Brexit Dithering

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With the Tory Party leadership contest set to dominate British political news for the next few weeks, Brexit is going on hold. Not only does this mean no forward motion on the UK side (even if it were capable of that), but by the time the dust settles, with the Tory membership vote set to start on July 22, is when everyone who matters in the EU is about to go on holiday. So that leaves only two months to get anything done, charitably assuming the UK will prove capable of that.

I’m at risk of stepping way outside my realm of knowledge, since UK political machinations would seem to play into what happens with Brexit. But even with the LibDems now in the lead in polls, ahead of the Brexit Party, nothing of real import is likely to change unless some Tory MPs live up to their threat in the event of a Boris Johnson win and back a general election to prevent him from becoming Prime Minister. However, the “pull down the house” MPs are fewer in number than previously suspected, apparently only about 20. In theory, with the thin coalition majority, that would be enough defections to trigger a general election. But I assume the skepticism over the faltering revolt is that only a portion of that 20 are expected to follow through.

For the benefit of non-UK readers, the Tory leadership starts on June 7. Conservative Home helpfully sets forth the Parliamentary process for whittling down the list to two, who are then voted on by Tory Party members. “Members” as in dues-paying members. Their number is roughly 160,000, increased from the former estimate of 120,000 to 130,000 by recent sign-ups. They are much more gung-ho about Brexit than Tory voters generally. But they are managing the difficult feat of being even more clueless about Brexit than Theresa May.

Ian Dunt sums up how the contest is shaping up:

After all, this is basically a no-deal leadership fight. Those are the terms of purity that Nigel Farage’s success in the European elections imposed on the Conservative party….

We’re in a weird fantasy land of political commentary, in which the contest is fought over Brexit, but the subject itself is rarely mentioned. Each candidate insists they will deliver it and then get on to whatever they want to talk about – lowering taxes, more bobbies on the beat, One Nation Toryism, whatever. But of course it is all nonsense. Brexit will eat them up and swallow them whole, just as it did their predecessor. So it would be useful if journalists actually asked them what they intend to do about no-deal

Richard North has been doing the unpleasant duty of watching closely for what the contenders for party leadership have been saying about Brexit, and it’s mind-boggling. Some examples:

Andrea Leadsom maintains she can negotiate a “managed no-deal”. Barnier rejected mini-side deals a long time ago. Leadsom then asserts she can end run the European Commission and deal directly with heads of state. We know how well that worked for Theresa May.

Sajid Javid wants to renegotiate the backstop, apparently having missed that the extension stated, “this extension excludes any re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Someone also needs to clue in Matt Hancock, who wants to revive another idea that the EU rejected and is inconsistent with the Withdrawal Agreement being the only deal on offer, that of putting a time limit on the backstop.

Boris Johnson, Ester McVey, and Dominic Raab are already pumping for a crashout. Michael Gove appears to be the only aspirant clearly positioning himself as a moderate and willing to seek a further extension. And Jeremy Hunt, who North deems to be “one of the more sensible Tory MPs,” is now running second to Johnson among MPs. However, Tory members look likely to have one or maybe even both candidates pumping for a crash out.

As North observed:

What is both frustrating and alarming about this is the ease with which supposedly serious politicians and large numbers have convinced themselves variously that either renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement is a serious proposition, or that a no-deal scenario can be embraced without significant damage to the nation.

But how does this sit with UK voters? As Chris Grey pointed out:

The most obvious is that, for all that Brexit Ultras wrap their no-deal preference in the threadbare cloth of 17.4 million voters, it wasn’t remotely what the Leave campaign promised Brexit would mean in the 2016 Referendum. Indeed, Vote Leave promised those voters (mendaciously, for it could never have happened) that negotiations would be completed before the UK even beganthe formal process of leaving. It’s inconceivable that a no-deal platform would have won in 2016, and it is a mark of how cowed many mainstream politicians have become that they would even countenance it as being the ‘will of the people’.

Certainly it is not justified by recent polling evidence, which suggests that no-deal is supported by 25% of the electorate – a bit less than support leaving with a deal (27%), and considerably less than support not leaving at all (41%). Even amongst those who voted for the Brexit Party in last week’s European elections, where support for no-deal is presumably highest, only 67% want it. It is emphatically not a popular policy.

This means that if the next Prime Minister does try to implement it next autumn – and if so it will be amid growing economic chaos as the October deadline approaches – there will be a huge problem of legitimacy.

Now admittedly The Express, in an article yesterday, begs to differ:

A new survey found 30 percent of respondents believe no deal would result in only short-term problems and few consequences, while 15 percent said they had “nothing to fear” about a hard Brexit. The change in public opinion comes less than three months after a YouGov poll found 46 percent of voters wanted MPs to vote down the prospect of a no deal Brexit – which they subsequently did. The recent ballot by Deltapoll for the Mail on Sunday also suggested Boris Johnson had won support from the public thanks to his “firm stance” on a no deal.

Nevertheless, assuming Grey has the better grip on the mood of the country, recall how long Theresa May’s legitimacy crisis took to play out. She managed to be on the rope since her monstrous snap election miscalculation, yet managed to retain her hold on power due to the limited means for getting rid of her thanks to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and her refusal to adhere to notions of convention, as in she really should have resigned, say, after losing on her first Withdrawal Agreement vote or after being censured. Two months is barely enough time for a legitimacy crisis to get up a decent head of steam.

And that’s before getting to the fact that Parliament can’t stop a no deal Brexit. As the Institute for Government noted, there is no silver bullet that Parliament can use to kill a no deal Brexit; a PM determined to keep the option alive or actually achieve a crash-out could block them.

The problem for Parliament is the mechanisms it used last time to hobble May won’t work with Prime Minister willing to trigger a crash out:

Parliament’s most successful attempt to avoid no deal earlier this year was the ‘Cooper Bill’s’ requirement for the Government to seek a one-off extension to avoid no deal on 12 April. The route to this stemmed from a clause which MPs inserted into the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 – the legislation needed to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and correct deficiencies in domestic law after Brexit.

The clause required the Prime Minister to seek parliamentary approval for her Brexit deal before it could be ratified. But if Parliament rejected the deal then MPs would be able to vote on a motion ‘considering’ the Prime Minister’s next steps. Crucially, before Christmas, MPs won the right to amend that motion – giving the Commons a chance to shape both the timetable and the content of the next steps. Through this process the Commons was able to take control briefly of the parliamentary timetable and pass the bill.

But if a new prime minister is set on no deal, then they have no need for further ‘meaningful votes’. That denies MPs an opportunity to vote to take control of the timetable again.

And the no deal provision in the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 – which would have required the Government to hold a vote in the Commons if no agreement had been reached with the EU by 21 January – has long expired.

What about the EU? Barnier has said the odds of a no-deal Brexit have increased. EU leaders have continued to say what they shouldn’t need to say yet again, that the Withdrawal Agreement won’t be renegotiated. Macron is playing up his “bad guy” role and is pushing for October 31 as the final Brexit deadline. From The Local:

I think this is the final, final deadline because I don’t want to have the new commission and this new executive to have to deal with this past issue,” Macron said….

Macron nonetheless suggested that EU leaders might be willing to grant more time in case of a promise for a new Brexit referendum or a willingness to negotiate “something totally new.”

“Until the very last minute, the only one in a position to stop Brexit is the UK government,” he said.

Awfully wishy-washy for a bad guy. But Macron’s waffling seems to reflect the weird quasi parental approach the EU has fallen into with respect to the UK. If the new prime minister wastes, say, six weeks of the roughly nine in September and October trying to bully the EU into renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement and goes back to the UK and has hissy fits in the press, there probably won’t be enough time to change direction and sell the need for an extension so quickly on the heels of confidently saying the EU would capitulate. And that also pre-supposes the Prime Minister could come up with an adequately plausible reason for needing an extension, as in what it was proposing to do so as to get the UK to sign up for an orderly Brexit.

In other words, it would be difficult for anyone who becomes PM and didn’t campaign on an extension as an option to change course so rapidly…..even the fabulously erratic Boris Johnson. That in turn means the new PM could simply not seek an extension, or ask for one in such a way that the EU could not accommodate the request.

As Richard North recapped in a new post today:

Yesterday, I introduced the idea of the Tory Brexit dilemma. This is where the Conservative Party is doomed if its new leader doesn’t take us out of the EU by 31 October. But, since that will almost certainly require us to leave without a deal, the Party is also doomed if we do leave then

And the Tories will drag the rest of the UK along with them.

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  1. vlade

    Two things to add/comment on:

    Last poll shows Farage leading, Labour second, Tories and LD in high teens IIRC. I think that what we can say here is that it’s likely no party has support more than low twenties) at the moment. Given that Labour and Tories had support low 40s/high 30s as recently as early this year, the collapse is massive (and Labour is still dithering. It won’t end well for them. But we did say here at NC that Brexit was likely end of politics-as-we-know-it in the UK, although none of the major parties caught up on that yet).

    So GE is almost certainly a no-majority parliament, the only question is what coalitions will be viable (Tories have a lead here on Labour, as they at least seem to admit that some sort of deal with Farage might need to be done).

    Second thing – the Parliament can do something, as in there is at least one practical way of stopping no-deal.

    It can call vote of no-confidence (which takes precedence over any other business of the day). If it’s won (i.e. govt loses), it does not mean GE – within 14 days a new govt can win a confidene vote.

    So, it’s (at least in theory, in practice I very much doubt it short of a coup in Labour party – not necessarily ditching Corbyn, but definitely his senior advisors like Milne & co.. Which incidentally would likely mean people like Hoey dropping out of Labour and declaring for Farage, they are pretty close as is) a way to drop Tory govt, put in a “national govt” (which would have to be some sort of coalition of everyone but DUP and Tory, and would need more Tories to go rogue) and either ask for extension or revoke and call GE (I think extension more likely, as doubt they would feel they have a revoke mandate).

    The only thing the govt could do to stop this is to prevent the Parliament from sitting. Which would pretty much amount to a (cold) civil war.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Just one other thing – ChangeUK (or whatever they call themselves now) already seem to be breaking up – it seems the LibDems are in the process of poaching most of their MP’s. I’ve been impressed at the ruthlessness of the LibDems so far, they seem to be the only party that realises a fundamental realignment is under way, and they want to be the winners. So far, Labour seem to be doing everything they can to help them out.

      I’d love to see a more granular analysis of what a very low vote for Labour/Tories means in terms of seats. The problem with FPTP is that this introduces an element of chaos into the system – its entirely possible for a party to get 30% of the vote but have just a handful of MP’s, or indeed, have just 5% and end up with dozens. Given the Tory concentrations in rural and commuter belt type areas, my guess is that Labour has more to lose out to a resurgence in vote for minor parties.

      1. vlade

        yeah, CUK lost half of their MPs yesterday. To my surprise Chuka chucked it too, I guess he must have been promised a swish post by LD (not a good move by them IMO).

        No tears shed.

        1. Pavel

          Not to my surprise! Chuka has always seemed one of the most opportunistic of politicians… not to mention one of the most preening and pleased with himself. A perfect fit for the useless Lib Dems I suppose. Anyone else remember “Paddy Pantsdown”?

          1. vlade

            Well, exactly. That’s why I wonder what plum thing he was offered by LD. I doubt he’d go just to be a normal MP.

            Although, normal MP in his view might still beat real job, and if he thinks GE is close..

  2. David

    I honestly think that the signal-to-noise ratio is so low at the moment (around 1% I would suggest) that any detailed speculation is probably pointless. The Tory leadership contenders are trying together elected, they know their electorate, and they will say whatever they need to say. Some of them are probably too stupid to understand the issues, but I suspect the majority just don’t care. That thing up ahead may or may not be an iceberg, but after all the captaincy of the Titanic is up for grabs and, even if you lose, you establish yourself as someone who has to be bought off with a good job (Purser, for example). It seems to be a rule of politics that there is no pole so short and greasy that people will not try to climb to the top of it.
    Which means that nothing substantive can happen until after July , and, in practical terms, until the autumn. The first signs of any progress (movement, anyway) will be the new leader’s Cabinet, and the nature and extent of any defections. Then as vlade says, there will almost certainly be a vote of confidence, which could lead in turn to a GE. But here we are several levels of hypothesis away from the current situation.
    I’d underline the point that we are looking at a political crisis much more serious and fundamental than most people (including most Tory politicians) really understand. There’s a very high possibility, as some of us have been saying for several years now, that the British political system may not survive in its present form. I’d just add, though, that whilst Brexit may be the proximate cause, it’s not the underlying one. The fall in support for traditional parties has been seen in many countries, although in the UK this has been partly disguised by the strength of the two-and-a-half party system. Even if, in some way we can’t imagine for the moment, Brexit is successfully negotiated/cancelled, I think the underlying system is too damaged, both mechanically and in terms of public confidence, to be viable any longer.

    1. vlade

      I agree that the noise is high, but actually one point both Yves and North make, and I agree with both, is that noise doesn’t matter, as the number of real options is very limited.

      IMO, there’s about zero chance of a no “no deal” Brexiter making it to the last two. In the current field (which will be weeded out by the requirement of having 7+ MPs even to qualify) there are only three that have remotely realistic view on Brexit (Stewart, Gove and Hunt). Stewart is unlikely to get past the first round IMO, so the last two would have to be Hunt vs Gove. I’d not be surprised with Gove being in the last two, but Hunt + Gove extremely unlikely IMO, as no-dealers can likely get 100+ MPs (Johnson alone says he already has 80+, and against Gove/Hunt he’d get support from other no-dealers).

      Now, no-one, and that likely includes Johnson, knows what he would do – he’s an entirely loose cannon. He could even call a GE, assuming he gets a bit of a wave taking voters back from Farage, because if he does, with Labour hopeleslly floundering around he’d be pretty much guaranteed to get a good Tory result, and would get 5 years of PM instead of 2 (if that, if no-deal goes bad). That alone (saving Tories from Farage and neutering Corbyn) would make him a toast of Tory party, no matter the Brexit result IMO.

      So I believe we can make only two reasonable predictions. A no-deal Brexiter is most likely to win Tory contest, and October no-deal becomes a very likely proposition.

      1. vlade

        Ok, strike Hunt off the “vaguely reasonable” list. He just insisted a new deal can be done.

      2. David

        I’d nuance that by saying that it is quite probable that the leadership contest will be run by a candidate who has openly embraced the idea of no-deal, and that, as a consequence the possibility of a no-deal exit in October is a very real one. The thing is that the game being played at the moment has little to do with Brexit as such, as Ian Dunt points out. It’s a competition to convince the (limited and highly unrepresentative) Tory electorate that the candidate is even more extreme than all the others on the Brexit issue, and so avoid being outflanked. There are no prizes for moderation and common sense, or even knowing what you are talking about. But the game will change later this year, the stakes, the players and the rules will all be different, and the balance of forces will change.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I think the key problem with your last point is that there simply isn’t enough time for the new leader to perform the 180 degree dance that will be needed to stop a no-deal, even if he or she fully intends to do that.

          Another issue I think that shouldn’t be underestimated is the desire – right across the board – just to get the damn thing over and done with so people can talk about something else. I think the perception (and this is very real) that a no-deal can be somehow ‘managed’ is very widespread, and all the more dangerous for that. There are of course several well known historic precedents for hugely damaging decisions being made simply because the people involved felt it was better to ‘lance the wound’ or whatever.

          1. vlade

            Yep, I agree with that. I believe a lot of the “no deal is ok, just get it done” comes from the idea that no-deal = tomorrow the same as today. I’d agree with North there that it’s both leavers (don’t worry, WTO’s just fine) and remainers (wolf! and another one! and another!) who are responsible for this. Or you could say Labour and Tories, neither of who really made any attempt to explain what are the real options and what do they mean.

            But as you say, there’s no time to do that anymore.

          2. David

            On the assumption that the world ends in October you are obviously right. Although things can move extremely fast in politics, it’s hard to see how the inevitable cold bucket of water thrown by reality will have time to take effect by 31 October. What we are likely to see is a slowly intensifying crisis from the late summer, producing total panic by the end of September. At that point it’s impossible to say what will happen because it depends on the interrelationships of things that haven’t happened yet. But for the moment my money is on a further extension as more likely than no-deal. In that case almost anything could happen.

            1. Clive

              The problem we’ve had all along with the “oh, no, there’s going to be a huge, hu-uuu-uuuu-ge crisis which’ll force x- or y- to happen” theory is this is a self-limiting notion. If it ever happens, it’ll bring about the exact same forces which will act to circumvent the crisis. So a crisis or crises never really gets going.

              It might be different next time, the past is no guarantee of what the future will bring. But it certainly means assumptions about if it all goes to Hell in a hand-cart, everyone will simply stand around, doing nothing, and let it all play out, are not necessarily valid ones.

            2. Oregoncharles

              On the basis of the record so far, I think the EU would keep granting extensions until the Brexiters give up. They already won big by forcing an EP election in Britain – without precipitating mass riots. The question is whether Boris would ask for them.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                It only takes one country to veto an extension. France, Italy, and IIRC Spain weren’t keen about it last time. But they weren’t ready to rock the boat that much.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        That is not what North says. He says there will be at least one and possibly two no-deal candidates. I don’t fathom the latter claim given that Hunt and Gove are stalking Boris. But he parses the positions of most of the aspirants as being tantamount to no deal even though they don’t call it that. And North does regard “new deal” as awfully close to “no deal”. I think his take on how close depends on how elaborate the claims (as in if they go on about all the many things they’d do to bully the EU, that means they’d be so involved in spinning wheels that they’d not do what they need to do to ask for an extension and/or find it too hard to reverse course).

        1. vlade

          I don’t understand. You say North “says there will be at least one and possibly two no-deal candidates”. I say ‘about zero chance of a no “no deal” Brexiter making it to the last two’ His sentence reads better (fewer negatives to parse), but surely the result is the same?

    2. Clive

      Yes, this is an accurate observation.

      Trying to get a correct understanding isn’t especially helped by “old lags” such as Dunt and North seemingly trapped, expressing like slightly more recent yearning versions of Charli XCX that they think they want to go back, back to 1999, sorry, harking on about like when it was all so much easier in June 2016. While the referendum result was unexpected and for Remain possibly something not a little traumatic, it is something that all commentators need to move on from and start to recognise the politics as they exist today.

      Too much water has passed under the bridge and too many new layers have been laid down in the geopolitical stratigraphy to keep trying to view current developments in a frame of who thought what, who voted for what, what U.K. legacy parties did and didn’t do, what the EU said and didn’t say, what the U.K. government should or shouldn’t have done etc. etc. etc. three or even two (or even, even, one) year ago.

      I’m not sure if they’re aiming for enlightening their readers, or merely rehashing old narratives.

      1. Anonymous2

        I fear UK politics is broken, with no improvement in sight, so I doubt much progress will be made in the foreseeable future. I regret to say that I agree with those who say matters are only going to get worse.

        1. Pavel

          It is going to be an absolute sh*tstorm (to use the technical phrase) but at least we are witnessing the destruction of the Tory party in real time.

        2. Oregoncharles

          With the advantage of thousands of miles: I’ve been waiting 20 years for the party system to collapse; now France, Italy, and Britain are getting there ahead of the US. And sure enough, the Green Party is benefiting in both Ireland and the UK, as well as western Europe.

          Glad I don’t have to live with the consequences, though – unless they crash the world economy.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    The only wild card in all this is that historically the Tories almost always surprise with their choice of leader. However, whatever the MP’s do, its very difficult to see the membership do anything but choose the most Brexiterish of the choice they are given. If the timetable was looser, maybe a pragmatic hardliner could manage a change, but its impossible to see how this can be done, especially as the deadline is just after the Party conferences, where the new leader will be expected to be rousing the troops, not laying out home truths.

    So all doors not marked ‘no deal exit’ seem to be rapidly closing.

    1. Ignacio

      Hello PK, do you know if Ireland is accelerating preparations for a brexit without deal?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The Irish situation has become quite weird – since May lost power everyone seems to have lost all interest in Brexit, it has simply dropped off the agenda, thanks I think to the Euro elections being about ‘anything but Brexit’. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of preparations still going on at an institutional level, especially in finance, but the politicians are even talking in terms of an election in November, which seems crazy if they think Brexit will happen then.

        I think the Irish political system is just exhausted from it and is assuming/hoping that there will be a series of indefinite extensions. I don’t think they will focus on it again until after the holidays.

        1. Joe Well

          But wouldn’t this be an excellent opportunity to also do some civil defense-style preparations? What if Brexit never happens but climate change disrupts traffic with Britian and/or the Continent? Is no one interested in contingency planning anymore, anywhere?

          1. Clive

            Indeed. We’re getting a little overdue for a North Sea storm surge of the magnitude which struck in 1953 and is an entirely predictable metrological phenomena regardless of climate change. Which isn’t likely to exactly help.

            Significant North Sea storm surges would severely impact major continental ports such as Rotterdam, not to mention U.K. east coast and channel facilities.

            This would have far reaching implications for logistics not just in Europe but also knock-on worldwide as the Kobe earthquake in Japan demonstrated. As did the Thailand floods. The Republic of Ireland would be restricted to the U.K. Channel Tunnel for most of its burgeoning agribusiness flows into the EU which would become heavily contended as land-based alternatives were sought for the whole of Northern Europe to pick up lost capacity in the Benelux countries.

            This is a perfectly predictable contingency but gets little, if any, sensible planning. You’d hope Brexit would spur some effective countermeasures being developed and tested.

  4. dearieme

    I’m sorry, I’m pretty convinced now that the EU is going to keep giving the UK extensions despite what Macron et. al. say. The EU leadership seems to be suffering from some kind of psychological problem where they can’t just like the UK sink.

    1. vlade

      The EU can give an extension ONLY if the UK asks (and agrees).

      So no matter how much the EU might want to give an extension, if the UK doesn’t ask, it’s not going to happen. For the EU to ask the UK to ask for an extension would very very significantly change the balance of power – this would be the “you fear no deal more than we do” lever Tories/Farage etc. keep talking about. I’m not going to rule it out, for no thing a human can do can be ruled out, but so far there was zero indication the EU is not willing to let the UK go (it got pretty close to that in March/April, and the EU showed no signs of panic, unlike the UK).

  5. tegnost

    ok, american here trying to figure what is an apparently new brexit topography…
    We can divide it up, it seems, into 3 camps. Remain appears strongest at the voter level, but that is complicated by interparty machinations, no “no deal” which looks a tiny bit stronger than it’s intraparty rival, crash out no deal. when I talk to average americans, who admittedly get a lot of bad info, the notion of brexit in any form successfully being implemented seems impossible, saner minds will take over it is said (not by me as I have access to the mind trust of the brexit commentariat, which to me seems to continue to be unsure, as in dynamic situation with uncertain outcome) Lib dems are a new one for me, maybe they are the aforementioned saner minds, but from comments here it seems that even they are just trying to stake out more ground for themselves in the parlimentary sense. So I’ll put forth my 25 watt question for the 100 watt commentariat, is there a reasonable way for [withdrawal agreement/crash out], which to me seems to be the dominant conversation now, to be replaced in the narrative by [remain]? Or does the timetable shut that down? To simplify I guess I’d ask, are the choices [deal or crash out], or are they [deal/crash out/remain]
    I admit this may be an unanswerable question…

    1. James

      “Remain appears strongest at the voter level”.

      Really? That is why Farage just led the Brexit Party to a historic win in the EU elections?

      1. Anonymous2

        32% of the vote falls far short of a majority.

        While 40+% voted for ‘Remain’ parties.

        If you interpret the EU election results you have to conclude that one group wants to Leave with or without a deal, another wants to leave but only if there is a deal and the third group does not want to leave at all. There is no majority for the deal on offer. Nor is there a majority for any course of action either in the country or the Commons. So no way forward exists that has majority support.

        This is what can happen if you try to reduce complex issues to a binary, badly defined question.

        1. James

          “This is what can happen if you try to reduce complex issues to a binary, badly defined question.”

          You make a lot of sense.

      2. vlade

        Excluding Tory and Labour voters (where the remain/leave division is unclear. Believe it or not, there are still Tory remainers), clearly pro remain parties had more votes than clearly pro leave. Elementar maths.

      3. tegnost

        From the above article…
        “Certainly it is not justified by recent polling evidence, which suggests that no-deal is supported by 25% of the electorate – a bit less than support leaving with a deal (27%), and considerably less than support not leaving at all (41%). Even amongst those who voted for the Brexit Party in last week’s European elections, where support for no-deal is presumably highest, only 67% want it. It is emphatically not a popular policy.”

  6. flora

    american here, also. I’ve the oddest sensation that all the UK parties have entirely lost control of the Brexit process. That horse left the barn years ago and trying to corral it now, when no one has any idea where it’s got to, is an exercise in table pounding.

    This side story about Farage ignoring the EP where he’s a member seems related to the idea the politicians no longer know or care about govt as it’s been constituted for years. (How does one think about govt if one believes ‘there is no such thing as society’ ? )

    1. flora

      Adding: a crash out would suit Farage and JRM and that set very well, imo. Nevermind what it would do to the average person’s economic condition, or the country’s for that matter. my 2 cents.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Sinn Fein wins NI seats in the UK parliament but refuses to fill them. It’s a political statement – as it is for Farage.

  7. JT

    Seems to me only 2 options:
    1. Leave without a deal and then negotiate trade with EU afterwards over probably a number of years.
    2. Stay in EU or pretend to Leave (like the withdrawal agreement which is BRINO brexit in name only).
    Its a shame its come to this but May wasted 3 years on her stubborn negotiation although the whole process of separating the withdrawal agreement from the future relationship negotiation is just stupid. Pretty much the only way to leave the EU is via a No Deal which might be the EU way of self-protection. -)

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You miss that the Withdrawal Agreement is only the beginning. Negotiating a trade deal happens next. That is way more difficult and the EU’s advantage even greater, since the transition period is way too short to negotiate a trade deal (the relatively simple Canadian trade deal took 7 years). Time pressure works greatly against the party that really needs the agreement. No trade deal after the transition period would be the equivalent of a crash out.

    2. Gordon

      I’ve not seen any discussion of what happens next if the UK leaves with No Deal. Absent the Withdrawal Agreement, EU law would require a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland even though one of its members, the Republic, is a guarantor along with the UK of the Good Friday Agreement. So how would the EU react?

      That’s above my pay grade, but I think the EU is in a position to enforce the parts of the Withdrawal Agreement that matter to it while the UK wouldn’t get the off-ramp it supposedly represents.

      That might be done by some sort of graduated sanctions designed to create maximum pain in the UK and minimum disruption in the EU – overflying rights or selected finished goods exports perhaps.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        There was some discussion in March, IIRC in a report in RTE, that the EU was prepared to fudge on the border on an interim basis and give the RoI money do Do Something. A lot of checks can be done at factories, but you still have concerns re smuggling via NI. I

        1. Oregoncharles

          From what we hear, that border is fudge regardless, so some adjustments will have to be made.

          Checks at the ports, probably.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Huh? Both the Republic and Northern Ireland are in the EU, so there is no border to fudge. That’s the point of the Single Market. Free movement of people and goods (and capital).

        2. Gordon

          Fudge is certainly one possibility but what I was hinting at is that there may be another (not mutually-exclusive) option for the EU – impose pain until the UK caves and effectively implements the (unsigned) WA by moving the customs & single market border to the Irish Sea. NI would then be left in both and so would have no visible border between itself and the Republic.

          In this scenario, the arrangement would end when unicorns turn up to man invisible border posts or when NI votes to leave the UK and join the Republic.

  8. skk

    I’m of the UK, revisit the UK every 2 years, phone and vid-phone family there regularly and since I cut the cord 6 years ago, watch only British TV via IPlayer, ITV Player, and All 4. Yesterday I watched the 63-UP, the latest of the 7UP, 14UP, 21UP, 28UP,…,56UP documentary series started in 1963- an amazing series with many moments for reflection about life for UK-originers over 60 years.

    I’m trying to consciously use that 60 year perspective then in the context of BrExit – what happens now ?
    Tony, the white Tory voting working class ex-East Ender now in rural Essex suggests where the BRExiting Tories are at now. “Will not vote for Tories again”, “fed up with it ” are the comments that captures a national mood IMO – recapturing them must be focusing the minds of the Tory leadership(s).

    Fold that into my view of where is Labour at right now, which makes somebody running against them fancy their chances, the immaturity of the BREXIT party and my sense is a General Election is the most likely outcome. What happens then will define the nation for the next 60 years.

  9. Tom

    Jonathan Pie’s latest suggests it’s finally getting through to the mainstream that any new trade deals after a hard brexit will mean ceding sovereignty. Or, to put it another way, US firms expect to secure tasty morsels in the coming trade negotiations.

  10. jammy codger

    Is it still within May’s power to revoke Art 50 ? It would be doing the country a service and also as North pointed out to the Tory party in the longer term, politically she has nothing to lose, she could do one to the Brexiteers and change how history regards her.

    The popular call seems to have shifted from “just get on with it” to “just make it stop” come on Theresa go off script for once in your life, run free.

  11. George Phillies

    In addition, no matter what the UK does, the European Leadership may say that the UK has exited, because they are too busy with the impending Italy crisis to listen any more to the UK. They then might have a mini constitutional crisis in which the 27 state leaders overrule their Supreme Court, which claimed the UK could always revoke its exit announcement, but this only matters if revocation passes parliament.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      A revocation does not need to pass Parliament. The only reason Parliament has a say was the High Court ruled Brexit impacted citizens’ rights. Keeping the status quo does not have that effect.

      1. Clive

        Yes, exactly. This is the main reason the Conservative Party was desperate, just desperate, to get May out. In case May used the Brexit equivalent of the nuclear option. All May would have had to do was send a letter to the EU Council. Nothing anyone could have done to stop her.

        Unfortunately this factor is pushing the Conservative MPs (and the party members) towards ideologues like Johnson and Raab who are seen as not likely to be at risk of pulling this kind of stunt.

        Say what we like about May, at least if everything looked really dire, you’d have figured Article 50 would have been rescinded by her as it wasn’t in her character to go all Daenerys Targaryen on us.

        Oh no! Now May — yes, that May — is looking, retrospectively, like one of the good guys! Agh!

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