Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice in Wonderland
The noise to signal ratio seems even higher than ever on the Brexit front, so I hope I haven’t missed anything of importance.
Parliament tacitly accepts May’s run out the clock strategy. The overriding feature of the last few weeks is that Parliament, after a saber-rattling about “taking back control” not only appears to have fallen into quiet acceptance that Theresa May is driving the Brexit train, key members of what could be called the Resistance have shifted into cooperating with her “run out the clock” strategy.
Recall that May contrived to waste two weeks with her pretense that she could wrest concessions from the EU over the Irish backstop. Recall that the Government supported a motion on January 29 authorizing this obvious non-starter. Not only did EU Council President Donald Tusk’s spokesperson tweet seven minutes after Parliament approved the idea that the Withdrawal Agreement was not open for renegotiation, but as expected, other senior EU officials quickly affirmed Tusk’s position.
But it gets even better, or worse, depending on your point of view. It was cheeky enough for May to budget over two weeks of time for a certain-to-fail round of meetings and schedule her report back to Parliament for February 13, with a “Valentine’s Day massacre” predicted. There’s been virtually no Brexit business in the meantime.
Instead, according to the BBC, May’s next move is:
On Wednesday, Mrs May will ask MPs for more time to get legally-binding changes to the controversial Northern Irish backstop, which she believes will be enough to secure a majority in Parliament for her deal.
But the following day, Labour will attempt to force the government to hold the final, “meaningful vote” on Mrs May’s Brexit deal by 26 February.
Mind you, May was party to a joint statement that had some handwaves about aspirations but also included:
President Juncker underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which represents a carefully balanced compromise between the European Union and the UK, in which both sides have made significant concessions to arrive at a deal. President Juncker however expressed his openness to add wording to the Political Declaration agreed by the EU27 and the UK in order to be more ambitious in terms of content and speed when it comes to the future relationship between the European Union and the UK. President Juncker drew attention to the fact that any solution would have to be agreed by the European Parliament and the EU27.
Junkcer and May’s teams will keep talking and Juncker and May will meet again near the end of the month. Parliament is still acting as if the EU will rescue them. They won’t.
But this ruse has allowed May to kick back the date when May is supposed to present her Plan B if she has secured no concessions and Parliament gets another vote till February 27. May is clearly hoping to get some crumbs from the EU that she can present as real changes so as to keep her from having to present a Plan B, since various insider reports have repeatedly indicated she doesn’t have one.
Recall that it was originally set to be no later than 21 days after the January 15 “meaningful vote” that May lost so catastrophically…after having pushed back that date a month.
Moreover, some of the Tory MPs who had been maneuvering to block a “no deal Brexit” or secure a lengthy extension seem to be standing aside on May’s gambit. From the Guardian on Friday:
A crunch vote in which MPs could force Theresa May’s hand on Brexit is set to be delayed until the end of the month or even later….
Under the timetable agreed by the government, May must either present a revised Brexit deal to the Commons on Thursday, which appears unlikely to happen, or else table a motion to which MPs can add amendments.
In a similar process just over a week ago, the Commons supported May’s attempt to renegotiate the Irish backstop but voted down amendments tabled by cross-party alliances of Brexit-sceptic MPs that would have extended article 50 and given parliament more control.
It had been expected the MPs would try again on Thursday if May did not return with a deal. But sources close to the group, led by the Tory MP Nick Boles and Labour’s Yvette Cooper, said it seemed likely that the prime minister would be given more time to discuss a Labour Brexit proposal and hold more talks with Brussels.
The Ultras must be laughing their heads off. Everything is going their way!
It may be that the “take back control” types gamed out that any success could lead to a court challenge, which could create enough disarray as to raise the odds of a crash out. Or they may have been chastened by their loss last month and don’t want to try again unless they are sure they have the votes.
However, some Conservative MPs are still pressing for “mass resignations” as a way to force May to heel or to resign. But I don’t see May leaving office absent a vote of no confidence unless she is unable to fill ministerial posts after the next bout of departures.
Admittedly, the Guardian’s report on Boles’ acquiescence is inconsistent with this weekend account by Reuters:
An attempt by Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper and Conservative Nick Boles to give parliament the power to request a delay to Britain’s March 29 exit was defeated by lawmakers on Jan. 29, but Boles said he would renew that effort on Feb. 14 if a deal has not been passed by then.
Labour’s “customs union” unicorn dies a well deserved death. The Guardian passage above mentioned “a Labour Brexit proposal.” Labour’s plan has been treated by too many people in the UK press as a viable alternative. It isn’t. It called for a “permanent customs union” as if that would be sufficient to create frictionless trade when it wouldn’t. On top of that, Corbyn maintained that the EU would allow the UK to influence EU trade policy….a concession the EU has never granted to any customs union member. More generally, “third countries” don’t play a role in rulemaking.
Our Clive and vlade were similarly not at all impressed. From Clive last Thursday:
Corbyn’s been gibbering away inanely this morning about what his beige lines are for supporting May and having followed, or tried to follow, the logic he’s using, I just can’t see how any voter could make head nor tail of what a Labour vote would be for (or against). And I’ve sat through PLP meetings where Party policy is discussed and formulated, for crying out loud.
Corbyn’s beige lines (I like!) are a joke. They are internally inconsistent (we want customes union but be able to negotiate our own trade agreeements! We want to be out of the EU but in the EU institutions!), which tells me that either they are irrelevant PR exercise, or Labour is clueless. Or both.
May sent a letter to Corbyn that amounted to a rejection but still allowed for the possibility of further talks.
NEW: Theresa May has written to Jeremy Corbyn outlining her response to Labour’s Brexit proposals.
At first glance, seems like May has conceded very little to Corbyn (rejecting 3 out of his 5 demands).
Here is the letter and a quick summary: pic.twitter.com/nIosgk1fzC
— Shehab Khan (@ShehabKhan) February 10, 2019
Given the reaction on the Twitterverse to May’s response, it does not appear that Labour supporters will be mollified by that gesture, although the Financial Times put an awfully positive spin on it:
Theresa May has indicated her willingness to work with Labour to break the Brexit impasse, offering fresh concessions on workers’ rights and calling for further cross-party talks.
In a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, the prime minister suggested legislation to enforce a promise to maintain workers’ rights and environmental protections after Brexit.
Mrs May also pledged a commitment to “asking parliament whether it wishes to follow suit” whenever the EU makes future changes in those areas.
Those promises could help persuade some wavering Labour MPs to back the government’s Brexit deal as fears rise of a no-deal departure from the EU.
But Eurosceptic Conservative MPs are likely to see the letter as an attempt to bounce them into backing Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement for fear of an even “softer” cross-party Brexit.
Some other outlets are spinning May’s willingness to keep talking to Corbyn as a major opening. Please. May is talking to the EU too.
But it is overwhelmingly Conservative-leaning outlets that are making much of the “jaw-jaw” offer, and this is to show disapproval.
Second referendum momentum fading. We’ve been skeptical about a second referendum, viewing it as implausible that the EU would give the UK a long enough extension to conduct one that complied with UK requirements (and rest assured, any attempt to cut corners would be challenged by Leave backers). It is also not clear how a referendum could be conducted so as to settle the Brexit question, given that “Leave” comes in many flavor, and Remain only one, plus some Leave options treated as available probably aren’t (the big fave of “Norway” has been ruled out by Norway, and their approval is necessary for the UK to join the Efta). And the EU no doubt has also noticed the problem of how to conduct a truly dispositive second referendum, which is another reason for them not to give a sufficiently long extension were the UK to make the request (the last thing they want is more faffing about).
Similarly, if the level of press and Twitter commentary is any guide, the push for a second referendum has lost steam. The latest sighing is from The Sun:
A Labour veteran who voted Leave plans to make a formal bid for a second referendum in the Commons next week.
Roger Godsiff says it was only right that the public should have the “final say” on the Prime Minister’s deal when it is finalised.
He will table an amendment to Theresa May’s “withdrawal motion” which is set to be debated on Valentine’s Day.
The move is understood to have infuriated campaign chiefs at the People’s Vote – who fear there is no chance of a second referendum bid winning a majority in the House of Commons.
Tory Remainers Sarah Wollaston and Philip Lee pulled a proposed second referendum amendment at the last minute last month under intense pressure from People’s Vote.
Even though the Conservatives are making much of the slacekening of second referendum momentum, a big impediment is that Labour isn’t backing it.
EU has given up on the UK. The EU had repeatedly said it would welcome the UK backing out of Brexit. However, the repeated attacks on EU stances and politicians in the UK press, the lack of preparation for talks and the repeated out-to-lunch demands, and most recently, the bad faith of trying to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement has sapped good will toward the UK within the EU leadership. Moreover, as some readers have pointed out, what happens if a sullen and divided UK were to rejoin the EU? Not only would it be at least as obstructionist as before, the frustrated Brexiteers would be scheming to revive the departure process, which means the rest of the EU would see the UK as having one foot out the door.
I had detected a cooling of tone toward the UK, and I have some company in that reading. From Chris Grey, on Donald Tusk’s infamous “special place in hell” remarks1 of last week:
But Tusk’s remarks were revealing of something else, far more uncomfortable for remainers for all that they may agree with his diagnosis of Brexiter vandalism. His comment was clearly unhelpful to their cause – for example, if there were to be another referendum it would be quoted endlessly – but as his other remarks made clear, he now regards this cause as a lost one.
The dynamic of the relationship between the EU and the remain campaign has been shifting for a while, and changed decisively once the Withdrawal Agreement was completed. From then on, for the EU polity, Brexit was a done deal. Remainers may be pro-EU, but the EU is no longer pro-remain. I don’t mean, of course, that there are not plenty of individuals, including politicians, in the EU who still hope that Brexit might be reversed. But the institutional logic has now shifted, and Tusk’s remarks are a reflection of this.
This is why Tusk seemed to take some pleasure in the knowledge that his remarks would wind up the UK press. Before, the EU took visible pains to remain silent at critical points so as not to appear to be trying to influence politics.2 The EU sees no need to observe such niceties.
Bad post-Brexit news keeps coming in. Even though EU short-term emergency measures in some critical areas like aviation and tourism will blunt some of the worst cliff effects in the event of Brexit, bad news keeps dribbling in. Airbus had already said it would leave the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit; it said last month it was looking into accelerating those plans. Nissan cancelled its plans to build the X-Trail in the UK, despite large subsidies, citing Brexit as a concern.
Another sour development on the Japanese front: Japan the UK has not made enough progress on a new bilateral trade deal, and in the event of a crash-out, it won’t roll over existing terms it had via the EU:
Japanese Customs here tells Japan’s businesses that “conditions remain unpredictable” re UK & Brexit but the new EU free trade area low tariffs won’t apply to imports from UK, and to expect WTO tariffs in and out from March 30 with No Deal/ no transition https://t.co/LvWpYpMzUl
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) February 8, 2019
From the Financial Times, which broke the story:
Britain and Japan have made little progress on a new trade deal in the past 18 months, according to officials involved in the talks, with tariffs set to revert to World Trade Organization levels at the end of March unless the UK ratifies a Brexit deal…
It is now too late for the Japanese Diet to ratify any agreement before Brexit is scheduled to take place on March 29. There is also a wide gap in expectations about a trade accord, which would apply either in the case of no-deal Brexit or at the end of Britain’s planned transition period, which is due to end in December 2020.
And here is the bit we had foretold: Prospective trade partners would see the UK as in a weak position post Brexit, both due to its smaller economic weight, as well as it having an urgent need to secure trade agreements. Only those who thought their existing treaty was particularly favorable to them would roll them over; everyone else would be tightening the screws:
Tokyo is confident that it can secure better terms from the UK than it did in negotiations with the much larger EU, and is not willing to duplicate the existing treaty precisely in either a bilateral deal or in talks for the UK to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership group.
US companies have even roused themselves to discuss Brexit risks. From today’s Financial Times:
Corporate America is sounding an alarm over mounting Brexit risks, beefing up warnings to investors as boardrooms worry that a disorderly departure threatens international business…
In its “risk factors” published on Friday, defence contractor Lockheed Martin said a persistently depressed sterling after Brexit could “negatively impact the ability of the UK government to afford our products”…
While banks and other financial institutions had been preparing for Brexit for several months, she [Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Valerie Ford Jacob] added, companies in other sectors had been further behind.
In its annual SEC disclosure on Friday, Cadbury owner Mondelez said: “In the case of a hard Brexit, our exposure to disruptions to our supply chain, the imposition of tariffs and currency devaluation in the UK could result in a material impact to our consolidated revenue, earnings and cash flow.”
Cerner, a $18bn market capitalisation health IT company based in Missouri, said “limited progress so far in the negotiations” increased the possibility of the UK leaving without a deal and “significant market and economic disruption”.
Google parent Alphabet, while not spelling out the possibility of no deal, said it “may be unable to effectively manage” post-Brexit volatility in foreign exchange.
A post in Verfassungsblog (hat tip guurst) argues that Brexit is a constitutional crisis. I see the article describing important stress points, but, for instance, party allegiances being less clear-cut and rigid than they once were doesn’t rise to a Constitutional challenge but a party breakdown, particularly since the UK does not have a virtually-hard-coded two party system the way the US does. And a list that omits austerity as a trigger for loss of legitimacy and stress on the political system seems incomplete.
So perhaps we’ll still have a big blowup mid-February. But May is doing her level best to keep buying more time for herself, even as it becomes more obvious that her favorite ploy comes at the expense of the UK.
I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) February 6, 2019
And, per the Guardian:
During his press conference with Varadkar, Tusk also claimed there was a void of leadership at the heart of the remain movement and appeared to lament Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to back moves towards a second referendum.
“At the moment, the pro-Brexit stance of the UK prime minister, and the leader of the opposition, rules out this question,” Tusk said. “Today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for remain. I say this without satisfaction, but you can’t argue with the facts.”
2 This may also have been Michel Barnier and EU Council members overcompensating for the two times that EU’s dim view of May’s utter lack of understanding of Brexit basics were leaked from dinners with Juncker with only a handful of other attended. The most popular view is that Martin Selymar was behind the leaks.
Question to the commentariat: to what extent do you think that MPs who voted against the withdrawal agreement will be blamed for a no deal outcome? If not, who will the no deal outcome be blamed on? This will determine the shape of politics for a long time to come, it would seem.
Six months ago I would have said that the blame would be put on EU intransigence, treachorous remainers, John Bercow, Andrew Adonis, Olly Robbins, Emmanuel Macron, the BBC, James O’Brien, George Soros, the CBI, the alignment of the stars…
A real Jackson Pollock of scattered blame.
That’s made a lot harder by the way that hardliners have embraced the concept. I can’t imagine it’ll cause much long-term damage to their standing or reputation, but it’s going to be difficult for Mogg and his minions to claim that the specific outcome that they have been championing is the fault of somebody else.
That’s a nice metaphor.
From the very little I can understand, I think some people on all sides are throwing monkey wrenches into Brexit because either because they will not get what they want so let’s get payback or because they believe, if they are obstreperous enough, people will give them what they want.
Just when I think American politics a poisoned stew of greed, incompetence, and folly, I see the Brexit mess, which somehow seems even more toxic.
It will be like Iraq – everyone will get the taint, and Westminster will lose legitimacy.
The separatists will gain most as Westminster will be discredited, and labour is likely to gain since they are in opposition.
Corbyns position is such that it’s likely he can flip into a revoke or eferendum position in march to distance himself from blame (wholly pr).
Whichever way you cut it, any negative impact of Brexit, deal or no deal, will be blamed on Remainers. The accusation will be “sabotage”. Of course by this time we know that there is no need to have any evidence to sustain the charge.
The press will mostly blame the EU. It is what they have been doing for 30 years. The gullible will continue to buy into their lies. Those less gullible will not and will probably be accused of disloyalty. Goebels operated from a similar hymn sheet 80 years ago. The lessons he taught in manipulating public opinion have been well learned by the UK mass market newspapers.
That will only work for so long. As debt liquidations continues on, the true goal will be exposed. Then comes the reaction. Accept plutocratic tyranny or begin to liquidate its handlers as the “globalist” traitor “they” are.
I don’t understand what makes globalists traitors. I’ve worked in 4 different countries in the past 10 years, and I don’t feel a particular connection to any of them.
They will blame May initially, because that’s why she’s there … to be the “fall guy” for what many predicted inevitable early on in this process. Rumblings of a leadership contests will likely start in April. That said, the ambitious won’t likely step up till 2022 or 2023 – or until they perceive that things are bottoming out.
I don’t think anyone serious will put the blame on the failure to ratify a poisoned chalice agreement. Instead Remainers will blame those who brought the referendum in the first place (Brexiteers and David Cameron). Meanwhile Brexiteers will blame Remainers for sabotaging what, in their swiveling eyes, should have been an easy negotiation. After all, you only have to demand that Johnny-foreigner accepts your conditions unquestioningly, and if he doesn’t, – well, it can only be because you’re weak.
This has long sat uneasily with me. Yes, the four EFTA members would need to agree to the UK’s EFTA membership, and there reasons why any of them might be both for and against it.
However, if that were the only stumbling block and the EU27 and UK decided that they really wanted something that looks a bit like EFTA membership, what could Norway (or any other EFTA member) realistically do to stop the UK and the EU drawing up a treaty that looked a lot like EFTA membership?
Hell, just say that the UK and EU now form EFTZ (the European Free Trade Zone) if need be.
If that’s where landing zone is going to be, I can’t see Norway’s grumblings being the thing that stops it. UK political objection is far more likely to be the thing that means that it’s off the table.
The EU is not just a legal agreement. It is also a huge set of institutional arrangements, like the ECJ, various forms of regulatory oversight, compliance mechanisms, and participation in trade treaties that the bloc has already negotiated. Ditto the Efta.
Richard North, the author of the most comprehensive text on how the Efta could have been applied to the UK (it runs to hundreds of pages) disagrees with your view:
In his original proposal, North (prefiguring why the Efta members would be leery) proposed expanding Efta and making it a competitor trade bloc to the EU. This is the sort of UK throwing its weight around that the the Efta members were concerned about. And he called it Flexcit for a reason:
That seems fair. And obviously I’d defer to North on all matters EFTA. If he says that it can’t be done, I’d be pretty happy to trust his judgement on it.
The EU gives EFTA and Switzerland more generous leeway because they are minnows. The UK is a much bigger economy and has a history of obstructionism and bad-faith negotiating that means it does not get the benefit of doubt and will be put under the tightest of straitjackets.
A history of obstructionism and bad faith in what respect – the WA or some more longer timeframe? I could give you the former, although some delusion is also mixed in, but the latter is just trade politics as usual.
The UK believes that the EU must be about Markets and Trade Only whereas the EU believes that to facilitate Trade and Markets, shared values, legal frameworks, standards, and even a “social dimension” are very much necessary (And for the EUR to work there needs to be federal integration within the Eurozone). The UK sees all this as “the unneeded imposing of alien values” and has always fought the EU over it.
The EU seems to favour an Interest Based negotiation style, whereas the UK seems to favour the Positional negotiation style. What is “usual” to the UK may well seem belligerent and obnoxious to the other side.
Your last comment is correct but for different reasons than you posit.
1. The EU operates under civil law. A great deal more is spelled out in statute than in the UK, which like the US is a common law system, and much less is determined by case law.
2. The EU is governed by treaties. That creates a great deal of rigidity, which the UK, despite having been in the EU for decades, acts as if it still does not understand.
But recall that the UK common law system is much more radical than the US. In the US, the rest of the system is rigid, bound by explicit law and regulation, and the courts are free to play the system of precedent which is a game of nods and winks between power brokers. The entire UK system is precedent — the legislature and executive depend on ancient maces on tables, funny hats, and backroom agreements.
The EU is at the other extreme where rarely can any of the players go by nods and winks, but everything needs to be stated explicitly at some point. That’s necessary for multiculturally heterogeneous ruling classes — there are not enough common understandings (or even language!) for people to know what the nods and winks are.
If you look at the tradition of how civil courts and common law courts work, the former institutionalize interest negotiations while the latter institutionalizes a confrontational, positional style. The latter is possible as a sustainable basis for a system (and not collapse into negative sum) if there’s an unspoken but understood common framework that puts limits on the zero-sum.
That’s the crucial bit! Switzerland is something like 7 million and the UK is >50 million.
Singapore also works because it’s tiny — Malaysia and Indonesia can tolerate it because it’s small.
Lichtenstein even goes without free movement, because it’s like 30k people. All of this depends on relative scales, relative size of economies and so on. Exceptions can be made, as long as the maximal economic and political flows are small enough to contain the threat of collapsing the rest of the system.
No one seems to understand this, particularly the UK ruling class. They can’t possibly be Singapore, but 10x larger with large non-urban hinterlands and a massive military. At the end of the day, Singapore is sufficiently helpless to not threaten everyone else directly or indirectly by inducing a race to the bottom.
Great overview, sadly it’s hard to see anything but bad things happening over the next few weeks and months. As for Tusks remarks:
Satan Disagrees, he wants nothing to do with Brexiters
I don’t blame Satan.They would only cause trouble and start a Leave campaign.
I have already terminated all my dealings with Barclays Bank USA ahead of the hard Brexit. Canned all my credit cards and deposit accounts with them.
Who wins will largely depend on which group has the best PR machine and uses it to the best effect for the purposes intended. So far, Labour hasn’t looked good in this respect. So, unless there is some major change by Labour, say, in personnel, I predict that they will likely lose this propaganda ‘battle’.
Thank you and well said, Larry.
After the barrage against Labour, including from its own ranks, over the week-end, that PR battle is well and truly under way. Labour sympathising remainer colleagues blame Corbyn, not Farage or Johnson for the crash-out coming.
With regard to Tom Bower’s serialisation in the Mail on Sunday, one can see why Johnson, who love him or loathe him, understands PR gave jobs to Bower’s wife, former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley, and gets his supporters to do so as well. Wadley is not qualified for any of these sinecures, but that does not matter. It’s the same with Owen Paterson’s wife, the Ridley clanswoman chairs Aintree racecourse.
There are Labour activists in the NC community. One wonders what they make of all that. Also, if Labour / the Corbynites can’t, or won’t, sort out the likes of Tom Watson, Chuka Umunna and the Zionists, how do they expect to take on entrenched interests like the City, landowners etc, especially when managing the (avoidable?) fall-out from hard Brexit.
Well, my £63.50’s worth (the Labour Party annual membership fee, my Direct Debit is due for the renewal payment in May and I’m umm-ing and ahh-ing about whether to cancel it or stick with it) is that Corbyn could end this all right now by forcing Sir Kier to ‘fess up exactly what his “a customs union and close relationship with the Single Market” is really supposed to mean.
Of course, everyone knows it’s a BINO. Once that’s all out in the open and exposing Starmer for the fakest cakest there is going right now, Labour could move on. It’ll then be obvious that what Starmer is proposing is merely going to force the EU27 to say that, if that’s what the U.K. wants, we’re back to the well-trodden path of okay, you can have that, but you have to sign up to CJEU jurisprudence and the Four Freedoms. At which point, the whole thing will die a quick and deserved death. Labour would then have to confront its inner schism, just as the Conservatives are having to do.
But Corbyn seems to be determined to keep going with the whole charade and hope no-one notices. I simply do not understand how that can ever end up with anything good for Corbyn or Labour. Okay, it’s trying to avert a split. I get that. But what is the point in this extend and pretend? All parties are split. There’s no avoiding the internal divisions. When it’s all over and the U.K. has left the EU — when ever that is and what ever basis it is on, but it’s not like it’s going to be more than six months away — all the respective parties can have a good old cry about things and kiss and make up. Sure, there may be some flouncing out by some MPs. But there always is over all manner of issues.
Clinging on to illusions of unity by Corbyn aren’t fooling anyone and nor is this constantly put on pained expression like as if he’s some sort of long-suffering Relate marriage guidance counsellor. He of all people knows that you can’t avoid rebels rebelling, so I cannot even start to guess why he doesn’t just say “too bad, I know you don’t like the decision but that’s what I’ve decided”.
IMO, his main problems is that his members (majority) are remainers, and a lot of his (especially young) supporters are remainers too. So saying “too bad, I know you don’t like the decision but that’s what I’ve decided” is exactly what he was claiming to go against, where the good old Labour was run from the top, by what the top, not the membership believed.
The division runs not just in the party, but the country. But it’s not possible to heal the division (as Corbyn claims to want) by ignoring _either_ party of the division. We saw how well that worked (and likely will again) in NI.
The healing can happen _only_ by some sort of compromise, ideally with some understanding of the other party. There was no attempt for that from Corbyn/Labour (Tories don’t do this, so the don’t have to care to even pretend). The closest that came to it was that Guardian article by Blair, two years too late from precisely the wrong person.
The membership point is interesting. A great many — especially the newer recruits (and a fair few Bennite remnants) hang on his every word. If he told them heameroids were good for the cause of class struggle, there’d be a number who would be going around looking for a cold damp concrete step to sit on (yes, before anyone pipes up, I know that’s an old wives’ tale).
So if he had led from the top a bit more, explaining that though they might well like a pony, and indeed, who would not, himself included, they’ll have to pick one from Box A or Box B. Each carries implications. If they want Leave, that’s what he’ll put forward — but you can kiss metropolitan Remain areas goodbye in terms of being able to hold onto or gain those seats. If, conversely, they want Remain, he’ll go along with that, but you can kiss deprived northern (and some other) constituencies goodbye and you might end up with a far-right blowback which is the last thing anyone would want. So, dear members, please choose whatever you want and that’s what I will do. But please choose carefully.
Instead, we get this passive bystander who is, apparently, unable to tell anyone about anything.
Afraid you are right, Clive. Corbyn is irritatiing me more by the week. For exactly the reasons you state.
And sooner or later he is likely to pay the price of sitting too long on a barbed wire fence – a ( metaphorical ) torn scrotum….
Especially when those young zealots who energised his last campaign realise what a weak weathervane he has become.
Seems the obvious choice for Corbyn is to go with leave & explain why. If he goes with remain, he loses the Leavers to the Right for a long time. Once the UK is out, what are the metropolitan Remainers going to do, especially the young? Vote Tory? They will need a left policy more than ever. Maintaining an economy based on a thoroughly corrupt City of London, plus arms sales, is bound to end up in collapse.
Hate to tell you, but from vlade earlier by e-mail:
And a later message:
I’ve watched the UK economy gradually sink into a structural morass since working there in the 90s. Also have observed how the middle-classes vote. If you could cut out Greater London and turn it into a Singapore, fine, at least until the next economic crash. But the rest of the country is in steep decline, with persistent dis-investment. Whether it unambiguously comes out in favor of brexit or remain, Labour would lose the next election in either case. Even if Labour won, neither of its factions currently have an effective plan for getting the country out of its tailspin and on a different course. It would be a one-term government. The UK needs a political realignment. Only a shock to the system will allow that. Brexit would be it. Labour needs to play a long-game or will find itself marginalized just like most of the other social democratic parties in Europe.
“Carney is right. Brexit could lead to a better, fairer kind of globalisation” by Larry Elliott, Guardian Economics Editor.
I’d respect that. I might disagree, but at least it would be on a road to somewhere, and open a discussion how to keep either sensible remainers or leavers (I believe there are some) with some sort of workable compromise – and what could be workable.
What’s happening now is adding nothing, detracting much.
Thank you, Clive.
I think this is key. Support for Brexit does not align with the political parties. The UK political system is a winner takes all, fiercely tribal, predominantly 2-party system. There is no real tradition of cross-party compromise and cooperation. Hence parliament has ground to a halt.
In a sense, Theresa May was right in that if only everyone would row in together they could get the job done. The problem was she thought she had to lead and the rest should follow. She wasn’t willing to listen and mediate with others outside the Tory family. A ‘succesful’ Brexit would break the hitherto party political system (and might still do), instead, May has chosed to bread Britain.
It also depends on when the election is held; I honestly have no idea when May decides to call another one, because I can see reasons for having one early and running out all the time since she claims that she’s not going to run for the next one.
Labour has not been doing very well on the PR side but are fighting against most of the newspapers who are clearly biased against them. If they manage to mobilize young people again they may very well get the majority they need.
I fully expect another minority government to happen with the voting public being disgusted by everyone involved as well as political mistrust to increase. One thing that could crack Labour would be a (further) leftist party appearing, but that is unlkely to happen soon (in a few years on the Brexit austerity train is another thing).
Unfortunately, I do not see any light ahead, except perhaps for the SNP. Even so, breaking away from the big regional block of which you’ve been a part for many years is a major undertakning, and Scexcit better not be as much of a shitshow as its predecessor.
Why would all the young people who energised Corbyn’s campaign last time lift a finger next time? Supposedly, and for good reason, most were Remain voters at the referendum, so why on Earth vote for such an uncommitted individual next time? Let alone go out and actively campaign.
Since the whole premise of Brexit as it was sold to the electorate was based on impossible things, why stop now?
Impossibilities, moreover, give politicians so much more freedom to invent stuff. Reality, as Alice’s Queen well knew, is so sooo booring and constraining.
Is there a formal name for the logical fallacy of insisting on utterly impossible things and/or ignoring reality? “False premise” doesn’t seem to really capture it. Is this an example of agnotology?
You see this a lot of this Brexitness in organizational politics. How many great art and educational institutions have been destroyed by some unrealistic “ambitious” plan? Brexit is like the American Folk Art Museum or the New York City Opera, only it’s a country.
Well, maybe you have just hit the nail on the head, vlade – it certainly seemed to work at the last US presidential election…
Spin complete BS that the grumpy punters want to hear and label any dissenting views “Fake News”.
I wonder about what happens when said grumpy punters realise that the emperor has no clothes. Could be nasty.
I think UK currently is what scientists call a chaotic system.
Chaotic systems can behave is a globally stable way (with what is called Strange attractors), but when these systems leave the globally stable behaviour they are very susceptible to very small changes of initial conditions, and it is basically impossible to predicts where they’ll end up.
So trying to predict more precise than chaos, and where the blame ends up, is an exercise in futility at this point.
I have another question : If some MP where to introduce a straightforward “remove A50 bill” or “remove A50 amendment” through some twist or stretch of the parliamentary process, do you think those voting for it would be punished by electorate ? Is it a kamikaze move ?
to an extent it does not matter whether it would or not. Most MPs believe it would, and so they will act accordingly.
Parliament has hard coded Brexit in the Withdrawal Act, so at a minimum, it would need to revoke that.
It would not need to pass a “remove A50 bill”. In theory, the Government could act on its own, as it does with negotiating treaties (the only reason Parliament got to weigh on on Brexit was that it also involved citizens’ rights).
However, to your point, this particular Government would not revoke A50. And it is pretty close to impossible to pass “private bills” as in ones tabled by MPs and not the Government. So the other impediment is that any such effort would fail due to Government opposition.
I know it is idle speculation here because we are nearing unicorn’s region, but do you think the government would refuse to revoke article 50 after a majority vote by the parliament ?
I think one part of the game here is to direct the blame outward. This would be hard to deny responsibility in such a situation.
This whole thing is still quite astounding to me. How is it that no one in the British political class is willing to state the obvious: the UK is wholly unprepared for Brexit, and May really should revoke Article 50, in order to limit the damage?
The only hope the UK has now, I fear, is that public disgust will become so intense post-Brexit, that they will flush the entire system. How it looks to me, sitting on the other side of the pond, is that their politicians are all lesser men and women.
“the UK is wholly unprepared for Brexit, and May really should revoke Article 50, in order to limit the damage?”
The elite does not want this because as discussed on this blog, they think that a hard Brexit plays to their advantage. The Tories think that Brexit will allow the UK to turn itself into Singapore and reclaim its past glory. Labour calculates that the resultant economic apocalypse will lay the grounds for the creation of a socialist paradise. The Tories think this economic collapse is preferable to a Labour government, Labour thinks the collapse lays the out rationale for a long-term transfer of power to the left and the aforementioned socialist paradise.
Clearly, such logic from either party would require the IQ of pond scum to actually be believed, but these are the leaders that the UK public elected, so they get what they deserve.
What I don’t see enough on this blog is introspection from the British body politic as to how an entire society could have democratically elected people like this. Arguments can be made about flushing the system, but at the end of the day, this country of 60 million has the same political and economic elite to choose from in the next election, inevitably leading it back to the same place it finds itself now. Which the current elite knows full well.
Those oafs should read North’s post today on Singapore. He orients his comments around those made by Roger Bootle, who is an idiot. But their beliefs about Singapore are probably similar to his. False.
As for how such imbeciles could have been elected, the structure of the electoral system has a great deal to do with it. Were it changed to some kind of proportional representation system like you can find in some places in Europe, the results might well be different from those today and different from what you predict might well be the case in future elections.
Thank you, Larry.
In a weak defence, I could say that Bootle has to say that as he gets paid by the Telegraph / Barclay brothers, Thatcherite think tank Policy Exchange and the Next retail empire / Wolfson family. A quarter of a century ago, he was a bit more sensible.
Thanks,Col. I am sure that the sources of his income have something to do with whatever stance he now takes. It doesn’t excuse it, of course, a stance I expect you would agree with. A quarter of a century seems now to be a rather long time ago.
Thank you, Larry. There’s no excuse. I agree.
Bootle was chief economist at Midland / HSBC and adviser to Kenneth Clarke, then Chancellor.
Col., the detailed breadth of your knowledge here is just awsome. My jaw drops sometimes when you exhibit it. And I don’t mean to suggest that you are showboating. It is always relevant to a point you are making. It is a positive attribute to have. PK has commented on this previously and I second him. Now, I have more reasons to be suspicious of Bootle.
Thank you, Larry.
Having worked in private banking, in wholesale banking and on regulatory matters, especially the last, I have come across many of them.
Bootle was very astute on pension liability matching and the “hitting for six” tactics that DB scheme were attempting with their equity weighting and promised returns. He switched his employer’s scheme into bonds just before the dot.com bust, IIRC. If course, we cannot all do that, by logic….
This blog and it’s commentartiat has done quite a bit to enlighten this reader on why ‘democratically’ elected governments are failing worldwide under neoliberal capitalism. For me, Blyth has been the most succinct about it. Governments based on national sovereignty no longer have the ability to regulate wages and product markets. These markets are now global, not national. Consequently, sovereign governments focus on things that they either can’t fix, or that do not matter. Either way they fail, which inevitably leads to populist revolt at the polls. And those populists will fail and thus be voted out. The UK, US and Germany are in the early stages of this cycle, while countries like Greece, Italy and France are a little further ahead.
This blog has rightfully pointed out from day one up to this very moment that any thing resembling an orderly Brexit is impossible. Yet here we are six weeks before a self-chosen hard deadline with no agreement close, listening to a politic that is still carrying the orderly Brexit line. This government will fail, that much is clear. Whether ‘society’ has the awareness to address neoliberal capitalism as the problem to be fixed is a different kettle of fish.
Society at all levels in France are trying to protest. Shocking to see French men and women (the flics) firing on their own people.
Yes Blyth is on the money, eh?
I think the next global recession (probably not too far away) will wipe out a lot of these globalized businesses. Populist governments will be in power and protectionism will increase.
the problem with “will flush the entirely system” is that that’s say what happened in Germany late 1920s early 1930s, where Nazis went from 2.8% in 1928 to 18% in 1930 and 37% in 1932, while all the other parties suffered large drops.
In other words, when the system is flushed, you have no ideal what it will look like when it’s all done.
Which, I suspect, is the difference between disaster socialist and capitalists. The disaster capitalists are almost certain to get paid (because they can bet outside the country they are betting against). The disaster socialists believe they are right, but can, in fact, be horrendously wrong.
Oh, I’m very well aware of what risks flushing the system entails. With the performance of the British political class in the run-up to Brexit, and what it’s likely to be post-Brexit, how many people do you think will be willing to take that risk?
As bad a place as the U.S. is in right now, we at least have a few bright spots. The UK, though, doesn’t seem to have anything. And that’s a terrifying prospect, and exhilarating at the same time.
We mustn’t forget that the German elite thought that they could control the Nazis until it was too late. I don’t know why they thought that other than as a consequence of hubris on their part. And some were in denial even until the war. Bruno Bettelheim was sent to a concentration camp in 1938 for almost a year and, when he came out, tried to convince many he knew that the Nazis were throwing people into concentration camps and advised them to leave. The reponses he got were along the line of: you’re exaggerating, a mistake was made, and the like. He left and went to the US, leaving the people he knew behind.
What other choice did they have? To recognize that they were completely wrong about everything and throw in with the socialists? Even many wealthy Jews were still in denial about their own self-interests until 37/38.
Local-minima seeking components often end up making very, very bad mistakes, doubling down continually on bad bets because they have no other direction to go.
A system built on the ideology that everyone must be a local-minima seeking component… well, the results are sadly inevitable.
Sadly you couldn’t be more wrong. The whole of the Labour front bench has called for an extension of article 50. Numerous Tories have called for an extension ( including cabinet ministers ). Only this strange person we have for a Prime Minister doesn’t recognise that an extension of Article 50 is necessary.
On another note, if Corbyn’s letter to May was so stupid how come Barnier, Tusk and Juncker welcomed it?
Isn’t the main problem that the EU have been crying out for May to detail what she wants so that negotiations can start? At least Starmer has been as clear as day as to what Labour’s starting point in the negotiations would be.
Last but not least, Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, said yesterday and I paraphrase that if May does not budge then the option of a referendum remains on the table.
Yes, but what about the time limitations in getting a referendum together and over the final line not to mention the starting gate?
Labour has to show its own Brexit constituency that they have tried to make Brexit work. Once the shambles that Brexit will be is shown to all and sundry then Labour will be able to ask people ” Do you really want this dog’s breakfast? ”
The EU will go along wholeheartedly with a new referendum.
The trouble is the above is a long game and there’s not much time left.
“The EU wil go along wholeheartedly with a referendum” is not true. The EU has made very clear that it isn’t enthusiastic about any extension, that the UK has to give a reason for asking for one, and (back in November) the EU didn’t plan on giving a fast response to signal its antipathy. Given the short runway now, the EU would have to get back to the UK in pretty short order.
The EU is tired of the uncertainty and the impact on its economy. It’s been communicated through various journalists consistently that the EU won’t take the risk of an extension triggering UK citizens being able to sue to have the right to be seated in the next EU parliament (it’s pretty clear that the UK citizens would win any such suit). I have yet to see a hard date as to what that means, but the Parliament is seated IIRC July 11. That isn’t enough time for a referendum.
The “uncertainty” of Brexit is already hitting the EU hard. Investment and spending are down. German industrial production took a hit (admittedly some of this is due to China too). The UK hasn’t been impacted to the same degree due to stockpiling and probably the financial markets still being OK (the City is a bigger part of the UK economy than finance is in the EU). The EU is not going to have much sympathy for a six month plus extension for a referendum that has decent odds of not changing anything.
More generally, I have the impression that not many pols in the EU have focused on how long the UK referendum process is. In Greece, which held an illegal referendum in 2015 by violating its own legal requirements, a compliant referendum would have taken four weeks, so it isn’t crazy from them to think the UK process would be shorter.
While I agree on most of this, no-one has really explained what is the problem with the UK MEPs sitting in EP. There’s zero legal base for opposing it, it’s really a convenience issue (as I keep saying, if the UK would trigger A50 day after MEP elections, it would get it’s MEPs for two years. So? Is really the inconvenience of having to listen to Farage for a month – with limited audience – worth the few extra months of time for no-deal preparation?).
So it’s not really a hard (impossible) ask in terms of legality etc.
But ultimately, it does not matter. If the EU says non/nein/etc., that’s all there’s to it.
I haven’t seen more detailed explanations but I think the problem is bigger than you suggest. The UK’s seats will be reallocated in part, and I would bet there’s no mechanism for doing that during a term. See:
Again, how would it work if someone invokes A50 day after EP elections? That is an entirely possible scenario.
Adjusting number of MEPs is easiest to be done as part of the elections, but there must be a mechanisms to do it out of the cycle.
Would guess national parliaments would be asked to nominate members for the rump term or an interim period.
Until direct elections started in 1979, parliaments nominated members.
When Romania and Bulgaria joined, their observer members (nominated) became members and then separate elections were held that year.
Suspect it is more to do with inconvenience, because of reallocation, and the ignominy of feathering yet another UK MEP’s nest (Mr Farage will get a very nice pension from the EP).
Second the appreciation for Col. Smithers’ insights and people knowledge.
The reason the upcoming European Parliament elections are important is that the new parliament will choose the next Commission President.
The centre-right EPP appointed Juncker, and they want to appoint his successor. But they look like they will lose seats across the board.
If the UK is in that mix and returns UKIP (or the new Brexit Party Farage has founded), that will make it even harder for the EPP to get the majority they need. Imagine if the eurosceptics gain in all countries and then have the numbers to appoint a eurosceptic Commission. That kind of thing makes Macron and Merkel shiver.
Re: the upcoming European Parliament elections:
This makes more sense, as a political problem. But again, it’s a political problem, not a hard (in the sense illegal/unlawful etc.) problem, where two outcomes need to be compared and one chosen.
I.e. while A50 clearly takes the leaving country out of EC decisions, it makes no claims on EP (which tells you how sloppily it was drafted). Hence it’s really hard to put out a hard case of why EP elections are non-negotiable (apart from the fact that the only thing UK has against that is the nuke of no-deal).
I have claimed for a long time that timing of A50 was the key (and, apart from the nuke of no-deal, only) leverage UK had, and gave up w/o even thinking about it.
Not sure about his point vlade, but didn’t the UK invoke Article 50 when they did in order to strengthen their political position going into the UK election a few weeks later? My memory is a bit fuzzy in this but I am sure that it was invoked when it was for local political gain and it also had to do with some EU treaty going into effect that they wanted to avoid. Something to do with banking. Sorry but that is as specific as I can get without a full research effort.
A50 vote was Feb 1.
May called for election on April 18 (which she didn’t have to). Based on what I heard, the decision to call the elections was around March or so.
While technically the EU could not hold official negotiations with the UK on exiting, I’m sure it could do unofficial talks.
If the UK said “look, we need time to get a consensus on what the future relationship should look like, and need to discuss that internally. Oh, and if you indicated what is/isn’t acceptable, it would help to speed it up, you know”, the EU would be hard pressed to do much. In the meanwhile, the UK would not be out of the EC or EP.
Again, it could get concessions there, like saying it will abstain in certain votes in return for some semi-formal negotiations.
The uncertainty would be on the EU, and if it wanted it removed, it would have to deal with the UK. This way, the UK got nothing in return.
The internal politics would not be too good, definitely initially, but remember this was a year after elections, which is when the unpopular decisions are made.
If California were to leave the US, but still get to elect reps… how would the Republicans feel about that?
Hell, Puerto Rico lives in a constant spectral state because the two senate seats would threaten to force a party realignment in order to keep a balanced two party system.
ACW had this problem, and dealt with it (including seating reps from West Virginia).
Labour’s plan is a unicorn. Unfortunately, even some EU officials have problems telling single market from customs union though, and, TBH, they could have been so sick of seeing the same rotting unicorns from May that even a half-fresh Labour one is better.
That said, I suspect they welcomed it as it was a first thing in two years where at least some basic bipartisan talkes looked remotely possible.
Frontbench voted with government/abstained in the Cooper’s amedment vote, which the Labour nominally whipped for. Nothing happened. Compare and contrast with EEA vote, where frontbenchers who voted against Labour were forced to resign (or, even more honourably, resigned before the vote).
Barnier ” What do you want? ”
May ” I can tell you what I don’t want…”
Barnier ” Yes, but what do you want?”
Barnier ” What do you want?”
Starmer ” This”
Barnier ” You realise that you won’t get all of this?”
Starmer ” It is a starting point Michel”
Barnier ” Bon allons y ”
People constantly underestimate the amount of hatred that the leavers stirred up against the EU. There really is a north south divide over the EU. Corbyn has to walk on egg shells over all this.
To what end? What is their best-case scenario from that tactic?
Let’s say that the softest-possible Brexit (which is what Labour’s plan would ultimately turn into) turns out to be the end result of all this, that still doesn’t help them politically with that part of their voter-base.
The sort of person who is going to be angry in the event of Labour just saying we should scrap the whole thing, is still going to be angry as Labour’s policy doesn’t change any of the things that they are angry about (in an EU context, obviously there are still countless domestic reasons that they have for complaint).
When they are doorstepping in Mansfield / Stoke / Boston in 2022, what are the Labour party candidates pointing to and saying “this is why we’ve left, this is how your life is going to be made better”
I’m pretty sure that saying “well nothing has changed in practice but we’re not technically members anymore” is really going to be that big a vote-winner.
I think it’s already been covered here why extending the Article 50 period is a non-starter. Outright revocation is the least-bad option, it seems, and it’s the one that isn’t being talked about seriously.
Yes, the featured commenters here seem to want to wish the part away where the EU would happily deal with the UK if May showed up with Corbyn to honestly negotiate. They’ve said so. I recognise that Corbyn’s deal wouldn’t lead to frictionless trade, but he’s signaling a VERY soft Brexit. It’s a starting place that can be negotiated from. At that point extending Art 50 might be doable. Would it be enough time? Not for a proper deal, but it would get rid of all May’s stupid redlines and allow for a transition period. Then we could then negotiate something.
But May has made it plenty clear that she is going to run out the clock. I give you Andrea Leadsome’s statement last week as part of that evidence. Opposition party MPs called out Andrea Leadsome for not scheduling any time to discuss Brexit and asked how we would be able to pass all the statutory instruments in time. She defended having discussions on Sport as being VERY important (seriously). And of course we’ll have plenty of time to get everything through. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQRfypGn7jI As an added bonus near the end, Bercow kicks her for being an idiot.
What are you talking about? The EU has never said anything dimly resembling your claim. Making shit up is against house rules.
The EU has repeatedly and loudly said that the Withdrawal Agreement is done and there will be no more negotiations. What about “no” don’t you understand?
What the EU has said, and this looks to be a mere utterance of a rhetorical point at this juncture, is that if the UK were to relax a sufficient number of red lines, it could move to a different point on Barnier’s ladder. Neither party is doing that. Corbyn’s “plans” are awfully close to a word salad.
I think Yves is being much too nice. I’ve watched Corbyn in the House of Commons and the front bench in multiple TV interviews and I get Party members’ emails. Corbyn’s “ “plans” “ (they deserve double inverted commas, they’re that flaky) are a word salad.
Sorry. Corbyn was running creative ambiguity for last two years.
And, lest we forget:
He pushed for A50 invocation as fast as possible.
He put zero pressure on May’s government during that process – he even managed to fail to do so in the last two months, when there was a non-trivial number of Tory rebels. Doh.
He whipped for A50 invocation, when he could have said he’d need to see the plan for any support, and would leave the Tories to fully own any mess.
Labour “plan” could have well been written by BoJo, and titled “eat a cake, have a cake”.
The EU would happily deal with anyone from the UK who would show up to honestly negotiate, and who would understand that there are only four possible outcomes, and anything will be a variation on those (no-deal, FTA, EEA/EFTA, no-Brexit). They can’t find anyone, as both Tories and Labour at best, when they do declare what they want, keep asking for impossible.
1. A permanent UK-wide customs union, including a say on future EU trade deals
There’s no way the EU would give any real say on its trade deals to a third party.
Custom union does not solve NI hard border.
2. Close alignment with the single market, including membership of “shared institutions”
What does this mean? Seat on ECJ? No way. Seat on any rule-setting institutions? No way.
What about the obligations of single market, including FoM?
3. “Dynamic alignment with EU rights and protections”, for workers, consumers and the environment
Entirely domestic stuff for the UK, nothing to do with the EU. Moreover, a precondition for 2 to have any impact at all.
4. Clear commitments on future UK membership of EU agencies and funding programmes
Cannot happen (with some exceptions). The various treaties allow only EU states to participate, with some exceptions which tend to be open (and thus are irrelevant).
Woudl open the EU to most-favoured-nation repercussions.
5. Agreements on a future comprehensive security arrangements, including membership of the European Arrest Warrant
See above. Requires changes to the EU treaties. Not gonna happen (but the UK may get a specific close cooperation treaty, not far from this).
The only (admittedly important) thing here is that it drops some red lines, so should create larger negotiation space. But it’s still starting with impossibilities, and promising domestic voters impossible things.
The UK politicians, on both sides, were playing to their domestic galeries, never to the harsh reality.
IMO, right now, and pretty much most of last 6 weeks were on Labours party damage control, so that they could say “but we tried to stop no-deal, but… “. But they can’t control their own front-bench (or rather, don’t seem to care whether they vote with the whip or not).
An extension of Article 50 accomplishes nothing. It just prolongs the dithering around. Well, it could give the UK more time for a crash-out but the UK appears not to believe it needs to do enough on that front.
I have yet to see an articulation of a second referendum question that does anything more than allow Parliament to escape blame. What good does “no deal, May’s deal, or remain” do? MPs ought to be able to talk to their constituencies and sort that one out.
Basically, it’s meant to provide air cover for revoking A50 but there is no assurance that “Remain” would command the most votes.
Moreover, any referendum question would have to offer more than two options to begin to approach the complexity of the issue, but that produces high odds of the winner being a mere plurality vote. How can that possibly have any legitimacy, particularly on a decision of such fundamental importance?
In a way, you are confirming one element of the post I linked to at the very end, arguing that the UK had changed its constitutional system and Parliament was not longer sovereign.
I agree that to obtain an extension of article 50 the Remain side will have to be in a much stronger position. There is no point in the EU agreeing an extension on the off chance.
Nevertheless we are in a race between no brexit and no deal with the latter in pole position. I see no chance of a deal.
Harold MacMillan, that grand one nation Tory and Prime Minister was asked what he feared most. He replied ” Events, dear boy, events.” Couple that with Harold Wilson’s ” A week is a long time in politics ” and you have a possible way out of the impasse. It comes to something when you are hoping for a deus ex machina to help you out.
Otherwise its buy gold, silver and bonds and shares denominated in a foreign currency.
Every 6 months of delay shifts the balance of a second referendum towards remain by about 1%, simply because leave-favoring oldsters die out. That’s not a sufficient justification for the EU to agree to a postponement, and May does not want to rescind A50, as you say she is running the clock.
From the EU’s perspective, May’s deal is preferable to continued UK membership, as perpetual vassalage and BINO means they will finally be rid of the obstructionist British inside their decision-making bodies.
Confirming predictions made by Yves a couple of years ago, ministry people here in Tokyo say that the UK government lacks people with the experience to negotiate trade deals, as they have relied on the EC to do the negotiating these past decades. One official says that his British counterpart in negotiations is a divorce lawyer. The Japanese press and people, who often tend to be Anglophilic, are mystified and somewhat maliciously amused by what has been going on, but not as amused by the negative impact major Japanese corporations are likely to suffer.
The UK emergency plan should then include hiring expertise wherever it is found.
You think that the Harvard Boys might offer their expertise using their experience from Russia back in the 1990s?
Ok. Anywhere but Harvard!
Then Yale it tis!
You have to be careful when utilizing experts from Yale, too.
And give Chicago a very wide berth too. About a thousand miles should do it.
I just have to say this made me laugh!
Even to safely hire expertise you need enough knowledge to recognize the difference between expertise and horse manure when it stares you in the face.
This is kind of the bit where having your eggs in the basket matter.
You can only trust people to act as the negotiators who to some extent can’t run away afterwards because they’re tied by generations of connections to the system. It’s not a good idea to make a recent immigrant your top general, regardless of their expertise. The exception was in pre-20th century Europe, where the loyalty lay to the system of states and not to any particular state — but I don’t think that’s the case here, in fact, it’s precisely not the case.
The UK government lacks people who can negotiate anything. The latest fiasco is cancelling the £14 million contact negotiated with a company to provide a new ferry service from Ramsgate (a port near Dover) to the continent. Apart from Ramsgate port needing to be redredged to enable ferries to operate from there again, new pilots would have to be trained in the approaches to Ramsgate (a lot of trecherous and shifting sands off the coast), the company had no ferries. But some connections with the tory party, apparently.
The ferries from Ramsgate were to go to Ostend. Neither Ostend nor Calais were interested in having this ferry company operating in their waters. However, Ostend has said that they have spent a lot of money over the past year getting the port ready but didn’t know about the fiasco with Seaborne Ferries until they saw it in the news. No word from the government. And the chap in charge of the Calais port never wants to see Grayling again. Incompetence reigns.
Excuse me for the tangent to your comment here, but therein lies a major flaw in the “Singapore” plan. Singapore greatly values, and compensates, a high level of expertise in their key governmental positions. They formally state and practice this philosophy. And yes, it is relevant that the vast majority of these positions are filled with descendants of the original Prime Minister’s family, but it doesn’t make it less true that these people are trained, groomed and educated to be highly competent in these roles. They are also compensated commensurate with the the private sector. This also comes in pretty handy given the Singaporean government indirectly owns and controls much of the private sector based on the island.
“Controls much of the private sector on the island”
Well, you could argue that after the coming financial crash and banking collapse post no-deal, the UK government may, following the requisite bailouts, end up owning most the island.
I doubt it. More likely the UK government is dissolved and sold off.
Only the bits the banks didn’t want, and only at wildly inflated prices.
But, of course, as some of the Brits would tell you, the bloody foreigners will bear it and be glad they can serve in returning the Empire (UK ones, not Japanese, just to be clear) to its rightful places. Because it’s a duty of all foreigners, whethe they know it or not, to bear any privations and suffering to help in that cause.
I remember reading Yves’ view on the lack of technical expertise, all of which now lies within the EU bureaucracy itself, and it set off all sorts of red flags.
Any responsible government would have remediated this immediately.
Emphasis on any “responsible” government.
To add to your “believe in impossible things”:
It will be positive for the economy!
– UK economy was essentially flat in Q4, with little stockpiling going on. Investment has been pretty much dead since Brexit vote.
Brexit will restore UK military!
– this would be even beyond Alice’s Queen I suspect.
Yes, the pipsqueak defence minister is now threatening China with the shiny new aircraft carrier that has yet to be equipped with the boondongle F35. Mindboggling.
TBH, his exact words were “enhance our lethality”. Which, in a way it does.
For example, our enemies can now laugh to death at us.
Enhanced lethality will almost certainly help in post-Brexit deal making!
Thank you, Gentlemen.
Last year, at events to commemorate the RAF’s 100th birthday and the 100th anniversary of the armistice, my father and godfather and their comrades (all Labour sympathisers) met the Defence Secretary. They were staggered at how stupid, hawkish and boorish he was, par for the course for chicken hawks who don’t / won’t join up.
My father and godfather joined in the mid-1960s when there were still WW2 veterans serving. Mum joined the civil service a decade later, again when veterans were still working. They trace the acceleration in the relative decline of the UK to when that wartime and sometimes Europhile generation moved on and was replaced by the (initially) blue, (and then) pink and orange second hand car dealers and estate agents, johnny come latelys high on Thatcherism and their own supply.
Thank you Colonel. I wonder if they think that it is a really a good idea to threaten what could possibly be a major source of investment in post-Britain UK? I wonder too what the Chinese is for their reply to any such future overtures which would be “Go pound sand!”
Thank you, Kev.
As per our exchange last week, please don’t expect that sort of thinking in the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster.
There is nothing more lethal than a small(-minded) and stupid man trying to prove his worth!
Gavin Williamson is exactly the chap for getting the UK into all kinds of trouble way above his, and his country’s, ability to handle. The UK needs to work on trade deals from 2019-04-01 so of course the lad has to prove himself by a brisk “show of force” right in front of two of the possible partners.
If my extended family which covers what could in class terms be called low to middling is anything to go by. There is a definite air of the 1640’s, with Remainers who tend to be the youngsters with a couple of exceptions, of whom the most rabid had planned to buy a retirement home in Spain. The rest are Brexiteers, some hit hard by austerity & globalisation with others who did pretty well for themselves who shout about the Blitz spirit, despite the fact that whatever unity there was back then, it obviously does not occur now.
Myself & another are generally seen as contemptible by some for not choosing either side & hoping for a Norway type solution – I shall likely give the next couple of due weddings a miss, which might I believe like other events, become all too interesting.
A couple of friends of mine living in the UK are spanish brexiteers. He is basque and I have gone with him to his beautiful village in the basque country to pick plums (just by shaking the trees) to make mermelade. He thinks of brexit as “shaking the tree” analogy and I argue that it migth fall anything but plums.
Yes….shake too hard & the tree could well fall on top of you, especially if it is rotten at it’s base, & as part of that, a large branch with United Ireland written on it, could eventually fall on top of those idiots also known as the DUP, who appear to have also annoyed much of their support, particularly farmers.
A few days before Tusk’s comments, the following video surfaced of Corbyn from 2010:
According to Tony Connelly (the very well-connected Irish journalist from RTE), it shocked Brussels, because until that point they hadn’t appreciated what a eurosceptic Corbyn was.
I think that is when the penny dropped that there would be no second referendum, hence Tusk’s comments.
A question about Brexit. All I know is mostly from the NC posts over the past years. I also remember reading somewhere that US was somehow involved in the early push for Brexit. Is that true or just me confusing issues? Thanks
Depends what you mean by the US. Plenty of economic players have long seen the EU regulatory model as harming US interests in fields such as agriculture, health and pharmaceuticals. So from a lobbying perspective this is probably all good stuff for US business interests.
From a political / diplomatic perspective, for the last twenty or so years that Brexit has been quietly, and then more loudly on the agenda the US has been pretty happy to fall behind the Europhiliac Governments of the time. “Not caring either way” is probably too strong a way to put it, but it wasn’t something they were going to bother to use up any diplomatic capital on.
Well, before the referendum Obama did opine to the British electorate that they should vote against Brexit.
If the American government had believed for a moment that the EU would ever accept the idea of having a non-member not bound by its rules but within its collective mercantilism fortress, they might have supported that, to make the UK even more of a Trojan horse for American interests in Europe. (We tried something similar with Poland and others Post-Soviet breakup). But only the British believed that there was any possibility of that.
“Well, before the referendum Obama did opine to the British electorate that they should vote against Brexit”.
Precisely. Basically backed up the UK Government position of the time. Given he said the UK would be “at the back of the queue” instead of “back of the line”, there was even a suggestion he just read verbatim what Cameron’s team had asked him to say. Although not a theory that I choose to subscribe to.
Queue is a very unusual word in the US. I’d predict 90% of US-Americans would be confused by the very meaning of the word. It would definitely have to have been written by US writers who were very carefully trying to use British English (or British writers who were unaware of how incredibly unusual the word queue is to US-Americans).
Do you mean bus? I’ve never even seen the Brexit train.
The Mad Hatters are in charge.
Some predictions, based on nothing more than thinking about the possibilities:
crash-out happens, that’s the way things are tending and no one is changing position
smuggling becomes big business
the French fishing fleets start taking larger catches in areas formerly deep off limits to them, and reducing fish stocks available to UK fishing fleets
businesses leave UK, and with them go thousands and thousands of jobs
a shrewd Labour leader could use the Tory-inflicted financial disaster to 1. win the general election, and 2. raise taxes by a lot on the rich – the old tax cutting excuse that ‘the rich create jobs so they shouldn’t be taxed’ having been demolished (see above).
( Corbyn is not a shrewd leader. Far from it. So above guess requires a different Labour leader for it to work.)
The problem is that if Corbyn falls (which I put a high likelyhood on), his policies will fall with him, and be seen as tainted. So Labour gets Milliband Mk2 or similar centrist.
The best, but unlikely, outcome for the UK political system would be Tory and Labour split, proportional representation change to voting system for Commons.
Agree, vlade. This would be a salutary outcome. How likely? Since it is a good idea, probably not very.
Yes, more democratic representation would be a good outcome.
I don’t, however, believe the libertarians’ – JRM, et al – sweet nothings about no-deal Brexit leading to a rebirth of democracy in the UK; or think they particularly want a rebirth of democracy, where everyone has better representation. I’m probably too cynical.
No.You are not too cynical.
Libertarians want a plutocratic dictatorship and rule of law tyranny. This is what I try to tell people who think the 2016 reffie was driven by populism. It was driven by globalism and they gladly supported the “East Asian” plutocrats(aka the Oligarchs) money.
Create a crisis. Liquidate the social security state. Selling off of public domains. By then, the nation of the UK will be dead. It will be the market of the “England”. Capital owners will own everything and “grant deeds” of property. How quaint eh? Little Serfs to run around and do their business thinking they are “free”. The EU was actually built to stop Leninism by the US. Its origins were actual Nazi in the post “victory” even before that. By the post-Cold War world, it was meant as a market consortium to battle the other big market blocs in the world(The US especially). No surprise Lord Rothschild ordered Farage to begin his “UKIP” scam in 1993 after a year earlier financing the Buchanan campaign against George Bush. The dialect is strong. They need divide and conquer, creating “dialects” of populism to make sure nobody realizes the scam of capitalism. Once you think its my capitalism rather than “their” capitalism, you become a drone of the globalist, who thinks they are “anti-globalist”. Which is far from the truth.
I think Rollerball out of the dystopian fad in the 70’s and 80’s, was the closest to seeing the future with They Live the biggest smartass, but good as well.
The US libertarian billionaire fossil fuel barons, the Koch bros, certainly supported Brexit. Sometimes I think international libertarianism is as big a threat to democracy as international communsm .
Bigger threat. International communism was ideologically pro-democracy, but had structural failures that made democracy impossible within communist bloc countries (the only tool for organization that was compatible with communist ideology was repression, since in principle they were an anarchic society with only a vanguard to lead the way).
Thus communism had to fail by the internal contradiction between what it believed itself to be, and how it actually had to function. The reality principle had to eventually strike.
Libertarianism is, in principle, anti-democratic, since equality of power plays no role in it. Any democratic principle would create a claim to power that is political and not purely legitimist. Libertarianism is essentially feudalism (recall, that feudalism was built in principle on voluntary vassalage).
We know that can last for a thousand years.
I.M.O., Corbyn solidly wasted any such opportunity by whipping for the A.50 legislation. Strategically, he should have supported “Remain” or “Not Anything The Tory’s Will Be Running”/”Abstain”, let the Torys and some Labour rebels vote the A.50 through and then wait for the Tories to screw up which would be the point to assume the “Labour gets to clean up the mess after the Torys – again”-position.
As it is, Corbyn will go down with he Tory’s, having delivered nothing of value to anyone.
Short thread here, by Economist journo reporting on remarks by Sabine Weyand in Berlin:
– Clearly no majority for a referendum in Parliament (wether or not she’s correct -and she is- this means that a UK request for an extension to hold a referendum will not get the green light from EU).
– Chances of remain are non-existent, pursuing it is cakeism (not clear from thread if that’s purely analysis on her part or also part of EU-position).
– Vague but warm words for Corbyn’s proposals (I think this means that the road to some kind of softer Brexit might be open if the UK withdraws from its red lines, lord knows what that process will look like, let alone the end product).
I smell nonsense.
I very much appreciated Yves’ careful synopsis but she also writes:
“Bad post-Brexit news keeps coming in. Even though EU short-term emergency measures in some critical areas like aviation and tourism will blunt some of the worst cliff effects in the event of Brexit”
Critical areas? So “short term emergency measures” are only allowed under EU and Efta rules in the two areas that might inconvenience European elites- flying and vacations.
Lorries may back up at the tunnel and milk crossing the Irish border will need a 40 page customs declaration but rich tourists visiting London or Paris for the weekend or overflying GB and the EU territory on the way to Miami, Tel Aviv or Australia… now that’s a real crisis.
So Yves and my fellow readers, what exactly are the methods used for the emergency measures and in all the complex EU/UK documents are the same “temporary” measures allowed for milk and lorries?
If only it were as straightforward as you describe. Leaving the EU will be infinitely more complicated than the dissolution of the British Empire and that event produced some humdingers.
The main problem was that no one had a clear idea what the Empire was and how it was constructed. Shades of leaving the EU will be “easy” come to mind.
People think that the Empire grew by planting the flag and claiming the territory for the English crown. Not so, sometimes they claimed it for their financial backers, sometimes for themselves, sometimes they didn’t claim it at all but entered into a legal arrangement/treaty with the then local rulers which hid the real rulers from the ruled. The whole affair was a legal morass.
The net effect was that although the various colonies were recognised as independent by HMG at Independence swathes of newly independent countries were not independent according to UK law. Now I know this sounds stupid, and it was, but for example although Kenya was independent, Nairobi and surrounding areas was not according to UK Law. The parliamentary draughtsmen did not take into account that Nairobi had been incorporated into the Empire under a different statute than the rest of Kenya and the UK parliament did not repeal the Nairobi statute at all. Are you still with me?
There was no practical effect for Kenya. There was for the UK.
Several new types of British passports were invented e.g. British National Overseas,( BNO) British Dependent Territory Citizen,(BDTC),British Overseas Citizen (BOC) etc… to cope with the number of people who had rights as Britons but who lived in former colonies which were independent and who HMG did not want to give full UK rights. Are you with me EU citizens who exercised treaty rights to live in the UK? The whole thing was an unholy mess.
This was as a result of the unravelling of territories that everyone agreed should be separated. You can bet your bottom dollar that the UK-EU unravelling will be full of unintended consequences, major legal battles, new UK legislation because the powers that be forgot about that bit or didn’t realise that they had to do that and downright tomfoolery.
Of course the way that Davies, Hannan and Fox have fulfilled their promises should give you a lot of reassurance.
This is the EU’s house, the EU’s rules.
There is a deal on the table that May’s government negotiated in good faith and repudiated.
The EU has no obligation to clean up the UK’s mess. It’s no different than if you spouse sued for divorce and then asked you to clean up his/her new gambling debts.
I know, isn’t it terrible.
I have a tough time believing anything before breakfast. (Sorry; the only thing I can’t resist is temptation). Thanks Yves, loved the headline and I always appreciate the comments.
“Through the Looking Glass”, not “in Wonderland”.
These things matter, you see.
The quote service I looked it up on attributed it to Alice in Wonderland.
I checked and Through The Looking Glass is correct.
It does seem to get misattributed a lot – I expect because it refers to the Queen and people assume it’s the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. (It’s actually the White Queen).
Thinking this may reduce the carbon footprint of the UK. Also thinking – seems to me there is one large Anglo-American crisis of some sort, a virus or something. Populism isn’t really it to my mind. Or not what is being exposed. I find it remarkable just how base and inept so many of our elites are proving to be, over and over and over again. Quite overmatched.
I think the Anglosphere is insane. They’re living on a delusional model of the world, that sees the world through the prism of the fall of the British Empire and the rise of the American, without realistic analysis of what happened there. The US keeps on trying to win WWII over and over again, the UK can’t recognize that they were conquered by the US, and the rest of the Anglosphere lives in the reflections of these narratives.
You can’t be delusional and successful forever. Eventually conditions change, your beliefs need to adapt, and if you are delusional, you can’t take that step — your delusions only worked in the narrow bounds of the conditions that gave rise to the delusions.
It’s easy to see so many solutions that would maximize US & British wealth and influence over the next century. But none of them are compatible with how the Anglosphere conceptualizes the world which involves an exceptional self-model where the normal analytical tools applied externally are non-reflexive.
“Others are not like us” How can you adapt when you believe that? Basic empathy fail, thus lacking the needed data to predict others behaviors and thus how the world works, when others also have influence in the world.
DHG you wrote
I have already terminated all my dealings with Barclays Bank USA ahead of the hard Brexit. Canned all my credit cards and deposit accounts with them.
Can you elaborate, please? How is your money/credit with a USA bank at risk becaue of brexit? I checked back to the article and there was no statement by Barclays
I mean, any more than any other bank in UK, or EU or USA, or anywhere, could be affected by a hard brexit – just curious about the seeming arbritary nature of your decision re: cancelling involvement with Barclays USA (I am guessing you are UK based if my memory of your prior posts serves correctly)
I really want this to go through so we can start debt liquidation. It is long overdue. Repealing the 2008 bailout in America is the next step. Finally, liquidation of global capital markets and their “institutions”(IMF,World Bank ete ete). After the system liquidates and shortages begin, reality will begin to set in. People can have a choice: free markets with no future ability “debt expansion” or a organic nationalist system that actually tries to build something other than your pot belly and soul destroying dopamine receptor killing debt based orgy you “love” now.
In retrospect, Labour should maybe have insisted early on that there should be a second, final vote once the terms of Brexit were in place, and insisted that May lay them out expeditiously. They might have established something like a 60% margin to remain and overturn the original. May having failed gloriously, they could have held the vote, lived with and even thrived on the result, either way. A failure to remain might have given Corbyn his secret desire in the first place, with far less responsibility for the ensuing mess.
Meantime, of course, they would have needed to do what Tusk says the withdraw organizers didn’t: develop a convincing vision for the British people.
No. He tries to shift the blame on the slowdown to the European slowdown. UK slowdown is primarily an investment slowdown, where the investment was stagnant (at best, really dropping) since 2016. Consumer spending was dropping too.
While the European slowdown has impact on the UK, the impact is likely that a bad situation is going to be even worse. The service sector, which with agriculture (which is small) were the only sectors growing in Q4 also dropped in December, and will be the one hit hardest by a no-deal Brexit. In fact, it will be hit by even a May’s deal Brexit, as May sacrificed services for goods.
While correlation is not causation, the fact that from post-referendum the investment growth in the UK was falling is not invisible. Even if it was NOT caused by Brexit, which flies in the face of statement of a number of companies, it would be a terrible preparation for Brexit, as low investment = low productivity, and the UK suffered from low productivity even before the Brexit.
I think that because the UK is built on precedent and doesn’t have a hard-coded two party system but does have a system built on it, that this has been an on-going constitutional breakdown. The system depends on essentially temporary one-party rule (just like the US depends on temporary “dictatorship” of the executive), the failure of the system makes it worse — the courts can’t intervene like in the US to re-institutionalize the system under the cover of law (even if it’s really a political play).
The UK really does depend on the parties volunteering to play their constitutional roles under the threat of the system imploding — the ruling classes being “englightened” — and if they fail to do so, ker-blam!
What would happen in the US if the courts simply refused to respect precedent? If they started to openly cheat about everything and the legislature then failed to impeach? Ker-blam, right?
Yep, this is a problem with a loose constitutional rules. It works only if all play by them, which works when you don’t need it. When you need it, it can work great, or it breaks down horrendously, depending on who’s holding the reins at the time. With the current elite, guess what it’s more likely to do?