Brexit: May Running Down the Clock by Backing Yet-Again-Nixed Renegotiation of Withdrawal Agreement

You have to give Theresa May credit for being clever, or at least more clever than the various MPs that were braying that Parliament would take control of Brexit yesterday.

No such thing happened, not even close. For starters, all Parliament was voting on were motions, and motions are not legislation, so none of them could even deliver on something that was also supposed to occur yesterday, that of “taking a no-deal Brexit off the table,” although they could have started that ball rolling.

Instead, two of five motions passed, and one of them, the so-called Brady amendment, was backed by the Government. It read:

To require that the Northern Ireland backstop be “replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border” while supporting the notion of leaving the EU with a deal and therefore supporting the Withdrawal Agreement subject to this change.

The second was:

To reject the UK leaving the European Union “without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship”

Note that Yvette Cooper’s amendment to debate her bill which would delay Brexit and Dominic Grieve’s to allow Parliament six days to debate amendable motions were both defeated.

By backing the first amendment, the Government is running out the clock by at least another ten days and more likely, two weeks. May knows full well that the EU isn’t going to change its repeatedly-reaffirmed position that it is done renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement. It has indicated it would entertain negotiating a markedly different deal as part of the “future relationship” if the UK were to relent on its major red lines. But the idea that the EU is going to concede on the Irish backstop because the UK is having a hissy fit is a non-starter.

Depressingly, some UK press outlets are enabling the delusion that the EU will tremble in its boots in the face of the UK’s wrath. For instance:

Parliament sets May on Brexit collision course with EU Financial Times

‘If there’s no deal you won’t get a penny!’ Brexit minister warns that UK will REFUSE to pay £39bn divorce bill unless the EU agrees to PM’s new backstop plan as she prepares for Brussels showdown Daily Mail

At least none of them had “handbag” in the title.

And the EU, predictably and promptly, reiterated its “no”. Donald Tusk’s spokesman immediately issued a statement that included, “”The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation.” From Cyprus, Emmanuel Macron said:

As the European Council in December clearly indicated, the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the UK and EU is the best agreement possible.

It is not renegotiable.

The EU Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, also warned any UK changes wouldn’t be approved:

Guy Verhofstadt told The Independent that the EU’s legislature, which has to approve any deal, would not consent to a “watered down” agreement and that the controversial Irish backstop could not be ditched.

So May remains in charge, and by wasting more time with another pointless round of meetings on the Continent, she will have decisively curtailed the choices to her deal or no deal. As Richard Murphy pointed out:

So, the Commons has voted.

It would seem that it has rejected No Deal, because one non-binding amendment that suggested this was passed.

But it has rejected May’s Deal.

And it has rejected creating the time to find a better deal.

And it has rejected staying.

So the Commons has voted, yet again, for wishful thinking and nothing concrete of benefit to anyone.

What can I see happening now?

First, there is no chance of a People’s Vote: if the Commons cannot vote to extend Article 50 they could not get the majority required for a second vote. I call that option dead.

For the record, so too is staying: I do not think there is anything like a majority for that.

So there are only two known options.

One is the EU’s deal, which was once called May’s deal, but can’t be any more as she has apparently abandoned it.

And the other is No Deal.

The only place I differ with Murphy is that May is depicting her apparent retreat from her deal as accepting the will of Parliament. From Richard North:

…it looks as if the prime minister is playing a passive submissive game. Her ratification motion has been rejected, so she has quite deliberately gone to parliament for instructions. With her marching orders in her pocket, she will now obediently toddle off to Brussels, where she will receive a polite but firm rejection to her request to renegotiate the backstop.

She has absolutely nothing to lose by doing this. She will be following in the wake of Canute when he commanded the tide to retreat, to demonstrate to his courtiers the limits of power. Mrs May will return calmly to parliament and tell MPs how sorry she is. “I tried my best”, she will say, “but the man from the European Council, he say ‘no'”.

She might be able to sugar the pill with a few cosmetic changes to the political declaration, but her basic message to parliament will be: “over to you”. The same choice then awaits them: the Withdrawal Agreement or a no-deal. But it will be parliament that makes the decision. She is but the obedient servant, doing her best to execute parliament’s will…

Even as the clock ticks down to oblivion, Mrs May can afford to bide her time. There will still be a few delusional MPs – like Alexander (aka Boris) Johnson – who believe that the EU will cave in, but my guess is that the majority are beginning to see the writing on the wall.

Even though North is much closer to the mark, he does not appear to appreciate fully the depth of denialism in the UK political classes. Displaying too much faith in the idea of the plucky underdog pulling out a win at the last minute, and perhaps also harboring more than a bit of sexism, far too many even now seem to believe that a markedly better deal could still be had. Jeremy Corbyn has been going on in this vein in op-eds and interviews for months, and he still seems to hold this view. The vote today, which broke largely along party lines, says he’s far from alone. Recall how many times last year the Tories were insisting that the UK could get “Norway plus” or “Canada plus plus plus” and refused to abandon that view despite repeated clear rebuffs by the EU.

As reader David said yesterday:

Interesting that the Guardian headline in the link has now changed to “Brexit: EU dismisses Tory compromise plan as unworkable.” That didn’t take long. [The original headline: Brexit: Tories unite to back compromise giving May extra time].

As I choked on my (gluten-free) cereal this morning, while looking at the original Guardian story, I reflected that this development is only the logical end-product of a political process which has been obsessed with the purely UK dimension of Brexit, as though the EU27 were just bystanders, waiting patiently to learn what the UK was prepared to accept. It’s one way in which a crisis typically develops at the very end: internal differences become so obsessively dominant, that the whole purpose of (in this case) the negotiations becomes a secondary issue. Indeed, it’s now clear that Brexit was not, ultimately, an issue between the UK and the EU, but an internal issue within the UK. I don’t mean by that that, as some commentators have suggested, Brexit is an issue which fundamentally divides the country. On its own, successive polls have shown that it’s really not a priority for most people. But it served as a detonator for a whole series of unresolved issues to do with power and wealth in the country, which are now about to explode.

I have been saying for some time (with Lambert and Richard Smith among my witnesses, although I should have stuck my neck out on the blog) that the crisis will hit no sooner than mid-February. That is when MPs will no longer be able to pretend that they have options besides the ones May set forth when she brought her deal back in November: her deal, no deal, or no Brexit.

And by mid-February, it’s too late to toss May out without guaranteeing a no deal departure. Remember there are 14 calendar days for Parliament to reverse itself and pass a confidence motion. Otherwise, the general election process starts, and that’s a minimum of 25 business days. There would be no Government to push through amending the Withdrawal Act to remove its hard coding of the Brexit date. Any MP can nix a private bill (one not sponsored by the Government) and you can be sure an Ultra would do that. And even though the EU has said it would allow the UK to push back the Brexit date in the event of a general election, the UK, meaning the Government, has to ask formally. Can it so so procedurally after a no confidence vote? Keep in mind that the Ultras would do everything in their power to jam the controls and assure a no deal.

Another possibility is Grieve and the speaker John Bercow trying more Parliamentary gambits, but Parliament remains too divided to implement any other idea, even if they managed to get their hands on the steering wheel. Richard Murphy is right: if they can’t even back an extension, they can’t muster the votes for a second referendum. And revoking A50 without a referendum? Fuggedaboudit.

In a few week, we’ll have a better sense if sentiment is moving towards May’s deal or no deal. And remember, more denial and squabbling over unicorns increases the odds of no deal.

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94 comments

  1. Clive

    Apologies Yves, I meant to send this through ages ago but it kept slipping my mind. Civil Service guidelines also state that in the event of a lost Confidence motion, there then would be being “doubt about the ability of a government to command a majority”, the civil service would enter either in full or in part “purdah” or a pre-election state of a care taking function only and unable to properly assist the government (and technically there’d not be an actual government) in progression of policy or the business of government.

    From https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/The%20UK%20Constitution%20and%20the%202015%20Election_0.pdf

    […] for as long as there is significant doubt over the government’s ability to command the confidence of the House of Commons, many of the restrictions [from the pre-election period] would continue to apply’. In other countries this is referred to as a caretaker government. However, the Cabinet Manual’s wording is ambiguous, particularly in only stating that ‘many of the restrictions’ that apply during the election campaign would also apply during this period.

    During this period, parties may negotiate in whatever fashion they choose. There is no convention that the incumbent government has the first opportunity to negotiate with other parties – though its incumbent status may mean that, if it is unclear whether it could command confidence, it has the first opportunity to test its majority in the Commons, regardless of other negotiations.

    The end of the period of caretaker government is not clear in the UK guidance. The current Cabinet Manual guidance only says that the end of these restrictions ‘depends on circumstances, but may often be either when a new prime minister is appointed by the Sovereign or where a government’s ability to command the confidence of the Commons has been tested in the House of Commons’. The Sovereign must appoint a new prime minister on the resignation of the incumbent – though as 2010 showed, it is not clear that this will only occur when another candidate has a fully-forged coalition or workable arrangement with smaller parties. Alternatively, the incumbent prime minister may be able to build a new majority in the House. Usually the new Government’s majority is first tested in the Commons at the votes following the Queen’s Speech, which may be held three weeks after the election. It is not explicitly stated whether, until those votes are held, an incumbent government remains bound by the restrictions.

    … so, as soon as the Confidence motion is lost, there’d be as a minimum a big argument about not being able to rely on civil service assistance to notify the EU27 about any requests to delay A50 and seek an extension. And the distinct possibility that nothing whatsoever could be done in terms of civil service support — even down to basics like arranging meetings. So any No Confidence vote really does carry a huge risk of No Deal now, just on a matter of the number of days remaining until March 29th.

    Reply
    1. vlade

      Which is why I believe ERG will trigger no-confidence vote and give Corbyn the GE he wants. It’s not clear cut by far he’d win, and I suspect that for a lot of them a risk of Corbyn govt is worth guarantee of no-deal Brexit. And in fact, they might not even run the GE risk – all they would have to do is to kill the govt by no-confidence now, confidence in two weeks time, rinse repeat (not right now, but say in March)

      Reply
      1. Clive

        That’d be taking a huge gamble. May could enter a temporary coalition — just the SNP alone could probably do the trick — to rescind Article 50. Or a “government of national unity” (yeah, ha ha ha ha ha) with Labour to only survive as long as it takes to vote through May’s Deal and then a General Election. The ERG Reign of Terror would be very short lived, with many facing either de selection for their treachery or else losing their seats.

        No one could say that, faced with some of her own MPs adoption of that sort of slash and burn approach May wouldn’t either do it. Or merely just threaten to do it.

        Reply
        1. vlade

          A coalition government with SNP, LD or Labour to revoke A50 would go down like a lead baloon with Tory voters and members. Which is important, as such a coalition would not last a year, if that, so GE would come pretty quick.

          Everyone was saying how after Xmas the local Tory party aparatchicks would get the MPs in line to vote for May’s deal, against the clear and visible support of the root membership. We saw how well that worked.

          ERG killing May’s government could use the excuse of it not delivering Brexit and that being th eonly way to get the one and true Brexit (i.e. no-deal one). Which would have support of majority of Tory party members (and quite possibly voters), at least at the time of them doing it.They could compare it to turfing out Thatcher, and say they of course support a Tory govt – just not with May t the helm, trying to revoke A50.

          Anyways, we’ll see..

          Reply
      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I don’t see the ERG triggering a no confidence vote.

        I see it being Labour and the ERG voting with them and then playing every obstructionist trick in the book to force a crash out.

        Then Labour gets blamed for its GE leading to the crash out and the Tories are back in! What’s not to like?

        Or Labour has to manage Brexit and is too overwhelmed to do much of its program. Although a Labour government would not weaken labor or environmental protections. But I can’t see them doing much/any new spending with the pound collapsing and Mr. Market in a mood to take it lower if the UK increases its deficit even more via increased spending (the budget deficit would rise regardless due to revenues falling and spending on social support programs increasing).

        Reply
        1. Ataraxite

          While I think this is an outside possibility, I don’t think that the ERG would vote against their own government, even for the “prize” of a No-Deal Brexit. The repercussions for them, and for the Tory Party as a whole would be too much. Plus, as Clive points out, there are equally extreme measures the government and Commons could take to avert a No Deal, if we end up in such a place.

          Reply
          1. vlade

            They voted against May as a leader. They tactically voted with govt in Jan, but that’s tactic – it’s not worth it to bring the government down right now, especially if you can get delays like May going back for two weeks doing nothing.

            Come early March, and everyone getting nervous about no-deal, I’d not bet on ERG not going against May, and presenting it as May betraying Tory voters and thus them having a patriotic duty to remove her. While saying they would of course support another Tory PM, such as say Davis or someone “safe”.

            Reply
          2. Yves Smith Post author

            From an early January poll of Tory party members:

            Just 29% of Tory members would vote for May’s deal, compared with 64% who would vote to leave without a deal, if there was a two-option referendum.

            https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jan/04/most-tory-members-would-choose-no-deal-over-may-brexit-plan

            If May is seen as muscling Parliament too hard for her deal, I’m not sure that the party can continue to back her when the members feel otherwise. The Corn Law broke the party, and this is an even bigger choice for the UK.

            Again I am not saying the odds of this area even as high as 50%. I’d put them at 25%, which is still very high compared to “normal” times, and particularly given the consequences, which Labour really does not appear to have thought through (although given Corbyn totally punting on the substance of Brexit, perhaps that isn’t so surprising).

            Reply
        2. vlade

          TBH, I’m not making much difference whether it would be Labour as useful-idiots for ERG, or ERG directly.

          But I see this as a quite possible scenario if there are any indications May might try to avoid Brexit, or even do a soft one.

          Reply
        3. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Yves.

          I agree and just add that it’s not just the ERG who would be happy with that. There are younger and impatient remainer Tories like Tom Tugendhat and Sarah Newton and ERG sympathisers like Kwasi Kwarteng, formerly romantically attached to ministers Amber Rudd and Liz Truss, eager for office or higher office.

          Tory strategists will have been delighted with Dennis Skinner, aka the beast of Bolsover and and a socialist, voting with them. They can begin to hang Brexit on the necks of (some) Labour(ites).

          I never thought that I would see the day Skinner, a former miner whose heart is in the right place and who comes from and represents an area where the mines were and much of the land is still owned by the (family of the) heiress married to Jacob Rees-Mogg, vote alongside a Rees-Mogg.

          Reply
    2. David

      The UK government system is based on the principle of continuity. It assumes that, except for the special circumstances of General Election campaigns, there will always be a government, and any power vacuum will be filled almost instantly. A Minister sacked in the morning would be replaced by somebody else behind the same desk before the end of the day. After a GE on a Thursday, the most important Ministers would already be reading their briefs on the Friday. This system survived the minority government of Callaghan in the 1970s, where the government was defeated several times, but that was a different era and a different civil service.

      During a GE itself, the civil service is strictly neutral: as I recall it is a rather restful time, when much of the work of government stops. In principle, the machine responds to factual requests from candidates (there are no Ministers of course). In some cases, it might be necessary for actual business to be done: I remember that in one of the GE campaigns in the 1980s there was a European Council meeting to which Thatcher went, and she would have had a brief for the occasion.

      The system is simply not intended to deal with a situation such as we have now, when it’s not just a question of who will form the next government, but of a parliament hopelessly split across part lines on the most important policy question since 1945. Civil servants are technicians, not policy-makers, and I’d be very surprised if there were many Leavers in their top ranks. Moreover, the civil service itself is much smaller and less capable than a generation ago, and ever since Thatcher its upper ranks have been diluted by outsiders brought in, and more junior staff promoted for their personal loyalty. With much of the actual activity and budgets now devolved to semi-autonomous Agencies, often headed by outsiders, it’s also not always clear where the power lies.

      My guess is that in the event of a lost Confidence motion, the GE rules would essentially apply, especially during the 14-day period. But that doesn’t mean that there would be no activity. Remember that governments talk informally to each other all the time (that’s partly what Embassies are for) and even now I would imagine there are lots of discreet and deniable contacts taking place with the Commission and the 27. There’s a distinction between informing Brussels of withdrawal or delay of Art 50, for which you need a government with a majority, and keeping Brussels up to date with the picture as it changes in London. I would expect the latter to be going on anyway, but if there’s a lost Confidence vote, then it could all become rather complicated. To the question of whether the ciivl service could find itself playing a political role, I’m afraid that the answer is that nobody has any idea. As a body, it has been so humiliated and damaged since the 1980s that I doubt that it has the collective confidence and capability to play such a role, even if it wanted to.

      Reply
      1. Summer

        “Moreover, the civil service itself is much smaller and less capable than a generation ago, and ever since Thatcher its upper ranks have been diluted by outsiders brought in, and more junior staff promoted for their personal loyalty.”

        Those are called Wrecking Crews…

        Re: Thomas Frank’s book on govt in the 80s in Indispensible Nation:

        The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation

        Reply
  2. vlade

    The important bit is your last sentence. Running the clock out makes no difference if you don’t believe the result is bad – or want it (as is the case with ERG). The more unicorns gets brought out, the more MPs and who have you will believe all’s gonna be well regardless.

    I was surprised first the ERG wasn’t going to vote for Brady’s, as it was a clear win-win for them. They seem to have figured it out in the end.

    Unless Labour or some of the smaller parties support May’s deal, I don’t believe it has a chance of passing. On political basis, I can’t see any of them doing so, so the 30-40 ERG votes +DUP will be enough to kill it no matter what. May doesn’t seem to understand that.

    She’s relying there on the threat of revoking A50, but I do not believe ERG is not willing to call her bluff there (see above response to Clive).

    Reply
    1. vlade

      I fully expected Tories to cultivate a number of unicorns. But where Labour failed for me totally in the last two years is that they were not only not slaying them, but actively cultivated unicorns of their own.

      But to mix the metaphors, when the tide goes out, it means that voters will find out there are no unicorns in either Tories or Labour’s swimwear.

      Reply
      1. JIm A.

        Yeah. Instead of saying “They can’t give you unicorns because there aren’t any unicorns to be had, not even for ready money.” Labour has been saying “They can’t give you unicorns. Only WE can provide you the unicorns that you want and deserve.”

        Reply
    2. David

      What I found incomprehensible in my grim trawl through this morning’s media is that almost nobody pointed out that the WA is an international treaty which HMG has actually signed. What’s happening now is only what would be the ratification process if the UK had a different political system. You simply can’t sign a treaty and then ask your own parliament to reject it so that you can change it. Well, you can if you are May I suppose. I think everybody here understands this, but I am bemused that commentators don’t seem to realise that the EU 27 can’t simply re-open an agreed text to please the other side. It’s not a question of “refusing”, but of the way that treaties are negotiated.

      Reply
      1. Colonel Smithers

        Merci, David.

        Vous avez raison, “mais, mais, mais nous sommes britanniques”. La loi internationale n’est pas pour nous, comme nos cousins americains. :-)

        Reply
      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I hate to confess, but I didn’t realize she had signed it (where was the signing ceremony? I thought these were always photo ops)). I would have made much of that.

        Reply
        1. David

          No, there was no official signing ceremony, but it was nonetheless a text agreed between negotiations and approved by May and the leaders of the 27. It’s not the sort of text that gets a big signing ceremony. “HMG” in this case means the government as a whole. This is what the media seems to forget.

          Reply
          1. vlade

            Which is why there was a lot of really surprised people yesterday (not because of the amendment, but with May supporting it openly). And why the EU newspapers today are full of “we can’t trust May”.

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      3. Sean Murphy

        > What I found incomprehensible in my grim trawl through this morning’s media
        > is that almost nobody pointed out that the WA is an international treaty which
        > HMG has actually signed. [emphasis added]

        RTE, on the other hand,

        https://www.rte.ie/news/brexit/2019/0130/1026378-brexit/

        today reports somewhat differently:

        > Mr Barnier said the EU was ready to work with the idea of “alternative arrangements”
        > once the Withdrawal Agreement has been signed. [emphasis added]

        I.e., it has NOT yet been ‘actually’ signed.

        Reply
        1. David

          Well, a number of European states are already ratifying the WA, so they must think it’s been signed. I think Barnier means “after the UK stops being silly.”

          Reply
  3. Ataraxite

    Many thanks, Yves, for your continued analysis of the Brexit “process”, despite it becoming ever more impervious to rational understanding, and ever more reminiscent of baboons flinging shit at each other in the monkey house.

    I think the Deal will get passed. Not now, probably not on February 14, but more likely in the middle of March. Labour will lose their nerve – once they have sufficiently stared into the No Deal abyss, they will reluctantly support May’s deal rather than risk the alternative.

    In this way, an additional two weeks wasted as Theresa May asks for renegotiations is perfectly useful for her – she runs down the clock, with the added bonus of being able to blame the EU for “no deal” (this does not matter on the continent of course, but is useful for domestic UK politics).

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, I just said the real crisis looks to be set to start in mid February, and that is still the earliest given the degree of delusion. But May has been a master at delay and undercutting opponents (of course, she is considerably aided by their disarray).

      But see my comment above about Tory party members. They favor no deal to May’s deal by a huge margin. And local elections are in May, so voters will be in a position to express their ire almost immediately.

      Reply
      1. ChrisPacific

        I wouldn’t rule out an even later date than that, depending on how persistent the unicorns are (and, as we’ve seen, they can be as difficult to wipe out as cockroaches).

        If you’d asked me a year ago I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible that the UK could still be wallowing in self-delusion with less than two months to go, and yet here we are. Why not two weeks, or two days?

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  4. David

    At some point, it’s going to dawn on the parties and tendencies within them that there are no good solutions here, from a purely political standpoint. That is to say, whatever happens after 29 March, there’s going to be a great deal of political damage to everyone, some of it perhaps irreversible. At the moment, unicorn breeding is happening in the hope that some apparent “solution” can be found which will save a party or faction from severe damage or even obliteration, and make sure that the burden of guilt will lie on somebody else’s shoulders. That’s what yesterday’s vote was all about.

    But I don’t think that’s actually possible, and if that’s right, then the question becomes how much damage you are prepared to take for which policy you adopt. A crash-out Brexit will have consequences that will last years, if not decades, and will be a poisoned chalice for any government. After a while “they made me do it” becomes tiring and eventually unacceptable as an excuse. The government of the day is in practice always blamed for everything, even the weather. That being so, it would be better to take hard decisions and get them over with. So under some combinations of circumstances, enough leaders and factions might decide that revoking Art 50 is the least bad alternative , since it promises that the misery, though intense in the short term, won’t last that long. This would only happen if all the alternatives were not only worse, but seen to be so, and I quite accept that that’s unlikely. But when the last unicorn has died, leaders are going to be faced with some pretty unpleasant consequences, whatever they do.

    Reply
    1. vlade

      This is why I believe that ERG will flip the no-confidence button in March, as it prevents anyone from taking any steps. The parliament will be dissolved, no government, the UK will crash out, because there will be no-one to stop it.

      That is, unless the Queen would take the incredibly unprecedented step and say asked EU27 directly (as she can, since SHE is the titular head of state, PM is “just” acting) to postpone. Now that is something that even the ERG could do nothing about. But the constitutional precedents and all in the UK would be shot for good.

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    2. JTMcPhee

      What consequences will the “leaders” face? Especially as compared to what the mopery will face, whatever happens? And it’s not like there’s “democracy” involved — any serious claim that “the electorate did it to themselves,” in this situation that is the long tail of the vast corruption of the British system, and where the question, such as it was framed, was hardly presented honestly to the sturdy yeomen and -women? What consequences for Tony Blair and Tony Hayward and “Piggy” Cameron and BoJo and of course Her Richness, T. May, and your Queen, and the rest?

      And now it’s just another case of disaster “capitalism” — let the looting begin! with only unicorn sparkles for the Ruling Class, as the opportunities to buy up the remains of the Commons are made “all nice and legal,” so people who are “institutions,” like the Duke of Westminster, can regain their full Divine-Rightful feudal lord-and-ladyshipperies, with the peasants and useless mouths reduced again to their appropriate condition. https://www.itv.com/news/granada/2016-08-10/duke-of-westminsters-extensive-property-portfolio/

      Reply
      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, JT.

        As it happens, the Grosvenor family (Dukes of Westminster) oppose Brexit, but other landowners, e.g. the Ukipper Earl of Dartmouth and the johnny come lately Sir James Dyson, support Brexit.

        Please see my comment about Dennis Skinner above. One can see why the descendants of William the Bastard run the show a millennium after their invasion. The other Norman, Corbeau, now known as Corbin, seems happy to assist.

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    3. Yves Smith Post author

      But Parliament cannot revoke A50, as you discussed before. Only the Government can. Parliament can’t order the Government to do that, as much as it wants to. The most it could do is revoke the Withdrawal Act (and any other legislation that it thinks requires the Government to proceed with Brexit). And we know how hard it is to get private bills through, and that’s before hoary old traditions (or are they actual rules?) that if any member objects, a private bill is scuppered. Any ERG member can do that and you can bet one would.

      I don’t see how A50 is revoked without considerable softening up in the media. I see no one, no pol, no pundit, discussing no Brexit except as an the result of a second referendum (well, take that back, the SNP did two weeks ago but I don’t see that idea being mooted by them since). I think this is absolutely third rail stuff politically, that any pol individually who voted for that would run the risk of his career being permanently over. And I also infer the UK does not have much in the way of revolving door (becoming a lobbyist, getting a think tank job, becoming a talking head) the way the US does. Plus revolving door here is mainly for people who held senior Administration positions, so even then it would likely be limited to Ministers.

      Reply
      1. David

        I actually agree with a lot of that. I think that, as Clive suggested further up, the only possibility for this to happen is an ad hoc coalition government which would revoke Art 50, repeal the EUWA and then, I would suggest, dissolve itself. I also quite agree that a lot of damage would be done. I just want to flag up, at this point, that there are combinations of circumstances in which enough of the parliamentary actors could decide that this was the least bad course of action, that it could conceivably happen. I don’t think it’s likely, and intuitively I wouldn’t put its chances above 10%, but so many weird things have happened in the last few years that I’m reluctant to rule it out absolutely. I suspect also that any decision of this kind would be part of a wider power struggle, between groups who at the moment haven’t coalesced. It would require softening-up of public opinion, but that could be done to the point where outright opposition was limited to those who really cared. Of course there would be a lot of fallout, but that’s the case for any outcome that I can see. A legitimate argument would be that, OK, there was a referendum, a narrow vote in favour of Brexit, and the government did what it could. But nobody voted for a crash-out in the absence of any agreement, and experience has shown it’s just not feasible (do you really want renewed conflict in NI?). The massed battalions of the punditocracy would be lined up to reinforce the message. In the last week or so, I’ve been struck by the number of pundits who have casually suggested that the vote itself was somehow invalid, because it was “based on lies” and “manipulated by foreign powers.” I wonder if something is being prepared, or at least wished for, here.

        Reply
    4. Fazal Majid

      The solution to the backstop is simple: a border in the Irish Sea. The DUP won’t stand for it, but they won’t be able to wag the dog after the next elections. It’s not as if there aren’t other major differences with the rest of the UK, like abortions.

      Reply
  5. Ptb

    The response from Tusk’s office includes another plain invitation to ask for an extension.

    Cooper amendment lost by 23 (12 would have to flip). Not-no-deal passed by 8 only, making no deal apparently much more (politically) popular than May’s previous deal. That is going to make some people sweat.

    Unlike no deal and no backstop, IMO, extension is acceptable to EU, even with the flimsiest fig leaf of “good faith intent to negotiate”.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, extension is not “acceptable to the EU” in the way you are presenting it.

      The EU has made clear that it will give an extension only if the UK has a “settled view” of Parliament and gives a reason that the EU finds acceptable. And remember, an extension requires a unanimous vote. EU political leaders see the UK demanding effort that is diverting scarce time of EU officials from other pressing matters, plus they don’t see the point of giving an extension if the UK is just going to keep chasing its tail.

      The EU does have an incentive to give a short extension to allow for more crashout prep, but it’s very clear the EU is not going to go beyond whatever it thinks is the deadline imposed by the upcoming EU parliament elections. EU citizens have rights, and if the UK has not left the EU, UK citizens would be able to sue to demand representation, and the EU absolutely does not want the UK seated if it has a live A50 notice.

      Tusk is merely trying to soften the sound of his “no” on May’s/Parliament’s ludicrous request to reopen the WA.

      See here for more detail:

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/britain-is-operating-as-if-a-brexit-delay-is-there-for-the-taking-its-not/2019/01/19/83da06a2-1b2a-11e9-b8e6-567190c2fd08_story.html

      Reply
      1. Ptb

        Ok, but if the next round establishes that the alternative to extension is no deal, rather than no backstop, something has to give. What will it be?

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, nothing has to give. No deal is a default. An overwhelming majority of Tory party members favor it. Labour is proposing to revoke Brexit. Even with a coalition with a very thin majority and a very unpopular leader, I can’t recall Labour scoring a single win against May. Corbyn is now talking to May when he was refusing to unless she took “no deal” off the table.

          You are missing the “too many moving parts” problem. This is why most new businesses fail, the fact that their founders are bad at statistics. Let’s say the new business has to do 7 things to succeed and each has 90% probability. The cumulative probability is less than 50%.

          I dont’ see any possible step on a path out as having as high as 60% odds. Look at how convinced the press was that Parliament would take control back yesterday and didn’t. And that was just one step in a process to get an extension, which doesn’t solve anything plus the EU would have to grant it.

          None of the paths out has fewer than 3 step. Even if we charitably say that all those steps rise to 60% odds of getting done as pressure rises, you still have a cumulative probability of success of is 22%. If 4 steps, same odds, you are down to 13%.

          Reply
          1. Ptb

            Point taken. As you maybe intuited, I find this kind of breakdown very appealing.

            Despite the daunting odds tho, extremely long and seemingly improbable chains of events do get managed successfully. Sometimes, even when there are players (but not the leaders) trying to make them fail. This is by compartmentalization and redundancy.

            Come to think of it, a particularly relevant form of redundancy is leaving ample breathing room in critical timelines.

            The other quirk of this metaphor is that the odds for the various “steps” might be (a lot) less than independent. Unlike a startup business taking a genuinely new situation, a political process can be intentionally fudged, obv. not always.

            Now if May is genuinely willing to accept no deal (i.e. her specifically, and not just the majority of her party’s voters), that would really be an unsolvable problem.

            Reply
          2. Avidremainer

            The Labour party is not proposing to revoke Brexit. Forcing the Government to publish their economic assessment of the possible effects of Brexit, forcing the government to publish the Attorney General’s legal advice and having to force the government to obey the law by defeating them twice on the same motion. And last but not least this government is in contempt of parliament. You really can’t remember ” Labour scoring a single win against May”? Really?
            May remains in office but not in power. In order to provide a fleeting unity in her party she had to vote against her own deal. This government is inchoate, incompetent and running on fumes, you expect their supporters to prop them up, but for anyone else to take May as anything other than a dangerous fool. I am lost for words.

            Reply
  6. Tom

    I find Brady’s amendment striking in what it says about May.

    Whips told her it’s all there was to unite the parliamentary party and allow the government to win a vote. The government could have had, for example, a substantial win by supporting Cooper’s amendment and that would have been a real concession, a step towards a compromise. But it would have divided the party, which in her view is worse.

    Further, Brady shows what has to change. It says to replace the backstop, not set a time-limit or modify exit conditions. Despite the “avoid a hard border” words, I feel it makes clear that the Conservative Party is ready to jeopardize pace on the island to resolve the contradiction of a sovereign national frontier that isn’t.

    Reply
  7. JohnB

    Revoking Article 50 seems like it would require parliamentary approval, not a referendum.

    I do not believe votes against extending Article 50, should be seen as analogous to what the vote would be for revoking Article 50 – the extension is a unicorn that has almost passed.

    With the three remaining options of 1: No Deal, 2: May’s Deal, 3: No Brexit, I view May’s Deal as being pretty much off the table and completely dead, so now what remains to be seen, is how clearly the reality of a looming No Deal dawns on the public, the media and politicians.

    If the approaching cliff edge triggers a bad enough brown pants moment for the public and parliament, I could easily see revoking Article 50 becoming legitimized as the primary option – becoming preferable to both May’s Deal and No Deal – though this doesn’t mean it would gather enough votes (and I also don’t know what would have to happen, to get it to the point of being voted on).

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You are correct it does not require a referendum but I disagree on your reading of the politics. There is absolutely no discussion by any pundits in the press about revoking A50 without voters approving it in a referendum. None. Zero. Zip. This is a third rail issue. Any Tory and probably most Labour MPs who support an A50 revocation without a referendum endorsing the idea is signing his political death warrant. This idea goes nowhere unless one of the major parties backs it. The Tories are too fractured to do that and Corbyn is in la-la land and also personally not keen about staying in the EU.

      The only exception is the SNP, when Scotland voted firmly for Remain. And despite the party leader including revoking A50 on his list of options after the Withdrawal Agreement was defeated in a BBC interview reported on Jan 13 in SNP will seek to revoke Article 50 after deal is defeated I don’t see any articles saying they were able to through in a meaningful way. The amendments and votes yesterday confirm that. You had a 230 vote defeat yet very few willing to break party ranks on the follow through.

      It would also require revoking the Withdrawal Act and at least per Kier Starmer, amending a lot of other legislation too. May is not going to sponsor that legislation. It is virtually impossible to private bills. And that’s before getting to the fact that it also takes only one member objecting to scupper them, and ERG members are guaranteed to object.

      Moreover, per the poll I linked to above, Tory party members prefer a crashout to May’s deal and even more than to no Brexit. Even as more stories of crashout costs appear, they aren’t getting all that much play. For instance, the Airbus warning that it could and would move production out of the UK was a one, at most two, day wonder.

      The public seems to be becoming more accepting of the idea of a crashout. The fact that sterling is staying so strong isn’t helping. A sudden move of sterling to 1.20 would give a quick jolt as to what some of the costs would be.

      Reply
      1. JohnB

        Thanks for the informed analysis – all good points – that does make it seem a lot more unreachable, politically.

        Reply
  8. jabbawocky

    It does seem a victory of sorts for Theresa May because she saw off the Grieve and Cooper amendments simply by offering something that she knows she can’t give. Enough MPs smoked the dope.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, May is very much in charge despite yesterday when supposedly Parliament was going to “take control of Brexit”. And if there is eventually that sort of fight, which unless May capitulated (not like her) would lead to a constitutional crisis, the pitched battles would also run the clock out. May is still playing a game of chicken that if Parliament gets to, say, March 15 with nothing major having changed (like no full bore effort to sell a naked A50 revocation to the public that is getting adequate support), she is betting MPs will suck it up and vote for her deal.

      Reply
      1. jabbawocky

        This is what I think will happen, MPs will eventually vote for the withdrawal agreement. one by one, the other options are receding, except for ‘no deal’.

        Reply
  9. Candy

    I think we’re heading for No Deal.

    The ERG wants it, and the Labour front bench wants it. (Labour will simply blame the govt if it all goes wrong, and historically voters have always blamed govts not oppositions for their problems).

    Why is Parliament taking this stance? Simple: the economy is still chugging along, unemployment is still falling. Households are preparing (consumer credit dropped). Businesses are preparing too (they’re stockpiling goods and cash). As long as things are good, there is no sense of risk.

    The No Deal drumbeat has been going on since last August and the population is now innured to it. Which means Britain will take the leap and do it.

    The EU on the other hand keeps waiting for a request from the UK to extend article 50 which never comes. None of the European countries have prepared their populations for the possibility of No Deal – they have all been told that only the UK will suffer, Europe won’t because of the single market. But the lack of preparedness amongst European households makes them vulnerable.

    Economic shocks only tend to occur what something you weren’t expecting blindsides you.

    The British population are expecting and preparing for No Deal (I know, ’cause I’m one of them, have even got my stockpile of loo rolls and baked beans so I can avoid the shops around Brexit day).

    I don’t think the Europeans are prepared at all.

    Reply
    1. vlade

      I agree on the first, but there’s a few points I see differently.

      Re Labour – Labour does not realise how many LD voters they got in 2017, and now take for granted. A no-deal Brexit which Labour opposed only half heartedly at the last moment (public sees it, as many polls show that public sees Labour as very split – more so than Tories) will cost Labour votes. In Scotland for sure, but also in other areas.

      I don’t believe that the UK population is preparing for No-Deal. I’m sorry, but getting a bunch of loo rolls and baked beans is the least of the problems. It’s the likely significant rise in unemployment that will hit the UK like a truck. SMEs will be simply unable to cope. Those that export to the EU in some way have no expertise to cope. Those that support value chain in the UK find their customers are gone or want way fewer things – say, in case of no-deal Brexit, car industry and its supporting value chain is as good as dead in the UK. It will run down the stock and then close. Because if it was able to run in a third country outside of the EU efficiently, you’d see many more car factories in western Ukraine – especially given that a lot of workers in car factories in CZ and Slovakia [who are the largest per-capita car producers in the world these days] are Ukrainians anyways.

      Second order things will hit too (like Tesco laying off 9k staff, a lot of other retailers going down or trimming down).

      The EU countries did NOT tell their population that only the UK will suffer. All of them were saying, for ages, that it will have impact, with different impact at different countries. Those that will get hit the most tend to know it well – and the press was telling them for ages (cf ports in Netherlands, Irish, Czechs and Germans via car industry, western seaboard regions in France etc.). Because of the value chain, one can’t even say exactly what the impact will be, as say some exports from CZ into the UK will die, but then some car components currently sourced from the UK can be moved to factories in the CZ. One region might suffer, another benefit.

      They all hoped that the UK would not be suicidal, but where they went badly off was assuming the UK understood (well, its pols) its place in the world. It doesn’t, so the UK doesn’t even think it’s suicidal.

      If you believe you can fly, jumping off the cliff is not a big deal, and those telling you you can’t are just spoilsports.

      Reply
      1. Candy

        Unemployment in the UK is at a 43 year low. So the country can cope with a small rise in unemployment – especially if those who lost their jobs were Europeans on temporary contracts and if they just went back to the EU as a result. There are 3.8 million Europeans in the UK at the moment, and they appear to be clinging on despite the inexorable march to No Deal – presumably because they think that No Deal Brexit Britain is still better than their home countries.

        Regarding the impact on the EU – I think it will be mainly in the car industry. March is a big month for car sales in the UK because that is when the new car registration numbers come out. But if we are No Dealing, expect car sales to collapse. The UK imports 80% of the new cars it buys. France will be mainly affected in the fishing industry (70% of French fishermen fish in UK waters at present and No Deal will put an end to that).

        Germany also has low unemployment and can cope with a small rise in unemployed. France though has unemployment of 9.2%, which is shocking really, and Macron will face a ferocious response from voters if it starts to climb to double digits.

        Reply
        1. Avidremainer

          France calculates its unemployment rate differently to the UK. All students are included in the French figures. This accounts for the oft repeated canard that France has a huge youth unemployment problem.
          The UK unemployment figures, using the French method, would be broadly similar.

          Reply
        2. Joe Well

          There are 3.8 million Europeans in the UK at the moment, and they appear to be clinging on despite the inexorable march to No Deal – presumably because they think that No Deal Brexit Britain is still better than their home countries.

          I hear some variant of this sentiment a lot in the US, “they must be happy here or else they’d leave.” As someone who has been an immigrant in at least two countries where I would rather have left after a few months, let me tell you why I didn’t leave immediately:

          *waiting for “significant others” to find some way to leave with you.
          *a fixed-term contract that you don’t want to break simply because you’re not the kind of person who walks out on commitments.
          *heavy sunk costs in terms of year-long leases, furniture and other goods purchased locally, etc., not to mention personal sunk costs such as local social networks.
          *lining up opportunities back home or in another country.

          It took a year or two of planning, but I did finally leave. I’m sure many EU citizens in the UK are in the same boat and getting their lifeboats ready.

          Reply
          1. Clive

            And yet EU migration to the U.K. is still resoundingly positive in numbers terms, albeit less positive than it once was https://fullfact.org/immigration/eu-migration-and-uk/

            It is impossible to know why net migration is still apparent from the EU27 despite the threat of Brexit. However, it is counter factual to suggest it is currently reversing. I wouldn’t move here with all of the EU27 to pick from. But tens of thousands would seemingly disagree.

            Reply
            1. Joe Well

              It is surprising that inward migration has continued at such a pace though maybe there’s an element of a rush to the entrance before it closes. However what I’m suggesting is that because it takes individuals up to several years to finish pulling up stakes, the exodus won’t happen all at once. This will be a lagging indicator. And according to those numbers, the trendline on immigration was already heading downward as of 7 months ago and meanwhile the situation is only getting worse.

              What amazes me is that there hasn’t been a bigger exodus of UK nationals to the continent.

              Reply
        3. Yves Smith Post author

          Lordie. A crash out will not produce a “small rise in unemployment.” Please don’t sell ERG twattle.

          We have lots of reports from readers of lesser paid workers fleeing, from critically important workers in the racing business to construction workers and farm hands.

          And there’s a big tell of your neoliberal bias. People don’t leave because they have ties, kids in school, friends, likely a home and regardless, stuff. Moving is hard under the best of circumstances and having done one, international moves even more so.

          Reply
        4. vlade

          A significant number of the 3.8m will stay. I work with a rather large number of EU citizens (I’d say that the teams I work with have fewer Britons than either EU or non-EU citizens), none of whom plan to move – even though some may be asked to by my client who’s relocating a lot of activities.

          A lot of those EU people who wanted to move, already did.

          As Yves says, people staying in the UK may stay because it’s actually not trivial to take up the sticks and move internationally (especially with family)- even returning back “home”, which, if you were out for more than a couple of years, you’ll find out is not “home” (as you remember it) anymore. A lot of returnee emigrants tends to re-emigrate second time. I know, I have moved internationally three times, each time for almost a decade by now.

          EU car market is bombing right now already. It got oversaturated around autumn last year, where car manufacturers had a lot of cars not compliant with the new EU regulation, and were desperately trying to move them (as the other option was to rework or scrap).

          Yes, UK leaving will not help – but at the same time, it’s unlikely that the UK would stop importing cars. The impact will be more from lower UK’s purchasing power.

          Reply
    2. Bob Anderson

      Lol, this post is box of rock a dumb. All the nation’s Useries are abnormally low this cycle for the weak expansion. No deal=debt liquidation and likely breakup of the UK. Your living the top of the cycle. I bet you were the type to pump your fists in early 2007 as well or the spring of 2000…..

      Reply
  10. Avidremainer

    It is all very well talking about the tactics in play but what about the outcome? The government’s own projections of possible outcomes to Brexit are all to the downside. No one is arguing that Brexit will make the UK better off, unless you think Rees-Mogg and his 50 year game plan is viable. Has there ever been a government, apart from North Korea and Enver Hoxha, which deliberately, knowingly and wilfully decided to take a country down a path which will make the country less wealthy?

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, the US doing nothing to prevent 9 million foreclosures.

      The US continuing to allow widening income and wealth inequality, which not only lowers growth but is now even shortening life expectancy.

      Advanced economies generally for continuing to support and even promote excess financialization, which is now known to lower growth.

      Austerity in the EU, which should know better by now.

      The US sponsoring endless wars.

      It’s just that Brexit is much more dramatic and obvious.

      Reply
      1. Avidremainer

        i agree. My point is that all the atrocities which you quite rightly list are done under the guise of “Making America Great Again” etc…
        As far as I know Mrs May is saying openly “Brexit and you will be poorer” and half the population here can’t wait
        That makes it dramatic, obvious and unfathomable.

        Reply
        1. Clive

          While I have a lot of sympathy for Remain’s position and the anguish of the people who are genuinely of the option that Remain is the logical view, it’s telling that — what? — two years plus after the vote, Remain is still trying to convince Leave’ers to change their minds by throwing economic arguments into the debate.

          But like it or not, a lot of Leave opinion is formed on sovereignty and political foundations. If Remain could deliver knock-out victories on those fronts (or even an on points decision) then trumpeting its indisputable no-brainer economic wins would be a coup de grâce. It cannot do that, however. By refusing to engage with Leave on its chosen argumentative territory — sovereignty and politics — and then getting lost in procedural ruses such as a second referendum or parliamentary gamesmanship, it cannot break out of its c. 50% popular support and into the 60+% public opinion echelon it has to reach to shift the balance of power.

          I hate to break this to you, but still trying re-fighting a battle lost two years ago is futile. Remain needed to concentrate on damage limitations. Instead, it insists on keeping trying for an absolute victory — and finds itself increasingly outflanked and pushing events ever harder in to precisely the outcome it is most attempting to avert.

          Cooper and Grieve’s amendments — along with the Speaker who seems content to have no pretence at neutrality — just looked like an unconstitutional power grab. That’s no way to win over small ‘c’ conservative Middle England. In troubled times, you never want to be the ones threatening to rip up the rule book.

          Reply
          1. PKMKII

            But like it or not, a lot of Leave opinion is formed on sovereignty and political foundations. If Remain could deliver knock-out victories on those fronts (or even an on points decision) then trumpeting its indisputable no-brainer economic wins would be a coup de grâce. It cannot do that, however.

            I can respect someone whose argument is, the economic pains of Brexit are a necessary sacrifice for the sovereignty of the UK. Although it depends heavily on how much economic pain they as an individual will suffer. There seems to be a bit of a stereotype of the old pensioner Brexiteer with state guaranteed benefits versus the young remainer who’s been left unmoored by austerity and sees Brexit as just further undermining their chances for gainful employment. I don’t know how much that translates into reality.

            However, there were plenty of con artists (Farage) who were selling Leave on “The UK will save a fortune!” and only admitted after the vote that they were lying.Those people are bottom feeders, and I’m sure will re-emerge when the No-Deal fallout brings the economic pain and they’ll be there to try and push an new, even stronger austerity regime. Plus the people who really honestly believed that lie. The problem is that Remain was seeing all of Leave as those two, and failed to acknowledge the political angle that many earnestly held.

            Reply
          2. vlade

            Well, I’d not argue that Remain can’t do it – especially on the sovereignty. The fact the argument was never put together has I believe more to do with how the UK pols see the EU rather than because it would be impossible, and because those arguments are not as easy to grasp as the ‘solutions’ peddled by Leave which assume the world has not changed since 19th century.

            On sovereignty – well, in the current world, you can have sovereignty only under two conditions:

            If you’re one of THE kids on the block (which militarily means the US, China and Russia, economically the US, China or the EU). The set the rules, by which most of the other countries have to operate (but the rulesetters can and do break). The UK (and similar states) can choose whether they will be rule-takers, or participate in the rule-making. Note I’m not arguing whether the rules are bad or good, but that’s the reality.

            Or, if you accept a near-total autarky ala North Korea (it’d be pointed out that most of the entities above can operate close to autarky too).

            On the politics, the argument is more local. That is, the “ever closer union”, which the EU pushes. But in reality, it’s not “the EU”. It’s really French, with Germans being uncomfortably dragged along. But most of the other EU states, both politicians and their populace (and I’d argue that even French populace, but David, Col S and other with more exposure there may tell me I’m wrong) don’t want it. But in the absence of Germans willing to stand up against it, there’s no-one with the clout to be able to do it. A LOT of disappointment for the smaller EU states with the UK stems from the fact that before they had, at least now and then, a champion for their cause (which was not ever closer union), and with the UK gone, there’s no-one else.

            But in a similar way that Germans still don’t want to lead the EU, the UK could have, but never gave a toss – because, as we can see from the recent politics, for the UK pols the world is the UK, and the US (since it can’t avoid it anymore, when it saved UK’s bacon in both world wars). If the UK really wanted to rebuild the Empire, it could have done much worse than to start with taking smaller EU countries into its orbit – and give French the finger on their own creation at the same time. But that would involve hard work with the European politics, something that the at the top level UK ignored for decades.

            Incidentally, the same sovereignty and politics argument can be made for Scotland, so why are the same Tories who push this for the UK telling Scots they can’t do the same? And I don’t buy the ‘but they had they referendum’ argument. The UK had the “join the EC” referendum too. The leavers vote that things changes. Well, so they did for Scotland – one of the main arguments for remain there was “but you’ll be out of the EU, you want EU, you have to stay”.

            All the sovereignty and politics campaigners should also campaign for the indyref2 – yet, there they are as fervent unionists as Mr. Juncker in Europe.

            Reply
        2. woof

          >My point is that all the atrocities which you quite rightly list are done under the guise of “Making America Great Again.”

          no, all those atrocities were done under the guise of Hope and Change. We shouldn’t confuse our demagogues; things are bad enough.

          Reply
      2. ChrisFromGeorgia

        One might add the US allowing a private cartel of health care corporations to constantly violate anti-trust laws, including those already on the books. How many have been impoverished by surprise medical bills, jacked up prescription drug prices and inflated procedures that cost pennies on the dollar in places like Mexico?

        The list goes on. Meanwhile the original posters question raises another one – doesn’t a democratic form of government have higher obligations besides ensuring the “wealth” of its citizens? Would it be better to be a vassal state subservient to the E.U. and have a higher standard of living, or a lower GDP yet retain the autonomy and independence that the UK has historically had? Seems that at least in principle the governed should have the right to choose either one. Given how close the vote was, one side is going to be left bitter and unhappy. Trying to have things both ways may be the problem.

        Not being in the UK I can’t say this with any authority, but there seems to be a failure of vision here.
        May should have articulated some positive benefits of leaving … something to run towards, not just run away from the E.U. Maybe only Corbyn could have done that, if he had the vision (which I cannot say one way or another.)

        Reply
        1. Clive

          Maybe you’re familiar with the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Time’s Orphan https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Time%27s_Orphan_(episode)

          The trope is that, in order to hold onto something (Miles and Keiko’s child, as here, in a plot device) you have to be prepared to let it go.

          Remain, to use our current framing, over a generation or more, attempted to keep a grasp on the U.K. being a member of the EU. The political consensus was that the U.K. had to remain a member of the EU Just Because. There was little political space for dissent or questions on this. Debate and the ability to express a possibility for a different relationship was, necessarily, absent. Leave, as we now term it, was a fringe belief. The mainstream parties colluded to keep this consensus, well, the consensus.

          But as Princess Leia rightly admonished Darth Vader, the tighter the Empire’s grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers. Eventually, it all bubbled to the surface and no political actor could stop it making a right old mess of the stove top. The EU brand acquired a toxicity, which wasn’t that well deserved in an objective assessment, but by then it didn’t matter. Having had no option to express disquiet for so long, when the opportunity for expressing disquiet came about, disquiet was pretty firmly expressed. Society wanted to send a message. And so it did.

          However, all, in my opinion, society wanted to do was send a message. It was probably only at best ambivalent about acting on that message, having sent it. But, having hit The Big Red Button, events are now in motion and difficult if not impossible to walk back.

          Reply
          1. SW94

            All true except that Leave is now proving very hard to define in any deliverable way- every single version of Leave that has been proposed has encountered unrebuttable arguments as to why it is a dreadful thing to do. In a way Leave now has the the same problem that Remain had during the campaign- how to defend the indefensible. They do so by brushing the arguments under the carpet, but then someone, usually another leaver, snatches the carpet away.

            As a remainer (albeit one who would accept a Norway type solution) I sit quietly and watch. The longer it goes on, the less likely it all becomes. Her stubbornness, abetted by Corbyn ditto, all plays my way- will they reach a deal to outflank the ERG- unlikely in my view, there just isn’t enough (any?) overlap in their views. Will Corbyn cave at the 11th hour? Possibly, but it won’t get him what he really wants (power) even more than Brexit, or only as a big gamble on what the DUP do when the WA is passed. Will the ERG and DUP cave? Even less likely.

            Will she accept responsibility for managing a no deal? And could she carry her party with her? I think the answer is no to both. So another can kicking, somehow.

            Yesterday showed how to unite the Tories- a Tsipras-election “to strengthen my hand in the negotiations” could be the way forward for her. And hope Labour fall apart over the second referendum.

            I am resigned to no clarity until late March as to what will happen on 30th March.

            Reply
            1. David

              I think there’s a subtle difference between Leave and Not Remain, and my feeling is that a lot of people voted for the latter. The fact that, as Clive says, the Establishment supported the EU Just Because, automatically made it suspect in the minds of many people who wanted to stick it to the Establishment somehow. In a very real sense, Britain’s EU membership was collateral damage in the rebellion of ordinary people against elites. If Remain had actually run a sensible campaign, rather than insulting and trying to frighten people into voting for them, we wouldn’t be in this mess now. In many ways, the EU is a classic issue that divides the UK (or England anyway) along class lines. The advertised benefits of EU membership are disproportionately enjoyed by the wealthy. To expect ordinary people who can barely make ends meet to vote to retain easier travel between EU nations and a chance to spend a year at a foreign university was always a silly idea. If anything, the increasingly shrill tone of the Remainers is probably making things worse.

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              1. H. Alexander Ivey

                My two bits: in the US, race and racial policies are the tools to build, maintain, and extend economic separation. In the UK, it is sovereignty and policies about their colonies that are the preferred tools.

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              2. SW94

                I agree with your distinction between Leave and Not Remain. There is also the issue of people’s second or even third preference when they see that the Leave actually on offer isn’t what they personally want. Just as we have seen with the meaningful vote, the debate on the second referendum will only get legs when leavers starting objecting to the Leave they are offered and have no other route to change it.

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        2. Avidremainer

          Mr Zuckerberg was summoned to both the EU and UK parliaments to give evidence. He snubbed the UK parliament and presented himself to the European parliament.
          Mr Trump wished to set tariffs on a Canadian plane maker called Bombardier which operates in the UK. The EU said ” oh no you don’t Mr President ” and guess what? No tariffs.
          I give the above examples to show two things: a) What UK power will be like when we leave and b) What our power would be like if we stayed.
          The idea that we are a vassal state in the EU is such rot. There are 73 UK MPs in the European Parliament. We have two European Commissioners appointed by the UK PM. All policy is commenced by the Council of Ministers which consists of Ministers from each members’ country’s government’s relevant department. This Council then formulates policy and instructs the Commission to make practical the Council’s policy.The Council oversees the Commission’s work and decides whether or no to accept it. It does this by a qualified majority vote or if the circumstances are important each country has a veto. The EU proposal, if it comes out of the Council is then sent to each country’s parliament to be ratified.
          We are no more a vassal than an inhabitant of Wisconsin is a vassal of your State Department.
          The idea that European politicians do not control the European Commission is fanciful. I do not think that the 27 member states who will remain members consider themselves vassals and nor should they.

          Reply
  11. Synoia

    Brexit was always a crash out or remain.

    The “middle ground”, as was discovered, was a remain-with-no-influence-over-policy.

    As for the welfare of the people in the UK, we are discussing a Tory government here, coupled with a “3rd way” segment of the Labor party, aka “bleeding heart Tories”, with an amazing amount of class contempt for the peasants.

    The Tonypandy riots are a good example of the Tories care for the people.

    Disclaimer: I attended a school where I remember 1 pupil (not myself) as a Labor supporter. I was an indifferent outsider.

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    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      Labour supporters were rare at Stowe, but one noticed a marked increase in the sixth form. Same with Liberals.

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  12. ChrisPacific

    One of the articles following the vote highlighted the elapsed time between May announcing that she would renegotiate as instructed (it would be “difficult” but she believed that she could “secure agreement”) and Tusk asserting that no such renegotiation was possible. I think it came out to 7 minutes.

    The media largely ignored this and have been proceeding with the “difficult but possible” narrative, because for the UK asking “Pleeeeeeease?” and being told no repeatedly counts as reopening negotiations.

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    1. Avidremainer

      I voted “No” in 1975. I canvased for Labour on that 1983 manifesto. A combination of Delors speech to the TUC in 1986 and conversations with Tony Benn turned me into a European. Mr Benn’s simple argument was that the longer we remained in the EU the harder it would be to leave until it would become impossible. Since 1986 the Labour party has been pro the EU.
      To suggest that the Socialist Worker contributed to the leave vote in any meaningful way stretches belief.

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      1. Clive

        It’s not that the tiny circulation socialist press is in a position to do mass messaging. It’s more that to claim Leave is exclusively a right wing phenomena is only a partial view of reality. Plus, Labour voted for both the referendum and A50 triggering. An alleged right wing plot which sucks in Labour to assist is by definition not a right wing plot.

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  13. Avidremainer

    Still don’t buy it.
    Labour have been bystanders in this car crash. The Tories own Brexit lock stock and barrel.

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    1. Avidremainer

      I was born a Catholic. My school was full of Irish, Polish, Cypriot, Italian, German, and Maltese sons of immigrants. Our sisters were of course educated at a different school.
      There is a significant proportion of UK citizens who will remain EU citizens post Brexit.
      If things turn sour I suspect that a fair number will be off-not necessarily to Ireland.
      Is anyone out there doing any work on assessing the impact of such an possible outcome?

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    2. Joe Well

      Why aren’t more leaving *now* to anywhere in the EU in order to establish residence, not just Ireland? Surely Eire will pull up the drawbridge once the exodus gets underway.

      A year ago a commenter here said she was in the process of establishing residence in France and it seemed like a brilliant idea if you could manage it.

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      1. Clive

        This really does warrant a more in-depth exploration than is possible here, but it is just not that simple.

        I’ve investigated pretty much every option to relocate, not specifically because of Brexit, but more in search of a better quality of life generally. And probably not a little wanderlust, too. There are major implications, the main one being tax. In the UK, the tax rules are explicitly clear: to avoid any residual tax liability you must “sever all ties“. Retaining any sort of UK footprint — property ownership, return “visits” to family, UK-sourced income, even children still in a UK school (even post a divorce), being registered with a GP in primary care and many more triggers besides will catch you out. As a member of the EU, UK citizens had substantial protection from UK double-tax liability dues to Freedom of Movement. Now, living in an EU27 country will be no different than living in any third country.

        The only exceptions are Dubai and Monaco (and a few others on the same model) where you’re tax-exempt merely as a result of building up sufficient numbers of residency days. But these countries are essentially libertarian paradises — everything you see, everywhere you go, everything you use has a toll booth attached to it.

        I consulted an immigration attorney with regards to a US visa and was appalled at their lack of knowledge about UK tax (not, I suppose, especially surprising as it wasn’t their area of speciality). The guy said, more or less, most people don’t worry about complying with any of the formalities, the chances of detection and enforcement action were cited as being a low risk. I shudder to think how much similar bad advice is getting put about and how many are being lulled into a completely baseless sense of security on this topic. Getting money from non-doms who aren’t, in practice as non-dom’ey as they’re making out to be is a big revenue target for HMRC — this will not end well for people who think It Won’t Happen To Me and are just chancing it on the basis that no-one is going to notice their UK assets or UK income.

        Then there is the usual lifestyle must-dos — employment, accommodation, quality of the society and culture you’re looking at living in and so on. Every country I’ve looked into has the same trade-offs: large (or well-to-do) metropolitan areas with generally good support services and infrastructure, reasonable employment prospects — and sky-high accommodation costs. Then you’ve got the rest of it — flyover, in other words, with inexpensive accommodation but an awful lot of deprivation, neglect and poor social support.

        Most countries have immigration requirements — a job offer or an investable funds with further strings attached to creating local employment. While the latter gives you some freedom, if your business runs out of capital before getting established, you’re on borrowed time. And if your residency depends on your employer keeping you employed, that’s a potentially nasty dynamic which can lead to your employer being well aware of this fact and exploiting you accordingly.

        I haven’t even covered language barriers. Or healthcare costs. Or how a society can look like one thing when you’re either young or, at least, not old and how it reacts to its older population. Many societies discriminate blatantly to people in their sixties and older, even to those who were born there. Expats certainly don’t get enhanced treatment, far from it.

        Then you’ve got the “how do I roll this back?” risk — most UK expats in Spain who moved there 20 years ago have been so long off the UK property ladder, they can barely afford a trailer park home if they want to return. Or are unprepared for the high cost of living in the UK compared with less expensive countries. So having to return, due to family concerns, health issues or just plain old homesickness is difficult if not riddled with impossible to accept compromises.

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        1. vlade

          Majority of the EU countries have double-taxation treaties (which still mean you have to fill the tax return, which is a major pain).

          As you say, you’d likely not be able to claim no family ties to the UK, so you’d run into some issues there, although if you had a full-time employment, you’d likely qualify for split-year treatment (it is actually covered in worked-out examples in the HMT guidance docs), which is really the start for all that.

          I’m speaking as someone who has looked into this a lot for the last few years, as I split my time between the UK and the EU (and nowadays spend maybe 30-40 nights a year in the UK. I keep my UK tax residence more to avoid having to fill two tax returns at the moment, but with Brexit I will likely drop that, as I need the EU health coverage more), and also when I arrived to the UK more than a decade ago

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        2. Joe Well

          Clive, I hear you. I’ve lived the challenges you’re discussing here as an American who’s lived abroad and I applaud your clear-headedness. Particularly with regard to the property ladder, I wish now I’d bought in when the condo market crashed circa 2009-2012.

          Just to give some counter-perspective:

          1. The first person I’d talk to are other British expats, not lawyers in the host country. There are ins and outs you don’t know until you’ve done it yourself.

          2. I wish I knew anything about UK taxes. At least for me as a US taxpayer (and US citizens and perm. residents are liable on all worldwide income over $100k/year, and for the totality if they are in the country for more than 30 days in a 365-day period), there are treaties with many other countries whereby you can avoid double taxation if you are a full-time, long-term employee. Also, at minimum, you can deduct the other country’s taxes from your earnings and at least avoid paying tax on that.

          3. Property ladder: I am assuming that in a crash-out, Sterling and/or real estate will crash except in certain London prestige quarters so I don’t know why that’s an issue for you. Seriously, I would have sold any property, put the money in account in USD, CAD, yen, Swiss francs, etc. I wouldn’t even trust the euro now. At any rate, you’re almost certainly at the top of the real estate market so why not sell?

          4. Age discrimination, employment prospects, etc.: again, assuming the worst case scenario, the crisis in the UK will make all that look mild.

          5. Language: as someone who speaks Spanish almost as a native from years of living in that language, it’s not all a positive. People who don’t speak the local language live in a rose-colored world of fantasy (I’ve done it in Asia), and at any rate, “expat jobs” want you to speak English all the time with only a minor commitment to the local language. Seriously, the professional-class locals want to practice/show off their English and then have the social capital that comes with helping you learn the basics of the local language. Few societies are as open as North America or the UK, so, the social opportunities aren’t great anyway whereas the expat world is remarkably open.

          6. It’s all temporary, just a few years until things calm back down in the UK.

          I’m so sorry you’re in this position.

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        3. Joe Well

          Regarding taxes: what you want to do is talk to an expat tax specialist, not a normal tax accountant much less an immigration attorney.

          Greenback Expat Tax Services are well known and I think they handle UK tax returns as well as US.

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      2. Avidremainer

        An EU citizen does not have to establish residence as the UK is currently planning to make EU citizens do . You just claim your treaty rights and, providing there are no exclusion orders against you, then that is it. You have to obey local law i.e register at the Hotel DE Ville ( France and Spain), local police (Germany) or local office of the Ministry of the Interior ( Italy) etc… You have to obtain a National Identity card and register for local and national taxes and a lot more involvement with what may seem a weighty mound of form filling and interviews but at the end of the day you are guaranteed to become a legal resident.
        I suspect that many UK “residents” on the Med and Tuscany have not followed due process and do not have residence there. They are in for a shock post Brexit.

        Reply
        1. Joe Well

          I suspect that many UK “residents” on the Med and Tuscany have not followed due process and do not have residence there. They are in for a shock post Brexit.

          This is truly shocking, if true. I had thought based on what little I’ve read that the British retirees in Spain etc. were discussing all this nonstop and were on top of things.

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  14. Bob Anderson

    Both the EU and UK are bourgeois states. One a market consortium. The other a old market consortium that is no longer functional. There is no sovereign power to be had. The plutocrats control everybody. You are all globalists. When the debt bubble collapses so do all bourgeois states. It will be a free for all baby.

    Reply

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