Yves here. I’m glad to see someone call out Parliament after having seen May successfully play it again and again. How many time has she moved back the date of the required Meaningful Vote? Ignored Cabinet resignations and even an unheard of censure?
Let us understand all that happened: May made some pretty promises as to what she’ll do in March. The postcard version:
BREAKING: PM makes three promises:
1. Meaningful vote on deal by 12th March
2. If deal fails, next day MPs vote on whether to support No Deal
3. If they don’t want No Deal, then MPs can vote on 14th March to extend Article 50
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) February 26, 2019
Her Withdrawal Agreement being voted down again by large margins is a near certainty.
But, pray tell, what does “extend Article 50” mean? That is unlikely to be well specified; in fact, since the Government is pretty certain to draft any March 14 motion, that is also a near certainty if things get that far.
Recall that the EU Council meeting at which the approval of any extension is expected to take place falls on March 21-22. May could make that fail, either by design or continuing in her May-ness. And the perverse beauty of that would be that no one would be able to tell the difference!
For instance, new polls say that popular support for an extension falls off dramatically if it were to go longer than 3 months. A shorter deal is easier to sell since it doesn’t raise hairy questions of the extension impinging on the seating of a new European Parliament on July 2.
But even though the comments of a lot of EU leaders indicate they grudgingly accept that they probably should give the UK an extension if it asks, at the same time, quite a few express skepticism that a few months will make any difference. They are concerned the UK will try this stunt again when it runs out of rope. (Note I see the idea of a 21 month extension as a non-starter, and appetite for it on the UK and EU side seems low. Plus I can’t imagine businesses being left in limbo so long. This may have been a ploy by Tusk rather than a serious idea, but either way, it looks not well thought out).
That means even if the UK asks for a “short” extension, and May was earlier signaling mere weeks, there will be some who will want to impose conditions. This means the EU leaders would need to negotiate among themselves and then with the UK. That takes time and there is hardly any left. Of course, the EU specializes in brinksmanship, but recent crises have been financial crises, and with a central bank at your side, you can fudge timing, which is not on here.
Another possibility is that May sabotages the extension, either by design or continued UK obtuseness. The EU has said that the UK needs to give a reason for an extension. “Further faffing around” doesn’t cut it. May could deliver diplo-speak that clearly means “further faffing around” or alternatively, ask for such a short extension the EU regards the request as nonsensical.
Why might May do that?
Wellie, if she emerges from the EU Council meeting with no extension, she could put her deal once again to Parliament and have blame for a crash out rest at their feet. History won’t remember as well that her pact was loathed. She would still presumably be trying to cinch an extension, but not being able to get all the EU leaders in a room increases the odds of what Barnier has taken to worrying about, an “accidental no deal.”
Remember that May is the creation of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which makes it vastly harder to dislodge a PM. But he has also been exceptionally lucky in her enemies. The ritual Tory loathing of Labour is intensified by the fear of a Corbyn in power. And as we’ve discussed at length elsewhere (although mainly in comments), Corbyn has failed to take advantage of the Tories’ spectacular weakness.
And as David has pointed out several times, the paralysis over Brexit is a symptom of erosion in the foundations of the UK political order: the hollowing out of civil service, the fissures in each party between (as Chris Grey puts it) between cosmopolitans and locals, the damage done to communities by austerity. Weak leadership has exposed how pervasive the rot has become.
Update: I posted before reading May’s statement. Let me pull out some key bits. May is explicit that she is not ruling out “No Deal”:
I believe that if we have to, we will ultimately make a success of a No Deal…
But I know Members across the House are genuinely worried that time is running out…
So today I want to reassure the House by making three further commitments.
First, we will hold a second Meaningful Vote by Tuesday 12 March at the latest.
Second, if the Government has not won a Meaningful Vote by Tuesday 12 March then it will – in addition to its obligations to table a neutral, amendable motion under section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act – table a motion to be voted on by Wednesday 13 March at the latest, asking this House if it supports leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement and a framework for a future relationship on 29 March. So the United Kingdom will only leave without a deal on 29 March if there is explicit consent in this House for that outcome.
Third, if the House, having rejected leaving with the deal negotiated with the EU, then rejects leaving on 29 March without a withdrawal agreement and future framework, the Government will, on 14 March, bring forward a motion on whether Parliament wants to seek a short limited extension to Article 50 – and if the House votes for an extension, seek to agree that extension approved by the House with the EU, and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date commensurate with that extension.
May has only committed to offering up more motions.
She is proposing only a “short limited extension to Article 50.
The House will then approve that (when, pray tell? Not many days between March 14 and the start of the EU Council meetings on March 21-22. And the sherpas usually get their briefing books a few days in advance).
If this all works out, the Brexit date will be re-hard wired in the Withdrawal Act.
By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics. He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK
I sat, open-mouthed and incredulous when watching the news that MPs welcomed Theresa May’s announcement of new votes on Brexit on March 12, 13 and 14 as if these were to be welcomed and were, in some way, a major step forward.
May is offering another vote on her deal. It has already been resoundingly rejected.
Then she is offering MPs the chance to vote on No Deal, which the government estimates will cost 9% of GDP per annum in the long run, and cause social and economic mayhem in the short term, as if this is something MPs might actually want.
Finally, she is offering a three-month Brexit extension, which is not within her gift. The EU has to decide whether Article 50 can be extended. All we can do is revoke it without their consent. And the chance that the EU will offer a three-month extension is very low indeed, for three reasons.
First, there is no logic to three months: nothing can be resolved in that period. There could not, for example, be another referendum and there is no sign that parliament has any way of resolving Brexit without one. The EU is discussing 21 months to allow appropriate time to resolve matters. That would make sense.
Second, extending to June ignores the fact that the EU moves into limbo in April until a new Commission is appointed and a new parliament is elected. There is no EU to negotiate with during these three months, in effect. May must know that. Some MPs are apparently daft enough not to do so.
And third, the EU will say no because May asked for it. Why should they let her dictate terms right now? I am sure they will not. A counter-proposal is inevitable. But many MPs also seem unaware of that.
I have despaired before, I know. But the impression that we now have active connivance from those supposed to be opposing Brexit in the process that delivers No Deal by default seems very high, simply because they have no ability to appraise risks, seems extraordinarily high.
How did we reach this point?