Aside from Boris-Johnson-generated noise, like his People’s PQMs, Brexit is evolving, or devolving, on the trajectory predicted by our insightful readers.
Specifically, vlade and others anticipated that the only viable route for Parliament to obstruct Johnson’s crash-out plan was to win a vote of no confidence, then use the 14 day period in which Parliament could vote confidence in a government, including one different than the one it had shot down, to create what amounted to a caretaker government of national unity which would exist solely to ask for an extension and a general election. However, the commentariat was quite convinced that this would not happen because the parties to the government of national unity would fight like cats in a bag. The immediate impediment was that Corbyn would insist on being Prime Minister and the other opposition parties wouldn’t swallow that.
IMO, NU is the only practical way how to attempt to stop no-deal. And even that would be just an attempt, as it would have to lead to a GE (not referendum, that takes way too much time), and if Johnson + BP won that, it would be just delayed no-deal.
But, as the article Yves mentions says, chances on NU are about nil, as Labour still clings to the “it has to be us”. I could, barely, see LD doing that with gritted teeth, but it’s a very very low chance.
Personally, I don’t get Labour’s stance, as it would be a very short care-taker government (about a month), which could not do anything, and wasn’t even allowed to use government resources in the campaign. It looks to me like pretty much a point of pride. And, given that Corbyn is almost as wooden in front of media as May was, I’m not sure whether even claiming “see Corbyn can be a PM” would be a good thing.
Mind you, LD stance is even slightly less understandeable, as if there’s no NU governmnet pronto, their single-issue approach will come out. That said, they may still be able to capitalise on GE immediately post-Brexit, if more Labour remain voters blame Labour, some Tory voters blame Johnson, and not enough leavers comes to the polls seeing it as “mission accomplished”.
Anyways, the main point is that even if there was a GE before October 31, there’s a good chance it will be a hung parliament, so the UK may still crash out as there would not be any governmnet before Oct 31.
As ChrisPacific added:
I had been speculating about a possible NU government in a previous links. It does seem to be too much wishful thinking in too short a timeframe, given the various positions and views involved. For all the talk, it doesn’t seem to me that even Remainers are really properly scared of No Deal. If it was an Old Testament slaughter of the first-born type scenario, nobody would dare go on record with the kind of positions we are seeing (we will only support it if we are the leaders, etc.)
Yesterday, Corbyn came out for a government of national unity to block Brexit, but as predicted, with enough strings attached to make it a non-started. Plus the LibDems said no, also as predicted.
The UK Labour party has set out proposals to form a temporary government in early September that would request an extension to Article 50 in an effort to avoid a no-deal Brexit before calling a general election.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow business secretary, said on Thursday that the opposition would try to bring down Boris Johnson’s government within “days” of parliament returning from its summer recess on September 3. Labour would then seek to form a “time-limited temporary government” with the aim of calling an election.
In a letter to the leaders of other opposition parties and senior backbench MPs on Wednesday evening, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged his counterparts in the Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru and Green parties — along with Conservative MPs opposed to a no-deal departure — to support his attempt to bring down the Johnson government and delay Brexit.
“This government has no mandate for no deal, and the 2016 EU referendum provided no mandate for no deal,” he wrote.
Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, rejected the plan as being “not serious”.
So much for unity. It is worth noting that Corbyn did say Labour’s platform would include a second referendum, including a Remain option, and that the SNP and Plaid Cymru made positive noises. But there’s no mistaking this sort of thing:
And so it was true: they never wanted to stop Brexit, they only wanted to stop Corbyn. pic.twitter.com/uX3UqVn37g
— Liam Young (@liamyoung) August 14, 2019
And for even more fun, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee suggested that the Government could leave the EU before the end of the month:
What odds would you give on:
1 UK exits EU by 24 Aug – in time for G7 or before Parliament returns. Art 50 passed so nothing to stop unilateral withdrawal.
2 General Election straight after to get majority.
3 Answer Irish border Q with NI only referendum on NI only backstop?
— Tom Tugendhat (@TomTugendhat) August 14, 2019
However, the Guardian suggests that this threat is bluster:
A Downing Street source said the idea was not under consideration, and one expert in EU law said the withdrawal date could only be changed with the consent of Brussels.
The plan, if carried out, would be hugely controversial, and would take companies and the financial markets by surprise before no-deal preparations had been completed.
On another front, the idea that the US might ride to the rescue of the UK with a speedy trade deal has gotten knocked back. It isn’t just that the US is not naturally positioned to fill the EU void quickly or even in a few years. Philip Stevens pointed out in the Financial Times that the US was eager for a deal for reasons that were not at all positive for the UK. For instance:
By the same logic it makes a weakened Britain a more pliant ally. Mr Bolton is keen to sound magnanimous. Mr Trump can scarcely wait to sign a trade deal with Mr Johnson, he says. And to make it easier, he is ready to leave the tough stuff — open access to Britain for America’s chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef and a role for US business in the National Health Service — until some time after Britain has left the EU.
In the same vein, Mr Bolton says, the administration has deferred any effort to increase the pressure on Mr Johnson to disavow Europe’s approach to the Iran agreement and its soft line towards Huawei. Mr Trump can wait until the prime minister has severed the ties. Some might have thought this posture generous. Serious policymakers in Whitehall know that Mr Trump will not wait long before demanding Mr Johnson falls into line.
However, a more serious blow to the UK’s US deal fantasies came yesterday, as foretold by PlutoniumKun. Ireland has made a point of cultivating the Irish diasopra in the US, and most of all, the Irish-descended pols in the Democratic party.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that the House would not approve a UK trade deal that did not require something very much like the hated backstop. So the House and the EU are unified that the UK needs to accept arrangements that would prevent a hard border in Ireland as a condition for any trade deal. That in turn means the UK would need to submit to a continuation of compliance with EU physiosanitary and other regulations with respect to goods (Clive has described at length that how this is achieved post Brexit is not at all obvious, since EU compliance isn’t just a matter of laws but participation in a regulatory and legal apparatus, and the UK will have just walked out of that).
Pelosi framed her objection in terms of the need to preserve the Good Friday Agreement, but anyone who has been paying attention to the negotiations knows where that leads. From The Hill:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday reiterated her opposition to a free trade deal with the United Kingdom if its withdrawal from the European Union harms Irish peace.
“The Good Friday Agreement serves as the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and as a beacon of hope for the entire world. After centuries of conflict and bloodshed, the world has witnessed a miracle of reconciliation and progress made possible because of this transformative accord,” she said in a statement.
“If Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress. The peace of the Good Friday Agreement is treasured by the American people and will be fiercely defended on a bicameral and bipartisan basis in the United States Congress.”…
Any new trade deal to substitute the U.S.-U.K. agreements negotiated through the EU would have to be brought to a vote in Congress, meaning the Speaker could block it.
And on a final cheery note, again confirming our earlier reporting, the Guardian cites a new report that warns that a no deal Brexit would result in widespread failures in the farming sector:
Campaigners for a second referendum are herding a flock of sheep down Whitehall to protest against the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the farming community.
According to a new report commissioned by the supporters of second poll, more than half of UK farms could go out of business if Britain crashes out of the EU on 31 October.
Backed by the People’s Vote campaign and written by Dr Séan Rickard, former chief economist of the National Farmers’ Union, the report warns that 50% of farms could go under as the government would prioritise keeping down food prices for consumers ahead of protecting agricultural producers.
This is consistent with the picture presented by Richard North, who has argued that the UK would drop food-related physiosanitary checks and tariffs to prevent shortages, but that that would come at the expense of domestic producers, most of all farmers who ship live animals to the EU. Oddly North has taken to downplaying the domestic impact of late. But the logic set forth in the study is persuasive:
The report says the EU and all the countries with whom it has free-trade agreements would immediately apply tariffs and non-tariff barriers on food imports from the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. At the same time, UK tariffs on imports would be slashed or reduced to nothing.
It argues: “The combination of the removal of support payments – only a proportion will be made up by enhanced environmental payments – and an adverse trading environment will render the majority of farm businesses unviable. By the mid-2020s a large proportion of farm businesses – 50% or more is not an unreasonable estimate – recognising that they face an unprofitable future will decide to cease trading.”
Again, I take no pleasure in reporting on this grim march to a crash out. And even though a rescue seems vanishingly unlikely, I’d much rather be proven wrong. The UK will remain deeply divided and many citizens would be embittered, but that’s still less grim outcome than a post USSR-style plutocratic land grab.