Brexit Breakup

The Institute for Government has confirmed our reading, that if this Government wants a no-deal Brexit, it will be well nigh impossible to prevent it. Astonishingly, Labour and Remainer Tories let their best option, that of a general election before October 31, slip from their grasp by failing to keep Parliament in session and stuck to their traditional summer recess.

After Johnson won the premiership, his intentions for Brexit should have been seen as clear as soon as he announced his Cabinet picks. It was a Who’s Who of true believers. It was also noteworthy that he gave prominent positions to leaders of Campaign Leave, which some pundits took as a sign that Johnson was preparing for a general election, even though ever time he’s been challenged, Johnson has denied that he would call a snap election. Not that anyone thinks Johnson would be bound by his words, mind you, but Johnson’s actions sure look like he’s lashed himself to a No Deal mast.

And Johnson has taken steps since then to pre-empt measures that could block Brexit. For instance, Parliament could pass legislation to order Johnson to seek an extension. While the Government could easily thwart a stand-alone measure, it’s hard to prevent amendments from being attached to “must have” bills. However, this Government has nixed scheduling six bills that May’s Government saw as necessary to a smooth transition. The Johnson Government’s position is that the areas they cover can be handled by statutory instruments. If Johnson refuses to table other legislation in the few working days remaining before Brexit, which seems entirely possible, there aren’t other routes to intervene save a General Election, and the time to get one done before Brexit has arguably passed. From the Institute for Government’s
summary
(the report is embedded at the end of the post):

MPs looking to make their voices heard will have far fewer opportunities to do so this time around than they had in the run-up to the end of March this year, when the former prime minister was trying to pass her withdrawal agreement. Given the limited time available, this paper reaches the following conclusions about what is likely to happen over the next few months:

• It is very unlikely the UK will be able to leave the EU with a deal on 31 October…

• MPs can express opposition to no deal but that alone will not prevent it….

• Backbenchers have very few opportunities to legislate to stop no deal: MPs may want to repeat the process that led to the ‘Cooper Act’ in March, which forced the government to seek an extension (although it had already requested an extension before the Act came into law). But as the government controls most of the time in the Commons there are limited opportunities for MPs to initiate this process, even if the Speaker helps facilitate such a move. Cancelling the planned conference recess alone will not necessarily create new opportunities.

• A vote of no confidence would not necessarily stop no deal: the process governing no confidence motions under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 has not been tested. If passed, it would trigger a 14-day period during which time MPs could try to form a ‘government of national unity’. Failing this, there will be a general election – but it is unclear what would happen if Johnson refused to follow constitutional convention to resign if an alternative majority was possible. This could risk dragging the Queen into politics.

• There is little time to hold a general election before 31 October….

• A second referendum can only happen with government support

Vlade  pointed out earlier that even though Parliament could throw the Prime Minister in Big Ben’s tower, that didn’t stop him from being the head of the government.

Reader David in a very thoughtful comment to which I am not doing justice had stressed earlier that Brexit could test the UK’s constitution to the breaking point, and it was fragile by virtue of being so dependent on the norms fairy. PlutoniumKun flagged an article in Guardian on how the UK system relied on politicians acting “with honour” with respect to the processes of governing.  From the article, which starts with the only successful no-confidence vote which led to the fall of the Callahgan government in 1979. Author Andrew Rawnsley stresses that there was no written law requiring Callaghan to go:

When people refer to the British constitution, they are talking about a hotch-potch of such conventions, combined with ancient charters, precedents, international agreements, legislative bolt-ons and unwritten understandings. The fabric of this messy tapestry is held together by a crucial thread. That is an underlying assumption that everyone can be trusted to behave in a proper way….

What if they don’t? What happens then? We may be about to find out if Boris Johnson faces a no-confidence vote this autumn, loses, refuses to quit as prime minister and barricades himself in Number 10 for long enough to force through a no-deal Brexit before an election can take place. This is a scenario so grotesque as to be scarcely believable. That doesn’t make it an impossible one.

The suggestion that they could take this sensationally reckless course seems to have originated with Number 10’s de facto chief of staff, Dominic Cummings.

Rawnsley explains that this threat could be a big bluff, and then describes how the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act has only added to constitutional ambiguity:

If a government loses a confidence vote, the law allows 14 days for either the prime minister to regain a Commons majority or for someone else to assemble one. If no one can, there is then an election, the date of which is to some extent set at the prime minister’s discretion. The law is mute on whether Mr Johnson is entitled to hole himself up at Number 10 during that fortnight and time the election so that Britain will have crashed out of the EU before the people get to vote. Labour has called this “an abuse of power” and asked the cabinet secretary to give an opinion. Sir Mark Sedwill is thought to agree that it would be an abuse, but even if he did make that ruling, it is not clear how he could enforce it.

Please read this important piece in its entirety. For instance, it discusses the idea of forming a coalition government (supposedly) solely for the purpose of petitioning the EU to get an extension and why that won’t happen.

In further signs of frustration and deperation, more and more pundits are discussion how a no-deal Brexit likely means the eventual break-up of the UK. Yesterday’s “Huh?” moment was Green Party leader Caroline Lucas proposing an all-woman cabinet to Save the UK from Brexit. Her idea was met with the contempt it deserved.

In the meantime, if the Twitterverse is any indicator of popular sentiment, the fact that the pound dropped to 1.06 Euro (it’s now at 1.08) is proof that Brexit is going pear shaped. Even though the Financial Times reports that the financial services industry thinks a crash-out might not be hugely disruptive and could be less costly than more delay, bankers started scrambling the morning after Brexit and were quickly applying for more licenses and looking of office space in the EU. No other sector was as fast out of the box in terms of figuring out what Brexit would mean for London-based operations and what changes they might need to make so as to keep their business (and perhaps even benefit from other firms’ flat-footedness).

Even though Richard North harrumphed that fears about food supplies are overdone because the UK will abandon import restrictions (hello, chlorinated chicken!), I wonder if his focus is too narrow. Significant parts of the UK food industry, particularly supplies to retailers, operate on a just-in-time basis. That makes them very fragile. They are vulnerable to cascading failures, an industrial version of “For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost” problem.

To list a couple of items that I am not confident have been solved, consider VAT and truckers. This is over my pay grade, but importers and exporters will now have to worry VAT withholding for both the UK and the EU. For big international companies, this issue imposes some cost and is a hassle. For small companies, that hassle may not be manageable and having more funds tied up could be fatal, particularly if they also face even a short-term revenue hit or other increases in costs due to Brexit.

As for truckers, truckers who are UK natives with UK licenses handle meaningful amount of import and export business. They have established routes for driving with full trucks of UK goods, delivering them on the Continent, then turning around with an EU load destined for the UK.

Experts early on said UK licenses won’t be valid for commercial truck operation in the EU. The EU plans to make a short-term concession, and this is still more restrictive than the status quo. Per the Financial Times last month:

UK truckers — the lifeblood of goods trade with the EU — will be granted temporary haulage rights to ensure “basic connectivity” to help minimise disruption and queues at ports like Calais. The measures will stay in place until the end of 2019 but restrict UK lorries to limited deliveries in the EU.

“Basic connectivity” sounds stingy by design.

Needless to say, many people are not reassured:

And why should they be? Civil service ranks have been hollowed out, and the young ‘uns on the whole are much less impressive than the old hands. The big reason to anticipate that a crash-out will be a train wreck is that the UK lacks the institutional capacity even to identify all the things it would need to do to mitigate the most severe damage, let alone plan and execute to avoid that. Yes, it will avoid worst outcomes in some areas. Yes, in others, it may have some initial apparent successes that erode as they are not adequate to the continuing increased volume of post-Brexit activity and complexity.

British citizens could stand take some lessons from Hong Kong, but even if they did, that too would be too late. They’d need to be out on the streets in force now to have any chance of cowing Johnson.

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57 comments

  1. vlade

    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.

    There’s actually one more option that is being ignored by media and everyone. That is, the parliament ifself brings back May’s deal and votes for it, as the least-worst option. In fact, it would be a coup for anti-Johnson if
    a) parliament voted in May’s deal;
    b) called a no-confidence vote and GE, which then would be fought on the “what future relationship do we want”?

    In fact, if I was Labour, this is the scenario I’d be pushing for. That delivers Brexit, and Labour then commits to making the Brexit as soft as possible (fight it as jobs first vs “chlorinated Johnson”). That takes the wind out of LD’s sails, while satisfying the leave commitment, and also shooting Johnson (because there would be definitely a split betwen Tories and BP on that, you can bet on it).

    Mind you, Labour has shown itself to be strategically inept for the last three years, so I doubt it.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      Your last point is one I’ve been mulling over. It could actually make political sense for Labour to hang Johnson with the dreaded Withdrawal Agreement which would dog his premiership for years. They could justify a U-turn on the basis of needing to prevent a no-deal.

      What I don’t know is if they can table a motion to that effect in time if Johnson tries to do everything he can to stop it. It would be interesting to see how many Tories would support it – I suspect just enough to get it over the line if the opposition got behind it. Even the DUP might vote for it if the alternative was an election – that’s the last thing they want.

      Reply
      1. vlade

        The other option of course is that the no-deal Brexit threat by Johnson _is_ for domestic consumption, to force just that outcome (ratified WA), especially if he can get Labour to own it. I think it unlikely though, a Cummings has all halmarks of someone who really wants a revolution.

        Reply
        1. bold'un

          Surely the clever thing would be for Corbyn to challenge Johnson to an unwhipped vote on the WAB, followed by a post-deal GE. That way both leaders can abstain and then later escape blame for any unpleasantness (‘not my Brexit’). This also keeps Farrage in the game (BRINO!), which could mean that the election becomes wide open, since he takes votes from both left and right.

          This ends up a win-win for the EU and UK professional politicians; and if the UK ends up in an interminable backstop, they can always flout the rules until they are expelled!

          Reply
      2. vlade

        I’ve been thinking on the motion (actually, it’s more than that, they need the law to get there) – the thing here is that the hurdle there is the same as for any other pass-a-law version. So if they believe there’s a way to pass _a_ law, the above should be possible.

        Reply
      3. eg

        I’ve heard it mooted that Corbyn’s project is not to get elected so much as to ensure that the Tory party destroy itself over Brexit.

        I don’t know enough about the man nor such a project’s prospects to properly judge the likelihood of such a theory.

        Reply
        1. vlade

          Well, the only problem with that is that he’s also sucessfully destroying Labour in the process (and the UK in a way). Which, TBH, is more what I’d expect from Cummings, not Corbyn.

          Reply
        2. redleg

          That’s Mark Blyth’s position, discussed in the video that was in the links a few weeks ago. It sure looks like Corbyn is ensuring that the Tories get enough rope.

          Reply
    2. jabbawocky

      If Corbyn and Johnson have one thing in common it is that they see brexit primarily as the route to power. Both need a general election to get there, because even though Boris is nominally in power he has no majority for anything. For both, an election is “do or die”. Corbyn appears to have no interest in a national unity government unless he is pm. For now they are unlikely allies.

      It would surely be suicidal for Johnson to take the UK out of the EU with no deal without a mandate. The arrogance alone could cost him the election. I suspect this rhetoric to be for EU consumption. But i have been wrong before…

      Reply
      1. shtove

        Haven’t we all? I have a bad feeling about this. A few months ago Frankie Boyle was allowed by the BBC to make a bad taste joke about the IRA.

        Reply
    3. ChrisPacific

      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.)

      It’s probably a moot point as Rebecca Long-Bailey has said that Labour “wouldn’t countenance” a government of National Unity as they would prefer a general election:

      “What we don’t want is a national unity government that gives Boris some sort of get out of jail free card, so as soon as Brexit’s been sorted out, he can sail back in without any problems at all, without a sufficient Parliamentary majority. That simply wouldn’t be right.”

      Of course, if she wants to hand Boris an absolute majority then falling into the trap of calling for a GE in which Boris controls the timing, and with no national unity government to seek an extension, would be just about the best possible way to give it to him.

      Reply
  2. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

    Just a few moments ago the Chinese government declared the Hong Kong protestors to have elements of “terrorism”.

    Given Boris Johnson’s uneasy relationship with the facts, couldn’t he do the same with any of the protests suggested in the article above? Given the apathy of the UK populace towards Brexit, would this actually bother them?

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      All Remainer street protests so far have been almost entirely dominated by nice polite middle class folks and so they are very unlikely to turn nasty – the latter will only happen when people find no food in their local Tesco.

      That said, the UK police can be very ruthless, they don’t need declarations of terrorism to arrest people en mass without any legal justification.

      Reply
          1. Tony Wright

            Peter Dutton, Minister responsible for border protection, probably would not let them in though, unless of course they were young women planning to be au pairs for old mates of his ….
            And yes, there is a documented past example to justify that sarcasm.

            Reply
        1. ambrit

          Boris needs to up his game here and make it “Transportation to Mars.” I’m sure that Musk et. al. would be quite accommodating.
          You need cheap and disposable labour to build a new world.

          Reply
      1. Biologist

        All Remainer street protests so far have been almost entirely dominated by nice polite middle class folks

        True! I attended the large one, in the spring I think, and wondered why there were no guillotines.

        Reply
  3. Tom Stone

    “Attorney General Becerra is going to be all over this.”
    However that seems inadequate.
    May the UK have the luck of the Irish!

    Reply
    1. Clive

      Prime Minister Johnson is probably making the call right now, as we speak, to get him transferred here! He’d fit in perfectly.

      Reply
  4. Ignacio

    These days I am in Alicante and meeting many English retirees whom I try to ask in the most politely way I can. In general they just close their eyes at a direct question on Brexit but at the end I get some feed-back. Most of them plan to stay after Brexit and hope that the pound doesn’t sink to he’ll when they have already noticed a sharp depreciation.

    Reply
    1. Bugs Bunny

      Funny that the retirees respond that way in Spain. When I meet older British people in Normandy, they very directly ask me what I think of Brexit and express their shame about it. Must be a very different group from those who seek out the sunshine…

      Reply
  5. David

    Prof Mark Elliot has a good legal analysis of this in his blog:
    https://publiclawforeveryone.com/2019/08/08/can-parliament-prevent-a-no-deal-brexit/

    There is a conceptual problem in understanding the situation, because the normal rules of politics have been reversed. Usually the government is trying to do things and the opposition is trying to stop them. Here, the government is doing nothing and the opposition (in various configurations) is trying to make them act. The difficulty, as we’ve often said is that no-deal is not a policy choice but a default if nothing is done. I suppose the easiest metaphor would be trying to reason with a pilot who had set the autopilot and was happy to let the plane keep flying until it crashed.
    The British system, to repeat, was never designed for this situation. It has rules, but they are the kind of rules that a club has, or cricket has. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since informal but widely shared rules are the easiest and most effective way to run anything. But if someone decides to ignore the rules there is not a lot you can do. When commentators talk about a course of action being ‘impossible ‘ they usually mean that no normal government would contemplate it, not that, technically, it can’t be done. Likewise, ‘stopping ‘ Brexit is often understood to be no more than threatening the government with a political price they don’t want to pay. But both presuppose a functioning system.
    As a result, the only honest answer to most of these questions is: nobody has the remotest idea.

    Reply
    1. vlade

      well, yes. Gentleman’s agreements are all well and good, but the problem with them is that they break when you need them most. Arguably, even written constitution (c.f. US and some other countries I could name) can be twisted and broken, but IMO it’s still better than the UK system. Say, the whole notion of “parliament is sovereign” is dumb, as it pretends not to have any checks and balances – except that (especially so since early 20th century, when government ministers could not be MPs) parliament become a governmnet rubber stamping machine.

      Reply
      1. MichaelSF

        The U.S. constitution says whatever the Supreme Court (of whatever makeup) says it says. I don’t think you need to hedge “twisted and broken” with “arguably”.

        Reply
  6. Carolinian

    Interesting Alastair Crooke column on Brexit and Germany.

    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/08/11/germany-stalls-and-europe-craters/

    Alice Weidel, the AfD leader, tore into Chancellor Merkel for her, and Brussel’s, botched handling of Brexit (for which “she, Merkel bears some responsibility”). Weidel pointed out that “the UK is the second biggest economy in Europe – as big as the 19 smallest EU members combined”. “From an economic perspective, the EU is shrinking from 27 member-states to 9. In the face of such an enormous event, the EU reaction verges on a pathological denial of reality … [they should recall] that German prosperity and jobs are at stake here. It is clearly in Germany’s interest that trade and investment continue unhindered. But, out of blind loyalty, you [Merkel], follow France, which wants to deny Britain access to the Single Market. Yes, you [Merkel] are considering not allowing Britain access to the European Economic Area, because France does not want it. [Sarcasm] that would be too much: Too much free trade; too much fresh air in the markets … France with its failed industrial policy serves as [the new] blueprint [for the EU]

    and

    A major threat to the EU now emanates from the least anticipated direction – from the US. At no point did European leaders consider their project as a challenge to US power. Rather, they saw progress in their careers as contingent on receiving the US approval. Consequently, they deliberately chose not to found the Euro in anything other than within the dollar sphere. They never considered the possibility that the United States might change attitude. And now – suddenly – the EU finds itself exposed to all manner of sanctions through the Euro’s close vulnerability to dollar hegemony; from a possible trade and tech war between Europe’s two key trading partners; and even a falling-out as a result of a changing US defence calculus. Steering a course between the US and China will challenge deeply Europe’s imbedded cultural predisposition.”.

    He’s saying that Boris’ Brexit will also be a disaster for Germany and the EU.

    Reply
    1. Ataraxite

      Like most things uttered by the AfD, this is nonsense. It is not Angela Merkel who has ruled out the UK’s participation in the European Economic Area, but the UK themselves. Merkel and the EU would be delighted if the UK was to join EFTA, or even if it was to stay within the EU Customs Union.

      But the UK doesn’t want a bar of that.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        There’s a giant BMW plant in my county and I know they are worried about Trump’s trade policies. The cars made here are sold in China and now have a tariff.

        And I think the story is saying that France is blocking a compromise that Germany and Merkel might welcome and the criticism is that she is too passive. But I can’t claim to much of a grasp of complicated Brexit.

        Reply
      2. cirsium

        The EU would be delighted if the UK was to join EFTA.

        This is not reciprocated by Norway and Iceland. The UK is too big to join EFTA.

        Reply
    2. Michael

      Thanks for sharing that. I also read it, and left me with the impression that given the lagging Germany economy, the US/China trade war, and the expected brouhaha occurring when Germany opens Nordstream 2, October might trigger a market “adjustment”. I’m just wondering this will be yet another installment of catastrophe economics. All of the players seem to be playing a game of brinksmanship.

      Reply
    3. John Jones

      So, it never rains it pours, EU faces:
      – global downturn
      – global currency war
      – tech shock in car sector
      – likely no deal brexit
      – Italian mini bots

      What’s not to like:(;

      Reply
    4. Summer

      And this:

      “But there is more: Speaking in the German parliament, Alice Weidel, the AfD leader, tore into Chancellor Merkel for her, and Brussel’s, botched handling of Brexit (for which “she, Merkel bears some responsibility”). Weidel pointed out that “the UK is the second biggest economy in Europe – as big as the 19 smallest EU members combined”. “From an economic perspective, the EU is shrinking from 27 member-states to 9. In the face of such an enormous event, the EU reaction verges on a pathological denial of reality …”

      Reply
  7. Deschain

    How does the British military feel about Brexit? Seems to me they could stop it if they really wanted to.

    Never say it can’t happen here

    Edit: for that matter the military is sworn by oath to bear allegiance to the Queen.

    If you really believe Brexit will be a true disaster for Britain, you have to consider alternatives that might otherwise be distasteful

    Reply
    1. shtove

      Interesting question. I’m afraid on the south coast we’re dominated by buck-toothed Royalists. Oop north, there may still exist some Roundheads, but they’ll probably have to sort their local prooblems with the Scots and Irish before they train their guns on London.

      Reply
    2. JTMcPhee

      Speaking of the Queen, when can the mopey expect her to summon BJ and dismiss him? She has that military to back her up, no?

      Reply
  8. Synoia

    The fabric of this messy tapestry is held together by a crucial thread. That is an underlying assumption that everyone can be trusted to behave in a proper way.

    Hmm, I’d assert, without stating any evidence, that “proper” is either ignored in pursuit of power, or has enough ambiguity to be interpreted from a plethora of possible actions.

    The phrase “Dictatorship by Parliament” comes to mind.

    Self-interest governs.

    Reply
  9. EoH

    Boris Johnson’s career, like Donald Trump’s, demonstrates his conviction that norms do not apply to him, whether in journalism, politics, marriage.

    BoJo’s career as a journalist almost foundered from the get-go, when he was caught out making up quotes and summarily fired. The old boy net being what it is, he was promptly hired by a newspaper further to the right. It sent him to be their man, not in Havana, but in Brussels. Like Graham Greene’s character, he made a success out of lying, not from making up stories about vacuum cleaner parts, but from making up stories about the EU and what its actions meant for the UK.

    Boris Johnson is unlikely to change lifetime habits that have brought him to the pinnacle of power in the UK. He will leave the EU as he has every other partner. The fallout will be someone else’s problem. It always has been. That raises the question of who his financial backers are. They have been generous, and they expect this behavior to be a win for them.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous2

      One set of backers is the Barclay twins, multi-millionaire tax exiles living in the Channel Islands. They own the newspaper he writes for.

      Reply
  10. robert dudek

    Let’s assume that Westminster brings a no-confidence motion that succeeds. Could MPs then petition the EU27 and thereby “request” another extension, arguing that the will of Parliament has been demonstrated, and that this is enough to satisfy the EU27 as regards an extension.

    It seems clear that no-deal or a further delay are the only two possible outcomes on October 31st.

    Or maybe there is a tiny chance of revocation of Article 50?

    Reply
    1. vlade

      In fact, the process is the other way around, but for politeness, it’s called “the UK requests”. The wording of A50 is that the EU _offers_ and extension, and the leaving state _accepts_.

      There’s no moral courage in the MPs to revoke and face the voters. No way a revocation would happen w/o some sort of air cover (of referendum or GE or something).

      Reply
  11. Ataraxite

    Having tied himself to the October 31 mast, Boris Johnson now has no alternative: any climbdown from the glorious rupture will be an enormous gift to the Brexit Party, one large enough to ensure the destruction of the Tory majority. For him (and the Conservatives) it’s now crash through or crash.

    To oppose this, an awful lot of things have to line up – there have to be enough moderate Tories to sacrifice their own careers to prevent No Deal (and, yes, this will be the cost). The Lib Dems plus everyone else will have to line up behind an emergency Corbyn government. Or the Labour party will have to line up behind someone else. I view both those scenarios as very unlikely.

    I have been flabbergasted by friends in the UK who I talk to, who are not worried in the slightest. These are sensible people, who voted Remain, and who work in educated fields. They read the Guardian! No-one is worried, and a couple are even of the view that “we should get it over and done with”. And thus the calculus of the electorate: perhaps 50% are floating, unworried, nominally-remain voters who will take no drastic action, and perhaps 33% are rabid, frothing Brexiters, demanding their glorious rupture, and the consequences be damned.

    Those of you with a knowledge of European history might be able to think of another example where the angry 33% of an electorate were able to cause untold damage against a vacillating majority.

    Reply
    1. Pavel

      Excellent comment. I am in London for a week for meetings and am surprised how among the “regular folk” there doesn’t seem to be any sense of alarm or panic… I suppose people are indeed so fed up that they just want it over with. My professional colleagues are angry but resigned to a no deal. The GBP is weaker than ever (in recent times at least) and thus prices are indeed going up let alone the cost of beloved EU hols.

      My hotel in central London is staffed entirely by non-Brits (along with of course the restaurants); the maid yesterday was Eastern European and didn’t speak a word of English. It is plainly desperately understaffed and I see HELP WANTED signs in many of the cafés and restaurants. Dog knows what will happen to these service industries when Brexit truly hits.

      I used to spend many months here each year. I am so grateful that now it is just a few weeks.

      NB Yves, my only complaint with your excellent post is the use of the word “astonishingly” in the first paragraph. What would astonish me would be if those lazy, feckless, corrupt, greedy and generally useless MPs had in fact given up their sacred summer recess.

      Reply
  12. John Jones

    Most of the above comes over as a remainers howl of pain – we’ve got clarity of leaving ,ergo get making plans. This rupture is/was inevitable . UK government “content ” with hard brexit as it appears is the EU. Real politic .

    Why is everyone surprised ?

    Reply
    1. Ataraxite

      Losing your job, or being evicted from your home also has exactly the same “clarity” you seem to like.

      The leaver/remainer division is irrelevant outside the UK. The EU has been extraordinarily patient and friendly so far, but the recession you seem to greet will harden feelings: the opportunity to use tariff and non-tariff barriers – a traditional expertise of the EU – to pick all the cherries of UK industry.

      Reply
      1. Michael Morris

        UK just reported increased wage growth almost 4%, and almost record employment. The facts just don’t support your narrative.

        Reply
        1. darragh long

          The growth you refer to has been achieved while the UK is still in the EU and has tariff free access to it’s largest trading partner.

          Reply
    2. vlade

      The UK govt may be, as they will lose no sleep over pretty much any outcome (well, they might be surprised but we’ll see).

      The UK populace, entirely different story.

      And as for “Remainers howl of pain”. I’m tired of idiots like you who are totally happy to ignore 16m voters, yet howl if the other 17m were “ignored” (which, strangely enough, seems also to mean asking them what sort of leave it was they wanted. Weird way to be not ignored).

      There were Farage’s “howl of pain” for the last twenty years, he made a career of it.

      Will of people, my a$$. Every single “Will of people” person is “this is what I want and I will get it any cover I can” person.

      Reply
  13. Bill Markle

    I still think Britain has a savior waiting in the wings – the PRC. I wrote about this back in February and now I think it is even more appropriate. China will not jump in to aid Britain, but will certainly be amenable to assisting a newly developing country.

    In October, 2015, a few months before the Brexit vote, Xi Jinping visited the UK, and demonstrated his prescience –

    “The UK has stated that it will be the Western country that is most open to China,” Xi told Reuters ahead of his first visit to the country as president.

    “This is a visionary and strategic choice that fully meets Britain’s own long-term interest.”

    For China, the geopolitical timing is just about perfect.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is wishful thinking. First the UK is geographically remote and has comparatively little trade with the UK now. It’s not a natural partner.

      Second, the US and UK are deeply integrated on the intel front and the US will do a deal first and also plunder the UK first.

      Third, if you think the UK elites and US looting the UK will be bad, China would want to exact vengeance for the Opium Wars on top of that.

      Reply
    2. fajensen

      Regarding timing: Boris Johnson will not miss such an excellent opportunity to make a few funny quips about the Opium Wars and Gunboats in front of the Chinese :p

      Reply
  14. RBHoughton

    Britain has intentionally not produced a written Constitution but has left the various bits of it as mere statutes. The people have been unattentive as usual whilst the political advantage is that MPs can amend constitutional statutes by a mere majority vote. In other countries you would need 70%.

    Reply

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