Brexit: Chaos Continues as Parliament Votes Down All Brexit Options, Press Focuses on May Rather than April

Things are bad in Brexit land and yesterday illustrated how the press has played a big role in that.

What was the lead story pretty much everywhere, including the Wall Street Journal? That Theresa May said she’d go if her deal was approved by Parliament this week.

This is like watching pilots argue over who will man the plane on the next leg of a flight plan when if you look out the windshield, you can see it’s going to crash into a mountain. This should have been the biggest Brexit news of the day:

As we’ll discuss, the odds are still solidly against May’s deal passing. Under any scenario save becoming physically incapable of serving, May will still be Prime Minister as of April 12, the current crash out date. Parliament hates May’s deal yet still has no plan of its own as to how to escape a no deal Brexit.

Why May’s pledge to resign is news is beyond me, since she made that offer the last time she was toying with Meaningful Vote 3. Was this commitment deemed to be more serious because the 1922 Committee demanded a meeting on when exactly May intended to leave and they supposedly wrested this concession from her? Or was it the fact that the Maybot reportedly got tearful?

Frankly, even though I do not fathom why she still wants the job, it looks like May played everyone. Admittedly, she does still appear to be clinging to the delusion that her deal might pass. And if that were to happen, May’s rigidity would in a flash of revisionism, become courage and tenacity. And if her deal fails, she’s made no promise as to when she’ll clear out of No. 10.

May has managed to get some members of the ERG, in particularly media hounds Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, to say they’d support her deal. But the DUP has not budged, consistent with earlier accounts that they are people of principle….just not very lofty ones. And Rees-Mogg has flip-flopped:

So even with ERG solidarity buckling, it does not appear that May can get enough Labour votes to get her Withdrawal Agreement approved.

May is out of time. But even the reading above charitably assumes John Bercow would allow May’s pact to come up for a vote. He is still holding fast to his position, that the bill needed to be substantially different to be considered in the current Parliamentary session.

Richard Smith provided quite a few tweets showing that MPs were flummoxed. Examples:

Having said that, the Financial Times suggests that there could be another finesse:

Theresa May is considering a dramatic move to bypass a blockade on her Brexit plan by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, by splitting her deal in two and presenting only one half to MPs for a vote.

The prime minister is looking at holding a vote only on the 585-page draft withdrawal treaty — the legally binding divorce agreement with the EU— while spinning off the 26-page non-binding political declaration on future relations with the bloc.

So the point is that the Government could have circumvented Bercow, either by proroguing Parliament or via legislation…but if he doesn’t budge, it seems highly unlikely that there’s enough time for either alternative now. And would he approve her simply splitting the bill? He seemed awfully cheeky yesterday.

Parliament is also being inattentive about the clock. At risk of going into “Sentence first, verdict afterward,” mode, we’ll focus on process and get to substance next.

The current no deal date is April 12, a Friday, but the EU Council said don’t come to us at the last minute asking for an extension. So we will charitably assume that April 11 (and best early that day) is the last day the EU Council would consider an extension.

Parliament is bizarrely not going to hold its next round of indicative votes until next Monday. Why it is holding another vote this week or at worst over the weekend is beyond me.

Let us make the most optimistic scenario: the MPs manage to agree on an option on Monday that is not a unicorn. All of these options are indicative. They are just 50,000 foot sketches. They still do not map onto a specific request to the EU Council for an extension. Does Parliament decide that? Does May?

May said she was skeptical of the indicative vote process, and in particular, that Parliament might decide on a unicorn, concluding:

So I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this House.

She also has made clear that she isn’t keen about an extension beyond May 22:

No Brexit must not happen. And a slow Brexit, which extends Article 50 beyond May 22, forces the British people to take part in European elections and gives up control of any of our borders, laws, money or trade is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together.

And as we said, it is May and not Parliament which deals with the EU:

So what if Parliament actually agrees on a napkin-doodle level idea next Monday? How do they reduce it to a concrete ask of the EU, which would include a specific extension date? Who is in charge? Does the more detailed language also require Parliamentary approval? And when do the MPs driving this particular bus intend to include the Government?

I can imagine the to-ing and fro-ing easily going till Thursday. It might then become clear that May will need to be compelled, and only way to do that is via legislation.

But if I understand procedure correctly, it takes only one “object” from an MP to kill a private bill. And aside from the MP from Clive’s mother-in-law’s district who always objects, the most bloody-minded Ultras would also do so.

Now I assume just the way Parliament revoked the Standing Order that gave the Government control over Parliamentary time, it too can revoke the provision that allows MPs to nix private bills. But how likely is it that they remove that impediment in time to get the legislation passed (again charitably assuming that converting the napkin doodle to a bill, which requires adding detail, doesn’t lose so many votes in the process as to put Parliament back at square zero)?

Now it is conceivable this all gets done, but hopefully you see the problem: there are many moving parts, and the more steps a process has to go though for completion, the greater the odds of failure.

The various motions themselves show that Parliament has a poor grip on Brexit, and the top pick is no solution. Here is a recap:

No Deal (Proposed by John Baron)
AYES: 160 NOES: 400

Common Market 2.0 (Proposed by Nick Boles)
AYES: 188 NOES: 283

EFTA/EEA (Proposed by George Eustice)
AYES: 65 NOES: 377

Customs Union (Proposed by Ken Clarke)
AYES: 264 NOES: 272

Labour Plan (Proposed by Jeremy Corbyn)
AYES: 237 NOES: 307

Revoke Article 50 to prevent No Deal (Proposed by Joanna Cherry)
AYES: 184 NOES: 293

Second Referendum (Proposed by Margaret Beckett)
AYES: 268 NOES: 295

Contingent Preferential Arrangements (Proposed by Marcus Fysh)
AYES: 139 NOES: 422

One vote that is striking is the large margin of failure on “Revoke Article 50′ even with a significant number of abstentions. So the cleanest path out, a retreat, is still deemed to be unacceptable. The Second Referendum vote failed, despite having Labour’s support, due to 27 Labour MPs defying the whip. You will see that is also the margin of loss.

The “Customs Union” scheme failed by only eight votes, so it is conceivable that it could win approval in subsequent voted. But as we’ve pointed out, a customs union does not solve any of the problems UK pundits and pols think it does. It does not put the UK in the “internal market,” so it neither prevents the disruption of non-tariff trade barriers, nor does it solve the Irish border problem.

Let us turn the mike over to Richard North:

Last night, parliament decided to vote stupid…

The only way of ranking the eight options voted is by referring to the number of negative votes, the one with the least votes coming first. Thus, first in the rankings, on the basis of the least overall negative votes, was a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU”, tabled by Kenneth Clarke. This got 264 votes against 272, giving it a score of -8.

This confirms the utter fatuity of the House of Commons, which has managed to favour most (or disfavour least) an option that would turn the clock back to 1957 and the Treaty of Rome (or 1973 if you prefer), before the advent of the Single Market. It would not provide “frictionless” trade and would not solve the Irish border problem, essentially offering not very much more than a no-deal Brexit.

Seriously, that is the considered view of the House – an utterly vacuous option which some probably think takes in the Single Market, many MPs seemingly having trouble telling the difference between it and a customs union.

Coming second was the option calling for a referendum to confirm any Brexit deal. This was not another in-out re-run, but simply a vote on any deal which was agreed by parliament, rendering it rather moot if parliament (as on current form) is unable to agree any deal. Nevertheless, this was “only” voted down by 268 votes to 295, scoring -27.

Third was Labour’s “alternative plan”, taking us firmly into unicorn territory with a permanent customs union, “close alignment” with (but not membership of) the single market and commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, which are not within the gift of the UK government. This got 237 with 307 against, scoring -70.

I am not certain this version of a “second referendum” would be acceptable to the EU if they understood what the UK meant (as oppose to a second referendum happening first, to inform Parliament and the Government as to what to do next). Does the EU want to spend another year plus negotiating a new version of Brexit, and then be subject to the uncertainty of the minimum of 147 days more for the UK to hold a referendum? Recall that what the EU wanted from the UK was a “way forward,” which is either a low bar or a fudge to mask divisions among EU leaders. Even assuming the former, saying “We’ll let the voters have a say” simply ignores the looming question of “What type of Brexit do you want?”

Scott sent a fitting conclusion:

But will the EU tolerate “forever”? Politco’s morning newsletter says Donald Tusk is lobbying hard for that:

BUT DONALD TUSK HAS A STRONG STOMACH: The European Council president urged the European Parliament to grant a “long extension if the U.K. wishes to rethink its Brexit strategy.” Speaking in front of the Strasbourg plenary Wednesday, Tusk said (in a “personal remark”) that a long extension of the Article 50 period “would of course mean the U.K.’s participation in the European Parliament elections.

But Robert Peston has been reporting for some time that a significant number of EU leaders regard having the UK participate in the European Parliament again would be toxic and damaging to the EU. It isn’t clear yet how much impact Tusk’s charm offensive is having on the skeptics. The worst scenario is that the UK come to the EU just before the April 12 deadline with a half-baked extension request. The whole point of the carefully crafted compromise was to give the Brexit hot potato back to the UK. It’s all too probable that the UK will try to toss it back.

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  1. Ignacio

    It strikes me that Tusk “urges” the EU Parliament to grant “his” decission. This seems to reflect that the EU Council sees the europarliament as their muppet pre-democratic show. Not surprisingly given the failure signaled in links yesterday.

    Is this a good reason to brexit?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t see Tusk as speaking for the EU Council. Macron is certainly not on board with this view. Robert Peston has reported that many EU countries are not keen about having the UK in the next European Parliament. He means EU national leaders, not just EMPs. More generally, a lot of countries are getting pressure from businesses that Brexit dragging on is bad. It’s killing long term commitments as well as investment. And the concern that an unhappy or ambivalent UK still in the UK (via a long extension) is going to embolden the right wing populists.

      Earlier this month, Politico also reported that there were raised eyebrows in Brussels about Tusk expressing views when he had not been authorized to do so. I think he’s free lancing again. He is nevertheless an influential freelancer.

      1. Ignacio

        This kind of free lancing is dangerous, more even when europarliament elections are so close

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        I am working on part of the transfer of business from London to Frankfurt and can update.

        Even activities that have no need of a MiFID passport to access the EEA, e.g. trade finance and FX, are going to Frankfurt. The leadership, too, or rather British / London based leaders are making way, but that is also to do with the German senior management asserting its authority and preparing for the merger that you recently posted about.

        This said, no more than 30% of clients who need to be onboarded in Frankfurt for Brexit + day 1 will be so. Apart from the scale of the migration, there are complications arising from contracts, hedges, tax and the resettlement of personnel (including their families). With regard to staff, many contractors are being hired as the firm is reluctant to shift permanent staff on a permanent basis yet.

        I met a headhunter yesterday afternoon. Junior positions are what keeps agencies ticking over. Senior jobs have dried up as firms are reluctant to commit. I asked about other industries where City skills, one hopes and prays, are transferrable. Non FIs are also soft pedalling on investment, recruitment etc. The jobs surge one hears / reads about are mac jobs.

        One hopes Redlife and Vlade chime in.

      3. PlutoniumKun

        The other issue with EU Parliament elections is the redistribution of seats due to Brexit – the total number of seats has been reduced, with some redistribution, and so far as I’m aware most countries are going ahead with their election on this basis – and this includes rejigged constituency boundaries. If the UK were to go ahead now it could create all sorts of legal issues in countries which have already committed themselves to adjusted numbers of MEP’s.

    2. Clive

      I think that the wittering on heard from “Brussels” (often reported in the mainstream sources) needs placing in that context. “Brussels” means the Commission. I’m in no doubt whatsoever that the Commission is heartily fed up of the U.K., Brexit, May, Member State wrangling and much more besides. I would be.

      And having been professionally in the same sort of position as the Commission is placed and — and this will only get worse for it — of having to try to sort out the practical day-to-day implications and technical responses of any continuation of this all, I feel their pain. For example, I suspect that if the U.K. doesn’t leave in April or May, there’s going to have to be a multiple-choice budget outline drawn up. Calculations about if the U.K. is in for a little while beyond the end of 2020, if the U.K. is in fully for the entire next EU budget cycle, if the U.K. exits with No Deal and refuses to pay some, or all, the remaining budget round contributions (and so on). It is difficult to not let morale and personal motivation plummet as some idiot or other asks you to do what is a lot of very detailed work and which needs to be highly accurate in response to nothing more than dumbass what-if’ery. That’s just the budget, then you have the Irish border to specify, whatever procedures need to be followed for the European Parliament elections (again, two or more sets, depending on what might, or might not, happen with U.K. participation), the effect on tariff income, legal texts to be drafted, legal opinions to be sought and documented etc. etc. etc.

      So yes, I’m not at all surprised “Brussels” is dis’ing the U.K. big time to any journalist in town. Sadly for “Brussels” (i.e. the Commission) its the Council that’s calling the shots. The Commission just has to try to pick up the pieces of whatever mess the politics has made of it all and ruined their day.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        It is clear from Peston’s reporting that he is not relying on the Commission. He has been explicit hat the EU member states are the driving force, and they are tired of how the UK is sucking up time they feel they should be spending on more important matters. For instance:

        So, to bore on again, my central projection remains a no-deal Brexit at the end of May or in June – largely because EU governments are sick to the back teeth of not knowing what kind of Brexit or no-Brexit the UK actually wants.

        Peston has reiterated in the last week that a crash out remains his “central projection”.

        I don’t like being so reliant on Peston, but it has become clear he has the deepest network of European political/diplomatic contacts and actually listens to what they say.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Yves.

          One reason for that is that some bureaucrats, UK and EU27, were taught at LSE by Peston’s father.

        2. larry

          Just to clarify, Rees-Mogg on Peston’s program last night said that he would vote the way the DUP did. So, if they supported May’s deal, so would he, and if they rejected it, so would he. Peston pressed him hard on this. As a consequence, he made this claim more than once. Of course, something coudl happen between now and the next vote if there is one.

          1. flora

            An aside: interesting to watch R-M and BJ start repositioning themselves as not the driving forces that steered Brexit into this likely crash-out ditch. Clever, I suppose, to steer things to the result you want, then at last minute as people become alarmed, say “not my fault”. my 2 cents.

  2. Winston Smith

    I love the remark from the Indian man “the British take a long time to leave”. He could have added when they finally do, it is an ungodly mess.

      1. ambrit

        And a Civil War with resultant partitioning.
        In many cases, the central power in any empire like political structure is what holds the entire endeavour together. Now, England is not the Hegemon in Europe. The case can be made that England is one leg of a Troika that holds European relations in a stable stasis. Remove that leg, and the other two remaining legs, France and Germany, will be left to each other’s “tender ministrations.”
        The point often lost sight of is that this Brexit imbroglio is just the beginning. We are faced with ten or more years of pure D chaos in Britain and equally distressing spill over effects throughout the world. This is the epitome of a “rough beast, it’s hour come round at last, Slouches it’s way to Bethlehem to be born.” (With apologies to Literature Majors everywhere.)

        1. NotReallyHere


          Will be interesting to see where the falcon of that poem goes next. My suspicion Italy/France and migrant rows.

        2. Mattski

          To say that “the central power. . . holds the entire. . .” colonial Frankenstein’s monster together is, of course, not to say much, or to miss a bit of anterior history altogether.

  3. paul

    The labour abstention on joanna cherry’s revoke option was shameful and bunker level bonkers.
    Jeremy Corbyn could have had the option of no deal,may deal or revoke.
    Now he’s got no deal or may deal, both of which he says he’s against.
    At least with revoke he could have run a general election on his version of brexit, whatever that is.

    1. Clive

      Among the many unicorns which had been temporarily resurrected but were again taken to the vet last night was any notion that Labour is a party of Remain. That’s not to say there aren’t some — a fair few perhaps — Remain’ers in Labour. But that isn’t the same thing at all as being, formally, in terms of party policy, Remain. The misplaced hoo haa and excitement at the front bench in Labour “supporting a public vote” should’ve given the game away. A “public vote” is not “Remain” going by a pseudonym. It is a Remain dream jar, nothing more.

  4. Redlife2017

    Yves – to back up what you’ve said, even the Labour heartlands don’t have a list for MEPs. So I have a hard time believing that we’ll go forward with a European Parliament vote.

    This sort of points to issues deep in the British psyche. There’s a lot of unfinished business around the Empire (sort of like racism in the US). They haven’t fully engaged with what their place in the world is because they were able to be the US’s poodle. There are some who have gone fully European, but that’s rare. On a society-level, it never felt to me like we were ever European (I say that as an immigrant who came here in 2002). We’re an island and like the Japanese we’ve got our own ways of doing things (that were actually imported from other places, just like the Japanese, but we made it our own).

    Then there’s the basic fact that the British love a plan, but also love to tear it up and then muddle to an answer, changing the goal occasionally without a lot of discussion. A basic fear of throwing down the gauntlet, which perversely leads to many people reacting very positively to having a rare person be so blunt. They aren’t rewarded (especially the posh ones) for needing to understand what leads to the completion of the goals they have set out (I see this constantly at work). The British also hate to obviously change the rules. They will change them, but rather opaquely. I’ve never met a people who have mature adults actually say “but that’s not the rules, that’s not fair.” Hahahahahaha. I’m from America, so that is always a source of the funnies to me.

    And as the good Colonel Smithers can point out – the arrogance of the GenX and younger posh set (went to Uni post-1979) is really rather astounding.

    Under stress a person goes to their most basic personality traits. I think the same can be said of a society. The strain of the hollowing out of basic industry in the North and Midlands, destruction of coal mining in Wales, etc., the unbridling of finance in the Big Bang, the selling off of the family silver (north sea oil, BT, Royal Mail, etc.), housing bubbles over the past 20 years even worse than the pre-2000s housing bubbles, and enforced austerity for the past 9 years leads to a lot of strain. So we see the basic patterns of the people.

    This is a seizure that is ricocheting across society. If we get the Withdrawal Agreement passed, we will still have much to deal with (see above). This is only the beginning of great difficulty. We are redefining ourselves. And it will get ugly.

    I noted recently that Brexit is actually a bit like this: We can’t stop here, this is Bat Country!

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Redlife.

      With regard to the unbridling of big finance, readers, especially those of us in finance, may be interested to hear that two, so far, of my former bankster lobbyist colleagues are advising candidates to succeed May, a remainer is unofficially with Sasha Kemal Johnson and a leaver is officially with Dominic Raab. They have Blairites alongside, some from Tim Allan’s Portland and some from Mandelson’s mob.

      1. Redlife2017

        The Blairites are a cancer in the Labour Party. They still hold some important levers within, although lefty groups are waging a war of attrition to take them over (it’s all very WWI in the trenches). Heck they still pop-up within places that you’d think were Corbynista heartland. For instance in Corbyn’s own constituency. Until 2015/2016 it was completely run by right-wingers and it was only after he became leader that they got run over in the last few years. But several wards in the constituency still have their share of Blairites making trouble. Heck, his Constituency Exec had lots of right-wingers until recently.

        And then at the 50,000 feet view you have the trouble-making of Tom Watson who is hanging out with the Lord of Evil (Mandelson). Whence the Lord of Evil is playing footsie with Tories.

        My point in the above is that the Blairites are still playing for keeps – and keeping their options open in and outside of the Party.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Redlife.

          What one notices is that the Tories, Blarites and Orange Order Liberals are indistinguishable, especially the public school boys. Tory activist colleagues tell me how well Cameron, Osborne and Clegg got on. The party labels are and were as meaningless as they were for the old families, e.g. the Leveson Gower (pronounced Looson Gore, if anyone is wondering) family, who sat on the Conservative and Liberal without much ado. Same with Harriet Harman’s extended family.

          One day, I sat a meeting with Ed Balls and his brother Andrew, a big shot at Pimco. One would think they were Tories. EB’s accent reverted to cut glass over a hamper from nearby Selfridges, as one orders for lunch at Pimco. EB was a Tory at Oxford. Same with Clegg.

          Mandelson’s circle (at Regent’s Park and Foy) tend towards Tories and Clintonites. Again, party and even national labels mean nothing to them. It’s the same with Andrew Marr in Notting Hill.

          Oh, yes, the Blairites are playing a long game. Labour members who voted for Watson as deputy leader, thinking it was time for reconciliation, will be bitterly disappointed. Watson and his Future Britain group will knife Corbyn.

          1. Plenue

            Can someone explain what the hell happened to ‘elite’ British schooling? Granted it was never that great, its graduates doing everything from the Charge of the Light Brigade to losing India, but they seem to have once been a lot more competent than they are now. At least they came out speaking French.

            How did things go from that to Boris Johnson?

              1. Synoia

                That’s mostly, but not always true.

                One gets a good , a very good education, if one so chooses.

            1. jsn

              My sense is that given a choice, the Right mostly (if not always) chooses loyalty over competence.

              Like a 5% interest rate over generations, both loyalty and incompetence compound.

          2. Mattski

            If only that second paragraph–about how comfortable all these knobs tend to be with one another–could be tattooed on all our foreheads, we might finally begin to get it. I have grown tired of posting the picture of the Trumps at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding on FB.

            Clinton and Blair made better exponents of neoliberalism than did Reagan and Thatcher.

            P.S. I was chortling over your title for this piece, Yves, and my fifteen-year-old, staring over my shoulder, remarked that you had likely been saving the idea for weeks. I told her that you were clever enough to have hit upon it on the run.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          I’ve not had contact with Labour people in 2 decades or more, but I remember when I first got a job in England back in 1990 I found myself in meetings with Councillors from a variety of West Midlands authorities, and sometimes chatting over coffee breaks with them. I honestly thought they were Tories from the things they were saying, I had to be disabused later. They were seriously right wing in almost every respect. Later, working in a development consultancy, I met plenty more of this type dealing with district Councils in the south-east.

          But they weren’t Blairites – they were old school working class, Union badge wearing right wingers – what USasians might call Reagan Democrats – in Ireland we’d have called them Masonites (over the then notorious Labour Northern Ireland secretary who proved far more hard line than his Tory forebears when it came to dealing with Taigs).

          I’ve no idea if these types are still a major force on the Labour Party, perhaps those with more connections can confirm.

          1. Synoia

            There are two forms of conservatives;

            Conservatives, big C
            conservatives, little c.

            Big C are members of the Tory Party. Little c are conservative in outlook, but not necessarily members of the Conservative party.

            That is not a clear distinction, but many many are English conservative, in not wanting change, but not Tory,

            Disdain for others, they are not like us” is endemic. It is a form of bigotry that emphasizes class divisions in the UK.

            I cannot extend this definition the the Welsh, Irish or Scots. While I have know some of each group, I don’t have a deep understanding of their, I suppose the best word is, ethos.

        3. Pavel

          Mandelson “the Lord of Evil”? I won’t have that!

          Everyone knows his proper title is the Prince of Darkness…

          This started as a running joke on a BBC Radio 4 programme called Week Ending. It was a witty, topical and very satirical show, just 30 minutes long, that started in about 1967 when Radio 4 had only recently come into existence, and ran on Friday evenings, week after week, year after year. It was produced by a very left-wing team of writers (it was said that when the Week Ending team got together, that would be the week’s largest gathering of the Socialist Workers Party), but it was relentlessly, cleverly funny about the foibles, faults and idiocies of the Government of the moment, and indeed of the Opposition when they deserved it. It didn’t matter what your politics were, or which party was in office: Week Ending was very, very funny.

          And then we had an Election, and Tony Blair was suddenly Prime Minister, with Peter Mandelson as his soft-spoken emininence grise just behind him. Week Ending took to referring to him as the Prince of Darkness, effectively a way of calling him the Devil; some sketches would simply do this by having one person sniff and ask, “Can you smell sulphur?”

          And with equal suddenness, Week Ending was gone. The plug was abruptly pulled on it only a few weeks into a series which should normally have had weeks still to run; it disappeared from the airwaves suddenly and completely, and with no explanation, and has never returned. Over 30 years of impartially insulting every government with cheerful even-handedness had suddenly been brought to end, by a couple of references to Tony’s good friend Peter as “the Prince of Darkness.” And if that’s not sinister, I don’t know what is.

          But to this day, radio comedians can still get a laugh by asking, “Can you smell sulphur?”

          –Why is Peter Mandelson known as the Prince of Darkness?

          In the 40-ish years I’ve followed UK politics he is certainly among the most dastardly IMHO. But he is certainly more competent than Theresa May.

          1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

            Whereas Tony Blair likely sees himself just as the Prince, judging by his pilgrimage a year after being elected, to the house where Machiavelli wrote his untitled pamphlet..

          2. David

            Oh my goodness, yes. I remember Week Ending which I listened to more or less from the start. Those were the days.

          3. Redlife2017

            Ha ha! I had forgotten about that. Thanks for the reminder. He is the face of Competent Evil, the Prince of Darkness!

            It made me go find this trailer for a forgotten piece of John Carpenter’s 80s oeuvre.

  5. bold'un

    It seems to me that there is an obvious way forward: the UK system only works as an ‘elective dictatorship’, (see Thatcher, Blair, McMillan) so the country needs one (or more!) general elections until a strong government is achieved. May and Major look weaker not because of bad policies but for lack of margin in parliament. This contrasts with the US system which may even function better in gridlock.

    So first pass a bill to enable a June GE and then Labour will gladly abstain on the Withdrawal Bill. Any incoming regime will be glad that Brexit has happened and the chance of a stable majority is a big draw, even for an incoming Tory.

    There is plenty to play for in round two of the Brexit process.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The Withdrawal Agreement needs to be approved by March 29. Your solution is na ga happen. No runway left. And it assumes the Tories would agree to a GE at all. They won’t because Corbyn.

      1. bold'un

        Teresa May wants her ‘legacy’ and pure Corbyn is an unlikely risk (Lib/Lab/SNP coalition more likely). The Tories have a record of rolling the dice (eg Heath in 1974 or May herself in 2017) because they believe they will win.

        The WB date can and will be moved by statutory instrument. The votes next Monday will probably show that no other Withdrawal Bill is superior; even Boris Johnson seems to accept that with ‘no deal’ politically off the table (400 to 160) he has to chose between long delay or May’s Bill.

        Finally, a lame duck can afford to be unpopular with those who have undermined her.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You need to pay closer attention. You have key facts wrong.

          The EU Council said May needed to get the Withdrawal Agreement passed by March 29 to get an extension to May 22. That extension was offered solely so the UK could pass all the enabling legislation.

          The EU also offered to let the UK have a longer extension IF

          1. It agreed to participate in the upcoming European Parliament elections. That means passing legislation. So that has to be done before petitioning the EU

          2. The UK indicates a “way forward,” meaning how it plans to arrive at a Brexit different than the one it rejected.

          The current Withdrawal Agreement is no longer an option after March 29. There is not remotely enough time to execute your plan by March 29. And you ignore that the Tories will not agree to a GE because they have no reason to. The avoidance of the risk of having Corbyn is a top level imperative for them.

          1. bold'un

            May 22 may be a ‘hard date’ for the EU, but I frankly doubt that any dates before that are set in stone. Europe may threaten a ‘no deal’ for 12th April, but this bluff can probably be finessed, as indeed has March 29.

            Does anyone actually want a new set of UK MEPs? What if the UK indeed legislates for Euro-elections, but nobody stands or the public mostly boycotts them?

            ‘No deal Brexit’ is hardly risk-free for Dublin either, as it will nix the backstop and may re-open some old cans of worms.

            Did you ever meet a politician who is not a master of strategic procrastination?

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, May 22 is a hard date for the clear avoidance of European elections. That is a red line for them. They are not willing to take a chance on that. This has been discussed at length here. The only way to go past that date is the one outlined above, to post a notice or better yet pass legislation to allow the UK to participate (see Clive below for details) and to petition the EU for a long extension……successfully….and that isn’t a given either.

              You forget the EU is run on treaties and treaties are rigid. This is not like bailing out banks with a central bank at your disposal.

              You are again proving you have not been paying attention.

  6. Ataraxite

    I most enjoy your pithy headlines on Brexit articles, Yves, so was a little disappointed by today’s rather factual one. Perhaps “Brexit: Screaming Into the Void” or “Brexit: Mad as a Box of Frogs” could be suitable.

    May has thrown a spanner into the extension works with her promise to resign, although she doesn’t realise it. It means the EU will no be even more wary of extending any trust to the UK for a longer extension, as they now realise its ever more likely that they won’t be dealing with the useless-but-sane May, but possible one of the rabid Ultras. A long extension, in addition to the problems in the European Parliament, grants Britain leverage in future negotiations. This has been flagged by them, but the succession of the UK PM puts the risk into far starker relief.

    It’s obvious the EU is playing a good cop/bad cop routine – Tusk is the good cop, making noises to remainers, and keeping the path clear for a reasonably rapid (say within 5-10 years) return of the UK to the EU if it does leave. The bad cop will likely be Macron, who represents that significant strand of thinking in the EU27 that the UK is for now, far more trouble than it’s worth.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for noticing the headlines I was a bit short on inspiration, plus the press and other blogs have already used ones like “Meltdown” and “Train Wreck,” so those are off the list.

      1. vlade

        Chernobyl on Thames.

        “Only 33 years later, the UK is suffering from its own version of toxic disaster… “

        1. Synoia

          I’d prefer Charge of the Brexit Brigade, or
          The War will be over by Easter

          From other examples of feckless ambition leading to disaster.

      2. ChrisPacific

        There are really only so many disaster metaphors to go around. It’s been in that state more or less every day for 2 years now. I do like ‘focuses on May rather than April.’

      3. boz

        Thank you Yves, and particularly Clive for the expert insight in this thread.

        Some more headlines, in lieu of anything more illuminating:

        “Hobson’s Choice”
        “Strawbrexity Fields Forever”
        “Crazy Little Thing Called Brexit”

        And finally

        “The Self Preservation Society” – which is quite apt in one way, and nonsensical in another.

        I’ll get me coat.

      4. Mattski

        I chortled over the April/May crack; my fifteen-year-old opined that you must have been saving it up for months. I said you were clever enough, and likely pressed enough, to have done it on the fly.

    2. Ignacio

      Yep, I had some fun with “press focuses on May rather than April”. April is being as unhelpful as May.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for being alert. The Government idea re the FT struck me as questionable even though it was over my pay grade as to why. Plus if that was a workable solution, you think it would have been tried by now (or at least mooted) rather than the Government looking so slack-jawed.

    2. Ataraxite

      There’s also this (from

      “Don’t see how it works. WA (recitals, Art 184) cross refers to the PD. Art 50(2) requires the agreement to take “account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union”. You’d have to amend the WA. EU says WA closed.”

      Or to expand from Twitterese, because Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement refers to the Political Declaration on the future relationship, it’s not possible to split the two without re-opening the Withdrawal Agreement. Which ain’t gonna happen.

      1. shtove

        Yes, it all looks like a well designed labyrinth. None of this, “we have to pass it to see what’s in it”.

  7. The Rev Kev

    I was watching the news on Brexit on the news and it got so bad and embarrassing, I found that I had to cover my eyes with my hand. I don’t look particularly kindly on the EU but I can see how if they were smart, they would make sure that the UK would not be taking part in the upcoming EU Parliamentary elections. I am given to understand that the UK has a block of 73 seats in the European Parliament. After the past two years, there would be not a lot of good will towards the EU in the EU so if they took part, I am willing to bet that most of those 73 seats would have the same position of a Nigel Farage – god forbid. How workable would that Parliament be then?
    Just as an aside, at the time of posting this comment, I note that we are 1 day and about 2 hours away from the original Brexit date

    1. Ignacio

      Imagine! It’d be a nigthmare. And elections are so close. As a voter I think anything but possitively about this circus. Furthermore, according to Politico’s euroelection poll of polls, of the three mainstream groups (conservative, progressive and liberals) two are falling in favour of new nationalistic or other new parties. Add that to the Farages and we have a toxic mixture here.

      For me it is a MUST not to let brexit lead us into that chaos. And I wish the best for the UK. Tusk is pissing me off!

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Ignacio.

        Genuine question: Why do you think the centrist / mainstream will do any better?

        I worked in and with Brussels from 2007 – 16. The mainstream are just less shouty, that’s all. Sure they may be less nationalist, but they just facilitate a deracinated and rapacious elite, especially the useful idiots at the Party of European Socialists. If you don’t believe me, please search for the people who own (aka employ) Guy Verhofstadt, not his constituents who labour under the apprehension that their votes count.

        With regard to chaos, the EU27 still has the Eurozone ticking away. Brexit is not the only concern and may well not be the biggest risk to stability.

        1. Ignacio

          That is a good question Colonel. The two groups that are falling are precisely the “centrists” if we regard the progressive group and the liberal group as centrists while the popular party (conservatives) remains untouched by events. That solely is just bad. Here, I admit, I am just extrapolating from Spain politics and that must be a mistake. In Spain, the progressive party, PSOE is currently leaded by someone that is much less centrist than previous leaders and more readily progressive. That, I have detected in only one year of government that brougth some fresh air. For instance he is proposing for next elections to be held in April a Minimal Income for everybody, an (very low, should I say) income guarantee. Mistaken or not that sounds progressive. Pedro Sánchez, so far, doesn’t look married with powerful groups of interest and his ministers, at least some of them have done quite well. Many capable woman in this government! On the contrary, the “new party” from Spain that could gain seats in Europarliament, VOX is a xenophobe nationalist, traditionalist, antimfeminist that would be a representation of the worst ideas from Spain. I dislike it very much.

          On your latter phrase I concur 100%.

  8. skippy

    One day … if there are enough … someone will take all the media from this and do a ‘What’s Up, Tiger Lily?’ treatment on the whole thing ….

  9. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    I am annoying a few relatives & friends on FB who are all avid Remainers, due to knowledge gained from the excellent analysis & comments here. Yesterday Tusk turned up as a kind of Messiah with a message of hope to relieve their aching hearts, to add to the promise of the petition which I believe will be debated next week. The Brexit faction do not appear to care either way, except for a couple who post Rule Brexitannia links & British bulldog type pictures – there has been much in the way of rows leading to unfriending.

    I cannot understand why in particular the intelligent ones stick to a mainstream media, which has been so consistently wrong in regards to so much – perhaps it is just a habit or comfort zone thing.

    I posted this ” You are going the wrong way ” youtube clip yesterday with the title ” Brexit ? “, which went down like a lead balloon, but I don’t much care for attending weddings.

    1. fajensen

      I cannot understand why in particular the intelligent ones stick to a mainstream media, which has been so consistently wrong in regards to so much – perhaps it is just a habit or comfort zone thing

      What if people in reality consume news for the emotional “fix” it gives? Confirmation of whatever it is that one already believe to be the case, the “five-minutes-of-outrage” that Daily Mail excels in, and so on and so forth. Maybe people actually don’t want to be better informed, they just want better stories, “the truthiness” of a media is somehow measured by how well the content massages the feelings of the targeted consumer?

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        I agree & perhaps the narrative of the individual also has to fit snugly within one’s chosen social group, who all tend to sing from the same hymn sheet. It is very noticeable on FB & perhaps I should stop pointlessly disturbing their cognitive consonance.

      2. ChrisPacific

        Facebook’s success as a news platform (yes, large numbers of people really do get their news from Facebook) is pretty much based on this concept. It’s even spawned a whole sub-industry of superficially legit sites like the ‘Washington Journal’ which serve up clickbait and emotional headlines in enormous volumes for advertising dollars, relying on the Facebook share network to drive traffic. In order to work the stories need only enough truth to sound plausible, which in practice doesn’t turn out to be all that much.

        I think of it as BCAAS (Bias Confirmation As A Service).

    2. foppe

      it makes me wonder how this will be “remembered” by the UK Press and media after the fact. At least this time, the desire to take “revenge” on the defeated party was less dominant and prevalent than during the negotiations leading up to Versailles , but still..

  10. Which is worse - bankers

    My sense is that they will flail about cycling through options that won’t work until it is April 12. Then there will be a decision based upon the best remaining options. It is all posturing until then.

  11. Ataraxite

    A question for the expert minds here:

    Does the UK need to actually pass any legislation to participate in the EU elections in May? Can they do it by statutory instrument, or is new legislation required? And does this new legislation have to be passed by April 12?

    1. Clive

      I have researched this question extensively and while I am sure what follows is correct, the legislation governing the European Parliament election is rather a rag bag so I might have missed something.

      There’s two answers. The short answer is, no, it doesn’t. The election needs to be published by a minister and the organisation of the election is already provided for in the European Parliament Election Act 2004.

      So that’s alright then? No, not so fast. A European Parliament election has previously required a small but important chunk of secondary legislation for things like candidate lists and how they should be drawn up, what happens when, as would be the case here the European Election falls on the same date as local (county) elections, budget limits and budgetary line item specifications, use of public buildings (or not) in terms of if schools halls can be used and if that then requires schools to close on that days laws in place to enforce this. And so on.

      However… much of the previously passed secondary legislation is written in a way which allows it to simply roll over. So no versions of old legislation might not *have* to be passed.

      However, however… no tying up potential legal lose ends risks something innocuous-sounding but fairly fundamental slipping through as an unintended consequence.

      So, summing all that up, the UK government could risk relying on preexisting legislation to carry it through participation in a European election. But it would be far, far safer to pass new, bespoke, statute to cover the inevitable customisation and anomalies which always crop up in the organisation of any poll and need a legal gluing together properly. This will mean an element of SI Hell for the U.K. Government.

      Getting the legislation passed probably won’t be an issue (it’s going to be either do it, or a No Deal) so at the very least Labour will abstain. The problem will be timing. The legislation will need an element of planning. As Yves points out correctly, the UK Government seems more preoccupied with, well, everything, than in getting a good handle on small details like what must be done, when, in moving legislation.

      The legislation, if the government does try to do things properly and not risk taking a flyer and relying on the existing provisions in law left over from the last European Parliament election, won’t need passing by the 12th (but it’ll need doing within a week or so of that date to be of any use).

      But a Minister publishing the election *must* happen on that date. So there is a “make up your mind time” date baked in, in all this.

      1. Anders K

        Thank you Clive, It’s an answer to a question I didn’t know I should have, so hat-tip to Ataraxite as well.

        Of course, since this is something that could be ignored (not that it should, but as Clive mentions, tilt your head the right way and it looks like it can be), I am quite sure this – as Clive mentions – will be way, way down the list for the current Government (or Parliament, perhaps excluding SNP or LibDem) to do. To me, any party (or MP) who brings this up early should get some cred for thinking ahead (unlikely as it is that it will be touched while everyone is running around with their favorite unicorn on fire).

        Alas, I expect to be disappointed (also doubt that it will show up in any high level summaries of “what has Brexited lately”).

  12. Jim A.

    To quote the the song “Free Will” by the Canadian band Rush: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Crashout seems inevitable at this point.

    1. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

      I’m surprised we have not seen more articles now about what to expect at the Irish border in 2 weeks.

  13. Tom

    I was struck when Jonathan Pie described the political parties as irrelevant on Mar 22.

    Who got us here? This lot [pointing at Westminster Palace] … who spent the last three years trying to keep their useless irrelevant parties together while sleepwalking the country into a food blender.

    Yesterday’s HoC votes and all the recent Brexit votes (except the 2 MVs) were pointless and counterproductive for this reason. The parties are irrelevant to Brexit and yet the party fight for power determines the outcomes of the votes. Both parties are split wrt Brexit but they divide on party lines.

    Party irrelevance isn’t the only factor of course but it prevented formation of groups that could develop coherent ideas.

  14. vlade

    Here’s an idea, and I do wonder whether it will occur to anyone in the parliament.

    The main objection of DUP to the backstop, IIRC, isn’t the backstop per se, but the fact it is only applied to the NI. The brexiters (JRM, Sasha and co) object it’s vasslage that keeps ECJ in, and stops the UK from doing its own deals (well, not negotiating, but having them go into effect..).

    So, if that restriction was removed, and the “backstop” became “UK-wide backstop” as opposed to “NI backstop”?

    That could:
    – remove DUP objection
    – if JRM & Co are willing to vote for the vassalage right now, that should be of not much difference to them
    – it would be substantial enough change to get over Bercow’s hurdle
    – and it could be potentially relatively small change to WA that the EU _could_ live with (IIRC, that was what was originally proposed but May wanted to restrict it to the NI only).

    1. Ataraxite

      The backstop in the WA is already applied to all of the UK. This was a big concession made by the EU, was requested by the UK after the original WA drafts only applied the backstop to NI, which would have necessitated a border in the Irish Sea.

      1. vlade

        I guess I’m losing track then.

        But then I don’t understand how DUP can use “no different treatment from the rUK” as basis of their objection. But I guess I’m not sure whether anyone understands DUP.

        1. Marlin

          Only part of the backstop is applied to the full UK. Specifically, the backstop means a customs union for the full UK (therefore I don’t understand, why labour objects to the deal; the PD might not containt a CU, but there is very little reason to assume, that the backstop will not become active as no magic solution will pop up in the next 2 years). However, regulatory alignment would be enforced only in NI forcing NI to apply single market regulations AND HAVE CHECKS at the ports importing goods from GB, which could divert from single market rules. I think this is the point where the DUP is unhappy with.

          Indeed the original backstop had as well the CU part only for NI and May already renegotiated due to DUP opposition.

  15. Avidremainer

    I think I’d like to meet my long lost cousins.
    The question- to put it in Johnsonian terms- is whether The EU wants the UK in the tent pissing out or outside and pissing in ? If it is the former then the EU will bend over backwards to help the UK. The latter means we’re out probably without a deal.
    There is no point worrying to death the daily minutiae of events because we are dealing with big problems that require big politicians to step up. I agree there is a dearth of politicians with enough about them to do the job but there has to be someone.
    I watched the whole debate yesterday and a few things struck me. One was the lack of rancour. The second was that everything went down but some of the options on show failed by considerably less than Mrs May’s. I also noticed that Ken Clarke voted for the Labour offer. Ken Clarke may be a Tory but is undeniably a man of immense talent. Of course he is loathed by the ERG. There appears to be a possible consensus around a Clarke/Labour compromise on Monday.
    Contrary to a lot of commentators on this site the beauty or bane of our ” constitution ” is that it is what Parliament says it is at any moment. If there is a consensus Parliament will change Standing Orders as necessary to ensure Parliament’s will will be enacted in law. Then it is up to May to obey or go.
    I appreciate that this will cause even more Mayhem than we have now but the EU’s reaction is crucial. In the circumstances as described does the EU indulge the UK and provide the time for the UK to sort itself out or do they say enough already, go?
    What are the EU’s interests in this matter?

    1. vlade

      The problem with “will be enacted in law” is that law must be enforced to have any impact on reality. If the UK parliament passes a law that denies gravity, it will mean that nothing will drop in the UK once it gets Royal Asssent.

      May already is on contempt of the Parliament. But if the Parliament is serious about getting executive to do what it wants, then it has to kick out May and get in another executive. Or, in extremis, declare that Parliament is the government and the committees will rule, but that is rally still just choosing executive.

      1. Avidremainer

        I agree we will need a change of executive. The ‘ Parliament takes control’ route means that no one gets the blame for Mrs May’s fall. ” He who wields the dagger etc…” The Tories will split over the election. The ERG will not tolerate a remainer and the remainers will not tolerate a brexiteer.
        Government of National Unity anyone?

    2. Rob S

      The question- to put it in Johnsonian terms- is whether The EU wants the UK in the tent pissing out or outside and pissing in ?

      I think the metaphor needs to do a little more work. Aren’t they worried about the UK being in the tent and pissing all over everyone inside it, while shitting its pants?

    3. Richard

      There is a time when it will be in the EU’s interests to cut its losses and move on, and I really think that time is now. It has many other problems to sort out and the last thing it needs is a new batch of UK Euro sceptic MEPs pissing both in and out. The problems the UK will undoubtedly face when it crashes out may also focus minds in the Euro elections. As Yves has correctly observed for quite a while, there are many moving parts and it will really be quite difficult for Parliament to stop a crash out Brexit.

    4. NotReallyHere

      FWIW – my opinion is that the EU gave up on Britain a long time ago – there was a faint the hope that she would come around one day but the referendum nixed that.

      Today the EU is trying to make sure that the Brits don’t steal the silver and piss in the pot plants on the way out. Oh, yes and for good measure, it would love to see a total sh*t show in the UK “pour encourager les autres”

  16. Avidremainer

    Please can we stop referring to Johnson as Kemal? I remember the printer’s strike of the mid 80s. The owner of “Today” was a man called Eddie Shah. Groups of printers on TV emphasising SHAH as in “this is a foreign git ” went down like a cup of cold sick.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      OK, then, this Johnny Foreigner will call him Sasha de Pfeffel.

      I remember big Eddie, one of these immigrant and children of immigrant types who feel they have to outdo the natives, so that they fit in. Please see Javid, Raab, Patel etc. I think it’s rather appropriate to remind them of their roots.

      1. Avidremainer

        Very harsh Colonel. Sasha dePfeffel is a good compromise. I just refer to him as the liar Johnson.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you.

          How about shagger Johnson? Does he know how many children that he has sired out of wedlock?

          There are interesting stories about him from his time as editor of the Spectator.

  17. Burke

    If I understand correctly, if no extension is granted in April 12, Parliament still has more time to pass the deal and avoid a crashout on May 22.

    So assuming no extension is granted, MPs would then face a binary choice: May’s deal or crash out. In which case, it is possible that enough labour and lib dem MPs will vote for the deal.

    1. Richard

      No I don’t think so. May’s deal by tomorrow or crash out on the 12th unless you a) partake in Euro elections b) come up with a credible plan in order for us to grant you a long (> 1 year) extension. After watching the Parliament channel last night and seeing how the votes fell I doubt either a or b are feasible.

      1. Burke

        Could that be fudged?

        Assuming that passing the deal is preferable to the EU to crashout, could they on April 12 offer “one last chance” to pass the deal?

        They must realize the reason the UK can’t decide is they believe they have too many options. In a binary choice of deal or no deal, the deal would probably pass.

        1. Richard

          The April 12th date is significant in the context of the EU elections. Please see Yves previous excellent Brexit posts and comments to get a clearer picture.

      2. Brooklin Bridge

        You mean (a) AND (b) on or by the 12th, right? That is if by the 12th a UK minister posts participation in the EU elections (see Clive above), but Parliament (or whoever) does not propose any plan credible or otherwise on BREXIT, the EU can and probably should say it’s over.

        If the EU is truly hoping to get out from under an interminable quagmire with BREXIT, without getting blamed but also without inviting more of the time-consuming same after EU elections, one would imagine they would have the continental media start blasting CRASH out on April 12 or 13 so as to head off any more shenanigans (including the inevitable blame game) from any part of the UK political system?

        1. Burke

          Indeed, it looks like April 12 might not be a hard date after all. From this article:

          It was agreed among the member states that for there to be any talks after the UK has crashed out, the bloc’s 27 capitals will expect Downing Street to agree to signal by 18 April that it will pay the £39bn Brexit bill despite the failure of the Commons to ratify the withdrawal agreement.

          The terms of the Irish backstop, keeping Northern Ireland in large parts of single market legislation and the EU’s customs territory in order to protect the Good Friday agreement, would remain as the bloc’s solution for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

          In other words, the deal isn’t changing. But if you can’t get your act together by April 12 that is not too late to change your mind (at a possibly inflated cost).

          This has always seemed like a plausible outcome: the EU waits to let Bad Things happen, and for the UK public to realize what the consequences of crashout really are. Then they set whatever terms they want.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            No, the UK needs to participate in the EU elections to get an extension beyond May 22, and they MUST commit to that by April 12. That is a hard constraint on the UK end.

            Now the EU may allow some faffing about on the details of an extension IF the UK has agreed to EU Parliament elections. But they cannot fudge agreeing to that by the 12th.

            1. Burke

              Agreed – but the question here is about not about whether it would be possible to extend EU membership after missing the April 12 deadline, which is as you say impossible due to the requirement for EU Parliament elections.

              The question is whether it would be possible to activate the Withdrawal Agreement (“May’s deal”) after missing the April 12 deadline. That Guardian article seems to suggest that the deadline for passing the Withdrawal Agreement could be extended beyond April 12.

              In which case, precisely because an extension of EU membership is off the table, MPs would face a binary choice: WA or crashout. Between those two choices, remain-minded MPs from all parties would then likely support the WA.

              In fact, this seems like May’s best Gambit for getting her deal passed.

  18. Marc

    Seems to me, assuming that May’s proposal does not go through, that the Ken Clarke’s Customs Union proposal will be flagged as one of a few options to re-vote on on Monday. Barnier, among others, seemed to be open to this. So the observations that the Customs Union “neither prevents the disruption of non-tariff trade barriers, nor does it solve the Irish border” is rather critical. So I would appreciate more detail on both these points from anyone.

    But even given all of this, in terms of what is going to happen next, what seems relevant is: (1) whether it will get more votes in parliament and pass desptie it not being ideal given that, at this point, the alternative is a hard brexit and; (2) its acceptability to the EU (and its willingness to delay further, if necessary, given this change in proposal (one of the red lines). I would also note that the DUP did seem to be looking at Customs Union when the backstop seemed to be to hard to move back in January. Again, any views on this would be appreciated.

    1. vlade

      Turkey has custom union with the EU, but the border between it and Greece/Bulgaria is pretty hard.

      1. Mirdif

        Yes. Something little understood is that a Customs Union is a hard Brexit although very slightly less than only an FTA.

    2. Anonymous2

      I suspect that for some people the customs union proposal is a stalking horse for single market membership as an add-on in due course if negotiations continue. If the UK does not crash-out (very far from guaranteed) and some sort of negotiations on a future relationship go on, these will go on for years. In such circumstances – say by 2022 – supporters of this idea will hope they can say something along the lines of ‘2016 is so long ago. we have learned so much since then. Who cares about EU citizens coming to the UK (net migration from EU 27 to the UK is now close to zero whereas immigration from the rest of the world – mostly Asia and Africa – is well up)? Single market membership solves so many problems’.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        “Single market membership” cannot be an add on feature. We have too many readers who have invested lots of time on this issue to have someone make remarks that are so unfounded.

        The only way for the UK to become a member of the single market again would be to rejoin the EU. As Barnier and others pointed out, there is already a queue and the UK would not be allowed to jump places.

        The only backdoor approximations would be “Norway” and many people, including this humble blog, have pointed out that no way, no how will the EU allow the sort of fudges it did for the little countries in the Efta for the UK. And on top of THAT, Norway does have a hard border with EU member Sweden AND has 50 bilateral agreements with the EU on top of that to make that border less sticky than it would otherwise be. As Richard North noted:

        As one might imagine, though, these are the provisions which form the regulatory basis for trade between Norway and Sweden, a border which is relatively free-flowing but not entirely frictionless. Truckers can find that clearance during busy periods can take as long as an hour and a half to get their loads cleared.

        As a result, numerous voices have argued that, for all its advantages, the so-called “Norway option” would not provide an entirely adequate solution for a border-free Ireland.

        And North is an Efta enthusiast, and is still pushing Efta despite Norway already having said it would not allow the UK to join Efta.

        In other words, don’t make stuff up. It is a violation of our written Policies.

        1. vlade

          I think that Anon2 meant (and I have suspected for a long time at least some pols practiced) is that they really mean single market when they say CU to avoid talking about the 4F that come with SM.

          But as you say, it’s likely irrelevant as there’s no reasonable fudge for the UK to get it – either blocked by the EU, or blocked by EFTA/EEA

  19. David

    I can understand frustration and even exasperation with Parliament, but I found myself very much in agreement with Ian Dunt‘s column this morning, except that I don’t think a second referendum is as close as he thinks. That said, what we saw last night was a refreshing change, and is best understood as a series of trial balloons, some more substantial than others, voted on by MPs juggling their personal convictions, their view of what would be best for their country and their party, pressure from their own party and their constituents, how others were voting on which proposals, and which other proposals were likely to succeed. Nobody seriously expected a single option to triumph after a few hours of debate and a vote. So what conclusions can we draw, not about specific options, but about the general mood of last night? The main one is that a no-deal Brexit is overwhelmingly out. This doesn’t mean, as we’ve discussed endlessly, that it can’t happen, just that if there is a coherent plan which doesn’t mean non-deal, then it will have a lot of support. It shows that a second referendum is off the table for the moment, but that’s not surprising in the current febrile climate. And it shows reasonably solid support for a close relationship with the EU, even allowing for unicorns running all over the place. But the details here are not important, because none of these plans, as everybody knows, are going to be adopted as policy. Assuming we go on to a second day of debate on Monday, things should be a bit clearer. In the end, as we’ve often said, you can’t fault Parliament for not doing the job of the government, although it has to be said that they did make the government’s job potentially easier, if only the government has the wit to recognise that.
    So how would the EU see this? The European media, like that in the UK, seems to be concentrating mainly on the comic opera of May’s offer of suicide. But one thing that’s clear is that the debate yesterday, if sometimes a bit detached from reality, was nonetheless sober and grown-up. The comparison with May’s unvarying slapstick routine will not have been lost on EU leaders. The second is that, given time, things will cool down, and sensible propositions can be made. The third is that the ERG is not the homogenous bloc everyone assumed, and that its members will turn on each other at the prospect of power.
    Politics, in the end, is about sub-optimal choices. If May, or somebody representing the government, can say before 12 August that things are in train, and new ideas can be expected, that will be enough for a longer delay. This is what the EU has been signalling. The issue isn’t whether the EU want to be nice to the UK, because clearly they don’t. The issue is whether a UK crash-out, with its attendant problems, is worse than the UK remaining a bit longer, with its own attendant problems. It seems fairly clear that a delay, even a substantial one, is a less bad option. This doesn’t mean it will happen, simply that it is almost certainly on offer if the UK can manage to lay at least two ducks down in line ahead. Difficult, I know, but not beyond all possibility.

    1. vlade

      Given that a confirmatory referendum was the second least-unpopular option, I’m not entirely sure that “second referendum is out” is true.

      What yesterday brought home is that it’s now extermely hard to blame the EU for any disaster, as it made it obvious to anyone that the UK doesn’t know what it wants.

      But the MPs would also like not to be blamed when things will go south in a bad way. Confirmatory referendum is a way to get that.

      1. David

        Yes, I think the “moment” for which the referendum is off the table could be very short – weeks perhaps, or a month or two, until the present hysterical climate passes. I suspect that, as with other options, the actual support for a second referendum is greater than was indicated yesterday.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I don’t see a “confirmatory referendum” as what people understand as a Second Referendum. They think referendum first, Parliament disposes on that, not Government cuts a new deal (based on WTF, given Parliament disarray), Parliament presumably approves, and the public votes.

        I coud see what problem a Second Referendum solves (allowing political cover for a revocation of A50, as in it seems to be the one way to get to Remain). I don’t see how a confirmatory referendum solves anything. And I can’t see the EU liking it because it does not provide a “way forward”; if anything, it makes a way forward more difficult. It simply creates one more hurdle to concluding a Withdrawal Agreement.

        1. Knute Rife

          You’re right that a confirmatory referendum is not the Second Referendum people have been calling for, but it would allow the Commons to continue to pretend to do something while doing nothing. “If we can ever get our act together and pass an actual plan, we’ll let you vote on it in whatever meaningful time is left. So you might have a whole 15 minutes to review it before you cast your ballot. And remember, whatever mess results, YOU voted for it.”

        2. vlade

          There’s a nuanc between second and confirmatory referendum – basically depending on the question asked. Only if the question was exactly the same you’d call it a second referendum. If the question is “May’s hard brexit, no-desal brexit, no brexit”, then it’s a confirmatory referendum.

          It’s a hurdle, true, but it’s a well defined hurdle.

          I believe (but can’t find the actual text of the motion) that the confirmatory referendum is basically “this is what we want Brexit to look like. If not, it’s remain”. I.e. it’s an option between (some) Brexit deal and Remain.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I think you are missing my point. This is not about the questions but about the sequencing.

            Labour has talked in the past about voters having final approval on a deal. This is what I think they mean by “confirmatory referendum”. That means negotatiation>Parliamentary approval of a deal>public vote.

            I think this is that and I think that is beyond silly.

            Conversely, most other people have used “second referendum” and “People’s vote” interchangably, and I have never seen anyone suggest it be a rerun of the first referendum because it is clear that the questions would need to be different and clearer. For instance, at one point, May was reportedly willing to consider a “second referendum” but only on no deal v. her deal.

    2. Clive

      I agree. The EU27 can and no doubt will in its various institutional arms gripe about the U.K. government, Brexit, U.K. political dysfunction, how awful it all is etc.

      But it’s just as true a criticism for the EU27 as it is for the U.K. government and the U.K. parliament that it’s no use saying what they don’t want (Brexit, yeah, we get that) but not what they do want to reconsider (reopening the Withdrawal Agreement, time-limits on the backstop, mini-Deal’ettes and all the other EU red lines). The EU’s choices are even more limited, in two ways, than the U.K.’s as the EU can only pick from No Deal and a Deal which has a chance of getting through the U.K. Parliament — it has no control over what might please or displease that lot — and it has no control over being able to pick No Brexit either as only the U.K. can decide to do that.

      The one variable it does, now, have complete control of, with the two-year negotiation period being up tomorrow, is to force No Deal as the EU27 have total autonomy over granting, or not granting, further extensions. But the same considerations which were in play last week that led the EU27 to decide to grant the U.K. an extension will be in play next week when the U.K. hands in its homework for the “indicating the way forward”. If No Deal looked bad to the EU27 last week, as it demonstrably did, the decision by the EU27 to allow an extension of Article 50 is a fact, why would it all of sudden look materially better next week?

      As PlutoniumKun and I mused a day or two ago, this needs all needs a fresh start. A clean sheet, no red lines from anyone, the U.K. or the EU27, probably some new faces with new thinking. No baggage. Having personally seen this kind of intractable problem many times over, those are the only things which can get everyone out of gridlock. Whether or not we’ll get that, we’ll know in a week or so.

      1. Ignacio

        Isn’t it a bit late for a fresh start? I don’t know, the English parliament migth be, but the EU can’t be that fast. It is a monster of an institution.

        1. Clive

          It could, if it granted a year, or, more likely to be needed, an eighteen month, extension.

          Will it or won’t it? That’s the question and it’s only one the EU27 can answer. As David said originally a little way up, that’ll depend not on what the EU27 would like but on what it finds least-worst.

        2. David

          “A fresh start”, yes. I don’t think there’s any other option. It’s true that the EU can enforce a no-deal, but at a cost I’m not sure it’s prepared to pay. It’s like aiming an antique pistol at somebody: it should kill them, but it might also take your hand off in the process. What everybody needs now is a period of calm, when other subjects can be dealt with, and the hysteria can begin to subside. As Ignacio says, the EU doesn’t move very fast, and it’s not good a crisis management, unsurprisingly for an organisation of that size. The idea of dialling down the temperature, and starting exploratory negotiations with a sensible government is probably very attractive. Of course, first catch your sensible government ….

          1. Ignacio

            Which would be the signals/compromises that indicate that this is really a fresh start and not a rerun? Given that only at the eventh our have some MPs come to grips with reality it could be expected the same this time with resurrecting unicorns on the way. A compromise should include that the british negotiator won’t come back every two years with, “sorry the Parliament find it unacceptable”.

            1. Ignacio

              –Note: sorry for mistreating your language, sometimes it is me, sometimes the keyboard (or my inability with the keyboard)–

          2. PlutoniumKun

            The problem with the idea of a ‘sensible government’ is that the EU will have no doubt noticed that the ERG mob have realised might be able to gain control of the whole process when May goes by making a true believe PM (or even Boris – he is only a true believer in himself, but he’s nailed himself so firmly to the Brexit cause he can’t back out now).

            As so often, the Tories behave as though they can’t read English language newspapers in Brussels. I’m pretty sure the private briefings Merkel and Macron are getting are starting with something like ‘You think it can’t get worse? Think again if Boris is PM in July on a mandate of raising hell over the exit deal’.

  20. Mirdif

    At the EU Council last week Merkel asked Varadkar if he understood what a border meant. Since then, more word has come out about that particular exchange, namely, that Merkel and Macron asked Varadkar if Dublin would be ready for 29 March to which he replied in the negative. He was then told by both to be ready for 12 April. EU Commission and EU27 are now working with Ireland frantically to get the preparations done. This should be looked at in light of the comments from the EU Commission this week that no deal preparations are complete. Merkel is due to visit Ireland in the next 10 days or so the rumour goes. The statement of Donald Tusk this week that warmed the hearts of the remain mob should not be seen as anything other than optics and the EU wanting to be on the side of the UK remain forces. Such sweet statements are for the future in case of crash out i.e. pure optics only.

    Apparently, a discussion has been taking place in Brussels as to if the cost of a long extension is more than no deal. A growing opinion is that no deal is less costly and will unblock the process definitively. I tend to think this is overly confident and quite reckless but it’s the kind of call you can make with more confidence if you’re in the drivers seat so-to-speak. Also, the EU Commission is taking its hardline stance from the EU27 leaders especially Macron, Merkel and surprisingly Mark Rutte and Xavier Bettel. The UK is dealing with people who are sympathetic and yet will act ruthlessly so what of other forces in the world especially where there are axes to grind both of the colonialist variety and having bombs dropped on your head under cover of international law variety.

    If no deal happens it will almost certainly be in April with closer to 12 April being more likely as the EU27 does not want such things to happen at the same time as the elections. Also, they’re likely to announce it over a weekend so it may well be a sudden announcement on Friday evening that there will no extension. This is so as not to spook Herr Market. A general election seems like it will be the only mitigating factor but it will mean holding European Parliament elections so may not happen or an extension may be refused even in that case. Until now the EU Commission has done quite a good job keeping German and especially French mercantilism in check but it seems the impasse has created the conditions whereby the Commission cannot keep the mercantilism in check anymore.

    What do we see in England, “the EU is bloody minded”, “No Deal, No Problem”, “Let’s Go WTO” and that’s the kind of nonsense spouted by the ordinary person and no doubt this has filtered through to the media and political class via focus groups. Then there’s the remain mob with their revoke and people’s vote nonsense which are the least likely options and yet here we have people pretending that this is about to happen.

    Then we get the ruling class where we have people like sweaty Dominic Raab – less kind people than me may point out that certain “habits” increase sweating – who wants to re-negotiate the WA with changes to the backstop or prepare for no deal or Johnson who’s changed his mind in days or Spode who seemingly does not even understand the issues at hand and that’s before we get to lunatics like Bill Cash citing Cromwell as if there’s anything relevant there to do with Brexit other than invading Ireland I suppose. Not a one of them has understood or come to terms with the humiliation that took place last week. To quote Orwell from England Your England about the ruling class:

    What is to be expected of them is not treachery, or physical cowardice, but stupidity, unconscious sabotage, an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing. They are not wicked, or not altogether wicked; they are merely unteachable. Only when their money and power are gone will the younger among them begin to grasp what century they are living in.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’d be interested in your sources for that Merkel/Varadkar conversation – although it is certainly true that there are rumours about EU diplomats ‘laying down the law’ in Dublin – i.e. telling Ireland to get its act in order. Varadkar is congenitally incapable of dealing with bad news so he may be in denial. Coveney is a realist. But if it is as you say, they’ve kept it remarkably tight so far, I’ve not seen any suggestion of the story you mention in the Irish media, and the Irish diplomatic set up has proven very leaky so far (maybe I’ll toddle down to Doheny & Nesbits pub on Friday night, that’s where the gossip usually originates).

      It occurs to me that the threat of May’s resignation may have made a 12 April no-deal more likely, because it will have been noticed that the ERG group have suddenly realised that they may be able to grab control of the exit negotiations if Boris or Raab becomes PM. This would be hell on earth for the EU (and everyone else). So they may well feel its better to cut loose now, and to hell with the consequences.

      1. foppe

        not having prepared for a “hard” border would be quite consistent with his continued statements wrt the undesirability of a hard border to the Irish, and a sneaky way to undermine the EU a little. If you are worried about the (re)creation of a hard border, I wouldn’t say it’s living in denial to not want this; it could also be an attempt to gum up the bureaucracy. Still, we’ll see.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          My understanding is that the instruction went out last year not to prepare for any border on the basis that visible preparation would upset the political balance in Northern Ireland (I’ve never quite understood the logic of this argument, but that’s apparently how it was explained). It goes back to when the strong position was for an Irish Sea border.

          I would, however, be surprised if the police/army hadn’t wargamed this is secret. They key border crossings are within 2-4 hours drive of the main army bases and police HQ, so theoretically at least, they could move a few thousand uniformed men and women there very quickly without needing a major effort. You could look at it as the equivalent of a busy sporting weekend.

          I talked to a contact I know who works in a senior post in the Irish Civil Service. She said there was an assumption that things would clarify the closer everyone got to the end of March, so they could organise for whatever the likely outcome would be – the fact that things have become less clear as time goes on has been a bit of a shock to them so there is some confusion going on.

          There is also apparently some senior EU legal advisors in Dublin right now, unannounced, I don’t know what they are up to, I’d assume they are giving emergency advice on what can, and can’t be done.

  21. Ptb

    I thought it was interesting that ‘customs union’ was 8 short, with 11 Lib Dems abstaining (holding out for referendum).

    At the very least, there is a chance for parliamentary backing for *something* besides no-deal. Referendum is further along than WA, also.

  22. Epistrophy

    Europe, early on as a trading block, was an enabler of commerce. Joining the common market was a net benefit. In the 1980s, the UK became a gateway to Europe for a great deal of Anglo/Commonwealth and Asian investment.

    However, after the rollout of the Euro, the expansion of members, and subsequent treaties of the last 15 to 20 years, the EU has essentially placed the UK in shackles by comparison.

    Since that rollout, the economic beneficiaries have clearly been Germany and France (and perhaps the Netherlands). But southern Europe has become a complete economic disaster zone. The future of the European Union (not Europe however), if this current trajectory continues, is bleak. It will either (1) become the United States 2.0, (2) it will disintegrate or (3) both will occur – some members will leave and the remaining core will unite. It can’t continue on its current path while the rest of the world moves on. I believe that options 2 or 3 are more likely; but will it happen voluntarily or involuntarily?

    Perhaps the only way forward now is a clean WTO exit with a view to allowing the UK to realign its trade policies independent of the EU while at the same time the EU sorts out its own deeply flawed system; all the while leaving the door open to the UK rejoining in future if the British population so wish.

    In politics and economics, nothing is cast in stone forever.

    1. Avidremainer

      John Major the last Tory Premier with a decent majority is a beacon of sense at the moment ( I never thought I’d say that ) argued for the Expansion of the EU to counter the closer integration wishes of others in the EU. He won. So if the expansion of Europe of the EU is a problem then it is another Tory cock-up. Single Market-British. Most if not all of EU ‘elf and safety regulations-British. Aviation regs-British, it goes on and on. If membership of the EU became a liability the the Brits were largely responsible. Perhaps Sir Humphrey and the Foreign Office were more successful than was thought possible.

    2. Gary Gray

      I also think National Disintegration will occur as well. Basically the capitalist system has peaked and has no where to go but down. UK,France,Spain,Italy, Bismark’s herring…….finished.

  23. drb48

    I’ve been trying to follow the discussion here for some time and confess that I fail to understand what’s happening. It has seemed to me for some time that the EU has offered only two options – 1) May’s deal or 2) no deal. All this time being spent trying to come up with other options – unicorns? – seems a giant waste since anything else requires the EU to sign off and they’ve already stated that they’ve already signed off on the only deal they’re going to. So WTF is Parliament arguing over? Rejecting May’s deal effectively commits them to no deal as far as I can tell. Or I guess potentially bailing on the whole idea and withdrawing the article 50 thing but that doesn’t seem like an actual viable option. So what have I gotten wrong?

    1. drb48

      Oh, I guess the EU has indicated that it might be willing to do another deal but first the UK needs to propose one and so far they’ve been unable to do so? Is that right?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The EU has been adamant that they have agreed the deal with the UK and will not negotiate a new one. So yes, so far as the EU is concerned they’ve agreed a deal with the UK, its just that the UK can’t ratify it through Parliament. The EU has been firm that they will not renegotiate it.

        The only ‘maybe’ in all this is that the EU have essentially said they would be open to a long extension if the UK can give a good reason. There is an implication in this that they may allow some for of negotiation to start again, but they’d only do it if there was a genuine reset on the UK side.

    2. Joe Well

      Brexit has challenged every conception I had of human nature, power, government, and the UK.

      I don’t know of any similar case in history of so much obvious, abject stupidity going on for so long on the part of a modern nation-state: the government, the legislature and the opposition.

      The Vietnam and Iraq Wars were disastrous for the US as such, but the decision makers had their own malign reasons of wanting to set an example of poor countries that got out of line while also feeding the military beast. But Brexit is all just cockups+faffing about, for over two years.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The only equivalents I can think of is the few examples in history where countries voluntarily went to war in conflicts they couldn’t possibly win – the Paraquayan War, for example, or Japans decision to go to war with the US in 1941.

        1. Ignacio

          Yesterday I watched a documentary film on the british spies that provided Japan with information and technology to build their own aircraft carriers (they were allies in WWI) and on Pearl Harbour. Very detailed, it showed that the MI5 knew very well what was occuring but was reluctanct to publicly denounce it in order to preserve their sources.

  24. Dave

    Do I understand the actual choices correctly? I thought the options granted by the EU were:

    1) Don’t pass the WA by 3/29: UK has until 4/12 to ask for a longer extension; if they don’t or extension is not granted, hard brexit results.

    2) Pass the WA by 3/29: actual exit is delayed to 5/22.

    But what is buried in “ask for a longer extension?” They’ll have to participate in the EU elections, which I can’t imagine Brexiters want. Can they just ask for it, or does the UK need at least a creditable plan for coming to a workable solution? (Not that there could be one given the EU’s position that the agreement is the agreement, the fundamental impossibility of the Irish border issue, and the toxic stew of UK party politics.)

    Or what happens if they pass the WA next week? That seems to put them in option 1, but does it really?

    1. Burke

      This article suggests that the EU might accept something that looks a lot like the WA at least up to April 18th. Given that crashout would hurt the EU too, it seems unlikely they would refuse to accept a WA that was passed after 4/12.

      On the UK side, once 4/12 has passed and there is no longer any option to remain in the EU, MPs will be faced with a binary choice of WA or crashout. At which point, remain MPs would probably vote for the WA.

  25. Savita

    Parliament is bizarrely not going to hold its next round of indicative votes until next Monday. Why it is holding another vote this week or at worst over the weekend is beyond me.

    Should this be ‘ Why it is *not* holding another vote..’

  26. Sanxi

    Brexit: Chaos Continues as Parliament Votes Down All Brexit Options, Press Focuses on May Rather April

    → ‘chaos’, no, there is no chaos. While a political scientist might describe some political systems at their extremes as about to fail or having failed, rarely is the word chaos used, except with regard to a civilization going extinct and suddenly so. Brexit is neither. The political system being – first to the post, the referendum having being granted sovereignty, parliament being by design intended to work in a manner of one party with a large majority, all these create a situation not structured to deal with Brexit. Not structured is not chaos. Brexit represents a class of problems the political structure of the U.K. is not structured deal with, like climate change, and austerity, thus it will need to be re-structured. This is neither unusual or unprecedented. Chaos is an appeal to rabble rousing emotion, Fox News at its finest.

    There is a second issue, that is, the ability of existing politicians to be politicians regarding matters pertaining to U.K. and matters pertaining to the EU. Excellent arguments have been put forth, that U.K. politicians are inadequate at serving U.K. interests, and are captive with regard to the EU. In general UK politicians have very weak abilities.

    On the referendum #24N: Actions have consequences
    Many Posts on how over time U.K. politicians, let the EU do all their work for them.

    Things are bad in Brexit land and yesterday illustrated how the press has played a big role in that.

    Things, what things? Brexit is where? Again, not even sure how to describe this language other than at best it is unhelpful. It is a generally accepted principle that jargon is fine if well understood, is indeed largely held to be witty, and its’ tone is consistent with the overall emotional tone of the piece. As lives are at stake, the tone is dead serious. As to the U.K. it was reported by the Home Office that the number of children living in poverty in the U.K. went from 53% to 60% in the last year. So yes things are bad if Brexit land = the U.K.

    The old press in the U.K. does not function in any known definition of journalism.

    What was the lead story pretty much everywhere, including the Wall Street Journal? That Theresa May said she’d go if her deal was approved by Parliament this week. This is like watching pilots argue over who will man the plane on the next leg of a flight plan when if you look out the windshield, you can see it’s going to crash into a mountain.

    Two points, one, with planes crashing is this analog necessary? Two, the argument by parallel, which it is, is using the impending death, of one Theresa May, is to make a point about flying protocols or something?

    This should have been the biggest Brexit news of the day: In a spectacular display of indecision, the House of Commons has voted against remaining in the EU and every version of leaving the EU.

    The biggest news [story] of the day where? In the U.K.? Why? It’s part of a two day process. Spectacular compared to what? Seems the election of Trump was, but some non binding, self eliminating, ideas, represented as any, all or none, options, what are you talking about? Who does it serve to use the word this way, as hype? The EU. To be clear, the EU are 27 guys to 1 (the U.K.) in this story. The EU are the bad guys. No, it was a sad day, a predictable day, and one the confirms it’s time for change. It’s good that it’s already underway. It was a dog bites man story.

    As we’ll discuss, the odds are still solidly against May’s deal passing. Under any scenario save becoming physically incapable of serving, May will still be Prime Minister as of April 12, the current crash out date. Parliament hates May’s deal yet still has no plan of its own as to how to escape a no deal Brexit.

    Where does one begin? ‘odds are still solidly against May’s deal passing’ – And? That’s besides that point, let’s get real, which is that the U.K. and the EU have an existing economic relationship and will continue to have one – the EU wants the U.K. 100% fully In or as close as possible, the U.K. not so much. if anyone was rational in the U.K. they would un-revoke article 50, figure it out sans the EU what they want then revoke article 50 and focus on the future. Although the EU claims Treaty “process mumbo jumbo” doesn’t allow them to focus on the future, have to do it all one step at a time, that is simply not true. As in a lie.

    Richard North likes to talk about people not knowing what they are talking about and the press acting a manner to someone claiming to put out a fire while (whilst) throwing on gasoline (I can hear David Bowie even now). In that view, a couple of points • All borders issues go away if in a WA the U.K. stays in the Single Market, not the customs union, and not forever • Real politick take existing WA, an agreement between the EU and U.K. vote for, then as convenient unvote for it. I have an aversion to all absolutisms save one nothing is forever, no WA is • The Good Friday Agreement is well worth a reading, as it did not eliminate borders in any shape, manner, and form; overtime neither the U.K. or the RoI bothered. The RoI made it an Article 50 issue, it is not.

    And here I have to stop. If I haven opened an eyes I never well. Naked Capitalism has a preamble, and 13 years of posts in keeping with it, I know because I’ve been here that long. With one exception Brexit. I would not say gasoline is being thrown on the issue or full Brexit derangement syndrome has taken hold, but I have tried to show, that the nature of these posts, while in no way reflects the exceptional character of the poster (let’s focus on the art here not the artist), is nonetheless not ok. Ad hominem attacks. Unsourced facts. Third and fourth party sources. Opinions mixed with fact. Facts stated that aren’t facts. Why? To what end? I’d say is the fate of the Republic at hand? No it isn’t. Drama has it place. But not here. Lives are at stake, not it some vague sense but in a real sense, who controls what matters. Who decides what is vitally important. Lives of Despair. This has got to stop.

    1. Anders K

      Your post would have been easier to get through if it had been changed to use quotes where appropriate; due to its length it was hard to split what parts was from others and what parts were your response to them. An over-use of commas make some sentences hard to parse (“but some non binding, self eliminating, ideas, represented as any, all or none, options, what are you talking about”).
      Please take the above part as constructive criticism, even if you disregard all else I write. I hate for ideas to die because they are communicated badly (even if they are ideas I disagree with). I don’t consider myself an authority or perfect and am well aware of my over-use of paranthesis, so if this is part of how you write that you can’t bear to change, do disregard it.

      I think “chaos” is a perfectly viable way of describing the current situation in Parliament; a state of utter disorder. I agree with you that Parliament is not structured to deal with the problems of Brexit – but I hold that it is not structured to deal with many problems at all that are not dealt with by Government and that this is inherent to its structure (i.e. replacing the monarch with the Party leader). A lot of problems do not require good structures to deal with them – either because they are small enough that only a few care for them, or that they are general enough that all care the same way for them (but I did expect “upskirting should not be allowed” to breeze through Parliament).
      For bigger and more divisive problems, Parliament seems built assuming that the Government hands down a solution which it will then ratify. A Government seems expected to either have a majority in its own Party or to sound out opposition ahead of time and manage it (perhaps through its Parliamentary members) to make sure any decision should sail through (after whatever kabuki is needed to allow some individual grandstanding, usually handled by the whips AFAICT).
      Brexit seems to combine both a minority Government with a Government that either does not comprehend its own political system or does not use that comprehension, and this is in a political system which does not have any mechanism to handle such a Government.

      I’ll try to keep myself brief on your other points.

      The analog with the plane crash is necessary to communicate the implications of failure and to illustrate how short on time everyone is to avoid it. It is also to point out that even if the pilot (May) steps down, the plane is still flying into the mountain; changing the captain will not by itself change the course.

      Regarding what the news should have been, spectacular compared to previous performance, obviously. One should not get inured to Parliament doing poorly just because it’s done Brexit poorly for quite some time; doing absolutely very poorly (in not deciding for anything, even in an indicative vote) should indeed be news.

      First, revoking article 50 and then re-issuing it within a short time (years, not a decade or so) will not be accomodated as as it has been during this Article 50 journey. Agreed that the current discussion in Parliament should have happened before Article 50 invocation – but that is water under the bridge. Threatening to leave any relationship – political, economical or personal – has consequences.
      Second, while the EU and UK will indeed have a trade relationship of some kind (if only that of smugglers doing inconspicious trade), the EU and the UK are NOT agreed to what trade relationship they are to have (wrt to services, at least). This is what causes the problem. EU process does matter, in this case because the UK has agreed to that process (which could certainly be re-done in an differnt Article 50 invocation).

      Of course all problems go away if the UK stays in the SM, but then they also have to obey the EU court, and can’t do deals themselves. Not sure I understand your point here.
      GFA is not a problem until someone wants to raise borders; leaving the SM will raise borders; thus if UK wants to leave the SM then GFA becomes a problem. RoI made it an Article 50 issue because if they did not, the UK could have claimed that it was the RoIs fault that the GFA could not be upheld, which they regretfully had to comply with.

      I think that your conclusion – that lives are at stake, for reals, and that this is why Yves uses the language she does. Humans do not tend to act due to reasoned, well thought out treatises, and idiocy needs to be called out as such. Hemming and hawing, and using mild language because one does not wish to offend is part of how we are ending up with idiocy taking equal time in our media (other parts include our history and our current system of operation).

      I think you are preaching to the choir wrt to who controls what mattering and who decides – it seems to be me that you disagree with the method of trying to point that out to readers. Perhaps read NC Brexit posts out of the perspective of “there, but for the grace of Eris, goeth the rest of the world” and see if that helps?

      A lot of things has to stop – yet they won’t. Europe has ignored the sufferings others before, and will do so again – as will other parts of the world, both before they are powerful, during their height of power and after their power wanes.

  27. ChrisPacific

    I must say, JRM’s party loyalty is quite impressive (“I will support the DUP, if they are still opposing it”). It’s a pity that it’s to a party other than his own.

    1. Avidremainer

      What is stranger is that his loyalty is to a party that considers the Pope the Anti-Christ.

      1. flora

        If that party is the horse that can carry him to his desired neoliberal/liberatarian destination then he will ride that horse. Horses for courses.

  28. Savita

    Sanxi, I deeply appreciate your articulate, considered feedback. Thanks very much. I’ve added your name to the list of contributors I am careful to look out for

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