Brexit: Chasing Their Tails

Despite the high drama of the last two days, much less has changed on HMS Brexit than ought to have. For instance, even though the catastrophic defeat of May’s Withdrawal Agreement should have led the Prime Minister to get serious about a Plan B, it’s not evident that she’s unveil anything next Monday other than a reheated Plan A: go back to the EU for more concessions theater.

Update 6:50 AM: Normally updates to posts go at the end, but this is such a stunner I am putting it at the top and not restructuring the post due to the hour. May has brass balls. Despite her claim that she is not trying to run out the clock, her actions speak louder than words.

I knew something was afoot when May pressed Corbyn to lodge his no-confidence motion and immediately said if she survived it, she’d comply with Grieve’s non-binding motion and deliver an amendable Plan B on Monday, as opposed to taking the 21 days allowed in the Withdrawal Act.

Get a load of this (hat tip guurst):

We’ll see what kind of spin she tries putting on this move. It looks like there will be more drama between now and Monday than I had anticipated.

Back to the original post:

Some signtings:

May and Hammond are singing from different hymnals. Hammond has gotten out ahead of the Prime Minister and has bee slapped down before. Is this to be one of those times?

From May in Question Time Wednesday:

There are actually two ways of avoiding no deal. The first is to agree a deal, and the second would be to revoke article 50. That would mean staying in the European Union and failing to respect the result of the referendum, and that is something that this Government will not do.

From Hammond, per the Telegraph in Exclusive: Philip Hammond tells business chiefs MPs will stop no-deal Brexit:

Philip Hammond told business leaders that the “threat” of a no-deal Brexit could be taken “off the table” within days and potentially lead to Article 50 “rescinded”, a leaked recording of a conference call reveals.

The Chancellor set out how a backbench Bill could effectively be used to stop any prospect of no deal. He suggested that ministers may even back the plan when asked for an “assurance” by the head of Tesco that the Government would not oppose the motion. He claimed next week’s Bill, which could force the Government to extend Article 50, was likely to win support and act as the “ultimate backstop” against a no-deal Brexit, as a “large majority in the Commons is opposed to no deal under any circumstances”.

A recording of the call, passed to The Daily Telegraph, recounts how the Chancellor, Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, and Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, spent nearly an hour talking to the leaders of 330 leading firms. They included the heads of Siemens, Amazon, Scottish Power, Tesco and BP, all of whom warned against no deal.

So are Hammond and Clark free-lancing against May?

And even if this backbenchers’ bill passes, it does not stop a no-deal Brexit. As we’ve said before, and Clive hammered home again in comments yesterday, Parliament would have to pass secondary legislation amending the hard coding of the Brexit date in the Withdrawal Act or revoke it entirely, and send in an Article 50 revocation notice. Anything less is just faffing about.

Richard North went further down this rabbit hole than we have and similarly thinks this scheme is wanting:

Mrs May… is now required on Monday formally to present to the House an amendable motion that sets out the details of how her government plans to proceed with Brexit.

And it is at this point when, we are told, back-bench plotters aim to introduce a Bill which would force the Government to take the threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table within a matter of days.

The precise mechanism for this is unclear. One version has it that the plotters are seeking to give parliament the power to revoke the Article 50 notice. This could then be used as leverage, in the first instance to prevent the government going down the no-deal road.

While this is being put in place, the plan over the next few days is to work up a series of proposals “with senior parliamentarians in other parties” to put to Government as a basis for renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels – to which effect the government will be “forced” to ask for an extension to the Article 50 period….

These are the bare bones, as culled from a series of “exclusive” reports in the Telegraph….

Nevertheless, there are several reasons for questioning whether this is a realistic – or even practical stratagem. Not least, the right unilaterally to revoke an Article 50 notification, conferred by The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, in Articles 65, 67 and 68, as amplified by the ECJ, is one reserved for States.

Under normal circumstances, the instrument communicating the revocation to the other parties must be signed by the Head of State, Head of Government or Minister for Foreign Affairs. Parliament simply has no locus in this matter and any Act promulgated by Parliament could only be addressed to Government. Its writ does not extend beyond these shores, and it has no jurisdiction over the EU.

As to whether Parliament could then force Mrs May to revoke the Article 50 notification is moot. While it has been established that its approval is needed to invoke Article 50 in the first place – on the grounds that it affects citizens’ rights, no such proviso applies in reverse. Thus, the Government would be exercising Crown prerogative, over which Parliament has no direct control.

There is also the obvious lunacy of thining that the Withdrawal Agreement could be renegotiated. Brussels is getting to the end of its rope in coming up with diplomatic variants of “What about ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

And as Lambert pointed out, giving businesses the idea that they can drop no deal planning isn’t such a hot idea either.

The EU thinks the odds of no-deal have increased. From a Bloomberg story (hat tip vlade):

Over in Brussels and the European capitals, the sentiment was very different. May’s crushing loss sparked talk of the rising risk of a “no-deal” Brexit and a dogged refusal to renegotiate the agreement rejected by British lawmakers. One German asset manager, Stefan Kreuzkamp at Deutsche Bank’s DWS, said: “We have to acknowledge that the probability of a hard Brexit has increased. Even though the majority of British MPs claim that they want to avoid it.”

The EU isn’t going to deal with the UK unless it has its ducks in a row. I would take this snippet from this morning’s Politico newsletter with a bit of salt; anything from a single source is questionable, particularly given that Donald Tusk, Michel Barnier, and Jean-Claude Juncker have not been shy about presenting the EU’s views. If this person is not speaking officially on behalf of the EU, why is he conveying messages? The fact that he treats “Norway” as an option when Norway has said it won’t allow the UK into the Efta also indicates more than a bit of shooting from the hip.

The reason I question this as being a bankable opinion, as opposed to indicative, is the comment on the second referendum. EU sources have previously said a general election would be grounds for delaying Brexit. I have yet to see anyone mention holding a second referendum as a reason, and I wonder if this speaker has looked into the lead times involved, particularly since he raises the European Parliament elections as an issue:

THE EU’S KEY POINTS: Here’s where the EU now stands, as per a diplomat who is well-placed to convey what Brussels is thinking and briefed a group of reporters Wednesday over dinner …

1) The Withdrawal Agreement won’t be touched. The U.K. will have the opportunity to agree to it and sign it “even on March 29,” the diplomat said. Perhaps once Britain is truly teetering on the brink of the abyss, MPs will see that the deal on the table is indeed “a very generous offer” that no other third country could ever get: at least two more painless years in the club (though sans representation in EU bodies), the diplomat added.

2) The UK will need to move its red lines if it wants a deal: It’s up to the U.K. to budge, the diplomat said. The view from Brussels is that the EU side, in the Political Declaration, respected what was left on the table after May took away, in speech after speech between Lancaster House, Florence, and Chequers, the options that the EU’s negotiator Michel Barnier had drawn up in his now-famous stairway to hell. “The [higher] the U.K. is ready to walk up the stairs of the Barnier ladder, the easier it will be,” the diplomat said. (Side note: The “Norway” option of membership in the European Economic Area might need a little longer to agree on than the Swiss, Ukrainian, or Turkish models, as its up to Norway et al to let the U.K. into their club.)

3) Delays won’t come cheap: The EU would need a very good reason to extend the Article 50 period — such as a general election or a second referendum, the diplomat said. Most importantly, “let’s not play with elections.” EU citizens have a right to vote, and even if there were an understanding that U.K. citizens wouldn’t take part in the May EU election, “Imagine you’re a Belgian citizen living in the U.K. … These are cases that end up in [the European Court of Justice] court. And you will win.”

4) May needs to get her act together: Leaders don’t want May to come back to Brussels until she has the backing of the Commons for whatever it is she asks for. “This time, we need a meaningful vote before we agree on anything,” the diplomat said, adding that it is common practise in other parts of the EU for leaders to be able to tell their colleagues first what they need — and second to be credible when they say they will obtain a majority in their parliaments for whatever that may be. May has failed to deliver on the latter at least two times in a row now, the diplomat said

This briefing indicates the EU won’t roll over to give the UK an extension. I do recall reading after the December EU summit that some EU leaders said privately that if the UK asking for an extension, they wouldn’t get an immediate response. And the EU may have its own denialism about the adequacy of its crash-out preparedness.

It may seem short-sighted for the EU to be showing Brexit fatigue, but in protracted negotiations, it’s hard to keep emotional issues from playing into the dynamics.

For what it is worth, The Times has a report that is totally at odds with Politico. I am mentioning it for the sake of completeness. The reason for my skepticism is that The Times has by far the worst record of all major UK papers in running hot-breathed stories about Brexit developments that proved to be complete hogwash. The specific reason for skepticism is EU sources have been consistent in saying that the UK needs to have a “settled view” of what it wants before asking for an extension, while this story is a radical departure in suggesting the EU would grant an extension in order for the UK to muddle around more. May’s defeat was no surprise, and this report also contradicts RTE yesterday indicating that the result was in many respects a relief because there was no prospect of May turning it around, and so the EU would be spared further petitioning to renegotiate the Withdrawal agreement.

From The Times:

European Union officials are examining plans to delay Brexit until 2020 after Germany and France indicated their willingness to extend withdrawal negotiations because of Britain’s political turmoil.

Diplomats and officials are preparing a longer than envisaged extension of the EU’s Article 50 exit procedure because the extent of Theresa May’s defeat in the House of Commons last night.

Previous planning had centred on a three-month delay to Brexit from March 29 until the end of June but now, according to multiple sources, EU officials are investigating legal routes to postpone Britain’s withdrawal until next year.

Peter Altmaier, Germany’s economy minister, who is close to Angela Merkel, the chancellor, and to Martin Selmayr, the powerful German head of the EU’s civil service, said that Britain needed an extension to find a consensus on the way forward after the vote.“The European Union should allow for additional time in order to achieve a clear position by the British parliament and people,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. “I would see this as a reasonable request.”

In fairness, the Guardian has a less muddled version of this story, saying that the EU would be willing to entertain long extension of Brexit if the Government and Labour were to agree on a different version of Brexit, which is consistent with the idea in Politico of choosing a different position on the “Barnier ladder”. But if anyone of them had read Cobrbyn’s op eds, they would understand he’s as deep in unicorn land as the Tories have been, and wants his own special deal that isn’t on Barnier’s menu.

New poll indicates UK voters do not want revocation or extension of Article 50. The survey, of over 2000 people by ComRes on behalf of the Daily Express, is a decent sample size and appears not to be an online poll. And it was taken before Tuesday’s vote, which is unlikely to have improved results:

Three-quarters of voters say the crisis-hit EU departure process has shown that the current generation of MPs are “not up to the job”, according to the data from polling firm ComRes. A root-and-branch overhaul of the country’s entire political system is wanted by a massive 72% of people quizzed in the survey. But despite the chaos embroiling Brexit, a majority of voters (53%) still want the result of the 2016 EU Leave vote to be honoured by ensuring the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc….

Less than a third of voters (31%) wanted Brexit cancelled or a second referendum on the UK’s relationship with the EU to be held.

The plot, such as it is, will advance a bit next Monday, but whether there will be any progress is very much in doubt.

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69 comments

  1. vlade

    I’m wary of any polls in the UK now. The dispersion of results is so wide that it’s very clear that misleading questions are being asked – there was exactly zero cases of polls being commissioned by Leave/Remain (polling agencies show all polls they do) that would show the other side in the lead (for whatever question was asked), and usually was supportive of whatever was the issue they were pushing at the time.

    On the longer than 3m extension, BBG also has something about it, talking about extending it to late this year.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Even if the poll is ten points wrong, a monster error in polling, you have only 41% supporting a second referendum or revocation. The polls I have seen on second referendum alone have (save that YouGov one with the biased question) have been more like 40%, although I would concede support could have risen in the meantime. And there are a lot of on the ground reports of more and more Brexit fatigue among the public, so it could just as well be that support for a second referendum has gone as high as it will go (whatever that level is given the fog of polling)

      Bloomberg has not been in the vanguard of Brexit reporting, so I wouldn’t take that seriously in isolation. In fact, sadly, pretty much no news report on Brexit can be taken seriously in isolation unless it is working off public statements by officials.

      And the Barnier bouquet may be another way of trying to beat some sense into the UK leadership classes: “We’ll only reopen negotiations if you are willing to drop some of your major demands.” But that is na ga happen. All of the UK demands for renegotiation, including above all Corbyn’s, are for the EU to improve its terms. No one is prepared for the UK to ask for less. The UK isn’t willing to give up on its unicorns.

      Even though I’ve been not keen on the odds of A50 revocation, that’t more likely that the UK’s MP’s coming to agreement on dropping a major red line.

      ****

      Holy moly, see the update to the post (tweet added at the top due to importance) from guurst. This is a stunningly high handed move. May is nominally complying with the three day “Plan B” requirement but stopping the clock for another eight days. This is a nasty piece of work. You have to give her credit for brass balls. I knew when she meekly agreed to respect the non-legally-binding Grieve amendment that something was afoot, that her show of compliance was just to get past the no confidence vote.

      Reply
      1. vlade

        When you get a poll that shows this, few days after another poll seems to show the opposite, I believe the only thing to do is to ignore both.

        I’m not even going to claim that either poll is wrong – but it seems to be very british now to hold two or more contradictory opinions at once.

        BBG wasn’t in isolation – you mention Guardian and Times. Of course, it still does not mean anything until a public statement is made, but TBH, in a situation like this I’d be very surprised if the EU made a public statement (maybe in March, but not now).

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Yes but what The Times said was totally confused, and if the Guardian is right, it’s not anywhere as meaningful as the headlines would have you believe. The UK would have to drop a red line and move to a different position in Barnier’s ladder to get a big extension. I don’t see how that happens at all, let alone by March 29, particularly with Labour in lala land.

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        2. FKorning

          to illustrate vlade’s point about the UK’s wildly caruant polling (and lax press standards), here’s today’s New European showing the opposite: 60% in favour of people’s vote

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Without a link, I can’t tell if that is the same YouGov poll vlade and I already discussed where the wording of the question was hugely biased. Poll results are very sensitive to the phrasing of the question. And toss out any online poll. They are totally unreliable.

            Reply
      2. Redlife2017

        Yves, I’m not surprised by Mrs. May being high-handed. This is the same person who met with sympathetic right-wing Labour MPs in early December and [family blog]’d them off so much that they refused to help her pass the Brexit Bill. Those MPs hate Corbyn with ever bone in their body and she treated them so badly that they decided to stick with they guy.

        I would also like to note that the media in the UK is now trying to soften up everyone for a no-deal Brexit. Here is a youtube clip from Channel 4 about a no-deal Brexit from 2 days ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpYrclfgX2I One of the big whoppers in it is that the presenter fails to note that the ferries that have been hired don’t exist and come from a no-bid contract. But yeah. It won’t be THAT bad, seriously, Guv. (sarcasm)

        Back to Dr. Thompson for me:

        “In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are [family blog]ed until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely…. The Swine are gearing down for a serious workout this time around… So much, then, for The Road — and for the last possibilities of running amok in Las Vegas… Well, at least, I’ll know I was there, neck deep in the madness, before the deal went down, and I got so high and wild that I felt like a two-ton Manta ray jumping all the way across the Bay of Bengal.”

        Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979)

        Reply
        1. Anders K

          May is consistent if nothing else; remember those times she went, Thatcher bag in hand, to the EU in order to get a better deal? And basically got the EU to make the deal worse? (Arguably only in the flowery language part the last time, but still! Negotiating a worse deal is not a sign of competence.)

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        2. Tony Wright

          Yes, Hunter S Thompson sounded relatively sane compared to what is happening with Brexit.
          As to opinions from the Times, it is worth remembering who owns this once erudite publication : Citizen Murdoch. He also owns the Australian newspaper, which has increasingly been the home of right wing opinionated rants masquerading as news. What little news does actually make it into print is highly selectively edited so as to leave completely misleading impressions of actual situations and events. Almost all content is synchophantic to the vested oligarchal interests of the Murdoch clan, despite periodic denials by those involved in the production of ots content. I ceased buying this right wing rag a decade ago, despite it being the only national, non-parochial newspaper in the country. Unless you are looking entirely for right wing opinion confirmation bias, the only use for this rag is to light a barbecue or wood heating fire.
          If the Times is even half as opinionated, biased and Murdoch interest serving as its Australian counterpart its content is not worth considering as containing even a fragment of truth.
          The Murdoch clan would have to be at the head of the queue to pick up prize British assets at fire sale prices following the chaos of a hard Brexit. Naked self interest to the core.

          Reply
          1. animalogic

            What you say about The Australianis pretty fair. Have you considered the Financial Review as an alternative ? I know its focus is narrower, but it’s at least national.

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      3. WJ

        In case you haven’t seen, Craig Murray has a cabinet source who is telling him that they are exploring the idea of a second referendum designed to ensure that May’s current deal is the only option left standing and so is approved by default.

        https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/01/machiavellianism-and-brexit/

        This is further evidence that despite her historically unprecedented defeat she is really not willing to rethink any of her red lines or work with Labour in any serious way.

        Reply
        1. larry

          She is unable and unwilling to work with anyone. All she is able to do is delay and obfuscate. She is unable to rethink anything. It has all the hallmarks of a pathology, that is, she seems to be pathologically incapable of doing other than what she is doing, which is sticking with her ‘deal’.

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        2. JTMcPhee

          So how will May and the toffs around her personally profit from running out the clock and crashing out? A piece of the sale of what’s left of UK public assets? Some ex gratia from the oligarchs for “doing a great job”? Maybe I’ve missed the discussion of this, but as the lawyers say, “goes to motive and intent.”

          Reply
          1. Fazal Majid

            Massive short positions on Sterling. Vulture capitalism at its finest.

            I doubt May herself wants a no-deal, if nothing else because the supply of insulin she needs to survive would be compromised. She just thinks she can by sheer bloody-mindedness ram her deal through.

            Reply
        3. Yves Smith Post author

          I read that notion a month ago…maybe in the pink paper?…that the only referendum May was interested in was her deal v. no deal. So this isn’t a surprise, save that she’s not dropped the idea.

          Reply
    2. FKorning

      The UK press suffers chronically from an almost institutional case of media concentration, most of them alt-right before alt-right, and this poll commissionned by a red-top tabloid has to be taken for the fishwrap it is.

      Reply
  2. Frenchguy

    French government has officially launched the no-deal plan:

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2019/01/17/20002-20190117ARTFIG00092-le-gouvernement-lance-le-plan-d-urgence-dans-l-hypothese-d-un-hard-brexit.php

    Five laws (technically “ordonnances”, an expedited procedure) will be passed: the first on UK citizens rights to allow them to stay in France (will depend on reciprocity), the second is on border infrastructure (I think it will relax a lot of building procedures to be able to build as quickly as possible), the third on road transport (to allow UK firms to operate in France, I assume temporarily), the fourth on financial services (to allow some financial transactions despite the loss of passport), the fifth is on defense cooperation. 50 M€ will be spent on border infrastructure and hiring new agents. Note that I haven’t seen anywhere any talk about relaxing border controls (not surprising since this is likely EU domain). No need to say that all this is only the bare minimum…

    Reply
    1. makedoanmend

      Thanks Frenchguy.

      I was wondering what explicit ordanances and so forth would look like. I suspect these are just sort of “enabling” ordances that can be further adjusted to cope with the situation as it develops.

      I also note that Ireland and France have signed off on a several peripheral issues that are affected by Brexit: 1) formally proposing an electrical interconnector cable between France and Ireland 2) recognition of Irish vehicles, as EU registered, that travel over the land bridge of the UK into France & 3) a doubling of live ovine shipments from Ireland to France to a certain French port (can’t remember which one).

      All these contingency plans are helpful but only a drop in the bucket, so to speak, if the slurry hits the fan.

      Reply
    2. David

      At the moment I can’t find a link to any of the actual texts (not surprising since they are only in draft form) but the French media has made a point of noting that Philippe’s presentation of the ordonnaces including remarks about “safeguarding French interests”, and some degree of gentle blackmail, eg residence rights for British people in France would have to be reciprocated in the UK. But interestingly, he presented these measures in the context of a crash-out, which he described as “less and less unlikely.” I leave the commentariat to ponder what that signifies, given that Macron will have approved Philippe’s remarks.

      Reply
      1. Fazal Majid

        It’s what in the French language is called a litote, emphasizing something by double negation, e.g. “pas mal” (not bad) actually means “really good”. Thus what the French PM is saying is he thinks it’s now highly likely.

        From the Figaro article, many of the measures are meant to protect British citizens: their right to stay, their retirement and health benefits, their right to continue in a regulated profession like lawyers or accountants. It’s sad to see the French government clearly cares far more about British expats than the British one itself, which actually disenfranchised many of them in the 2016 referendum.

        It’s also strikingly at odds with how we are portrayed as hostile in the British press, given the measures cover limited passporting for financial services, trucking permits for British companies, and the exchange of defense materials (the two countries share nuclear simulation computers hosted in France).

        Reply
  3. David

    Richard North is quite right. Negotiating treaties and everything to do with that are functions of the government, not parliament, in any political system. There’s no way that parliament, by itself, could rescind the Art 50 notification: as far as I know there’s no provision for such a thing in the Vienna Convention. So in effect, there would be a trial of strength between the current government and the Commons, but over an issue (the making of policy) which has traditionally been a government preserve. Even if somehow the Commons could send representatives to Brussels, I don’t think this would be well received: when parliaments start involving themselves directly in international negotiations, chaos all round would result. The only mechanism I could think of would be a highly artificial vote of confidence with May’s government (or her, anyway) replaced by a really-to-go government with a majority in the Commons for the legislation which would be needed. Very difficult, but then what isn’t?

    Reply
    1. vlade

      Parliament cannot rescind the notice – there’s no question on that. It can pass a bill that would tell the government to do so. That assumes it can get the bill on the to-do-list though.

      Which is pretty hard w/o the government support.

      It is also a question on what it could do if the government flatly refused. Police and the like are controlled by government. In effect, you’d have a civil war. I’d argue the UK already has a civil war – executive vs. legislature, but so far it’s been just opening salvos, so no-one really consider it such.

      Regardless of this, i’ll make a prediction that the UK political system as we know it is dead. I have no idea what will replace it though.

      Reply
      1. Anders K

        Isn’t that what the contempt proceedings could have led to, with Parliament instructing the Serjeant at Arms with the big mace to put May & her ministers into Big Ben? That is, AFAIK, Parliaments legal recourse to an obstructing Government (it won’t solve the problem, but it would remove the current Government for sure).

        Reply
        1. vlade

          But who then represents the government? They can be under Big Ben, eating Big Macs (now that would be punishment), but who will send the notice? The Queenie?

          Reply
          1. Anders K

            Honestly speaking, I would assume a new Government is formed from the Parliament in that case. The funny thing is, of course, that there is no way to ensure that this next Government will actually send the revocation or put forward any bills, leading to an amusing image of an ever-shrinking Parliament and a larger and larger number of people locked up in Big Ben (because no one wants to be the “Brexit Quitter” or whatnot).

            Reply
            1. ChrisPacific

              Executions, that’s the answer. One a day, drawn by lot, until an agreement is reached. That would sort things out in a hurry. And no issue with space constraints in Big Ben!

              (I think it was vlade’s ‘Queenie’ and the association with Miranda Richardson’s version in Blackadder that brought it to mind).

              Reply
              1. DaveH

                Not to be pedantic, and simply because this is a commentariat the prides itself on its accuracy – Big Ben is just the bell that rings at the top of the tower.

                They’d be placed in the Elizabeth (formerly Westminster) Tower.

                Reply
                1. efschumacher

                  Soon to be re-re-named “The Verizon Tower”, containing the well known bell “Big Don” (Big Trump is more difficult, as that would have to change the sound).

                  Reply
          2. flora

            In 1984, then PM Thatcher spoke at a private meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs at Westminster, saying at the time of the conflict with the Falklands they the UK had had to fight the enemy without; but the enemy within, much more difficult to fight, and was just as dangerous to liberty. The “enemy within” referenced was the stiking coal miners.

            Well, unions might have been seen as the “enemy within” by neoliberals in the 80’s and 90’s, but I think the “enemy within” now is the neoliberal coalition dismembering the country bit by bit, and digging in its heels when confronted by democratic objection to same. However, I know this comparison is a bit over the top. I plead rhetorical exaggeration to making a point. I see the same conflict in the US.

            Reply
            1. Fazal Majid

              Nothing new, the British oligarchy has always looked out for number One. During the Naopleonic wars more British soldiers were fielded to quell the Luddites than to fight Napoléon in Spain. It was also a capital offense to break a weaving loom.

              Reply
      2. Nigel Goddard

        Totally agree that the UK political system is toast. However, I expect it will take a long time (denial, anger, acceptance, grief, ….) for that to sink in and for alternatives to emerge. Proportional representation is one of the key requirements. Probably dissolution of the Union too – although some kind of federalism might possibly work. The key to it is the evolution of English thinking. I think there is no alternative for them but a period in purgatory as a small part-of-an-island nation. Hard Brexit achieves that. May’s Brexit will achieve that more slowly (another cliff-edge in a couple of years). Revoking A50 just defers the reckoning even longer. Meanwhile, up here in Scotland I expect we’ll set our own course soon, which will be a close relationship with, if not membership of, the EU, and strong connections with the Nordic nations. We love immigrants here (speaking as one)! “You are Scottish not because you were born in Scotland but because Scotland was born in you.” http://www.saltirecustomcreations.scot/store/?model_number=kimsmap

        Reply
        1. McGardner

          Oh puleeze…. sounds like something that would come straight from the mouth of a Trudeau sock puppet. Do you understand what’s happening here mate? The newbies are going to be run off the reservation… and that likely includes you! Your nation has nothing to do with your state or your race, but where you are from, and not necessarily geographically speaking.

          Reply
          1. Tony Wright

            How did this insulting comment get through? NC doesnot allow personal insults to politicians even though some would be well deserved, so why should insults be allowed against individual commentators?

            Reply
            1. McGardner

              Dear Offended:
              Critical Theory is a zero-sum game, where the first one to the bottom wins. Undermine the National identity by chastising nationals as guilty of upholding a patriarchical system of oppression, meanwhile, invite in as many non-nationals ergo voters as possible. Change the demographic via rhetorical force. However, when a nation’s native constituents are taken advantage of, they tend to push back and hard. The devious plan of critical theory’s proponents is to invite in future voters and change the demographic from the outside/in. Having taken advantage of Western tolerance and compassion for the downtrodden, with the underhanded motto of “Diversity is our strength,” the Left has played their card and is in the process of being called on it. Brexit, yellow vests, Trump, Bolsanero, Salvini, Orban, Putin; all of the above are fighting the same fight, Beautiful Nation vs. Globalist Monolith. The tide has turned and the fight is now. Maybe Aussie will come around, maybe not. We’ll send over our future immigration convicts and , with the famous Aussie weaponized compassion, you can welcome them with open arms.

              Reply
    2. Anders K

      The main issue is, from what I understand, that only the Government (Prime Minister) can revoke Art 50, but Parliament needs to change the Withdrawal Act (with the hard-coded Brexit Day in it) before the EU is likely to acknowledge the revocation (personal speculation, IANAL, YMMV, offer void where prohibited etc).

      It also seems as if Parliament is nigh-incapable of changing the Withdrawal Act without the Government starting the process (for scheduling reasons and tradition, also Government usually had a majority in Parliament so it was mostly used by the opposition, and [family blog] those guys, amirite).

      Thus, what the Parliament can do is to “punish” Government which seems to be what they are doing – stuffing up all sorts of bills with “in case of a no-deal Brexit, Government can’t do this anymore.

      I’m somewhat flabbergasted at how this Rube Goldberg-esque machinery is supposed to work in cases with a minority party in control of Government, and the answer seems to be “it isn’t, because it never had to before.

      Reply
      1. David

        I think the short answer is that the machinery was never intended to work with a minority party in control of government for any length of time, or in situations of crisis. It managed for a couple of years in the 1970s, and it has staggered through more recently, but in both cases there was a united opposition ready to form a government. The system was not intended to cope with a situation where the parties are divided against themselves, and where there may be a cross-party majority against the government. The only way out of that, as I suggested, would be a staged vote of confidence. As far as the Art 50 notification goes, the only solution may be to decouple the two things. It’s the difference between a letter saying “The British government has decided …” and one saying “After completing all stages of our constitutional process, the British government is pleased to tell you …” I don’t think the 27 would behave irrationally if they received the first letter, which would probably buy enough time for things to go through. In addition, if there is a government, with an Attorney General, the AG will probably be asked whether he thinks that the SC ruling definitely requires the repeal of the ECWA before a notification can be sent. Then someone would stand over him while he wrote his reply, whispering in his ear that the fate of the country depended on him. His judgement would be subject to challenge of course, but that could be finessed.
        Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the convention that government, and not parliament, negotiates treaties is, so far as I know, universal. It’s not a weakness of the British system, and indeed it’s not really a weakness at all. As long as things work properly, that is.

        Reply
        1. Avidremainer

          I don’t know why everybody is fixating about process. Where there is a will there is a way. We have no written constitution and what’s worse is that so many ” constitutional” norms have been thrown out the window that our “constitution” consists of what is happening today.
          Mrs May is a very dangerous person. In 1940, in circumstances far more dire for this country, Neville Chamberlain resigned because, although he won the Norway adjournment debate, one quarter of Conservatives either voted against him or abstained. This is how our ” constitution” is supposed to work. Fail and you resign. Mrs May has been humiliated time and time again- by her own party, by the EU, by Donald Trump, and Parliament yet she clings on to office. This is an act of supreme hubris. There should be an overwhelming call for her resignation from all strands of opinion but no it is Corbyns’s fault because he will not talk to her.
          The log jam is Mrs May. She should resign.

          Reply
  4. Mickey Hickey

    Le Monde is a reputable French newspaper. (Use Google Translate)
    https://abonnes.lemonde.fr/international/reactions/2019/01/17/la-france-declenche-son-plan-lie-a-un-brexit-sans-accord_5410404_3210.html?xtref=https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/01/17/la-france-declenche-son-plan-lie-a-un-brexit-sans-accord_5410404_3210.html

    Here is the EU Border Doc.
    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/153/management-of-frontieres-exterieuresReport%20this%20content%20as%20inappropriate

    Reply
  5. shtove

    Richard North just linked this:

    Reserve Forces will be on standby to deliver a range of Defence outputs such as: reinforcement of Regular sub-units, liaison officer roles and the provision of specialist skills. A particularly important role may be the planned reinforcement of Regional Points of Command, to enable their 24/7 operation and resilience. We would also expect Reserves to be drawn upon to support the implementation of contingency plans developed by Other Government Departments.

    The order shall take effect from the beginning of 10 February 2019 and shall cease to have effect at the end of 9 February 2020.

    https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2019-01-17/HCWS1254/

    Eyes right!

    Reply
    1. Redlife2017

      I think of Bjork’s Joga (state of emergency) at a time like this https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bcw0y_-llhg

      Emotional landscapes
      They puzzle me – confuse
      Then the riddle gets solved
      And you push me up to

      This state of emergency
      How beautiful to be
      State of emergency
      Is where i want to be
      State of emergency
      How beautiful to be

      Reply
    2. Ellery O'Farrell

      Conceivable that this allows May to ditch the DUP, as the Tories can no longer move to remove her and she may think that a border in the Irish Sea (anathema to the DUP) may bring enough non-Tories on board to pass the WA.

      Though I’m just a diaspora half-Irish person, and what do I know?

      Reply
      1. shtove

        Though I’m just a diaspora half-Irish person, and what do I know?

        Same for me. Looks like a faction of the Conservatives is quivering in anticipation of militarism, to bring their incompetent wars back home. We will gasp at the power of the prime minister.

        EU passport – check. Portable savings – check. Ticket abroad – check. Sorrow – check.

        Reply
    3. Tony Wright

      Glad I’m returning to Oz at the end of January after a 90th birthday celebration(not mine!) in England. Out of cloudy cuckoo land and back to more mundane political stupidity, albeit rather well cooked judging by both the weather app. – and the ABC news…

      Reply
  6. Jack

    The only thing we can be certain of that the jacob rees mogg’s side will vote for may ONLY if he sees labour getting into power(here’s jrm saying this – https://youtu.be/K5CEvdpQmRs?t=681), otherwise they will vote ANY deal down because all they want is the UK to be under WTO rules.

    Reply
      1. Ezequiel

        Unfortunately, it is not an unicorn, it is a (war?)horse they can get quite easily unless enough sane people work to stop it.

        You can say that their unicorn is that WTO rules are an improvement over the current status and after minimal disruption the UK will shoot to the sky. And all the unicorns in the shape of trade treaties that they (with May? without May?) Will negotiate with everyone immediately. And pass through Parliament. Oh wait. They cannot even get a two-year temporary agreement with their main trading partner through. What is going to happen when Trump rams his take-it-or-leave-it one-sided monster down their piehole?

        Reply
    1. Tony Wright

      Torpedoed by Cameron’s arrogant stupidity.
      Even if, as I suggested yesterday, this process is all an elaborate charade leading to “sorry we can’t make this work” at the last hour, so article 50 is revoked, the various levels of damage inflicted on UK(loose terminology, I know) business, reputation, economy and social fabric will be enormous. And at this stage that is probably the best case scenario.
      Interestingly, my wife is of Scottish birth and tells me that that her multitude of old facebook friends from school and university days are reporting that Nicola Sturgeon has gone to read the riot act to Theresa May. Something like “you go ahead with this Brexit idiocy and we’re out .”

      Reply
  7. bondsofsteel

    Right now the problem is that No Deal is the default and while the majority of parliament does not want no deal, they can’t decide on what kind of deal they want.

    Could May be changing the default? Would it be possible to pass a bill to change the withdraw act that would cross the t’s and dot the i’s to revoke Article 50 on March 28 unless a deal is made?

    If so, it would swing many more votes toward her deal and unite the conservatives. It’s probably the only way it would pass.

    Reply
    1. Gordon

      Changing the default was my thought also. There is a large majority against No Deal so those MPs should use that to get Revocation hardwired into the Withdrawal Act as a bulwark against accidents and to turn the tables on May’s obstinacy.

      That would have the secondary advantage of improving the optics (which have always been terrible from the Remain side) for Remain-leaning MPs with Leave-leaning constituencies. They could say to the Rees-Mogg gang, “You said it would be easy so over to you to deliver” and later, “You didn’t deliver – your fault not ours”.

      Reply
  8. Anon

    Thanks for deciphering the tea leaves on current Brexit machinations, Yves. It seems the US is in a similar transmogrification of national politics.

    How the hell do regular blokes keep pace with this stuff?!

    Reply
    1. NJ

      Simple- they don’t.
      Why do you think nearly every newspaper contradicts each other in some way or another, and seems to be running it’s own quasi-fictional narrative based on its own agenda?

      Fake news is alive and well, and it seems nowadays that the more stressful a political situation, the more it flares up.

      Reply
  9. flora

    Thanks for NC’s coverage of the Brexit issue; thanks especially to all the knowledgeable UK commentors on these posts. There is far more information and better information here at NC than I am able to find in the US MSM. (Considering the extraordinary importance of what is happening it’s odd the US MSM doesn’t do a better job of reporting on this. )

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Not really too surprising an omission. The ‘Powers That Be’ in America must see the unfolding chaos in England as a cautionary tale. The neo-liberal political elite (UK Rite) are to be seen as total incompetents and bonkers to boot. ‘We’ can’t have the deplorables seeing our class as less than sterling exemplars of potent perfection, the American elites say to themselves. I can hear the MSM head honchos on the phone with their enabling editors now: “More nip slips! More wardrobe malfunctions! Have you seen guillotine futures this morning? It’s crunch time!”

      Reply
  10. Ellery O'Farrell

    Corbin: he may have played this to get May to say she can’t agree to preclude no-deal exit, as she’s just done. Because the answer is (more diplomatically phrased): You lie in your teeth. You can agree to revoke the Article 50 notification or to seek an extension of the withdrawal date while you conduct a new general election or referendum, either of which would be binding. Both those choices would be acceptable to us. What do you say to that?

    But from the comments here and on Richard North’s blog, I guess it’s unlikely he’s that much of a chess player. What do I know.

    Reply
  11. Ape

    All she can do is play to survive. Completely incapable of risking her position to win. Every move is focused on her survival in power and moves her further from winning the game.

    Again she plays chicken to get her deal in play and split labour without apparent awareness of the end game is if she succeeds, a uk filled with radical parties seething and heaving.

    Reply

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