Brexit: End of the Road

Even by the standards of Brexit, things are such a mess that it’s hard to know where to begin. Nevertheless….

As the Brexit clock runs down, the Government lost a day by getting caught up in yet another internal row. May had planned to send a letter to the EU saying what she wanted in the way of an extension. But that didn’t happen because her ministers got in a 90 minute row over the idea that she would seek anything more than a short extension. Reports vary as to what May sought. Some said she wanted to try to get an extension till anywhere from April to June but also have the option of a long extension if she couldn’t get her Withdrawal Agreement approved. For instance:

Cakeism is alive and well in the UK!

The BBC reported May didn’t actually pose a concrete plan (sadly plausible):

There was alarm among Brexiteer cabinet ministers after May reportedly failed to outline a definitive decision on her approach to Article 50 at Tuesday’s cabinet.

Leave cabinet ministers held talks at Westminster on Tuesday night to agree a joint position. Some cabinet ministers are expected to resign if the prime minister requests a lengthy extension to Article 50.

The Daily Mail says May wanted nine months:

Theresa May is preparing to to abandon her plan to ask the EU for a nine-month Brexit delay after furious cabinet ministers told her the Tory party would only accept a three-month wait.

May has apparently capitulated to the demands of her ministers and will seek only a short extension. The Telegraph reported just after 7:00 AM London time that:

Theresa May will not seek a long extension to Brexit, Number 10 has reportedly stated.

According to the statement, the Prime Minister shares the country’s “frustration” over “Parliament’s failure to take a decision”.

The EU is talking tough and likely would have rejected a long extension. The spectacle of the Parliament and the Government flailing about as if March 29 didn’t matter isn’t endearing the UK to EU leaders. EU officials appear to have decided in the interest of time that they need to constrain the UK’s options before the summit Thursday and Friday, so the messages have become far more pointed.

Reading between the lines, it also appears that the idea of a long extension, which came from Donald Tusk, wasn’t an EU view. It now appears Tusk was freelancing and perhaps also hoping to give support to the MPs who wanted a second referendum, since it would clearly take a very long runway for that plus the resulting course changes. But even if there had been some willingness on the EU side to consider a lengthy extension, Parliament’s decisive rejection of a second referendum eliminated the biggest reason for granting the UK a lot ore time.

We had pointed out specifically that Macron didn’t sound like he was bluffing when he said, in effect, that the UK better present a damned good reason for seeking an extension. That reading looks to have been correct. From the Financial Times:

The EU has told Britain there are no guarantees it can delay Brexit, raising the risk that Theresa May will leave a crucial summit this week with no assurances that the UK will be able to stay in the bloc beyond the scheduled departure date of March 29.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, voiced his concern on Tuesday about a protracted delay, a prospect Mrs May is relying on to convince recalcitrant MPs that Brexit could be lost unless they vote for her deal…

“An extension will be something that extends uncertainty and that uncertainty has a cost. We can’t do it without having a good reason for it,” Mr Barnier said, after briefing a meeting of ministers in Brussels. “EU leaders will need a concrete plan in order to be able to make an informed decision.”….

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is placing great importance on the reasons Britain gives.

“There is nothing obvious or automatic about an extension,” a senior French official said. “We are at the eleventh hour.”

Even if the EU agrees to a short extension, even that might not be as long as the UK wants. This morning’s reports suggest that May plans to ask for a June 30 drop dead date. That might not fly. From the BBC:

Opinion is hardening in the EU against a lengthy extension to Article 50, Newsnight has learned.

The EU is looking at making 22 May the definitive UK exit day with no further extension at that point, according to sources in Whitehall close to the talks.

A key element in the EU thinking is that Theresa May will not give her support to a credible process to allow parliament to find an alternative Brexit deal.

Brussels also has concerns about how future EU budget negotiations and trade deals would be conducted if a reluctant UK hung around in the EU.

We already have a timetable train wreck: EU not set to make a decision in time for UK to change Brexit date.

The too-clever hard coding of the Brexit date in UK legislation means the EU needs to settle on the extension date this Thursday. That throws a big spanner into the idea of falling back on an emergency EU summit on March 29-29. Unfortunately, like the Erskine May rule against putting the same matter more than once in a Parliamentary session, this constraint seems to have been overlooked by the Government.

I’m not sure Robert Peston is quite right about this Thursday being the last day to reach agreement with the EU, but next Monday does seem to be the last date for starting the UK legislative process for changing the exit date. And as we’ll see shortly, the EU has just said it’s not likely to make up its mind this week.

Of course, we are charitably assuming the EU does intend to reluctantly grant an extension, but expects to need time to get eye to eye with the UK on the exact date and conditions, say a financial payment and firm language that this will be the only extension.

First, Peston’s tweets:

Heres’s the post Peston mentioned, from the Hansard Society. Key section:

If ‘exit day’ cannot be amended until after the UK has reached an agreement on extension with the EU, but the amendment must apply by 29 March, time will be of the essence.

‘Exit day’ may not be amended by an SI [statutory instrument made under the ‘urgency’ procedure available under Section 5 of Schedule 7 of the EU(W)A.

Beyond the JCSI’s preferred scrutiny timeline, the draft affirmative procedure is not subject to any particular deadlines or scrutiny periods.

Normally, from laying to making the SI, the draft affirmative procedure takes around six weeks.

However, given the steps outlined above, the process could be accelerated. We see no insuperable procedural obstacle to proceedings on the ‘exit day’ SI being completed by 29 March if the draft SI were laid, for example, on Friday 22 or Monday 25 March.

Contrast this timetable with a fresh story in the Guardian, Brexit delay decision unlikely this week, says Juncker:

Theresa May will ask for only a short extension to article 50 delaying Brexit by less than three months, after a revolt among pro-leave cabinet ministers and MPs that threatened her premiership…

However, the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said on German radio on Wednesday morning that a decision on a delay to Brexit was unlikely at this week’s EU summit and the bloc’s leaders may have to meet again next week.

Juncker told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio: “My impression is … that this week at the European council there will be no decision, but that we will probably have to meet again next week.”

Juncker’s assistant issued this tweet:

Unless the UK clears its throat and tells the EU it needs a decision, including above all the exact date if there is an extension, I don’t see a fudge here.

If this prognosis is correct, it would resemble Lehman weekend. Recall that Barclays was set to buy Lehman but abandoned the deal on September 14. It later emerged that a key impediment was that Barclays would need 30 days to get shareholder approval, a requirement that the US side hadn’t been aware of. Barclays said the US needed to guarantee Lehman’s trading positions until the deal closed, which the US was not willing to do.

And if the Hansard Society is right, there aren’t ready finesses. The statutory instruments were apparently drafted so as to require a calendar date, as opposed to, say, allowing for a substitution like “to be determined”:

While the day on which the UK leaves the EU and ‘exit day’ in UK law are conceptually distinct, they need to be the same date.

This is because of the role of ‘exit day’ as the date on which the ECA [European Communities Act] is repealed.

The ECA was required by, and gave effect to, the UK’s EU membership.

If the ECA were to be repealed before the UK leaves the EU, the UK would be in breach of its international legal obligations, under the EU Treaties, to be giving effect to EU law as long as it remains a Member State.

Equally, in the theoretically possible scenario in which ‘exit day’ in UK law were amended to fall later than 29 March but the UK left the EU on 29 March anyway, legal chaos would ensue because of the unclear status of the EU Treaties with respect to the UK.

‘Exit day’ in UK law can therefore only be amended when the date on which the UK is leaving the EU is known.

Any amendment to ‘exit day’ needs to have force by 29 March, otherwise the current 29 March definition will apply.

And ‘exit day’ does need to be defined in law as a specific, alternative date, rather than the 29 March definition simply being removed, because of the many other legal provisions – some of which are already in force – which rely on the ‘exit day’ concept…

Section 20(1) of the EU(W)A defines ‘exit day’ as a specific date: 29 March 2019 at 11.00pm.

It was unusual and controversial for a specific date to be defined in primary legislation (i.e. an Act of Parliament) in this way: it would have been more usual just to give ministers a power to use an SI to make the definition.

If I read this correctly, even if the Withdrawal Act hadn’t set a specific date, the UK would still need the same lead time to pass the needed statutory instruments, so the same de facto next Monday drop dead date would still apply.

Vlade argued (not having read the Hansard Society analysis) that the UK could push everything through as primary legislation in a day under emergency procedures. Our Clive cites the Parliamentary procedure for expedited primary legislation, which allows for it to pre-empt other business and take place in a day. Clive argues that a single piece of legislation could get through if the process started as late as early PM on the 29th.

But the Hansard Society suggests that other legislation references the “exit day”, so if you don’t use the process of a statutory instrument, my impression is you’d need to pass new primary legislation in each and every case. Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit secretary, said you’d need to change ~50 pieces of legislation to prevent a crash out. I have not seen any independent verification of Starmer’s assertion, but if he is correct, you’d need as an alternative procedure to ram through 50 replacement pieces of primary legislation. Is that even remotely possible if the EU’s plan is a second emergency summit on March 28 and 29? Even if the UK can pass a single bill on an emergency basis in a day, how many can it push through and not run afoul of procedural requirements? You can be sure the ERG will not allow any corners cutting and will also be trying (to change metaphors) to jam the controls.

Mind you, we are charitably assuming the EU grants an extension. The cool tone from Barnier and Juncker and the stern words from Macron sound as if they are prepared to say no or attach stringent conditions if May doesn’t handle herself well. Diplomacy is notably absent among her skills.

Of course, the other way out would be for May to revoke Article 50, which she is authorized to do in light of Parliament’s “no ‘no deal'” motion earlier this month. One wag, shtove, said in comments yesterday said it would still be May’s “bottle of whiskey & revolver moment”. But as our Richard Smith pointed out, that’s long overdue.

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  1. vlade

    I believe it would be just one bill, referencing all 50 places – so not 50 bills.

    The big question is how fast it could be pushed through when ERG would decide to obstruct (historically, obstructions in cases like this were handled by literally manhandling the potential obstructer. But if you have 50 of them?)

    On the other hand, if the UK fell out into no-deal by accident like this, it would be impossible to pin the blame on the EU. It would be also damning for Tories in any next elections.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Normally, concerns like the ones I raised would seem to be overthinking things. But given the Bercow incident last week, how the Government was blindsided by an issue raised in the press (and even here), you can’t assume that this Government will get all the moving parts lined up properly.

      Plus I would have expected the press to pick up on any sign of the Government preparing legislation to change the March 29 date. That would be attributed as having political significance when it’s just prudent planning.

      1. vlade

        TBH, that’s what I find more likely, and what I mean by “the UK fell out into no-deal by accident like this”.

        IMO, May and co suffer from an extremely bad case of wishful thinking, even on procedural things which they should have pat down. That to me says they either ignore civil servants (who should be there to make sure this doesn’t happen), or the ones they have are so new to it that they don’t know themselves (there’s a chance they are totally incompetent, but I’d consider that only on some hard evidence – there are good signs one or both of the former explanations is more likely).

        Think what it means for any future deals/progress if there’s no-deal. In the best case the UK is going to go down into steep, but “manageable” decline (not because it would be able to manage it, but because the other parties like the EU will try to limit the damage to themselves, which will indirectly help the UK too), in the worst case it will continue the deluded Mad Hatter’s Party and crash and burn.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Vlade.

          From my dealings with the civil service, I would agree with you that the civil servants are ignored and / or new. Turn over is high. Morale is at rock bottom. (Both especially true at the DExEu.) The use of professional services firms, including hiring them as senior mandarins, and special advisers (SpAds, what Cameron, Osborne and the Milli Vanilli brothers were in the 1990s) has led to a hollowing out of the civil service. The average age of a Treasury civil servant is 30 years. The Treasury suffered a lot under Osborne’s “catamites”.

          One hopes Anonymous 2, David and Harry chime in as they are former civil servants.

          1. David

            Pretty much the whole of the UK civil service who joined before May 1979 have retired now, many gone early in disgust. In those days, the civil service was dominated by people who had been through WW2, and helped to rebuild the country afterwards. They handed down and reinforced a public service tradition which emphasised ethics and honesty, and was actually remarkably efficient and well-organised, as is typical of structures which go through a long process of trial and error to develop themselves. The system lasted, more or less into the 90s, but, if it was badly damaged by Thatcher it was effectively finished off by Blair, who, to the consternation of those who had hung on grimly through the Thatcher years, effectively continued her policies for the public sector. There are always going to be groups of people who find their only true satisfaction in working in the public interest. If you try to hire those people, selecting the ablest among them through one of the most stringent selection procedures in the world, and then institutionalise the result, you will have a good system, as indeed the UK did. But such systems are laborious and time-consuming to create, whereas they are easy and quick to destroy. I think you would still find people with the motivation, but the problem is that the basic skills no longer really seem to exist, and it would take a generation, at least, to recover them.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you and well said, David.

              This echoes what my parents and their friends say, especially with regard to WW2. It was not just Whitehall, but the armed forces and local government, and from what my parents experienced growing up in Mauritius, some, but not all, colonies. Dad talks about some vaccine that, within a few months of coming out in 1950s America, was given to children in Mauritius.

              I know civil servants, retired and serving, aged from their 70s to their 30s, and see what you mean with regard to the skills.

              With regard to the time needed to rebuild the civil service, one could argue that the wider recovery from Brexit and a generation under the neoliberal jackboot will take as long. Vlade has compared it to a wartime level of mobilisation. I agree with that. Are the people of the UK up for what this means?

            2. Anonymous2

              This chimes very much with my perspective. Thank you David.

              I cannot recall if I mentioned I met two Cabinet Secretaries on separate occasions a few years back, one the then incumbent, the other his predecessor. Both, after a few introductory pleasantries, opined that the Service was not what it was in previous generations. I had said nothing to prompt these remarks. I no longer know anyone still active in the Service and only a few people in UK public service like Andrew Bailey (who I have not seen for years). I do not doubt there will still be some able, principled individuals around but not in the numbers required and they clearly do not have the ear of ministers the way they used to. The Spads appear to have taken over – and they provide the channels of communication whereby the press exerts much of its influence.

  2. The Rev Kev

    I don’t suppose that the Duchy of Grand Fenwick ploy is a viable option at this point. An attack by a Field Marshal, three men-at-arms, and 20 longbowmen on Brussels might just do the trick.

  3. skippy

    PR marketing mad skillz for voter market share meets its inevitable conclusion because of sunk costs – ????

  4. PlutoniumKun

    The discussion of how long they need to change the date legally is beyond my pay grade (although I suspect Clive is right that an omnibus bill to change the dates on all 50 relevant Acts is theoretically legally possible), but it opens up myriad ways the Ultras could sabotage this the Bill or SI going through in time.

    May desperately needs Labour to support this as she will never drag enough Ultras with her (although I suspect the DUP will vote with her – they will never be forgiven by their border brethren base if they destroy the local economy).

    It certainly seems it will go down to the line and there is a very high chance of the worst possible outcome – an ‘accidental’ no-deal drop off the cliff moment.

    I’m off now to stock up on canned chickpeas.

    1. Clive

      I stocked up on comfort food (Aunt Bessie and I are on first name terms) as I suspected I’d need, well, comforting. But I ate it already. So I’ll need to restock :-(

      1. Mike

        I don’t suppose there is any comfort in becoming the US’s 51st state? (snark+++)

        Seriously, with all that still must be done for a seamless fallout, what are the options? (see below):

        I am unsure May’s government has done anything to begin, let alone expedite, the processes necessary to ensure trade and transportation have any hope of continuing in any fashion. I could be lectured…

        P.S. Load up on proteins, unless mutton is your thing!

        1. Tony Wright

          51st State? Judging by Trump’s comments in support of a hard Brexit I think he has in mind something like Puerto Rico on the Thames, with trading rules dependent entirely on the “goodwill” of the US.

  5. Frenchguy

    I’m pretty incensed by how UK journos (and a lot of anglo-saxon “experts”) are reporting Barnier’s, Macron’s, and countless other EU leaders’ declarations. They are all on the same line: an extension needs a clear reason and is not a given. Instead of reporting that and just pondering what it means, journos are all going “nevermind what those silly continentals are saying, it’s not in their interest to that therefore there will be an extension”. The arrogance and self-confidence is breathtaking… Brexit is far from being a failure of only the political class.

    On a more newsworthy note, lots of chatter that Bercow will allow an emergency debate on Brexit (thanks to, apparently, “standing order 24”) perhaps as early as this afternoon.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, French Guy.

      When the reckoning, the MSM should also be in the firing line. There are not enough lamp posts in the triangle from Parliament to Trafalgar Square to Buck House and back to Parliament to string them all up.

      Sadly, the UK MSM is composed of arrogant and overeducated fools, at ease only in talking to themselves and about themselves. It’s rare to see, say, academics, former EU officials et al on the airwaves talking about Brexit. Ivan Rodgers, Jonathan Faull, John Kerr are just three who are rarely, if at all, interviewed. It was not always thus. In the run-up to monetary union, serious and respected experts, not credentialled so and sos, were regularly in the MSM, often at prime time. It was the same in the 1960s and 1970s when the UK applied to join the EEC. There was a proper and much better informed debate.

      It’s not just Brexit. Any issue of note is debased by worthless and overpaid hacks pretending they know everything and, often,telling the public they are bored. They dare not have experts on show.

      Last summer, a Canadian diplomat remarked to me how the MSM congregate around Whitehall and engage in court gossip, but do / dare not venture further afield where their ignorance and prejudice will be exposed and challenged.

      1. Clive

        Yes, I agree totally with knobs on. I’ve been appalled at how the mainstream media has ceased any pretence at accurate, factual reporting let alone considered and measured analysis.

        Even supposedly reputable and well-respected outlets are degenerating into shameless crowd pleasing.

        I know, of all people, about how hard it is to try to reconcile the difficulties in treading a thin moral line and make a living in a fundamentally morally bankrupt industry as opposed to starving in a garret which sounds romantic and noble but probably is anything but. Yet the shameless media tartery of supposed respected pundits and publications is awesome and not in a good way.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Clive.

          It’s depressing.

          My parents have been here since the mid-1960s. They lament it’s no longer the country they emigrated to and, along with their peers, reckon the rot started with Thatcher.

          1. vlade

            The country is different from even what I experienced there in my something over a decade. 60s is a different world.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you, Vlade.

              Yes, of course, with regard to the decades.

              Dad served with the Royal Air Force from 1966 – 91. Mum, after a few years in the City and maternity leave, joined the Treasury. Both still work, dad and some of his former comrades as NHS doctors and mum as a local government auditor. The pair were 74 last November. They reckon that the quality of governance has fallen off a cliff and corruption rocketed.

              Please come and visit us when the weather improves. You can chat to them.

              1. David

                I was born there, and watched the slow decline of the country, the government system and the society until I couldn’t bear it any more. The fundamental change that came over all of them was what’s been described as the “cancellation of the future”, from the 1980s onwards. Up until, roughly, the middle of the 1970s, there was a sense that the future could continue to be better than the past, as had indeed been the case for the previous thirty years. The future was something to look forward to. From some time in the 1980s, when the Reagan/Thatcher duopoly was in power, the future became something to be afraid of. In such a situation, people retreat into their little burrows, trying to survive as best they can. Ironically, of course, the official expectation of our masters (see May’s letter) is that things will indeed get better. But they don’t admit that things will only get better for them.

                1. larry

                  David, this is a thought I have had for a long time but have never been able to put into words. Thanks for describing this so well. When I came to England in the seventies, I found it a kinder and more gentle place than where I was from. Things didn’t get done very quickly and there were oddities, like wives not being able to have their own accounts. I thought this ridiculous but quaint. While the place was backward, I didn’t see this as due to evil intentions. However, this kind and gentle place changed for the worst under Thatcher, though the seeds for Thatcher were planted by Callaghan and Healey bringing in the IMF. My memory may be playing me false, but that is how I saw England in the seventies.

                  1. Colonel Smithers

                    Thank you, Larry.

                    Also, married women and mothers were excluded from some civil service positions, e.g. the Inland Revenue.

                    Single parents and cohabitees found it hard, if not impossible, to get mortgages.

                  2. David

                    Yes, there was a moment in, I think, 1977 when Callaghan said “you can”t spend your way out of trouble” and I got a cold feeling down my spine which has never entirely left me.

            2. Joe Well

              The country is different from even what I experienced there in my something over a decade. 60s is a different world.

              I did part of a gap year in London on a working holiday visa 20 years ago, and I fell in love with what was left of British socialism. Having had family who lived in public housing in the US, seeing that council housing still wasn’t terribly stigmatized brought tears to my eyes.

              Of course, Britain was already coming apart then and it was painful to watch. Who could have thought it would fall this hard?

          2. Anonymous2

            Assisted ably by Murdoch (or was it the other way round ?) whose fingerprints can be detected all over Brexit if you care to look carefully.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you.

              One wonders if Murdoch, who had a bust of Lenin in his Oxford university digs and was the son of the journalist who chronicled much of the ANZAC suffering at Gallipoli, has nursed a decades long grudge against the UK (upper class).

                  1. Anonymous2

                    Thank you CS.

                    I have little doubt that Murdoch loathes the English. Some of it seems to stem from the time in the late 60s/early 70s he settled briefly in the UK. He revived the Profumo story, years after it had been thoroughly gone over by the English press. The English establishment thought this was bad form on the part of Murdoch, as Profumo had long since resigned years previously and was working to rehabilitate himself by doing charitable work. Murdoch and his then wife were reportedly given the cold shoulder as a result for which he has never I think forgiven them (though presumably the people concerned are almost certainly mostly long dead). The sobriquet ‘the Dirty Digger’ dates from this time.

                    The Lenin bust story is fun. It is usually cited as evidence of Murdoch’s supposed left-wing leanings in his youth. I sometimes wonder if it was not rather the admiration of a successful revolutionary autocrat by someone who had similar ambitions to dominate.

              1. NIx

                Given what Murdoch said and did when he took over The Times, and how he then repaid the establishment for thinking him a colonial upstart, that statement is almost certainly true.

              2. Synoia

                Absolutly he does. An aussie st Oxford in the early ’50s, would be drowning is sarcasm and slightts

                “Colonial” would have been one of the milder slights.

          3. Mirdif

            While the rot may well have started with Thatcher – I was still in middle school when she was booted out – I must say it really only has become evident in the past 10 years. My own feeling is that as the numbers of the boomers approaching retirement has increased and continues to increase and with these people in management positions there has been an ever greater reluctance to try new things or to think long term. In some cases there is active opposition to move with the times as people want to leave behind a “legacy” after they’ve retired.

            The financial crisis also compounded this attitude of don’t try anything new / take risks and just wile away the time to retirement.

            I can understand why some of the brexit headbangers in the Tory party want to shake the country up because they too have recognised these attitudes. I fear even in the vanishingly small chance they manage to take control of the brexit process the country at large and especially those who voted for it will not like the medicine they propose to remove the scelortic block as they may see it.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you, Mirdif.

              I would say there was an acceleration in the last decade, but one felt the rot from even when Thatcher was PM. The Lawson boom / credit binge masked matters a bit.

              1. Redlife2017

                Colonel Smithers – one must also include the North Sea Oil and sell off of state enterprises…You only ever have one set of family silver to sell…

                1. Colonel Smithers

                  Thank you, Redlife.

                  It’s rarely reported that economic growth under draft dodger, sort of, and chicken hawk Thatcher never equalled or bettered Jim Callaghan’s rates. She was also lucky with her enemies until 1990.

                  1. David

                    Yes, it’s one of the great imponderables of history what a Labour (or even sensible Tory) government could have done with North Sea Oil revenues. It’s hard to go to Oslo, for example, without making invidious comparisons.

                    1. Colonel Smithers

                      Thank you and well said, David.

                      I have never seen the MSM make the comparison or even think about what could have been.

                      There were sensible Tories around, but the Thatcherites saw off the “wets”.

        2. The Rev Kev

          Some time ago I read an article by a British journalist that had done the hard yards and worked his way up into the profession. Then he lamented that people like him of working-class origin were being pushed out of the profession of journalism in the UK and were being replaced by upper-class people instead. People who had come from the big universities. In essence then, you had people reporting on the dealings of the upper class who themselves were of the same class which explained partially how less critical the reporting had become over the years.

      2. Joey

        Whitehall gossip is good explanation for the BBC tripe about May 22. Why would EU be worried about May’s strategy after all her flailing about? They really find those sources credible?!

    2. skippy

      Irretrievable stakes were pounded into the population w/ a side of ideological rhetorical flourish, retreating from means capitulation and as such irrevocable brand damage … lot of that about lately and its not just a U.K. dilemma.

      Imagine the horror of the unwashed awakening from “the sleep whilst the elites are preoccupied with rituals and mirrors.

      Imagine century’s of perception going poof on a calendar date …..

      1. skk

        My gawd what a mess! I grew up in England, ( renewed my passport recently, took all of 10 days, all online, some things have got better including checking on my pension eligibility), left in 92 to the USA after 26 years. I would have voted for Brekexit, to give the EU a kick up the arse for how they treated Greece to help out German and french banksters. and also in solidarity with the working class of NE England even though racism played a part in why they voted Brexit. But this? I’ve listened to lectures aplenty on the UK Civil War and there’s absolutely some concern about this for me. It can’t be worth fighting over surely. Only incompetence in organising violence will save the UK then and so far Farage, MAy, Corbyn are doing well in that dept. That feels like a good thing,then.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Labour has flip-flopped this AM already (Richard Smith has been sending tweets), but they seem now to want this SO24 business.

      But how can they debate this? This goes back to a point David and Clive raised earlier, less approximately and more articulately than I will recap now. Parliament can’t do policy. “Parliament is sovereign” does not mean Parliament drives the car. Parliament picks a PM who fills key ministerial posts from Parliament to do that.

      If Parliament then gets unhappy, the remedy is to turf out the Government, not to try to seize power back from it.

      And this spectacle, if it does go forward, is only going to make the EU even less inclined to grant any extension, even a short one. It will confirm all their worst suspicions about the UK not knowing what it wants and still believing in unicorns. And to do this on the eve of a summit is as bad as you can get.

      1. Ignacio

        There is yet one important reason for a short extension: emergency preparations. Apart from that, no reason for even the shortest extension.

      2. Cian

        I don’t think is really fair on Labour. They’re the opposition party and so they can’t make policy, and they are unable to turf the government out (the numbers aren’t there). They have a very weak hand which they’ve played quite well.

        Politically they’re in a difficult situation where they need to make sure, no matter what, that the Conservatives own this mess. That’s difficult, takes a lot of guts (the pretty right wing UK media, including the BBC, are basically screaming at Labour to the decent thing by sacrificing themselves to save the Tory party).

        Corbyn has discussed his alternative proposal with the EU representatives, and they’ve informally stated that they see Corbyn’s proposals as achievable.

        Of course you wouldn’t know any of this if you read the UK media. Their bias (Guardian and BBC included) has been quite extraordinary – to the point that they refuse to actually report on what the (published) Labour position on Brexit is, or accurately report things that Corbyn says.

        1. Plenue

          Don’t Corbyn and Labour really just have to stand there making vague noises, and then when Brexit causes an inevitable implosion of the economy, make sure the blame is squarely placed where it belongs, on the Tories? Labour should be able to just shrug and say “hey, don’t look at us, we wanted a better deal/another referendum”. Whether either of those things were actually plausible is immaterial. Labour just has to maintain an appearance of having been an alternative while the Conservatives were machine-gunning off their own feet.

  6. Redlife2017

    Yves – great analysis. It is heartbreaking that all this could have been avoided if May had decided to be (or perhaps was capable of being) a statesman, rather than an insular hermit. A hermit even to her own party members, much less to people across the aisle. She didn’t have to do a deal with Corbyn. There are plenty of people in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) who would have broken ranks. Heck, she could have reinvigorated the Conservative Party by slicing off the most egregious nutters and taking in PLP members. She really could have crushed Corbyn and the Labour Party and delivered an at least not self-destructive agreement with the EU. Instead she really is a prime example of the Peter Principle.

    I don’t think people in the UK are really understanding the implications of what’s happening. It’s all spiralling out of control with no one at the controls at all. Not a slow-motion train wreck, more like a 737 Max nose diving into the ground.

    Although I will say that Keir Starmer seems to understand the issues with his latest tweet by quoting Hansard (via another tweet, but it works):
    “In the absence of a deal, seeking such a short &, critically, one-off extension would be downright reckless & completely at odds with the position this House adopted only last night, making a no-deal scenario far more rather than less likely.” David Lidington, 14 March, Hansard

    I’ll quote the great Dr. Thompson again from his Hey Rube days at
    “It is over now, lost and gone like the snows of yesteryear. Mahalo.”

    1. vlade

      She’s at least two levels above Peter Prrinciple – even at HO she was incompetent, making bad situations worse.

      1. Adrian D.

        @Redlife2017 – May could have tried to take in the right-wing Labour MPs, at the expense of her own ERG right-wingers, but that would hve suited her for only one election. Likely it would have given Corbyn’s Labour party a greater head-start in clearing out the Blairites than the TIG have given him and this new centre-right coallition would still be struggling for numbers (of activists & voters ) when it came to the next General Election. The rabidly-right, pro-Brexit Conservative Party membership, wouldn’t stand for it either.

        It’s hard to see I admit, but British politics are more than just Brexit at the moment – they’re also austerity, the ‘Harsh Environment’ for immigrants, police cuts, knife-crime, the housing crisis (and on and on) and any PLP member wanting to be on the wrong side of those to support our blithering PM would be taking a desperate risk (even if they weren’t too bothered by this little list anyway, as I suspect many aren’t – just look at the TIG’s policy silence on these issues for proof that these MPs exist).

        I’m not stock-piling anything – but I’m in the minority who think that the disruption of no deal is a necessary first step for democratic renewal.

      2. Redlife2017

        Good point. She is a great example of how people who continuously fail are moving upwards in this society. I understand intellectually how we got to having leadership this debased, but it still is hard to comprehend emotionally. We see it in the private sector (as I know you have experienced as well!) in the UK. No one gains by imagination, no one gains by showing qualities of friendship and social engagement.

        “They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.” Margaret Thatcher in an interview in Women’s Own in 1987

        1. vlade

          Oh, she got that right (I know of only a very few people who would willingly put strangers ahead of a family, assuming they have good family relationships).

          What she missed entirely is that very often the best way to “look after ourselves” is to band together with our neighbors and broaden the “ourselves” in the “look after ourselves”.

          I.e. to create a society [from socius (partnership/alliance) etc, meaning a union for a common purpose. Not that I expect good latin from the UK pols (Sasha Johnson doesn’t count, he bends it to do what he wants)].

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Sasha? I thought he was a Turk called Kemal, hence his fondness for bridges. His cousins have a shiny one across the Bosphorus, so he wants one, or many, too.

              1. Colonel Smithers

                Thank you, Vlade.

                Have you seen Sasha recently. His new GF, young enough to be his daughter, has remade him.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I think it was best expressed by the joke circulating on the continent (I think it was started by the Dutch PM) that the UK is like the passengers on the Titanic plaintively messaging the iceberg, demanding that it changes course.

      Or indeed, like Brexit the Cat.

      “I’ve ended up calling my cat Brexit,” the paper quoted Ms Loiseau as writing.

      “It wakes me up meowing like crazy every morning because it wants to go out, but as soon as I open the door, it just sits there undecided and then looks angry when I put it outside.”

      1. Ahimsa

        I liked the one telling that the UK Brexit delegation turned up in Brussels to the first day of negotiations with the EU. All sitting at the table, the EU delegation asked their counterparts for their proposals on the shared EU-UK land border. The UK looked at each other with some raised eyebrows and then began laughing, replying “What, we have a shared land border? First we’ve heard of it!”

  7. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    I was on call at my EU27 TBTF this morning. The division’s Brexit lead presented. No more than 30% of the clients required to be migrated to Frankfurt head office will be there for “(hard) Brexit + day 1”. The process could take the rest of the year. It has been decided to migrate certain clients, transactions and products to Frankfurt / the EEA even if they don’t have to be there for EU investment services regulation purposes (“MiFID”). Trade Finance and spot FX are just two of these additional activities. The house view is that, due to global supply chain management and funding, it’s better to host the activities in Frankfurt and alongside investment services / products. UK regulators have approved the migration. One wonders how they could have objected?

    With regard to the London Branch no longer being an EU branch, but becoming a third country branch, the UK authorisation will take another 18 months.

    Therefore, a kick of the can, transition and / or regulatory forbearance is in order. Whatever happens, methinks the game is up for the City of London.

    Further to my reply to French Guy, is this sort of thing aired by the MSM?

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I got a text this morning from a friend in Scotland asking me why she got a message from a company in Paris she uses for deliveries has sent her a message that ‘all deliveries and orders are suspended until we have Brexit certainty’. She is, as you might guess, the sort of person who gets her news from the Daily Mail Online.

      It seems some sectors are going into temporary shut-down mode.

      1. Mirdif

        This is almost certainly connected to the announcement by Port of Calais that hauliers need pre-clearance documents for sanitary and phytosanitary goods. The major problem is that pallets are phytosanitary if made of wood (the overwhelming majority in the UK) and need to adhere to ISPM 15 standard and they have no pre-clearance so everything in every truck will be inspected. The announcement is essentially telling continental hauliers “don’t bother.” While this company might get in to the country quick enough it’s the getting back out again that will hit the bottom line.

        To go back to Colonel Smithers’ point about the media not covering things, well they covered quite extensively when some blowhard official said “It’ll be alright on the night” but the actual announcement has hardly had any coverage in comparison.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Mirdif.

          I was in Calais two Saturdays ago, a booze cruise, well stockpiling on William Saurin, not Aunt Bessie, and noticed the land being cleared to house the inspection facilities. Some temporary buildings have been put up.

          1. Clive

            Being in the drek that is retail end of the market, Aunt Bessie is the limit of my budget. And as I am currently listening to Sir Kier waffling on about SO24, I may well end up polishing off an entire Jam Roly Poly by the time the whole three hours is done with.

              1. Clive

                Thank-you Colonel, I suspect they’ll read it and weep, although it’s probably nothing they don’t already know all-too-well!

  8. David

    There is what is called a “Programme Motion” (previously a “guillotine”) which restricts the amount of time Parliament can spend debating a Bill. I have no idea whether it could be used in this context. It’s also not obvious to me whether all of the necessary amendments could be done by SI (or more probably lots of them one after the other), or if a Bill would be needed. In the latter case, it would be even worse because Bills go through a different and more elaborate process. I have a horrible feeling the government doesn’t know either.
    The sentence from the Hansard Society paper that really resonated with me was:

    “It was unusual and controversial for a specific date to be defined in primary legislation (i.e. an Act of Parliament) in this way: it would have been more usual just to give ministers a power to use an SI to make the definition.”

    Well, you bet. Yet another example of May acting before thinking. But that’s been the case all along, and why change a winning policy now? But what really worries me is that there’s no sign that the government has done any preparation at all for the drafting of whatever documents are going to be needed. I suspect our thinking is actually further advanced than theirs is. Normally, some contingency work would have been done, and there would be draft texts available, but in the present paranoid climate I suspect there’s an interdict against doing anything that could be misrepresented, or might in some way offend the ultras (some of whom are in the Cabinet of course). So let’s assume May comes back from Brussels with a date which is accepted by the Cabinet. Never mind the time for debate, how long is it going to take just to decide the strategy, draft the necessary documents and make sure that parliamentary procedure is respected? And what are the chances of mistakes, omissions or contradictions in the texts that are voted? About one hundred per cent, I’d say.
    As to what’s going on now, I have no more idea than anyone else. Here are two possibilities, no more.
    May’s letter will, once more, ask for something that she can get past her Cabinet, rather than what she actually wants or needs, or what would be useful. She has done this consistently since the beginning, but this has to be the crunch point. She will have to accept what the 27 give her. It’s possible, no more, that May does actually appreciate that the game is in its final minutes, and that she is hoping that the 27 will force on her a longer delay than the Cabinet would normally accept, so that she can bounce them into accepting it. This would be highly irresponsible and dangerous, but then what’s new?
    Secondly, I agree that it’s wrong to criticise Barnier, Macron etc. for doing no more than stating the obvious. In Macron’s case, all this nonsense is diverting lots of effort and attention away from his ambitious plans for the future of the EU, so he’s understandably cross. But I think that the heavy breathing also serves a tactical purpose, in signalling that the discussion has to be about real options rather than a delay for its own sake. This is why I suspect that the EU has done some thinking about what it might try to impose as an agreement. The 27 would say (1) we warned you in advance (2) in spite of that you arrived with nothing so (3) here’s one we made earlier.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its astonishing to think that someone whose sole strategy was ‘push everything to the final day and hope that everyone panics and votes in favour’ hasn’t actually worked out what the ‘real’ final day is for a decision. Its entirely possible – and in fact entirely likely – that its only now that May and her team are working out when the last possible day is to get everything through Parliament. They may well be concluding the answer is ‘um…. yesterday’.

      I strongly suspect that there has been little or no prep work done whatever. It would have leaked by now if there had been a team on it. I can only imagine the horror show it must be to be working now in the key ministries.

      I hope you are right that the EU has its act together and will force something workable on May. But given how there have been many contradictory noises coming from Dublin, Berlin, Paris and Brussels, I’m not so sure. I think the Irish government is desperately hoping for a long extension, but isn’t holding out much hope for it.

      1. ChrisPacific

        …its only now that May and her team are working out when the last possible day is to get everything through Parliament.

        I think even that might be optimistic given the latest developments. She is reportedly talking about having a third vote on her agreement on Monday and I’d be surprised if she will make any mental space available for implementation details before that’s concluded. So in the most optimistic scenario we could be looking at Monday before she even starts thinking about this.

        It would be a fitting end to the whole shambles if the UK voted for May’s deal but ended up exiting with No Deal anyway because they didn’t leave enough time to get all the statutory instruments through to make it happen.

  9. Jim A.

    Is it just me or does if feel like long extension = still trying to land the plane while short extension = brace brace brace, we’re in the Hudson.

    1. Watt4Bob

      To me, it looks more like this;

      With a quarter mile to go, the bus hurtling toward the cliff, ran out of gas.

      Half the passengers voted to send the driver to look for fuel, but refused to pay for it.

      The other half of the passengers are busy either pushing the bus, or heckling the pushers.

      End-game neoliberalism.

  10. Clive

    Prime Minister’s Questions — Theresa May Necklace Watch Live!

    No necklace at all today! Not even small beads or pearls. Let alone a big jangly metallic one or the one that looks like Wilma Flintstone’s rocks on a string job.

    It’s official then. This really is hard times…

        1. Winston Smith

          In this situation, the cliffs of Dover rather evoke Arnold’s “Dover beach”, particularly the last three lines:
          And we are here as on a darkling plain
          Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
          Where ignorant armies clash by night.

          1. skm

            “…with confused alarms of struggle and flight,….” but wasn`t Arnold here expressing the angst felt in his own country about revolution/chaos (horror of horrors!/sarc) in France, out there in the dark not far across the sea from Dover Beach?

            1. Winston Smith

              Many interpretations possible, I suppose. The poem was published in 1867, whatever troubles were in France, they became serious (la revolte des Communes) as a results of the Franco-Prussian war, a few years hence.

    1. Redlife2017

      That is shocking. She uses the necklaces like they are magical talismans. We truly are living through the end of days….

      When Dr. Thompson can’t help out, I guess Ghostbusters will have to do:
      Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
      Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?
      Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.
      Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
      Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
      Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes…
      Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.
      Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!

      1. Clive

        I was wrong! I was wrong! We’re saved. There was a necklace. It was what looked like a leather band with a fabric sort-of choker that coordinates perfectly with her top. That’s why I didn’t see it. Subtle, somber, subsumed and almost sublime.

        If only the policies were as good.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I’m waiting for the bdsm studded dogcollar to make its appearance. Its the only possible explanation – the whole thing has been a Tory S&M game, with the public as the unwitting playtoys.

        2. Olivier

          This is the most enjoyable part of your running commentary, Clive: your use of Theresa May’s necklaces for haruspication.

    1. David

      Whoever drafted it did the best they could in absolutely appalling circumstances. The key take-aways are:

      – The government will be tabling a Bill to amend the WA and other things. This is worse than we had assumed, and will take a lot longer than the SI route. Why does no-one in Downing Street read this blog?
      – The letter tries to put as much of the blame as possible onto Parliament.
      – May is determined to go ahead with MV3. She hopes this will convince the EU that the extension will serve some purpose. But she hasn’t got over the Speaker hurdle yet, and of course there’s no guarantee she’ll win the vote.

      1. c_heale

        Did she not hear the EU negotiators saying (many, many times) that they will not amend the WA?

        1. jan

          From what i gathered from a quick scan of the letter in question. she is asking the council to confirm the agreement she has made with juncker in strasbourg and this council statement will be used by her to ask parliament to agree to the w.a. A new fact so to speak.
          One of the questions is whether the speaker will accept this as new, because it only states the obvious (what has already been put before parliament and voted down.)

          1. Clive

            The Speaker will cave. I saw him yesterday blustering and bafflegabbing his way through questions as to how he won’t end up ruling out the Deal if there’s no other Deal (which there won’t be) and if Article 50 wasn’t rescinded (it won’t be) we won’t simply have no runway left but instead will have no options but a crash out.

            He left himself so many ways to climb down, the chamber looked like a Snakes and Ladders board by the end of it.

          2. David

            Yes, this is desperately thin stuff to hang a new debate on. I rather suspect her plan is to come back from Brussels with an ultimatum from the 27, which she will use to put pressure on Bercow and subsequently the Commons. She will have to present the argument as being between the WA and no deal, saying that she’s tried the extension idea and this is all she’s been able to get. What a familyblog.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Nice guy that Bercow character. George Galloway said in an article that he’d “known Speaker Bercow since he was a young man, wore a ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ t-shirt, and was a secretary of the Monday Club – a conservative group so conservative that they’re probably wearing ‘Hang Bercow’ t-shirts today. “

              1. Colonel Smithers

                Thank you, Kev.

                I remember him, too. Bercow is also MP for neighbouring Buckingham.

                Harry Phibbs disappeared from public life, but Liam Fox and Owen Paterson prospered.

                The Young Conservatives and Federation of Conservative Students were so far out that Norman Tebbit had to disband them. If the young uns did not wear Hang Mandela t shirts, they wore springbok rugby jerseys.

                To be fair to Bercow, he did say, when Mandela died, that he was on the wrong side of history and apologised for his shameful conduct. He mellowed when he married a Labour supporter who went to the same school as Kate Middleton.

                With regard to the Monday Club, it continues, but is no longer affiliated with the Tories. This ceased under Ian Duncan Smith, whose MP is Bercow. The Monday Club has Tories, Unionists and even US neo cons as members. It’s one the back seat drivers of Brexit.

                Bercow served briefly on IDS’s front bench, but resigned after saying that one was more likely to meet an Eskimo in the Sahara than have IDS lead the Tories to an election victory.

            2. ChrisPacific

              Yikes. So apparently she thought the EU was bluffing with all that tough talk about needing to move on the red lines or consider a referendum to get an extension. That or she simply didn’t listen (or take it in) which is always a possibility where May is concerned.

              This will put the EU in a tough spot if it’s accurate. It’s almost word for word the kind of extension request that they have said wouldn’t be granted. I think most of them are past caring if the UK wants to blow itself up, but the problem is that Ireland remains well within the blast radius, so they may still want some time to allow preparations to complete. We’ll see what they say, I guess.

          3. vlade

            It’s really easy. Govt puts in motion asking whether it can bring the vote for the third time. If the House is minded to vote yes on the deal, it will vote yes on this. If not, it will reject it.

            So technically there may not be MV3, but sort of pre-MV3.

            1. vlade

              Oh, and the beauty of this would be that technically May would not be defeated in MV3. In theory, she could run it like this forever (although the motions would have to get recursive – are we allowed in to bring in a motion to bring in a motion to do the bill, etc. etc..)

  11. Tom Stone

    can Theresa May’s behaviour be better understood as cognitive dissonance rather than extreme stubborness combined with stupidity?

    1. Redlife2017

      When your hero says stuff like this:
      “To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.” (Margaret Thatcher to the Conservative conference in 1980)
      You aren’t going to exactly think that the combination of stubbornness with your own innate stupidity is a problem. Why it’s her very virtue (sarcasm)…

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Redlife.

        The 1980s were depressing if you lived here, even as a schoolboy. The Thatcherite jihadists seemed unstoppable.

        If you were watching the Tory conferences in 1980, we still had Tory Boy William Hague to come some years later. Clucking bell, what was going on here?!

  12. Inert_Bert

    Thank you Yves,

    The House of Commons Library posted its interpretation/explanation of the exit day/brexit day conundrum and it is being discussed on British legal twitter.

    On the procedure (really not my area but it seems to be a rather relaxed confirmation of the Hansard article: ie SI needed):

    Section 20(4) allows a Minister of the Crown to change exit day provided that a draft statutory instrument has been laid before and approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. However, it can only be used: “to ensure that the day and time specified in the definition are the day and time that the Treaties are to cease to apply to the United Kingdom.”
    In practice this means that an extension must first have been agreed to at EU level before any such regulations can be made to change the date.

    On the consequences:

    If these changes came in too early, the UK would run the risk of breaching its obligations as a Member State. Infringement proceedings could be brought against the UK before the Court of Justice of the EU.


    If an extension is agreed by the European Council with the UK Government, the “the day and time that the Treaties are to cease to apply to the United Kingdom” will be later than the definition of “exit day” in UK primary legislation.

    In such a scenario the UK would continue to be a member of the EU – with all the resulting obligations in EU law. However, if the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 were to be brought fully into force, this would have the effect of repealing the ECA. Even though much of EU law would have been “converted” into UK law, no UK court could refer a case to the CJEU, many financial payments to the EU would be (domestically) unlawful, and UK law would not “keep pace” with subsequent developments in EU law.

    Moreover, the commencement regulations for the 2018 Act provide that the European Union Parliamentary Election Act 2002 is to be repealed “on exit day”. Unless “exit day” is updated, the UK would have no domestic legal basis for holding European Parliamentary elections in May 2019.

    So while it ultimately it does not seem to me to be something that by itself can force no-deal, there is lots of potential for chaos and lots of possibilities for parliament to make mischief. It also neatly shows May’s inability to plan more than a day ahead and for sure, the Bercow Intervention illustrates how one never know what adders might be lurking in the tall grass of the UK’s politics.

    1. David

      The letter to Tusk makes a point of saying that the UK system requires a “Bill through Both Houses of Parliament to enact our commitments under the WA into domestic law.” This is unnecessarily detailed, and presumably intended to impress the 27 with how important it is to have an extension. But it’s not clear to me if this is supposed to subsume the SI requirement or be additional to it, or even if the government have thought that far ahead. The government statement on Friday mentioned only legislation to change the date.

  13. David

    The Guardian has a story that the “EU” is only prepared to grant an extension up until 23 May. This seems to refer to advice from the Commission, which has said that the only alternatives are to leave before the European elections, or stay until the end of the year. The Commission is influential, and is the guardian of law and procedure, but it’s view isn’t definitive.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      RTE is confirming that story, saying there is also an alternative extension to the New Year, but on the proviso that the UK runs Euro elections, which of course it can’t at this late stage. The story is attributed to Reuters.

      In a note on the Brexit process reviewed by the Commission at its weekly meeting today, officials wrote that leaders meeting Mrs May at a summit tomorrow faced a “binary” choice of a short delay of Brexit from 29 March to before 23 May or a long delay to at least the end of this year, with Britain obliged to hold an election on 23 May for European Parliament lawmakers.

      “Any extension offered to the United Kingdom should either last until 23 May 2019 or should be significantly longer and require European elections,” the document said.

      “This is the only way of protecting the functioning of the EU institutions and their ability to take decisions.”

      EU states which were due to receive additional legislative seats after Brexit would need to know by mid- to late April if they would be denied those seats because Britain was staying.

      The note also said that in any extended membership, Britain should, “in a spirit of loyal co-operation”, commit to “constructive abstention” on key issues, such as the EU’s long-term budget and filling top EU posts after the May election.

  14. Anon

    The EU has now said that it rejects a short extension to June 30 but would accept a long delay.

    1. Ignacio

      I think you are reading a misleading MSN headline:

      EU commission opposes Theresa May request for Brexit extension until 30 June but will accept long delay

      The article inside says otherwise. A good example of what Colonel and others say above about UK treatment of brexit media and MSN in particular.

      I have read an article about Sánchez general opinions on Brexit and options on the extension proposal. Reading between lines I take the opinion that Sánchez (now immersed in general elections) will not see a long extension positively even if it includes general elections in the UK.

  15. Ptb

    Boo… Short extension would better than none, but doesn’t leave room to escape the obvious lack of agreement for any course of action … also doesn’t fix the misfortune of a govt pushing a firmly rejected compromise that pleases noone. MPs can spin the WA as a sort of infinite extension, I guess, but a lot will probably still get killed politically for it, from both ends.

  16. vlade

    Markets might be finally catching on, sterling dropped a cent from the morning. It’s reclaiming some of it now, but from 12:45pm UK time it was a very steep drop, half a cent in 10 minutes.

  17. Andrew Thomas

    June 30 puts the UK in the EU parliamentary elections, right? On top of everything else this learned commentariat has said this morning? Oh, boy….

  18. Joey

    The reason for the drop dead date encoded in leave act was precisely to ensure leave wouldn’t get delayed. Ultras win.

    As cakey as the MSM is about EU helping UK through the cliffdive, NC readers seem overly optimistic that MPs will accept what EU gives May.

    Cliff or May withdraws article, to me, both more likely than extension. Cliff odds on fave.

  19. NoOneInParticular

    Does anyone in the EU want to be seen by history as the one that voted the UK out? This would be the result of a vote against a delay. So I imagine they’ll vote for the delay. My fantasy at the moment is that the EU ignores the request for a short extension and votes to grant an extension of precisely two years from March 29, 2019, no less, no more. Accepted or rejected, face-saving for the EU and a guarantee of political upheaval in the UK, which would seem to be the only possible route for change. An earlier fantasy was Sinn Fein’s finally taking their seats in Parliament, voting for sanity, and saving the Union, for the sake of poetic justice and to stick it to the Tories. Remember, I said “fantasy.”

    1. Epistrophy

      We should not forget that Nigel Farage, who views British Parliamentarians as saboteurs, is still an MEP; he and cohorts in the EU Parliament are working with certain EU members to ensure their veto. He reportedly has been campaigning for a veto from Salvini of Italy but there is also Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, etc. Macron of France is not in favour of granting any extension as things stand.

      The May 23 elections could lead to an earthquake in European Parliament as well, with Eurosceptic parties expected to make significant gains, even without the British contingent led by Farage, although he is preparing to campaign again.

  20. David

    Tusk is about to speak. Leaks suggest he will say that May’s letter arrived too late for consideration tomorrow and they’ll have to come back to it next week.

  21. David

    Tusk has apparently said that the UK can only have a short extension, and only if the WA is agreed next week. Text not available yet.

    1. vlade

      Tusk says extension only available if deal voted through. That means May got her end-of-the road thingy. It’s deal or no deal, and it’s next week.

      1. vlade

        Given there’s now no long-extension pressure on May, there’s no reason for the ERG clowns who would like the no-deal brexit to vote for May.

        I’ll be curious to see what will Labour do. I think it may try to push for the thingy where May’s deal passes but is subject to a referendum (which I think more than few MPs would actually like, especially if it looks like the deal will not pass otherwise). Corbyn was in Brussels today I believe, and was scheduled to talk to Junckers (or someone), so presumably it would be talked about.

        Would that be good enough for the EU to change their mind on long extension (which this would require)? No idea.

        1. David

          Presumably May has made the same analysis – anyone who wants Brexit has nothing to lose now by voting against the WA.
          I wonder if the 27 see this as a way of getting rid of May? Tusk said that he was speaking “after consultations”, which means that he was talking to some of the major European leaders. Macron has been taking a notably hard line, and it may be that what Tusk has just said was as far as he could go at the moment.
          Meanwhile, there are rumours that May will address the nations tonight.
          So building on your comments: May realises she won’t get the WA through, resigns as PM, this unblocks Brussels, the 27 agree to a longer delay in return for a clear commitment to hold a referendum. Of course the opposite might just as easily happen, but it’s increasingly clear that May herself is now the main problem for everyone.

          1. ahimsa

            …but it’s increasingly clear that May herself is now the main problem for everyone.

            And a new leader Tory leader, (BoJo, Raab, Davis, Leadsom) is the answer? Don’t get me wrong, John Crace has rightly dubbed her LINO (Leader In Name Only), but are the intractable internal Tory (and Labour) divisions combined with Parliament’s dysfunctionality going to be solved by a new (presumably) brexiteer Tory leader?

            1. David

              No, but early retirement for May might be part of the EU’s price for whatever they finally agree to.

          2. Ignacio

            I believe the 27 cannot agree a longer delay if May resigns. Who wants contagion of UK Parliament disease to Europarliament? I think not Macron, neither Sánchez.

        2. ahimsa

          Interesting idea, WA agreement passed but only subject to new referendum & EU elections being held.

          But how would that work, a Labour whipped ammendment supported by some Tories?

          And where would that leave the UK’s withdrawal Act, what date would they substitute?

          This is getting stranger and stranger, I’m not convinced the EU are playing this right. What does Ireland make of this Deal or No Deal offer?

  22. Sanxi

    Yves, thank you, the depth and particularly the tone of your report, the situation is now hopeless and serious and many innocent people, that have little control over their lives, that government should be protecting, but is incapable of doing so will suffer. All the worst aspects of history repeat. And it gets worse, and what of a world out of climate blance and natural systems so degraded that life is becoming extinct are we to cope with? What are we doing to to each other? If anyone thinks that survival unto themselves is possible you are wrong. It will be in communities or not all. You can accept it and like it or just accept it. There is no other alternative that has a chance. And a chance is all we have. We are to love one another even if it should cause our death, that is what is asked of us. The hard stuff.

  23. Avidremainer

    Well what a to do. How many Tories would vote against May in a vote of confidence in the commons? Will the Tories split before Labour does? Is this government going to collapse of its own accord? Will it rain or get dark before morning?
    What options does the UK have to end this depressing circus?

    1. Another Anon

      With all the rain, locusts and bad blood, I advise everyone in the UK to keep an eye on their first born.

  24. DHG

    Mays’ only logical position left is to rescind Article 50 declaration in its entirety, it will cost her the PM job but at this point she is toast anyway.

  25. notabanker

    Online betshop says:
    Commons will not pass WA at 3rd meaningful vote. odds: 1.6 vs 2.3
    A50 will not be revoked. odds: 1.3 to 4.1
    UK will not leave by 3-29. odds: 1.2 to 5.7
    Brexit most like to occur Apr to Jun. 3.05 odds. Next likely time frame not before 2022- 4.2 odds
    May will be gone before Brexit. odds 1.6 to 2.4

    Bettors are expecting rabbits to be pulled out of hats. On the flipside, 5.7 odds hedge on a 3-29 Brexit has some appeal, not that I would encourage that sort of thing.

  26. ChrisPacific

    Just watched May’s speech. Mentioned the letter she sent asking for a June 30 extension. No mention of Tusk’s comments on it, or his statement. Doubles down (again) on her deal. No mention of any alternatives except to rule them out or assert that they aren’t what voters want. If I hadn’t been following the updates I would still have been in the dark about what actually happened today.

    I haven’t seen her live before and I found it distinctly odd. An Obama or a Trump would have taken some time to occupy the stage and focus attention before launching into it, particularly since it was delayed and didn’t happen at the scheduled start time (so people might not be paying attention right away). None of that from May – she just walked out, with no fanfare, and launched right into it. Then when it was done, she walked right back out of frame with no sign-off or anything of the sort. There was generally a complete lack of the usual social rituals that politicians use to frame a speech and ensure the audience is comfortable and receptive to their message. I’m not sure if that’s normal for her, but given some comments I’ve read here in the past I suspect that it might be.

    1. ChrisPacific

      I just had a horrible thought. What if the reason her speech didn’t acknowledge Tusk’s statement was because she hadn’t read it? Consider this statement:

      …today, I have written to Donald Tusk the President of the European Council to request a short extension of Article 50 up to the 30th of June to give MPs the time to make a final choice.

      Tusk was clear that there will be no more time for a choice, and an extension will only be possible if the choice is made prior to 29 March and May’s deal with the EU is the winner. As vlade noted above, this works in May’s favor in some ways because she can now present a genuine her deal/no deal choice, assuming she continues to block revocation. Why wouldn’t she mention it?

    2. ahimsa

      Truly surreal statement by the Maybot. To paraphrase:

      You lot voted for Brexit 3 years ago.
      I became prime minister and promised you that cake.
      But it’s not looking good for next Friday.
      I’ve managed a deal with the EU for stale bread.
      Those other politicians are ruining everything.
      It’s not my fault.
      Those other politicians are questioning your decision.
      I know what you want.
      And I know you’re fed up with their shit.
      I’m on your side! (this line she actually said)
      It’s all those other politicians.
      They‘re trying to ruin Brexit for you.
      I’m determined.

        1. ChrisPacific

          I’ve been spotting entirely new kinds of unicorns. Everyone, including the media, seems to have accepted May’s concept of a 3 month extension “to give MPs the time to make a final choice.” It is the subject of furious debate, despite the fact that the EU have already rejected it. Half the stories make note of this in an offhand sort of way about two-thirds of the way through, without drawing the implication that it means everything described in the rest of the story relates to a hypothetical scenario with no basis in reality. Even those that mention it talk about a possible emergency meeting of the EU on the 28th/29th if May’s deal fails a third vote, despite Tusk having explicitly ruled THAT out as well. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

          1. vlade

            You know, when I compare May with Arden (compare and contrast Christchurch with Grenfell), I despair.

            Can you please please lend her to the UK for at least one parliamentary term? We’ll give you both May and Corbyn, and could throw in Johnson for amusement purposes. I know it’s still unfair, but we are in desperate straits and any help from the Commonwealth would be welcome..

            1. ChrisPacific

              I ran this idea past my wife, who laughed and then said firmly: “No.” I agree we can’t spare her right now.

              However, I can think of a list of retired politicians who would all likely make a better job of it than May – Bill English, Helen Clark… Actually Steven Joyce might be your best bet, as he specialised in fixing up horrible messes.

              1. vlade

                I left NZ when Clark was PM (2005), and I was, at the time, starting to feel what I’d describe now as faint echoes of May. But both Clark and English would be better than May [extremely low bar].

                It’s just really frustrates me when I see Arden and what can be, and May and what is. TBH, I get this frustration even comparing Corbyn and Arden, and probably more so, as with Tories I now pretty much expect it.

                1. ChrisPacific

                  I think we owe a big debt of gratitude to Andrew Little, without whom we would never have had her (well, we probably would have eventually, but not for some years yet). He probably lacked the charisma to be a successful PM but he has been an excellent Minister of Justice. The Grenfell folks could have used somebody like him.

                  I remember years ago when she had a semi-regular spot on morning TV along with Simon Bridges. I was always impressed at her ability to avoid taking things personally – she’d regularly be laughing and joking with Bridges even as she eviscerated his arguments. (He had some of the same qualities, but I always detected a faint whiff of the troll about him). She is still at it – as the leader of a not-always-stable three party coalition, she is constantly being tossed live hand grenades, which she generally disarms quickly and expertly in a manner that preserves the dignity and working relationships of all concerned. She makes it look easy, but I’ve seen enough politicians go down to this kind of thing to know it’s anything but.

  27. Andrew Thomas

    I have what might be a silly question. If the U.K. approves the WA next week, what is the purpose of an extension? I know there are serious issues for everyone if there is a crash out. But, are there problems with prep that would require an extension even if there IS a WA in place?

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