Brexit: Pandemonium

Because my cat is sick and probably dying, this won’t be much of a post.1 I have to take him to the vet in a few hours, which will be his third visit this week. Apologies.

Theresa May appeared to make a major change in course yesterday by starting the process of striking a cross-party deal with Labour on a softer Brexit. However, May also said she wanted to petition the EU to have an extension to May 22… approve her Withdrawal Agreement. As we’ll discuss shortly, it’s inconceivable that the EU would agree to that. Or as Richard Smith put it, “More cretinism from May”:

For those of you who are not deep into Brexit details, May is giving a big raised middle finger to the EU with this proposal. The UK came as a petitioner to the EU seeking an extension, which the EU was in no way obligated to give. The EU rejected May’s request for an extension to June 30 and instead gave her two alternatives: if she got her Withdrawal Agreement approved by March 29, the Government could have an extension to May 22 to pass enabling legislation. If not, it had until April 12 to “indicate a way forward” with Brexit [that is acceptable the EU] and take the steps necessary to participate in the European Parliament elections.

May’s new bright idea was not on offer, and for good reason. Without belaboring the details, having the UK in the EU after April 12 risks having UK citizens claim the right to vote in European Parliament elections. Not acting accordingly has the potential to throw the legality of the new Parliament in question. Even if that risk is arguably remote, the consequences would be dire. An even more pressing reason is they don’t want to risk a “no deal” dominating the election:

So an open question is whether this is May being dragging around her Withdrawal Agreement corpse because she’s incapable of coming up with another approach, or is this one of her idiot-savant displays, where she is steering the UK to a no deal Brexit if she can’t get her way with the Withdrawal Agreement, and trying to make Labour own that outcome too?

The rumors are that 14 of her 27 Cabinet ministers were opposed to her plan. Richard North provides more scuttlebutt:

She had, she said, just come from chairing seven hours of Cabinet meetings where, if we are to believe what we are told, acrimonious ministers were split between wanting a no-deal Brexit and opting for a customs union, with the no-dealers holding the majority.

Mind you, May’s statement came after a round of panic and confusion. May had her ministers surrender their phones during a seven hour session. The House entertained scheduling something called the Cooper-Letwin bill for Wednesday in place of the previously planned indicative votes. Most observers thought meant the UK was on a just-about certain path to crash-out….but then the indicative votes were back on! So Brexit-watchers were already overstimulated when the Prime Minister made her announcement of her seeming change in direction.

But my take is that May’s move is a variant of her standard “run the clock out” play, which hasn’t worked for her so far (save for keeping her in No. 10). If nothing else, talking to Labour creates more moving parts, more complexity, and therefore more opportunity for failure.

The reason for doubting any sincerity to May’s moves is not simply that that would be out of character. It’s that when the idea of a second referendum came up last fall, May was willing to consider it only as a way to have voters decide between her deal and no deal. She was not willing to entertain “Remain” as an option. Leaks in recent days have indicated that May prefers a crash out to no Brexit.

Thus there is every reason to think that May believes the widespread antipathy among MPs for a crash out gives her leverage to force approval for her deal. She likely believes that her failure to achieve that end is because MPs believe they can still get another sort of Brexit. She may also believe that the EU is more afraid of a no deal Brexit than it is.

So if May were to get her short extension to May 22, it would make a long extension possible and cut off pretty much all Brexit escape routes. The only risk she runs is that Parliament could work up the nerve to back revoking Article 50.

Recall that Richard North caught on to the significance of May saying that any Brexit deal required the approval of her Withdrawal Agreement. She’s making that a requirement of her talks with Labour. From the Financial Times:

Theresa May on Tuesday inflamed the Conservative civil war on Europe after she offered to work with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to end the Brexit impasse, opening the door to a softer exit deal that could include membership of a customs union with the EU.

After a cabinet meeting lasting more than seven hours, the UK prime minister made clear she was willing to face down Eurosceptic Tories, announcing she would seek a further delay to Britain’s exit from the EU as she tried to forge a new cross-party approach with the Labour leader on future ties with the EU.

But she added that any joint plan would have to endorse the 585-page exit treaty she has negotiated with the bloc.

Ian Dunt reads this the same way I do:

More details from his post:

It all sounded so reasonable. A realistic timetable. Cross-party cooperation. It was like a whole new prime minister. But then came the dangerous part. She got to that bit in her statement where, if you were looking hard enough, you could see the tactical sleight of hand.

“The government would then bring forward the withdrawal agreement bill,” she said, referring to the domestic legislation enacting the deal with Brussels. “We would want to agree a timetable for this bill to ensure it is passed before the 22nd of May, so the UK need not take part in European parliamentary elections.”

And that’s when the alarm bells started ringing. That is the bit that will define if this is a real attempt to turn the page on how she approaches Brexit or another cynical trap based on deception.

The European elections are a crucial moment in the Brexit process. The EU has been clear that if the UK does not take part in those elections, it cannot remain inside, because it would mean that the European parliament would potentially be illegally constituted. The danger was always that May would use this fact to pivot parliament into a place where it had to choose between her deal or no-deal.

This is way too late to be workable. Notice how May called for working up new indicative vote options in case the round tomorrow fails. May may figure her gambit doesn’t increase the odds of anything passing and could lower them, or lead the vote to be pushed back a day or two for Conservative-Labour canoodling. Any time loss at this juncture increases the odds of a crash out, which May clearly believes increases leverage for approving her deal. And even though the EU is no doubt unhappy with yet another display of May’s pig-headedness, if she were to manage to get her deal approved by next Wednesday or Thursday, the EU would grant an extension to May 22 for the UK to tidy things up legally.

To look at this another way, even if May actually had a Damascene conversion, she’s not capable of working with Labour. It would be difficult for even a more skilled PM given the very short runway and the lack of prior engagement. So her offer is a ruse whether by accident or design. From our vlade:

The latest from May is a bear trap for Corbyn IMO. May has shown in the last two years to be constitutionally incapable of compromise and not-agreement-capable. She had three years (more, because of the dumb triggering of A50) to do what she now says she wants to do in less than
a week.

So unless we find out that all that time she was really just looking for a dominant partner who tells here what to do, and found one in Corbyn, I can’t see how this can lead to anything.

Of course, the other option is that she’s just incredibly canny, and this is all just a part of a long term plan. Muahahahah.

And Richard Murphy:

Of course that is too late. And likely to fail. She has no record in success. That’s the biggest reason for failure. She simply does not know how to deliver anything else.

But it does throw Corbyn a difficult scenario. And Labour cannot walk away. For that they would be blamed. And they know it. And so too do the Cabinet. That’s why I think there have been no cabinet resignations.

Richard North more charitably sees May’s move as a last gamble to get her deal through; by implication, the rest is optics:

If this plan has any chance of working, it has to be done swiftly. Although the European Council is on the 10th – next Wednesday – when any decision will be made as to whether to extend the Article 50 period, the General Affairs Council is the day before. Since it is there that the preparatory work is done, at the UK end, whatever is to happen but be done and dusted by the end of business on Monday, in order to get the result to the General Affairs Council.

Presumably, when it comes to the offer to the Westminster parliament, Mrs May will want to stick to the existing text of the political declaration, expecting Mr Corbyn to gamble on parliament voting to include a specific reference to a customs union. Whatever is agreed will then have to be bundled into a final motion which allows the Withdrawal Agreement to be ratified, this time with the support of Labour – by Monday at the latest.

There are considerable odds of it getting as far as the vote though. Although Mr Corbyn has agreed to talks, he would walk out at any time – having stage-managed his departure to ensure that Mrs May takes her share of the blame. The temptation for him to do this will be strong, as he will be looking to an opportunity to pursue a general election. Coming to the prime minister’s rescue has never been on his agenda.

The Ultras were predictably outraged….

The DUP is not happy either:

As Politico’s morning newsletter pointed out:

NO DEAL? The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has upgraded the risk of a no-deal Brexit to “very likely.” This assessment may have been based on the most recent round of votes on potential versions of Brexit in the House of Commons Monday. But it’s also a case of situational awareness: As of this morning, Brexit day is nine days away — and no deal is the default and only option that requires no action by the hamstrung British parliament.

The UK is clearly in time is of the essence mode if the goal is to avoid a crash out. Yet we remain in the dark as to what May’s true aims are.


1 My cat Gabriel had 2 episodes of incontinence in 48 hours. Trust me, when a cat pees to send a message, they pee a ton. This was not that.

I took him to the vet on Monday, the day after the second incident. He has a large mass on his bladder, so large that his bladder can barely hold anything, hence him leaking. His kidney readings are also poor but that may be due to the bladder backing up into the kidneys.

This came out of the blue, since aside from getting very fussy about his wet food (as in over time pretty much no longer eating it) he seemed fine. And now that he is on antibiotics and an anti-nausea drug (same stuff as people take OTC, it’s not strong), he’s chowing down food and seems perfectly normal. The vet was also disconcerted by how healthy he appears to be versus his actual condition.

Bladder cancer is very rare in cats, and the vets are trying to determine what the mass is. But Gabriel is 14. Even if the mass is not cancer, removing it may not improve his kidney function much. So even “good” news will present me with a difficult choice: do I put an old cat through surgery that may not benefit him much in terms of longevity? (It would improve the quality of his life once he recovered by getting his bladder back to normal which was also contributing to his acting like he was interested in eating but then turning away from food).

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  1. Chauncey Gardiner

    Best wishes to you, Yves, for your cat, Gabriel. Difficult decisions to make when pets are older and become seriously ill.

    1. Steve H.

      Cecily Berry: “The characters live where they find their images… the finding of the image is directly related to where the character is placed in terms of the laws and structure of his particular world… The images are never just descriptive, they always arise out of a need within the character…”

      From a Shakespearean perspective, that you place Gabriel in the world of this post holds (or creates) implicit meaning. Both seem to be a sudden crisis but the growth went undetected. Cancer does not compromise. Simply removing the offending dysfunctional growth not only may not fix the problem, but could precipitate the crash-out. Both Britain and your cat have entered senescence, both have failures of their regulatory/immune systems. As Jonathon Pie said, “It’s not healthy.” Of the possibilites, which leaves you most Whole?

    2. Kristiina

      Best wishes, blessings and best of luck. 14 is not that old, I am optimistic all will turn out well. I trust that Bastet will see to it that your valuable cat-human family can continue to thrive and keep the world informed.

    3. Paul O

      Our oldest cat, Dougal, passed away last night so my best wishes are very much with you. He had a very fine 17 years with us though.

    4. Roquentin

      Best wishes for your cat. It’s a tough decision. Mine is 15 and she recently got a urinary tract infection. It left me with a $500 vet bill and the antibiotics gave her diarrhea so bad she just leaked brown liquid. I spent a week cleaning up stains and spots. She’s better now, but there’s no denying it’s near the end of her life cycle. I raised her from a kitten. End of life decisions are never easy, even with pets.

    5. Carolyn

      All the best to you and Gabriel. Very difficult decision… I always end up with “Never mind me, what’s best for the cat?” But I still find it a very difficult call.


    6. orange cats

      When an older cat sickens you cross over into the land of agonizing decisions. Male cats have urinary tract issues, good for you to give him wet food, kibbles are deadly. My first cat, Harry, died of an undiagnosed UTI at 11 years. I was an idiot and so was the vet. I have been bitterly disappointed with vets with both my cats. Hard to know if Gabriel’s relative healthy behavior means anything at this point. My ailing 17 year old orange guy Matthew exhibited bouts of energy which made things even more impossibly opaque trying to decide what to do. Finally I used the checklist of symptoms and behaviors he returned to after the vital episodes, and things looked dire. I probably let him suffer too long. The only certitude I ever had was as executioner, giving him a peaceful, painless death at home.

      1. orange cats

        I need to add the decision to euthanize was not made with certitude, only the manner.

    7. ChrisPacific

      Yes, all the best. End of life decisions for pets are never easy, even if they seem like they should be on paper.

    8. Anders K

      Agreed – best wishes, and I hope that whatever you decide, you will be at peace with the decision.

  2. Winston Smith

    There you have it: politicians are heedlessly pushing the country to the lip of the abyss but are worried about “their party”…

    Sorry about your cat’s illnessw

    1. Andrew Thomas

      Very sorry to read of your beloved pet’s illness. I wish for the best for you and for Gabriel.

  3. Pavel

    Sorry to hear about your cat, Yves. :(

    Re Brexit — I suggest NC readers check out the hashtag #BrexitBetrayal on Twitter to get a sense of the anger and betrayal felt by the Leavers — I thought it couldn’t get any more outraged and then May came up with the idea of consulting with Satan himself (a/k/a Jeremy Corbyn). I should have advised him not to take the bait but I guess he felt he had to. A sucker’s bet… now Labour will share the blame.

    I agree with the basic point that they are just running out of time to do anything. And if Macron was fed up with the shenanigans before 29th March he must really be at the end of his tether now.

    May is playing chicken with the MPs to see if they cave in and *finally* vote in her wretched deal. I just don’t see that happening. The issue of the EU elections (as noted above) only complicates things further.

    I just listened on Youtube to a live stream of MPs questioning the Brexit secretary and asking about the risks of a No Deal Brexit. He remarkably calmly said (and I paraphrase): “This is all your fault because you didn’t vote for May’s WA last week when you had the chance.”

    What a cluster****!

    1. shtove

      Ouch. I had a surge of enthusiasm yesterday, but on reflection I guess your gloom is realistic.

  4. OldLion

    It looks credible to me that Theresa May is no longer trying to avoid the no deal outcome, but is now solely set on the blame game. Her last move is a trap for both Labour and EU.

    A side comment :
    One of the reasons Macron might be tempted to veto an extension could be a short term electoral one. The left side of the political landscape in France is fragmented, so the only serious opposition comes from the far right (Rassemblement National and and various souvererainists), and they could take a fair share of the available seats as they often do in EU elections.
    One defining point of their opposition is anti-europeanism. And some discourse sill present Brexit like a good thing.

    So having a strident example of unmanaged chaos coming from UK could help a lot LREM point. But it works only if UK leaves the 12th instead of the 22.

    There is some risk here, because of the blame game, but the UK government makes all of the efforts to be as guilty as possible, so that could be a paying strategy.

    1. NJ

      This is what I think is going on. She only wants to meet Corbyn to ensure his prints are on the brexit deal when it fails.

      She’s counting on him asking for something that cannot be done, or that she is unwilling to give. If this happens, she can say it was in Corbyns hands and his lack of compromise is why we crashed out.
      Considering none of labours demands are new, she’s had ages to agree to them, and she’s spent the past few months pandering to the ERG and demonstrating that her party is more important to her than anything, this is really the only sensible reason why she would bother to meet with Corbyn.

      Problem is, Corbyn is clumsy and single minded enough to fall right in her trap.

      PS – we’ll be sending positive thoughts after your cat for a good recovery.

      1. Anders K

        Eh, blame-shifting can work even if he doesn’t go there, but then it’s because he “wouldn’t even meet to talk about solutions.”

        From that perspective, what is more important is how Corbyn manages his return salvo.

        However all of that is inside baseball, interesting on one level but not as important as what will happen now. The Cooper-Letwin bill passed by the slimmest of margins, but all it does is try to force May to seek an extension, which as Yves (and Richard North) has pointed out, she can do in as convincing manner as she chooses (theoretically just after she has insulted the lineage of everyone in the room).

        The question is now two-fold – what May chooses to do, and if the UK Parliament will deliver something that the EU can accept as a way forward. Even if the UK chooses the general election route, it will still drop-out at the 12th unless they’re preparing for MEP elections (I read something about a bill supposedly being submitted to make this possible, but have not heard more about it, a quick search gives no positive response).

        I hope the can is kicked as far as it can be, but I am not convinced that everyone believes that. Here’s hoping for a revocation.

    2. orange cats

      Interesting comments about Macron. I’m not sure whether the left or right are strong enough to challenge him alone but les gilets jaunes are seriously anti-globalist/one percenters so your speculation makes sense.

    3. David

      Mélenchon’s LFI is also soaking up some of the anti-Brussels vote on the Left.
      Macron is young, inexperienced and insecure. Part, at least, of this is posturing. Merkel was a heavyweight politician when he was a student, and he’s failed (like his two predecessors) to achieve the traditional French political dominance of the Franco-German “couple.” He’s worried that continued Brexit uncertainty will take attention away from the European elections, where he’s desperate to do well. (His previous Minister for Europe, Nathalie Loiseau, has been sent off to head his European MEP list, and her successor is barely in post.) He wants a bit of peace and quiet so that he can focus on these elections.

      1. orange cats

        Excellent points. Macron is very focused on achieving some peace and quiet…I forgot about the European elections as a reason in addition to simply placating the demonstrators.

  5. Redlife2017

    Yves – sorry to hear about your cat. :-(

    One thing to look at as well is what the DUP has said about Corbyn: “Though it remains to be seen if sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, someone whom the Conservatives have demonised for four years, will end happily.” My bolding.

    Corbyn has consistently been vilified in a way no other Labour leader has been in 30 years. Recently, Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in a Cabinet meeting supposedly said of a long extension: “A two-year extension is going to divide the party if there is an election. Britain will be a barren land ruled by Jeremy Corbyn with all of us here in the gulag.”

    The use of the term gulag was not an accident. They think he is a Communist (I’ve spoken to people who’ve used that term very seriously in the City) and that people will be sent to prison work-camps, etc.. So the DUP is right to point out that, uh, Teresa May is once again trying to have it both ways. He’s incompetent! He’s EVIL! But, yes, we also need to work cross-party with him and he’ll have some good ideas. Huh?

    I agree that it feels like a trap. Or she is sick of her Cabinet and knows she isn’t going to last anyway, so F–k it? Not sure with her. It’s like trying to read a bare white wall with no decorations. Heck it might be both!

    Or as a 3rd option: She is Tony Benn’s Manchurian Candidate! That would make an awesome movie…

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its hard to exaggerate just how much the DUP hate and fear Corbyn – he represents everything that gives them nightmares – an English left wing Republican sympathiser. An even greater nightmare for them is that their supporters blame them for helping put him in power.

      As for Corbyn being a Communist – it reminds me of a story from 1969 when the leader of a Northern Ireland civil rights march was questioned on TV. ‘Is it true that your organisation has been infiltrated by Reds and Marxist sympathisers?’ He replied: ‘I wish to f**k it was!’

      But all this I think makes it clear that May has only two real aims. One is to deliver Brexit in a form that her party approves. The second is to make sure Corbyn never, ever gets power. Nothing else matters and everything she does needs to be interpreted in this light.

      On a wider point, I think the argument Fintan O’Toole makes is correct, that Brexit is being driven specifically by a form of English Nationalism, which ultimately makes it a trap for the DUP. I’ve no doubt whatever that if the core of Tory Brexiteers were given a choice – maintain the Union and risk Corbyn becoming PM, or allow the Union to break up, leaving a Tory dominated England and Wales – they’d choose the latter in a heartbeat. When you look at the electoral map, it makes absolute sense for them to favour cutting NI and Scotland free, whatever the consequences.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, PK.

        With regard to Communist and even Russian infiltration, the ANC and SWAPO were accused of that. You may recall Tory MPs in the Commons and using parliamentatry privilege and the likes of the Monday Club, Western Goals etc. linking the ANC to the IRA and to RUSSIA and Libya.

        You are right about English nationalism, including the variant espoused by Celts or North and West Brits. Apparently, Ian Paisley (senior) when chatting to an SNP newcomer in the Commons said that he feared the English nationalists, specifically the Tories, selling the Unionists down the river.

        With regard to cutting off the Celts, Tory activists I know acknowledge the temptation, but fear that England would lack the mass to “punch above its weight”. It sounds like the boundary for what became Northern Ireland, maximum territory with minimum number of Catholics.

        @ Yves: I am sorry to hear about your cat. Best wishes.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Thanks Colonel, I’ve always thought those Tory types thought everything north of Watford was just dole scroungers, scousers, flame haired Celts and abandoned coal mines. I suppose maybe they’d miss the grouse moors.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you and well said, PK.

            Just to add that many New Labour types and Orange Order Liberals think / feel like that, too.

        2. Andy Raushner

          The “Nationalists” are nothing more than de Rothschild remnants hoping the bankers that created them can save them and their prestige. I just think it is hopeless. Without something to invest in, capitalism is dying. I am moving out of processed food and anything the capitalists have created. It makes you weak and fat. Retraining and rebuilding combat skills for the post capital owner era will probably be wise.

        3. David

          To be fair, both the ANC and SWAPO had links to the respective Communist parties, and in the ANC’s case much of the leadership overlapped. Mandela finally admitted just before he died that he had been a member. The links are quite well set out in the memoirs of Ronnie Kasrils, for example. Some of the first training to the ANC’s military wing, the MK, was carried out by white South African Communists, who had fought as volunteers with the British Eighth Army in North Africa and Italy.
          But the reality was that the SACP was the only political party that supported the anti-apartheid struggle from the beginning. And it wasn’t that much of a Marxist party anyway – in most other countries it would have been a Social Democrat equivalent. As one ANC friend said to me in the early 90s, “they’ve only just discovered Gramsci!”
          Likewise, the ANC turned to the Soviet bloc because nobody else would support them, and especially not in the military side of the struggle, and it’s hard to blame them for that.
          What is quite wrong though was to suggest that the ANC was just an instrument of Soviet foreign policy, although this was endlessly repeated at the time ‘”so I suppose you want to see Gulags in Johannesburg?” as my parent’s generation were fond of saying. As Mandela said, the ANC was manipulating the Soviet Union at least as much, if not more, than the reverse.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            What is quite wrong though was to suggest that the ANC was just an instrument of Soviet foreign policy, although this was endlessly repeated at the time ‘”so I suppose you want to see Gulags in Johannesburg?” as my parent’s generation were fond of saying

            I can only assume those people were ignorant of the history of the use of concentration camps in South Africa.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you, PK.

              There were camps in Mauritius, just north of the capital Port-Louis, and other British islands.

              Some Afrikaners stayed after the Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902. One met my great grandfather at Labourdonnais Sugar Estate, next to the camp at Forbach, and married him. Some of their children could pass as white and did so when migrating to South Africa.

            2. David

              I think that’s a fair assumption. I’ve heard from a number of people that when De Klerk came to London after Mandela’s release and was invited to dine with the Queen, she, and everybody else, were absolutely stunned by the passion with which he spoke about this episode, which few of them knew much, if anything about. It was the camps more than anything else that made the Boers so bitterly anti-British. Had it not been for that, Smut’s decision to allow South Africans to fight on the side of the British in WW2 would not have been so controversial, and it’s possible that the Nationalist Party would not have won the 1948 elections, and introduced the apartheid system. Who knows how different modern Africa would have been ….

              1. PlutoniumKun

                Thanks David – it does seem that the British establishments general ignorance of Imperial history is leading to quite a few otherwise bafflingly bad decisions.

                It was amusing to see the shock of some Tories when they discovered that the Indians were not exactly falling over themselves to help out their erstwhile colonial betters when it came to trade deals. Once they set out in earnest to negotiate new independent trade deals I think they’ll have further shocks when they realise how many Commonwealth ‘allies’ will be eager to stick the knife in.

          2. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, David.

            That’s true.

            I should have nuanced that the Tories et al were talking about the USSR.

          3. skippy

            Pre dawn here in Oz ….

            My experiences with SWAPO in the 80s was indicative of warlords with ideological embellishments.

      2. Summer

        “When you look at the electoral map, it makes absolute sense for them to favour cutting NI and Scotland free, whatever the cost.”

        I don’t know Corbyn’s background, but it would be interesting to know what he thought of cittung NI and Scotland free. That would be a bigger historical event than any PM office.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          He was previously on record as favouring a unified Ireland, but like most Labour loyalists would I’m sure be horrified by Scotland leaving – there would be no greater guarantee of a permanent Tory majority.

      3. Olivier

        On English nationalism being a trap for the DUP, yes I’ve been thinking that for a while, too. The logic of English nationalism is that after the UK leaves the EU, England should leave the UK: for what is the UK if not another supranational construct that robs England of its precious sovereignty? The logic here seems inescapable. At the moment it is the Scots who are in pole position for breaking up the UK and it hardly matters because everybody is fixated on Brexit but when the times comes the UK may find that it has no champion, save perhaps a few lone Unionists in NI.

        I’ll add that for us continentals, who have had to endure centuries of British machinations on the Continent, the breakup of the UK is something to be most devoutly hoped for.

        1. Andrew Thomas

          As long as we are considering really wild knock-on consequences from all this, how about an Irish/Scots Federal Republic with meaningful home rule for its three entities, EU membership, and a “hard border” between Scotland and England? Which is much shorter and far easier to deal with practically than what we’re looking at now? Of course, that would put Scotland and N.I. in the Eurozone, which is where the real surrender of meaningful sovereignty takes place.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Its often been said that the British invented Belgium just to annoy the French. It would be ironic therefore if Brussels decided to allow Scotland to join the EU via an informal alliance with Ireland (similar to the sort of deal Northern Ireland was offered when the Irish Sea border idea was being floated). A few weeks ago the leader of Plaid Cymru was on Irish Radio arguing that exactly this sort of Celtic alliance could allow a gentle sort of independence of Scotland and Wales from the UK.

            I’ve no doubt the French in particular would chuckle at the irony.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you, PK.

              It’s not just the Celts. The Channel Islands have increased their engagement with the French and Norman regional governments. Last year, a couple of elected officials floated the idea of a “rapprochement” in the event of the UK breaking up, even to a stunned Jean-Yves Le Drian. It is apparent to French politicians and officials and some French citizens that all’s not well with the union and a resurrection of the “auld alliance” could happen, probably by way of Irish intermediation, especially now that Ireland has joined la francophonie.

              Bienvenu, PK. A tres bientot, j’espere.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                Back in the 18th Century Ireland (well, catholic Ireland) very much aspired to la francophonie – as can be seen in French brands such as Lynch-Bages wines and Hennessey brandy (the result of business marriages to encourage trade).
                Every educated Irishman and woman at the time spoke a little French in recognition of Paris being the second home of many a trainee priest or nun, and plenty of Wild Geese too. Not to mention the dream of a French army sailing up the Shannon.

            2. Colonel Smithers

              I forgot to add that, further to the invention of Belgium, a German cousin living in London was sent to be their king. The Saxe-Coburg family still reign and, some time after their British cousins, changed their German surname and renounced their German titles.

              If any readers visit Buckingham Palace in late summer, you can see a painting of what became the Belgian royal family.

      4. orange cats

        In 1969 IRA commander Liam Mckillen was accused, at gunpoint, of being a “Dublin communist” . The breakaway Provisional IRA formed shortly after.

    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Redlife.

      It wasn’t just the Tories and they were not the worst by a country mile.

      The neo cons and liberals in the Labour and media ranks were the worst, especially the HRC manquees.

      Speaking of Truss, she harbours leadership ambitions. So does Amber Rudd. How will Kwasi Kwarteng sway? Read between the, er, um, sheets.

      1. Avidremainer

        Colonel, Sky News reports that 20 prominent businesspeople have written to the Tories telling the Tories that they can no longer be regarded as the party of business.
        ” F*ck ” business at your peril Mr Johnson.

    3. Colonel Smithers

      I forgot to add that I will relay what tidbits emerge at this evening’s Labour in the City discussion.

  6. vlade

    May could get her extension to the 22nd, but that would be on the basis that the MPs pass her WA ex political declaration, assuming that it could tweak PD with CU/whatever (which long time ago the EU indicated it would be ok with, assuming WA was passed).

    The problem for Corbyn is – can he trust May? Based on her behaviour, not. Worse yet, remember her promise to be gone by 22nd May if her WA passes still holds. And I’d bet you Johnson/JRM/whoever would not feel bound by any of her promises… So he could very well find himself in a role of useful idiot.

    On the other hand, if he says no, May would be able to blame him fully for the debacle (happily ignoring that she should have engaged in this years ago, not at the last moment. But hey, that’s PR for you).

    I suspect Corbyn may try to trade the ok on WA for a GE. Otherwise, I don’t see any way how he could hold May to any promises he could extract.

    1. Redlife2017

      Vlade – yes, I’m presuming a trade for a GE. It’s the only way to know that any changes in the political agreement were stuck to.

    2. Avidremainer

      Guys, I have just watched PMQs. The folly of Mrs May’s actions were on display. The ERG are obviously spitting blood and asked a series of awful, searing questions which blatantly cut Mrs May to the quick.It cannot be long before this government collapses.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        This leaves the question of what a collapsed government looks like in these circumstances? If the Tories/DUP won’t support a no-confidence motion and since they can’t defenestrate May until next December, it seems to me that a zombie government could be unmovable until 2020.

        Perhaps someone could correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that so long as she can get a few stiffs to occupy cabinet seats, she can’t be moved barring the use of automatic weaponry. It would be like one of those tower blocks that refuses to completely collapse despite multiple demolition explosions. She is not the ‘whiskey and a revolver’ type.

        1. David

          I think you’re right. In the good-manners system that ruled British politics until a few days ago, a government in such a situation would be effectively shamed into going to the country. But in the absence of a vote of confidence, there’s nothing else that can force the Tories out, unless you’re prepared to entertain some of the wilder speculations about a royal coup d’état.

          1. Avidremainer

            Gents, by collapse I mean falling down dead incapable of carrying on. Mrs May will have to resign because she can no longer carry on.
            I cite 1905, 1940, 1974 as examples of the above. UK governments can and have just imploded. Morale gone, no more moral fibre, difficulty in getting out of bed, shame, anger sheer exhaustion all contribute to a collapse. It has nothing to do with votes of no confidence, whether in-party or Parliament, nothing to do with general elections and everything to do with how much human beings can take. The Tory party and government cannot take much more of this. They are only human and humans can buckle under the strain.
            We really dodged a bullet when we didn’t elect Ed Milliband didn’t we? ( Not my original thought but I agree wholeheartedly with it )

            1. urdsama

              She only has to last another week if her goals are to get her deal passed or crash out. With all she has gone through so far, I think she can do that standing on her head.

              1. Avidremainer

                Two more government resignations and it is only 16:10 UK time. They’re falling apart.

                1. urdsama

                  They’ve been failing apart for weeks (at least). I feel that they will keep it together for no other reasons than to deliver on their manifesto and keep Labour out.

                  And that fact that she didn’t face massive cabinet resignations over the reach out to Labour indicates what others have been saying: it’s a trap.

            2. David

              Well, in 1974 Ted Heath lost (or at least failed to win) an election, and Harold Wilson formed a minority government. Likewise in 1979 the Callaghan government was in deep trouble, but Jim held on (probably wrongly) until brought down in a confidence vote. I don’t see any way, to be honest, in which May can be forced to resign. She is simply missing the requisite moral circuitry. Supported by an enfeebled but still just about functional government machine, she can stagger on.

          2. Jim A.

            Since a majority of PMs don’t want a no-deal crash out, and a majority don’t want a revocation of article 50, couldn’t either lead to a vote of no-confidence? After all, it is easier to be against something than to actually propose something. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some who are just waiting until the deed is done before they bring out their knives.

    3. David

      According to the Guardian this morning,
      “Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said Corbyn would approach the offer “with an open mind” and willingness to find a compromise. But she highlighted the need to make sure any political declaration agreed was binding, saying it must not be merely a “gentlemen’s agreement” that set ambitions for the next phase.”

      This strikes me as very sensible, if it’s possible. Given that May is about as trustworthy as a sack full of rats, any agreement will have to be in a form (a Bill has been suggested) which can’t then simply be junked later.
      I think we can see a vague kind of strategy here, bearing in mind that May must be exhausted, is not a strategic thinker at the best of times, and is desperate for any form of Brexit. I think her strategy amounts to getting Labour on board for the WA, at the price of agreeing a bi-party position of the future relationship. Her reasoning will be that the WA is already negotiated, but the future relationship isn’t. Since it’s the government, and not Labour, who will negotiate the future relationship, anything that the Tories don’t like can simply be lost in negotiation. She will have her Place in History as the PM who achieved Brexit, and her assumption will be that, after Brexit has happened, most or all of the dissidents in the party will come round.
      But that said, it’s hard to overstate the symbolic importance of what has happened, and it could simply be the first of many surprises over the next few days.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I think this is one possible explanation. She may well be exhausted by the entire process and sees getting Labour support as the only way she can achieve the ‘resignation with honour’ she no doubt sees as a second best option to staying in power forever. But obviously no successor would feel in the slightest obliged to honour any agreement she made with Corbyn over the final agreement on the future relationship, so I don’t see where the incentive is for Labour to do this, unless they are hoping that signing such a deal could set off complete warfare within the government and so lead to its collapse.

    4. bold'un

      Why a GE? I think that Corbyn should agree the WA on condition that there will be a cross-party workgroup on the Future Relationship plus a commitment to an early referendum on ‘hard’ vs ‘soft’ flavors (with the UK already officially out by then, ‘remain’ is conveniently off-ballot). It suits both major parties to say ‘we delivered the first part of our 2017 manifesto and there is everything to play for in Round Two’. It is also democratically useful to get a steer on hard vs soft, without having to take the N Farage’s or Labour’s spin on ‘what June 2016 really meant’.

    5. disillusionized

      Corbyn’s first demand should be for May to commit to asking for an extension beyond the 22nd.
      if he doesn’t he will be bounced.

  7. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    A sad time Yves, which brought back for me memories of my old moggy friend named Jones of 20 years, who had to take one last visit to the vet – fortunately for my lack of a stiff upper lip, my partner took the responsibility & was in that room as he left it…..take care.

    As for Brexit – you unlike those in charge of it have done wonders, as even I if there were an examination would hope to achieve a C+.

  8. Winston Smith

    Having lived through two referendums (more appropriate than referenda apparently) in Quebec, I can tell you what comes next and is in fact already prevalent: the call for “traitors” to be brought to account for their transgressions real or invented. Fingers pointed at those who betrayed the cause or did not show sufficient zeal and thus are not “true patriots”. The Brexit situation is worse because the UK gets to wander into the unknown and Quebec did not.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Merci, Winston.

      Ah, la belle province. Je me souviens.

      BTW, some of the families who left from 1763 onwards went to Isle de France (maintenant Ile Maurice), rather than la Louisiane.

      1. Winston Smith

        Thank you Colonel.
        Just to ensure I am not mistaken for discontented English Canadian, I am not “pure laine” but a compendium of the conquered peoples: French Canadian, Irish and Huron.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Merci, Winston. Ah, metis.

          Moi, aussi. Africain (Yoloff / Wolof du Senegal et Makonda de Mozambique et Tanzanie), Francais (Correzien), Breton (Malouin), Alsacien, Ecossais (Aberdeenshire) et Afrikaner (Etat-Libre).

          Mes jeunes cousins sont plus metises.

    2. DaveH

      “Having lived through two referendums (more appropriate than referenda apparently) in Quebec”

      As an aside, if you want to know why:

      Referendum doesn’t have its latin origins as a noun, it was a gerund (literally meaning “referring”). So nouns taken from latin would take the latin plural – stadium / stadia, medium / media etc. So we use that plural as that was the original pluralised version.

      A gerund doesn’t have a pluralised version, so in its noun form it’s an english work not a latin word, so would take an english plural, not a latin plural.

      1. Olga

        Thanks, love it when the origin of words is explained (I’d add datum/data).
        And yes, Yves, sorry about the kitty – hope the right thing happens for all concerned!

    3. F.Korning

      There are plenty of liberal, meaning federalist, French Canadians. Most of the French intelligencia, meaning well over half the province. The finger pointing was limited and rapidly condemned by the media. In any case, the Quebec referrendums had clear questions, and as consittutional issues required absolute majority, not like the fiasco that is Brexit.

  9. ChiGal in Carolina

    Tough call about Gabriel, Yves, and sorry to hear it. Can they biopsy? Generally I believe in letting go in these situations, but if it is not cancer, since he has apparently not been suffering up to now, intervention if the vet thinks he is strong enough could give you years more with your doubtless cherished companion…

  10. urdsama

    Yves, sorry to hear about Gabriel. From personal experience I know situations like this are very difficult; hopefully he will let you know what he wants. I hope you find the best solution for both of you.

    Thank you for posting this item under such circumstances.

  11. Mucho

    Don’t know if this has been mentioned yet: I’ve heard the same ‘Brexit-warning’-ad on Spotify several times today, urging British nationals to check on their status & documents here abroad (I’m in the Netherlands).

    I’ve never heard it before – and I listen to Spotify all the time – so I’d guess preparations are scaling up a level.

  12. Troutwaxer

    I’m sorry to hear about the cat, and you both have my best wishes. Also, thank you for the careful Brexit coverage.

  13. psv

    Wish you and Gabriel the best, Yves. And thanks to you and the commenters here for the best Brexit coverage I’ve seen.

  14. Mark Anderlik

    Yves, all the best to you and Gabriel. And thanks for all of your excellent work. Much appreciated!

  15. ChrisPacific

    I just skimmed through Verhofstadt’s recent speech that he linked on Twitter and read the subtitles. He reiterated the 12 April deadline for the WA, and poured cold water on the idea of a long extension by summoning the spectre of the UK participating in EU elections with someone like Boris Johnson at the helm. Ultimately of course it will be up to the EU leaders, but it still strikes me as a clear shot across the bow for May.

    He also noted that Commons votes have temporarily replaced football as the popular spectator sport in Europe.

  16. Elizabeth

    Yves, I’m so sorry to hear about your kitty. It’s never easy, but I know you’ll make the right decision. Sending you and Gabriel loving thoughts.

    Thanks for all that you do.

    1. Tony Wright

      Hello Yves, sorry to hear about Gabriel, and for the belated reply – I have only just returned from a visit to Adelaide following the sudden death of my father in law (see below).
      My wife is a Vet, who recently retired due to the onset of autoimmune psoriatic arthritis which prevented her from carrying out her role as practice manager and surgeon in her practice in our small country town.
      In her twenty five years of veterinary practice she always advocated that the main decision criterion for all animals facing an owners decision regarding treatment vs euthenasia was ” do they , or will they, still have quality of life?”Sadly, a criterion not often used in human euthenasia debates – a future NC discussion topic perhaps?
      Vaguely related to Brexit, my late father in law, who was Scottish Italian , supported Brexit mainly onthe basis of his dislike for German Trade and Financial behaviour, despite his wife of over 50 years, now widow, being a Munich native.
      His funeral, delayed because of the legal necessity for a post mortem,is to be held on April 12th – the scheduled day for a crash out Brexit…

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