. Most likely, given how much information is digital, it will be regarded as a dark age. But provided their are some material insights, we might be regarded as having lived in the most absurd period in human existence.

        Salute

        Reply
  7. peter

    Just listening to May’s presser on France 24… have heard a lot of fluff from politicians during my lifetime, but to say that much of little substance with so many words: May beats them all. Clarifications, intentions, persuing further talks and clarifications….void of substance, full of sound and not even fury.
    A proper representative of a clueless British political class.

    Reply
  8. Andrew

    “Another senior Brexiteer added: “We need to polish up the language around no deal and turn it into something that sounds attractive rather than frightening. No deal isn’t a cliff edge – it’s a get out of jail free card.” “

    It doesn’t matter how they try to sell it, it’ll still be a disaster. I’d like to know what language they plan on using. As an aside, i was present at the Pro Brexit rally on Sunday (purely by chance, i was in London for the weekend and wondered what was going on/what the large police presence was for) and found there was plenty of delusion on show (to be fair, there’s plenty of it on the remain side too). There’s still a lot of people who think a no deal Brexit is a win-win scenario. Until the fan meets the brown stuff there won’t be a change in opinion towards it and even then for many it’ll all be the EU’s fault. C’est la vie..

    Reply
  9. The Rev Kev

    Look, this is not funny anymore. Had an idea earlier though. The EU could print up a cheat sheet for May’s benefit. It could list on it everything that is impossible to do with Brexit with a one sentence reason explaining why. This could be for legal reasons, logistics, whatever but each one would have a number (this is important!). That way the EU could tell May that if she has a proposal to bring the EU, if it is on that list then don’t bother mentioning it. If May comes along and in a speech mentions one of the listed ideas the rest of the EU leaders would simply shout something like “Number 17” to remind her that it is on that list and that it won’t fly so go onto the next one. Might be a good time saver this idea.

    Reply
    1. larry

      Very good, Rev. But she so pissed off some of the EU leaders last night in her speech that some ameliorative phrases that they were including in a document that they were drafting have been removed. One EU diplimat appartently said that she didn’t get it. Which supports the hypothesis that she may be borderline asperger. Sometimes, given her responses to things, she doesn’t seem to understand what other people are thiniking or feeling.

      Reply
      1. c_heale

        I’m getting a bit annoyed with assertions that she has Asperger’s syndrome. Firstly it is trivializing a serious condition, and to me seems offensive to people who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s. It’s like glibly saying a murderer is schizophrenic.

        Secondly, I’ve met a lot of xenophobic, arrogant, greedy, and egotistical people, none of whom appeared to have any kind of Asperger’s syndrome. They were just horrible people. And I have no doubt May fits in all those categories. I have talked to people in the UK, who seem to want to attribute positive qualities to Prime Minister is somehow a good person, regardless of what they do or say. If you live in Spain (as I have done) or other Latin countries, they are completely cynical about politicians, and political corruption. Many people in England seem to want to believe that somehow politicians aren’t corrupt, despite a massive old boy network, and obvious corruption at all levels of the system. I think it’s because many of them are honest and find it difficult to believe others aren’t. It seems like a form of psychological projection.

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  10. Ataraxite

    I actually think we’re now going to enter a bit of a boring phase in Brexit, both because of the Christmas break, and because it suits both May and Labour for nothing to happen now.

    As Yves pointed out yesterday, May’s game is chicken. The longer she waits before doing anything, the more the pressure of no deal ramps up, this will start to become very intense in the new year. I could even see May delaying the Brexit vote into March to get maximum leverage against Labour, and effectively forcing them to vote for her deal.

    On the other side of the cesspit, Labour is – despite public pronouncements – none to keen on launching their vote of no confidence, because they know as soon as that fails (or worse, passes!) they’ll have to get off their comfortable Brexit fence, cease dancing with unicorns, and take a side. This will not be a pretty process.

    So hopefully, we might have a period of relative calm now. (I was going to say “sanity” before I remember the subject matter we’re dealing with.)

    Reply
    1. Frenchguy

      The problem with the chicken game is that the timing isn’t easy to control (see the Telegraph bit about what the ERG is planning). Also, if May’s deal looks close to passing, the DUP (and probably the ERG) would bring down the government and Corbyn would be very happy to help…

      But you’re right, May might still go for it while Labour wait in ambush for the right time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a political class as clueless as this one. It’s way worse than sleepwalking at this point.

      Reply
    2. fajensen

      It is easy to overdo a good game of chicken. In January, 2019, the big money which is in the derivatives and futures markets will absolutely want to know for certain what happens if they write or buy London-originated options or futures and the expiry or settlement date is later than 29’th of March 2019.

      The time for politicking could expire already January 2019, starting with a nice ‘Splat’ in “The Market”!


      It is beginning to look really unhealthy with 3-12 % 1-day excursions in large-cap shares on OMX, even though they always seem to manage to run the indexes up to the trend lines every time some underlying stock snaps!

      Instead of the expected Christmas Rally, the retail investors are being hounded between sudden windfall and having their pony brutally shot out under them. Question is how long this lasts before people just go home.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Maybe the derivatives and futures markets will just collapse and do that thing again, before then? Maybe terminally? An outcome devoutly to be prayed for, in some quarters… Though there’s always a Big Short out there, to be had by the right well-cojone’d player(s)…

        Reply
        1. fajensen

          If derivatives and futures clearing seize up, those parts of the economy that relies on derivatives which is a large fraction of the market in real, tangible, things will have the financial equivalent of a heart attack. Goods and Services will stop “circulating”.

          The government will have to force delivery of necessaries, basically either nationalising the market directly (price control, rationing) or by guaranteeing future payments for continued deliveries (what the derivatives were doing).

          Given that the government is well beyond incompetent, this will not work out well for anyone.

          Reply
  11. flora

    Does May know how to play hardball?
    Can she play hardball with her party? Apparently not, given there are plans afoot to unseat her.
    Can she play hardball with the EU? Apparently not, see above?
    Can she play hardball with Labour? As above.
    Being boxed in, can she reset and create a calmer field by revoking A50?
    She says she won’t do that. Can’t she see what the state of play is?

    (dons foil bonnet) Or does she, too, want a crash-out, and is this whole ‘ultras vs May’ a pantomime? Cameron called a snap vote and resigned. May instantly invoked A50 before any studies or preparations had been made. She has been in consultation with Cameron.
    (take foil bonnet off)

    Being outside the UK ,it’s not my place to opine, but still, here goes….
    Waiting on for a unicorn, waiting for deus ex machina, is waiting to fail with ‘clean hands’.
    So, with the clock ticking down and most people not wanting a deadly crash-out (except for the ultra’s and ERGs), and with a crash-out-by-inertia looking more likely, if this were the US I’d say to the politicians ,” it’s time to get religion (get serious)” for May and Labour and the Tories who aren’t crazies.

    This is like watching a horror movie where you know the young innocents should not go into that house, should not open that door, nooooo …. of course they go into that house and walk toward that dark door.

    Reply
      1. flora

        Are her entire PM Civil Service staff and Whitehall dumb, as well? I know the CS has suffered from large reductions over the years, but still…

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          This is just a guess, but I think May’s inner circle is almost entirely made up of Tory advisors – senior public servants seem to be cut out of the loop. It really is hard to believe any semi-competent diplomat would have allowed her to do and say the things she has done repeatedly which has simply made things worse.

          Reply
          1. Anonymous2

            I think most of what we get to hear May saying is designed for domestic, English consumption, pandering to the bigots, xenophobes, Empire nostalgists etc.

            Reply
        2. flora

          adding: it’s possible that she gets good advice she then ignores. see EU. I suppose being too clever by half is as good as being dumb.

          Reply
        3. fajensen

          Things went downhill in Denmark when the members of parliament managed to get a budget for hiring “special advisors”, which are not special in any way. They are journalists and communication experts – also known as spin-doctors.

          This was to “counter the influence of the civil servants on the political system.”

          And, boy, they succeeded. Both in eliminating any kind of actual expertise and factual knowledge from polluting the purity of whatever political ideology that possess the ministers, they also succeeded in making sure that all statements “communicated” by anyone involved with politics can be interpreted in so many inconsistent ways that all meaning is lost.

          “Our representatives” are living in a bubble of their own flim-flam and hype and they are beginning to believe in it themselves.

          Reply
          1. PlutoniumKun

            It may go back further, but I think this is one of the most malign influences of the popularity of Blairism around Europe in the 1990’s – he may not have invented it, but Blair certainly perfected and popularised the notion of government been led by a tight cabal of private advisors, with the public service reduced to the role of following orders.

            Here in Ireland all governments since then have taken up the exact same habit, of using public money to hire ‘advisors’ to senior politicians who end up displacing the traditional role of the public servant. They start out advising on political matters, but with a ruling party this inevitably bleeds into actual policy implementation. The result is a wave of policies which look good on press releases but end up being disastrous in implementation. And of course it means high quality disgruntled civil servants end up leaving.

            I think the UK is now reaping the whirlwind from having cut out experienced apolitical civil servants out of the loop – its not just Brexit, its things like Universal Credit (the sort of idea that appeals to policy wonks, but ‘implementors’ will know will never work without years of groundwork). At every stage, May has shown she desperately needs an old style Sir Humphrey at her shoulder murmuring ‘Prime Minister, while that is a thoroughly marvelous idea, may I suggest an alternative that may be just a little more practical at this time?’.

            Reply
  12. David

    There comes a stage in a political crisis where you lose contact with what the crisis was originally about, and start going downward in smaller and smaller concentric rings. First it’s the issue or issues, then it’s how you are going to deal with the issues, then how you respond to who said what about how to deal with which issues, then how you manage the problems caused by arguments about who said what about what when, and quite quickly you completely lose sight of what the issue actually is. May is confronted with a long list of overlapping crises, of which the future relationship with the EU is only one, and not even the most pressing.

    Reply
      1. flora

        adding: this part of your comment –

        start going downward in smaller and smaller concentric rings

        brings to mind a 14th century book, though the similarity is unintentional on your part, I expect. Where is our Virgil ? (not a snark)

        Reply
      2. flora

        Adding: as for concentric circles leading downward – I would ask, “where is our guide”, but I think NC and UK commenters are the best guide a US reader will find. US MSM is no reliable guide, imo.

        Reply
  13. Pavel

    The Graun’s live Brexit coverage today had the following tweet from The Economist‘s Jeremy Cliffe:

    @JeremyCliffe
    This is something second referendum types in the UK need to bear in mind. EU27 are heartily sick of Brexit & have other pressing problems (see my column: https://www.economist.com/europe/2018/12/15/europes-summiteers-have-little-to-celebrate-besides-not-being-british …). They wouldn’t block Bre-entry but nor would they tolerate months of further aggro in its name.

    As many including our host Yves have pointed out, the EU are at the end of their tether with the UK’s mix of incompetence, arrogance, and delusion. Those who keep praying for and/or promising a second referendum (and I hear them every day on the BBC, Sky, LBC and elsewhere) just don’t get that the EU will put up with another 3 months of indecision and endless squabbling — e.g. on what questions said referendum would include.

    Enough is enough… Finita la commedia!

    Reply
  14. rd

    The “elites” are baffled. The outcome of neo-liberal policies has simultaneously given them Brexit, yellow vests, and Trump. In all of these cases, white working class and rural people have said “enough is enough”.

    The elites just keep pointing to increased GDP and rising stock markets not realizing that these are irrelevant to the people not participating in them.

    Brexit is so hard to negotiate because it is essentially impossible to negotiate given all of the historical challenges (e.g. English behavior in Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries is still an important key to Brexit). The neo-liberal policies fostering inequality over the past 30 years is simply causing these social systems to hit a boiling point.

    There is no way that the EU can give Britain what it wants for Brexit because otherwise they will be constantly negotiating a dozen or more of these deals with other countries over the next decade. So the EU elites have to hold the line like the old time Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Roman shield walls – break the line at one point and the entire shield wall could collapse.

    It was taxes levied to pay for the French support of the American Revolution that were the tipping point leading to the French Revolution in 1789 that led to decades of chaos in France. The elites have control until they don’t….

    Reply
  15. Matthew G. Saroff

    What is the “t—” that hammond was called?

    The only word that I have been able to come up with is, “Tosser.”

    Reply
    1. Julian

      Hmm, try googling this: “a person regarded as stupid or obnoxious.”
      Google answered perfectly, at least I think it did.

      Reply
  16. Mickey Hickey

    Poor Theresa May has been cornered by the DUP and the rabid Brexiters within the Conservative Party since she became Prime Minister. Truly she is in an impossible situation but she soldiers on and valiantly tries to get the best deal she can get in the circumstances. The Labour party are impatiently waiting for an election to be called. In the meantime they sit on the sidelines taking an almost neutral position. Not that Labour is the solution. Democracy in the so called West is breaking down as factions have become fixated on “the one and only solution”.

    Reply
    1. shtove

      I think it’s the abuse of democracy that’s breaking down. As for your comment on Mrs May, that’s just another lame narrative promoted by the media.

      Reply
      1. NIx

        I agree! I don’t think, given her previous behaviour at the home office, that she is worthy of our sympathy. See this grauniad article for a little background:

        Reply
    1. Clive

      Of course, I’m not Yves, but if you’ll accept a poor substitute in lieu of the real deal, no pun intended…

      It is a possibility. Keep in mind that the default option — the inevitable outcome of no-one ending up doing anything different — is that a No Deal is already baked-in. There’s the triggering of Article 50 and the hard-coded UK legislative Exit Date in the 2018 EU (Withdrawal) Act.

      Rescinding Article 50 would take, at most, a vote in parliament and — just possibly — might be done via Royal Prerogative alone (our version of Executive Action) i.e. the Prime Minister (customarily with cabinet backing) can just Send The Darned Letter to the EU Council.

      But repealing the EU Withdrawal Act needs an Act of Parliament (more correctly referred to as primary legislation). Here’s one we made earlier (example of how this process works) — this is typically regarded as needing 4 weeks as an absolute minimum for uncontroversial emergency rocket-docket legislation, anything from 6 to 8 weeks for things which aren’t that simple.

      These are the “no Brexit” options. Accepting May’s Deal will need the new primary legislation route. And the acquiescence of Parliament in the “meaningful vote” scheduled for around the 20th January 2019.

      So the end of January 2019 to the end of February 2019 is really crunch time.

      Could do isn’t the same as will do. But it is because it is a possibility, that’s the reason why it is, ah-hem, occupying peoples’ minds.

      Reply
      1. JJ

        Thank you! I think they will crash out, BUT that means in the long run CASHING IN and will be great for the UK.

        All the hype about market crashing is way over done just like Y2K, yes the pound will get pounded more, but will recover..

        Reply
          1. Clive

            Yes, if I had known then what I know now, I’d have not gone near the keyboard. Still, one hopes the information is useful to other readers.

            Reply
            1. PlutoniumKun

              It is, I’d been wondering about the emergency bill timetable.

              I wonder though if the EU would accept an A.50 withdrawal via Royal Prerogative. They might argue that unless its 100% constitutionally watertight (i.e. voted on by Parliament), its not a withdrawal. Presumably this is the sort of thing which could be quietly confirmed behind the scenes, which is what a competent administration would do, so its probably not been done.

              Reply
              1. Clive

                Yes, while the UKSC justices studiously avoid hob-nobbing with political types, they do interact and would be happy to give guidance, especially to civil service go-betweens. And the Attorney General could give a public opinion.

                But that would — good heavens, no — facilitate informed debate. Which wouldn’t do at all, would it.

                Reply
            2. ambrit

              It is useful to me for forming a ‘mind’s eye’ picture of the state of play in England.
              Sometimes Trolls are useful in that they shine a light on the level of ill-logic driving some factions, and in this case, claques.
              I don’t worry too much about Brexit Trolls encountering a “Come to Jesus” moment. The events surrounding Brexit will be an object lesson to one and all. Wags don’t call this degenerate old world of ours “The School of Hard Knocks” for nothing.
              Get your Brexit Prepper supplies ready.
              I’ll be taking notes because we over on the other side of the pond are next.

              Reply
              1. tegnost

                The events surrounding Brexit will be an object lesson to one and all.

                Seems like a dark toned, long necked, and territorial waterfowl to me. Anyone who thinks they know what the outcome will be (of any of the foreseen deal/no deal possibles) is likely wrong. Kind of like a quote I attribute to woody allen but I can’t cite, if you are afraid of dying by having your head locked in a cage full of rats, then visualize that grim fate in your minds eye and that alone will ensure it will never happen, sort of the opposite of positive visualization. I think all of us on this side of the pond are included in the messy aftermath, lots of inter- connectedness that is hidden from us mopes.

                Reply
            3. rusti

              Still, one hopes the information is useful to other readers.

              Having an unexpected deep belly laugh when reading this follow-up comment of yours was highly therapeutic for this reader :)

              Reply
      2. larry

        Clive, you aren’t channeling David Dickenson by any chance? Sorry, but I was unable to pass it up. In Dickenson’s Real Deal, there is no chance of no deal.

        Reply
        1. Clive

          As Jean-Claude Juncker (quite possibly, well, he could have done and who’d blame him) remarked a little while ago, “cheap as chips, but still… a piece of old tat“.

          Reply
      3. David

        Thanks. You put it more clearly than I was able to when I tried to say the same thing a while ago. Rescinding Art 50 is a prerogative decision, like all other policy decisions taken by government. Implementing that decision, however, requires the repeal of the EU Withdrawal Act. So the questions are (1) how long would repeal take, given that the Act itself would not need to be replaced by anything and (2) what in practice would the EU do if the government (a government?) announced it was withdrawing its withdrawal, but the parliamentary process was’t complete by Brexit day?

        Reply
        1. Clive

          For what it’s worth, I think this kind of “we’re almost done, the Meaningful Vote agreed it, it’s (the Bill to enact the Deal) got through second reading, it just needs to complete its way through the parliamentary sausage-making machine” short-term hiatus which nevertheless has a finite end or very predictable timescales is exactly what the option for the EU27 to agree to an extension of Article 50 was designed for.

          Not 6 months plus for second referendum dicking around or yet more vague discussions covering old and well trodden ground.

          Reply
  17. Antonbruckner

    The Guardian quoted a “senior conservative” yesterday as saying that there was no way Tory Remainers would allow a no-deal crash out. They would vote for a Corbyn no confidence motion before they allowed that. That doesn’t surprise me. None of them want to be on-board in the biggest trainwreck since 1066. Most would hate the ERG a hell of a lot more than Labor right now. They are going to give them victory? I don’t think so!
    In this game of chicken, May/Tory remainers are clearly in the weaker position. If everybody else acts rationally (I know, I know) they will blink first. The best hope of a solution is for other parties (the EU, Labor, DUP etc) to keep sending out a strong message. The EU clearly realises that. If the other parties get wishy washy it will just make May/Tory Remainers hope and, of course, it’s always hope that kills ya in the end.
    We have not yet reached the tipping point when May/Tory Remainers internalise a no-deal crash-out. When they do, things will happen very fast.
    P.S. I wonder what percentage of the ERG loons are climate denialists. Must be high.

    Reply
    1. JJ

      Thank you! I think they will crash out, BUT that means in the long run CASHING IN and will be great for the UK.

      All the hype about market crashing is way over done just like Y2K, yes the pound will get pounded more, but will recover.

      Reply
        1. jj

          We are all human and flawed and make mistakes in USA. At least we have Trump running the show making great deal’s and Making America Great Again, instead of May doing the ABBA happy dance which turned out the be the “side step shuffle double cross!” Britton at one time owned the whole world, now they are an small island and EU is the puppet master. UK better crash out or you will be in worse shape and Sharia Law everywhere!! Plus you need a real London Mayor, not a radical.

          Reply
          1. Tony Wright

            For some reason this thread reminds me of that quote from ? Lincoln along the lines of ‘ you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but not all of the people all of the time’.
            2019 could be a big shakeout for the many fools who govern ( I use the term very loosely) in both the U?K and U?SA, and the even bigger fools in both countries who believe them and vote for them.

            Reply
            1. JJ

              God appointed Trump to be President to carry-out his mission and do great things for the USA and the people. You are 100% wrong about TRUMP because God never loses when he uses “unlikely people” like Trump to carry-out his mission like he did when he used unlikely and flawed people like Cyrus the Great and King/Commander Juhu who are very similar to Trump’s character traits!

              Unlikely things happen when God is at helm!

              Everyone God uses is flawed and messed up, just like you, me and Trump because no one is perfect, except Jesus! Trump’s victory was a Divine intervention by God!

              Hillary Clinton is a corrupt socialist cry baby! Trump will win in a landslide in 2020 and the market will not crash that leads to economic doomsday disasters while God is in control behind the scenes and Trump is “running the MAGA show!”

              The President is working hard and is just getting started trying to make the US financially stronger, smarter, reducing debt, improve trade, increase job growth, reduce entitlement/welfare programs, corruption, improve immigration, freedom speech & religion, stronger borders and appointing US Constitutional judges who interpret what the frames intended and MAGA because TRUMP can’t be “Bought, Bribed, Busted or Broken!”

              Let’s all MAGA and support President Trump.

              Reply
              1. JJ

                Don’t bet against TRUMP and his mission, it will backfire like it always does, because people that speak out and bet against our President always seem to eat their words! BTW: Don’t believe in odds after 2016 election and Brexit!? Best thing for UK is get out of EU and cash in by crashing out!

                Reply
              2. Tony Wright

                No, but he will bankrupt the US ( he has serial form here in his private business dealings – his MO is to borrow too much, then walk away when the manure hits the fan, leaving a whole lot of honest, hard working people busted and broken.)
                If there is a God working throught Trump as you assert, he/she either has a wierd sense of humour or plans a rapid demise of humanity to protect the planet for the benefit of less destructive species.
                The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, or do your religious beliefs not include that Biblical quote?

                Reply
              3. makdedoanmend

                Can you speak with God and ask her/him/it/theother who will win the 2:15 race at the Leopardstown on December 26th. And if I could get by how many lengths, it’d would be a real bonus. Thx in advance. (It’s not too often one gets a direct line.)

                Reply
              4. workingclasshero

                The scary part is that j# whoever represents probably 45% of actual u.s. political thought.i’m 60 and i just bet your ideas about entitlement reform got me w orking till i’m 67 years old at least!you’re the salt of the earth of the greatest country in the world jj.

                Reply
            2. Tony Wright

              And we have a Ship of Fools trying to run the place here in Australia too. In our case it is Climate Change and Energy policies which are a complete abrogation of responsibility and a total clusterf…
              Happy New Year everyone – (forlorn hope for many I fear)

              Reply
  18. ChrisPacific

    It seems the most likely outcome is an extended period of deadlock, with May not going anywhere but also unable to progress her deal, and blocking other options (like Art. 50 revocation) in the meantime.

    As No Deal becomes more and more of a possibility, I expect an extended PR campaign on the subject from both sides describing how wonderful or horrible it would be respectively. How things play out will depend on how that goes. The ERG are heavily reliant on delusion in order to retain their support, so if that can somehow be punctured in a way that’s obvious to the public they will be in a much weaker spot. DUP on the other hand strike me as being perfectly willing to torch the place with everyone still inside, so to speak. But if No Deal looks bad enough then there might be enough Labour defectors to make up for them.

    If enough unicorns survive until 29th March then it will probably be No Deal, unless somebody kicks over the table (for example, a parliamentary no confidence vote leading to GE) in which case all bets are off once more.

    Reply
  19. JJ

    One more thing, UK will protest just like in France. LEAVE MEAN LEAVE!! Listen to to people’s vote, not elite Governments!

    Reply
    1. flora

      Lobster waves to C.AI programs, waving wrong threads, program loops and repeats. seventy seven languages flounder, fish. heh.

      Reply
  20. Antonbruckner

    I like this comment I found on the Independent Newspaper. I think it sums up the truly crappy cards that May (and the Tories) are holding:

    Having ignored Labour, most of her own party (except the headbangers) and the British people for 30 months, I’m not sure May will get a very warm reception if she tries, belatedly, to open up a cross-party dialogue. Tories from all wings of the party need to understand that if they blunder into (or deliberately opt for) no deal, the British people will never forgive them, and will never re-elect them. Not even over Corbyn. Once the true consequences become apparent (food, medicines, prices, travel restrictions…) the people will be baying for blood, and god help any pro-Brexit sitting Tory MP. The deal is dead. No deal means the Tories are finished. Plan B is the only important question, and there is no alternative to a referendum

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      That a no deal would kill the Tories may be precisely why Labour (not just Corbynites) may decide to never vote for her deal. The problem is of course that in a huge wave of public discontent, there is no guarantee a disaffected public will embrace labour. Its impossible to predict what the outcome could be, especially with the UK’s first past the post system.

      Reply
      1. Mattski

        Yes, and I wouldn’t relish presiding over the aftermath, exercising police powers over rioters, etc., anyway. Especially without the political clarity to lead in the first place. Both parties are divided, which accounts for much of the muddling we’re seeing. A great realignment of political forces, evident across the west, will keep soughing through these outworn and corrupt institutions until it dismantles them. Leadership to replace them with better is barely embryonic, let alone the movements to embody them. There will be special thrones in hell for the Blairs and Clintons, just down from the Reagans and Thatchers.

        Reply
  21. m-ga

    I can see just two possibilities for the UK avoiding catastrophe.

    1. No confidence motion. The crucial factor here is how many Tories would vote against the government, minus how many Labour Brexiters vote the other way. Such MPs would need to be both strongly remain-inclined, and also unafraid to risk a Corbyn government (i.e. they prefer Remain followed by Corbyn, to either May’s deal or crash out).

    I suspect the Venn diagram of this will show a tiny number at the intersection. However, the number will be non-zero. And UK parliamentary arithmetic is such that not too many are needed. There’s also a slim chance the DUP will flip.

    The mechanism, I think, would have to be via a short-term “government of national unity”. This seems far-fetched, but it may cohere if its sole acts are to extend (or revoke) Article 50, and table a referendum (May Deal vs Remain) immediately followed by a general election (perhaps even using the same ballot – simplifies campaigning). The Tories would probably lose that election, but some senior Tories may fancy their chances at scraping through and/or forming a coalition government. If enough remain-inclined Tories gather around such a candidate, there could be enough votes to carry the no confidence motion.

    One of the larger wrinkles, of course, is that there would have to be a Tory leadership contest in the time frame just outlined. This might technically be a choice of PM candidate, if May refuses to resign as leader (I think she can’t be removed post-ERG coup attempt). It would mean the national spectacle of open civil war in the Tories. Ordinarily, this alone would remove the option. But we don’t live in ordinary times. Remain-inclined Tories (particularly those who are horrified by the no deal prospect) may act in the national interest, particularly if they want to gamble that they may be able to form a cabinet because Corbyn won’t be able to carry a general election.

    Another major wrinkle is that a lot of cross-party agreement is needed. Even if there is the will, there may not be sufficient runway. Which leads us to …

    2. Theresa May blinks. On the current trajectory, she is going to push things to the wire in order get her deal through. If she succeeds, the UK at least gets a soft landing. If she fails, she will have to choose between allowing no deal, and revoking Article 50.

    At this point, it comes down to how she wants the history books to remember her. Either as the PM who delivered Brexit, but who crashed the UK out of the global system (with the UK subsequently disintegrating). Or, as the PM who failed to deliver Brexit and who then reneged on the “will of the people”.

    I’d guess we’ll see the results of (1) in January or early Feb, and that (2) is the likelier outcome. But probably better to have May making decision (2) than one of the ERG-types.

    There’s still a potential good outcome for the UK – although chances do seem slim. The good outcome would be remaining in the EU (or steering to EEA/Efta), as outlined above, while correctly apportioning the blame for all of this to the Tories. The result would put the Tories out of power for a generation, and the UK would have a chance at healing. There may even be a Tory party split, and political realignment in the UK – long overdue.

    I’d urge anyone in the UK to support the anti-Brexit protests which are likely to gather force early next year.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think a government of unity looks impossible – there are simply not enough Tories who could contemplate Corbyn in power, and not enough Labour MP’s who could stomach a Tory leader. Essentially, both parties would have to convulse and realign simultaneously, and all in a matter of weeks.

      As Antonbrucker above observes, a no-deal could be the end of the Tory party. If this is believed by Labour – and it seems to be the belief of all of them but a tiny number of Blairites – then they have no incentive to help out May, or any other Tory. From their perspective, no-deal or A.50 revocation will cause the Tories to self destruct and hand them power.

      And the Tories are now hopelessly split. If you believe some of the reporting, they are unable even to speak to each other. In any other electoral system, they would have formed two parties long ago, its the weirdness of first-past-the-post which keeps them together (the same with Labour).

      Reply
      1. Avidreainer

        Yesterday Tory Andrew Bridgeon MP ( sic) refused to share an interview with Tory James Cleverly MP and stormed off the set on the Victoria Derbyshire show. The remarkable thing is that they are both leavers. ” Question Time ” on Thursday13th December had two former Tory cabinet ministers at each other’s throats for the whole program.
        I know I should get out more but watching in a political party in its death throws is hypnotic.

        Reply
      2. m-ga

        The idea of a national unity government has been floated:

        https://inews.co.uk/news/brexit/brexit-deal-what-s-a-government-of-national-unity-and-whos-calling-for-it/

        How many Tories might go for it? A back of the envelope calculation is possible from this:

        https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-8-tory-tribes-conservative-party/

        So, 12 “Soft Brexit Rebels” plus 4 “People’s Vote Brigade”. It’s not enough, and especially won’t be enough if it’s matched or exceeded by Labour Brexiters blocking any attempt at a second referendum.

        However, if the 50 Tory “Pragmatists” (Amber Rudd, Damian Green) and some “Careerists” (e.g. Gove) were to join, it has legs. The likely motivation for these Tories would be a gamble on Corbyn failing, and the PM spot becoming available. Gaining the PM position immediately after a second referendum would be an attractive prospect for many Tories.

        It’s almost impossible to game out these possibilities. But I’d be very surprised if there isn’t some kind of no confidence motion along these lines. January would likely be the best time, just after the “meaningful vote”.

        Reply
  22. Victor

    Writing from a left perspective. The May deal is an attempt to create a compromise between the factions of the British ruling class. A ruling class that has been split on the question of Europe for over 30 years. The majority position is in favour of Remain with a minority in favour of exiting the EU.

    The rift in the ruling class came out in the open with the 2016 referendum. As Costas Lapavitsas has rightly pointed out in new book; the referendum and subsequent vote was ‘one of those rare historical moments when a rift within the ruling layers allows a deeper rift in society to manifest itself”.
    The leave vote was a vote against the position of the dominate group within the ruling class, it was a vote against industrial decline, it was a vote to reclaim political sovereignty and economic policies that have not been in the interest of the people. Of course, a small number of leavers voted for more base xenophobic reasons but for the vast majority that wasn’t the reason. It was Sovereignty stupid!

    As we leave 2018. What do we see? An implacable and skilled EU against a divided British ruling class. There was only going to be one winner from that particular confrontation.

    The Labour Party is a strange player in all this. A leader who is firmly a Eurosceptic. leading a party of remain. Yet, to muddy the waters further a party membership who worship at the feet of the leader and his policies which are also in total opposition to what the EU stands for.

    To any centre left remain and reform types who will come back and say that Corbyn’s manifesto policies can be implemented within the EU. Do yourself a favour and read “The Left Case Against The EU” by Costas Lapavitsas. He explains why this is nonsense in his timely book.
    I think most of the Labour membership need to wise up about the EU and it works. On Europe the party is so out of sync with its core constituency and not listening to them. A dangerous situation as the working class will seek to have its voice heard by someone else.
    I
    f there was a General Election in the early months of 2019, an election Labour would win as long as it holds firm on respecting the referendum result and see Brexit through.

    What Labour would need to do is to go into any negotiations with the EU with a clear position: Seeking a deal that exempts the UK from restrictions on state aid and we will limit capital’s freedom of movement solidarity and ask for support from all left parties in the EU when taking this position. The EU would then have to countenance its real fears: A people reclaiming their sovereignty, which is key to the return of large-scale working-class engagement in the political process, and of course the threat of a good example from outside its borders.

    Many commentators on here will think a Corbyn Govt would be a disaster for the UK. They may well be correct but the reality is; a Corbyn Govt has more chance of being successful outside the EU than it has inside it. In fact, it has zero chance of success remaining in the EU.

    Revoke Article 50 & the so called “People’s Vote” all the policies of the defeatists who can’t envisage any alternatives. The sirens for the People Vote should be aware if it did happen it would energise the far right. An emergent fascist street movement, with an increasingly far right UKIP as its electoral wing, is using Brexit as a recruitment tool and its emerging everywhere. Sadly, the middle-class Remain bubble doesn’t converse with the plebs so they are blithely unaware what’s happening out there.

    I will end now on this note. The EU is finished, as its contradictions are becoming apparent to the people of Europe.

    Reply
    1. m-ga

      Corbyn isn’t standing on a radical left platform. The Labour manifesto aims to take the UK nearer to where it was in the late 1980s – reverses a few of the more awful privatisations (e.g. trains, water), while improving healthcare and education.

      The one “radical” part of Corbyn’s platform – green new deal – was dropped as soon as he became Labour leader. Which is a shame, because it was the most exciting idea.

      The Labour leader after Corbyn might be able to do a bit more. But that won’t be possible for any post-2019 UK government which is tied up with managing the fall-out from Brexit. The UK is facing 10 lost years.

      Left wing opposition to the EU is not at all helpful. I’m aware of the intellectual case against the EU. However, attempting to act on such anti-neoliberal ideals will do little more than prop up fascists (the EDL types) in the current climate.

      Reply
      1. Mattski

        Between the idealism of the last line of Victor’s otherwise (to me) highly useful post and the dismissive (possibly also accurate) questioning of Corbyn’s actual–or conventional–socialism. . . the gulf on the liberal-left continuum is amply demonstrated. I really come to resent extortionate comments like “left wing opposition is not at all helpful,” though.* There’s a lot of this kind of palaver on social media, where we are told that democratic discourse itself should be curtailed lest we help the enemy. Appeasement got us into this fix in the first place, thanks! While we’re sentient let’s all discuss! (For crikey’s sakes!)

        *It’s not an “intellectual” case against the EU; it’s a question of having fiscal policy–and the ability to use it to help one’s own people(s)–that is in question, sovereignty as both those on left and right say. The EU is in many ways an effect of corporate gigantism and the tendency to monopoly, with all of the flattening antisocial and anti-ecological forces that tend to accompany; the fact that it is the fruit of a vauguely social democratic neoliberalism rather than rock-bottom Thatcherite neoliberalism is no solace to the people of Greece. If you’re truly interested in the “intellectual” case, please dip into some of the amazing anthropological work that has documented the way that thousands of corporate operatives drew up the endless regulations for the EU, where the (blood) sausage has been getting made.

        Reply
        1. Victor

          Indeed.

          It was the left’s abandonment of an EU critique that left the swivel eyed loons of the right to lead the leave campaign.

          I played no part in the referendum, apart from vote, precisely because I didn’t want to be associated with the likes of Farage & Johnson. I know a few on the left of the political spectrum, opposed to the EU but became part of the 30% non voters for the same reason.

          Reply
          1. m-ga

            OK, suppose you have “amazing post Brexit left wing plan”. How, pray tell, do you plan to put it into action?

            With May’s deal, there is less room for manoeuvre than as a full EU member.

            With crash-out, there is no bandwidth for anything other than crisis management.

            Both routes are more difficult than working from status quo.

            Nothing else is on the table. One of the routes will be chosen by end of March.

            Reply
          2. Nick Stokes

            Farage is a globalist cow. Once again, understand, the elite play with you and demand plutocracy. Which is what the brexit Jenkins want.

            Fiscal policy is irrelevant. Either degrowth or die.

            Reply
        2. vlade

          Uh oh. You do understand that the UK had, while being in the EU, as complete a control of fiscal policy as it has anywhere else?

          EUR zone is different. But all the memebers volunteered for it, and all the austerity-enhancing mechanisms (the main ones, really) were in place already by then.

          If you say that the EU is the case of corporate giagantism and tendency to monopoly – well, I’d disagree. It certainly gets its share of the business lobbying, but comared with the US, China, or just about anything else, it’s an entirely differnet world. In fact, you get more than one case of laws and regulations that are quite anti-business (in the neo-liberal sense), like the consumer protection laws, which I’d argue are stronger in the EU than pretty much anywhere else.

          A lot of judgement, supported by not enough facts, and in some cases mis-statements.

          Reply
  23. Mattski

    My wife was asking who some of the groups were and acronyms stood for. This is dated but interesting to contemplate. One thing it suggests to me is that Labour is fairly unanimously lined up against, and simply keeping its own counsel to now may not have been the worst approach, despite the criticism that came with this. I myself have been critical of Corbyn for the perceived failure to lead here; would love to be wrong or think that the silence pays off. He does after all preside over a party that is as or more ideologically divided than the Tories:*

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/15/how-will-parliaments-many-tribes-vote-on-the-brexit-deal

    *Would love, if anyone sees fit to respond to this, to know what rough percentage of Labour is still loyal to Blair and the neoliberal mission.

    Reply
    1. Victor

      It depends if you mean MP’s or party members. Looking at the former. I would say 60% are still loyal to the neoliberal mission. Many of them because they have no real clue how economics works. Let alone have any grasp on class relations. As for party members I would put the figure at about 20%.

      Reply
      1. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

        What if the UK says “ok, we will put a hard border in, but then we get something”. That’s negotiation.

        Reply
  24. zmncr

    With all this talk about the politicking, it has been a while since I heard anything about the practical consequences of no-deal brexit, and the preparations done or due or missing thereof. Can someone point to a recent discussion of the subject?

    As a Londoner planning Easter 2019 holidays, I am quite interested on air travel disruptions…

    Reply
    1. Anonymous2

      The European Commission fairly recently put forward some proposals for air flights in the event of no deal. I don’t have a link but you might find it useful to look those up. They were a bit vague but not as draconian as some might fear. I judged my flights in and out of Switzerland would probably be OK.

      But of course they were only proposals. I assume the Council of Ministers would decide ultimately?

      Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      My strong suggestion to you would be to opt for a staycation. I’m told the ‘Dales are lovely in April, if a bit chilly.

      I think the UK has been too wrapped up in the negotiations to really plan for a no-deal. My guess would be that private companies, especially in aviation, would take a precautionary approach – in other words, they would suspend flights and all unnecessary activities for a few weeks in order to see what happens when the dust settles. Better to have staff on garden leave and use the time for maintenance rather than have all your assets tied up in a chaotic situation.

      Reply
    3. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

      “Easter holidays”

      Do you think it would be easier if the EU just moved Easter to the fall?

      Reply

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