Brexit: Thar She Blows

Due to this theoretically being a vacation, I am putting up what will sadly be a short Brexit post given the explosive events of September 2. But I am opening up comments to let our very well informed commentariat hash over the events of the day (and any new developments on Wednesday).

We did say that Johnson’s plan to prorogue Parliament looked like it would backfire by unifying the opposition. That happened faster than we expected.

Even though Boris Johnson may wind up being the shortest-lived Prime Minister evah, the press coverage on Parliament’s efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit is generally out over its skis.

As most of you know full well, the Government lost its one-seat majority by virtue of the former health minister Phillip Lee, a former health minister, abandoning the Tories to join the Liberal Democrats. The loss turned into a rout as 21 Tory MPs stood up to the Government’s threat to deselect them to support emergency legislation to bar a no-deal Brexit. Perhaps most important is that the revolting Tories have seized control of the Parliamentary agenda. From the Financial Times:

Last night’s vote saw the anti-no deal MPs seize control of the Commons order paper, allowing them to bring forward emergency legislation to block no-deal. MPs hope to rush it through all its Commons stages on Wednesday.

The problem is that the claim that the proposed legislation would stop a no-deal Brexit is false. All it does is kick the can down the road yet again. It would require the Prime Minister to seek an extension to January 31 if he had not secured an agreement with the EU by October 19. If the EU offers a different extension, Parliament has the right to reject it.

Johnson threatened to call for a general election, which the press treated as a damp squib, since Parliament has indicted it would not back one without its “no deal” legislation in place.

Perhaps I have missed something, but I don’t see this great jab at Johnson as advancing the no Brexit cause as far as enthusiasts would have us believe. The only ways out of a no-deal are still passing the Withdrawal Agreement or revoking Article 50. Will a three month delay that includes the Christmas-New Year holiday change the political dynamic that much, particularly if there’s not been a general election? Despite the bluster, Labour doesn’t want a general election because it would lose too many seats, and on top of that, even though the LibDems would gain, they don’t want to be second fiddle in a Corbyn-led coalition. Vlade gave this take, based on a new HuffPost seat-by-seat analysis:

Show Tories losing 6, Labour losing 20 seats. SNP gains 17, LD 9
So even with DUP, Tories would not be able to put together a government (321 seats). But neither could L+LD+SNP+PC+G (320). The only option there would be the discussed “Irish special”, where SF would trigger by-election in its seats allowing a non-partisan candidates stand, which would then mean a broad anti-Tory coalition could be done. But of course, does it solve anything?
– No, as if there’s no govt by 31 Oct, who agrees to any EU extension? (the EU offers, the UK agrees, technically EU would hate to offer something that could be turned down, so practically UK asks, EU offers, UK agrees)
– how long would any such coalition last? Even if it agreed on a new referendum, that would take 12-18 months and that government cannot stand still (mind you Tories managed to stand still for 3+ years now, so ..)
– it would be still just a few seats over, so extremely fragile. Not to mention that I very much doubt LD would be willing to swallow Corbyn (who just lost seats, and technically would have lost a second election in row) to be the PM.
– Corbyn having lost a second election in row would be under immense internal pressure, but at the same time his loayalists wouldn’t go away just so. Break up in Labour party could easily happen, in the same way as it’s tearing Tory party now.
– Labour would have to promise SNP referendum. How, when etc? How it interplays with any 2nd ref?

But what happens if Parliament passes it’s “no no deal now” legislation and Johnson refuses to take the request for an extension to the EU Council in October? Remember only a heads of state participate; Parliament has no standing in that body. Does Parliament then vote through a general election? And what happens then with respect for the needed extension?

As Richard North put it:

It says something about the ineptitude of the collective that, on this one thing, Johnson is has got something right. Seeking an extension is indeed a “pointless waste of time”. It will achieve nothing, other than extend the agony and uncertainty of a nation which is waiting for a decision from its political leaders….

Nevertheless, as I remarked earlier, the game is not over. To see Johnson deposed is not automatically to be rid of him as prime minister. Unless, through the formal process of a vote of no confidence, a new government can be formed, the man remains in office while parliament is dissolved, while he gets to advise the Queen on the date for the general election.

In these circumstances, with the man hunkered down in the Downing Street bunker surrounded by his acolytes, anything could happen. Short of a real military coup, where troops are sent in to root him out, there doesn’t seem any other way we could get rid of him.

Things are set to get interesting, in the Chinese curse sense.

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  1. Oregoncharles

    And we thought we had it bad. Makes me glad I’m not British. Interesting times, indeed.

    What are the chances this brings on an international recession?

    Incidentally, since Boris is now 20 seats short of a majority, shouldn’t he stop being PM? Another example of not being a parliamentary government.

    1. NJ

      The EU is currently trying to get No Deal Brexit classified as a “Major Disaster”, to allow member states access to emergency funds should they need them.

      So that would lead me to believe that the EU thinks an international recession is possible.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      The latest evidence from the UK is that new construction has ground to a halt, mostly due to political uncertainty. But the UK economy simply isn’t big enough to cause an international recession. It could, however, set off a chain reaction through Europe, with all sorts of unintended consequences.

      As to Boris and his majority, this is where the UK is in constitutional no-mans land. He is according to the rules PM until there is a no-confidence vote, or until someone else is voted in and presented to the Queen. There is actually very little that can be done to remove him from office now that the Queen has made it quite clear she will not interfere constitutionally (if she was minded to do that, she could have refused to prorogue Parliament).

      This is what happens when you have a country run on gentlemens mutual understandings, and you find yourself with a man in charge who is not a gentleman.

      1. Ignacio

        Brexit will coincide with, and probably worsen, an already bland economy in the EU. Industrial production ( heading south in eurocore and a variety of bad indicators elsewhere. FWIW, in Spain both home and car sales are down and accompanying bad recent employment figures (worst since 2008 in september).

        I just hope austerians are kept enclosed and the keys thrown into Baikal lake. von der Leyen will face a difficult entry, let’s see how she faces it.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          This is one of the few things I’m optimistic about. German ortholiberals can be quite pragmatic when it suits them (i.e. when German industry is suffering, austerity goes out the door).

          Brexit gives them an excuse to bail out German industry with a more active fiscal and monetary policy, and with some new faces at key posts there is an opportunity for some more imaginative and positive policies. There are a lot of internal battles going on within various European power centres over austerity, I don’t think the hard liners will get things all their own way this time.

          1. Harry

            Its true. There have been lots of kites flown in this direction. But i think they are still kites. Fiscal intervention is still a difficult sell in Germany.

                1. vlade

                  You get paid to borrow money. If you were a currency issuer (which Germany is not), this would be incredible. I still don’t get it how Swiss were so stupid as to drop the floor they had instead of bringing it up (the world wants to give you money, and pay for it, and you refuse??? Instead you go and hurt/kill your exporters?)

      2. Tony Wright

        Strange. Things have obviously changed since 1975 when the Queen’s representative, Sir John Kerr, dismissed the elected Australian Govt. on the advice of the then leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser.
        I would have thought that circumstances in the UK now were far more in need of intervention by the Head of State than those prevailing in Australia in 1975.

      3. Oregoncharles

        “But the UK economy simply isn’t big enough” –
        I was thinking of the shock effect, especially considering that London is such a big financial center. I’ll take your word for it, but I note that several EU 27 inhabitants think there might be problems.

  2. FKorning

    The duration of the extension isn’t as crucial as 1) the clear instruction to prevent no-deal, 2) the defeat of the tory agenda, and 3) the defection and/or deselection of 21 tory members.

    This has pushed the no-confidence vote from a ricketty craft in unchartered waters to a gunboat anchored menacingly in the bay. Now called out, the governmentcan either can suffer humiliation or call out an election, forcing its hand and flushing the vermin out in the open.

    After this there can be no more allusion to blame backbenchers as saboteurs, Whatever blunders happen from now on, and there will be many many considering the wanting mettle of the current cabinet, Boris can only blame himself.

    We shall see if today’s developments will see the govt manage to withold elections to ramrod brexit, but I doubt it very much. The ejected tories of conscience are of the old guard and they will put duty first; many are lifetime members and will never forgive this night of the long knives.

    The deselection was one of the worst blunders in all of tory political history. Next to the bedside Little Book of Brexit, Cummins must have been reading How to Make Enemies and Alienate People.

    It’s not on topic and it’s very adult to call names, but what to make of GreasedHog’s scandalous and puerile (lack of) posture? He was “vautré” like a lizard, splayed on a divan of contempt, a boudoir of sulk. The mask of affected manners, civility and decorum dropped for all to see the creature beneath. He cares not for tradition -only in so far as it’s a PR tool, a cheap schtick and a cynical brand. He’s a contemptuous schemer, a mendacious arriviste, a dangerous iconoclast.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    Well, that was certainly interesting. We’d speculated here that Johnson and his team of Dom and Dommers (as John Crace so beautifully put it) had over-played their hand. And it seems thats exactly what they did.

    Of all people, Tony Blair gave the best advice to Corbyn a few days ago when he said that an October/November election was a elephant trap set by the Tories for Labour, and they shouldn’t fall into it. And Corbyn seems to have listened. The bluff has been called and it looks very much like its the Tories who have fallen into their own trap.

    As Yves observed, one should never underestimate the inability of the opposition to miss every opportunity to stop Brexit, even if they wanted to (and I suspect Corbyn doesn’t want to). But they now, for the very first time, are on the front foot. I think Corbyn’s approach that he will not support an early election unless a motion is taken on avoiding no-deal is the right one – whatever the legal practicalities of this, it puts him on the high ground for the arguments to come.

    The big question now is what happens if a motion barring a no-deal is passed, but not one for an early election? Its hard to see anything but complete political chaos. And Johnson already looks entirely out of his depth, with a party in meltdown.

    I can’t help thinking that somewhere Theresa May is sitting with a sherry, a wry smile on her face.

  4. tladika

    I would appreciate a bit of clarification on the use of Standing Order 24 last night.

    I have been closely following this site’s excellent Brexit coverage and learned a lot in the process. My impression was that it would be very difficult for Parliament to force the PM to ask for an extension, since typically only the government can propose legislation (amendments forcing an extension also cannot pass without legislation introduced). Yet rebel MPs seem to have found a way to take control of the parliamentary agenda tomorrow.

    I understand from reading other media coverage that SO24 is typically not used as it was last night. Can someone please elaborate? Was this an unexpected/creative use of Parliamentary tactics, or do MPs actually have more avenues to introduce legislation than I thought? Thank you.

      1. Clive

        Oh, gosh, I feel like a studio hack when asked by Louis B. Mayer to be given a two-pager summary of every novel for an assessment to how suitable it is to be boiled down into a movie script! And he’s just handed me “Gone With the Wind”.

        Here’s a good legal overview

        It is a classic legislature/executive tussle. There’s a reason why the U.K. government ordinarily controls what gets put in front of the U.K. Parliament. It’s because, ultimately, the government can have the final decision about what becomes U.K. law and what doesn’t. Parliament can follow a legislative sausage-making machine process (and even if the U.K. government doesn’t allow MPs time on the floor, MPs can seize the floor, through the mechanism used last night, to get it). But ultimately, it is the government that, putting it crudely, governs. If it doesn’t want a law to be made, it — as the executive — can thwart it. It can simply say to the sovereign (HM The Queen, currently) “don’t approve this”.

        For matters which affect those areas relegated to execution action exclusively (“the Royal Prerogative” as it is referred to the U.K.) also requires a minister to indicate it also has Royal Consent. So, again, the U.K. government does not have to accept something that the U.K. Parliament has dreamt up. This is explored in detail here.

        Nothing, absolutely nothing, in any of this is new. Or a surprise. Which makes me wonder, given how there is — as usual — so little genuine academic analysis being presented via the mainstream media, certainly not in the U.K., why this pure theatrical performance is being treated like it is anything other than the gesture politics it is.

        This is a big and complex subject. So if anyone in the cheap seats down here has questions about specifics, I’ll do my best to try to prove an accurate explanation and answers.

        1. PKMKII

          Here’s the thing I’m not clear on: Suppose parliament passes the “Johnson, you can’t do a no-deal Brexit” legislation, and Johnson’s response is, “Tough, I’m doing it anyway.” What options are open to parliament at that point? And can any of those options get Johnson deposed in time to get a new government that would be able to ask the EU for an extension?

          1. Clive

            I’m going to have to look this up in Hansard tomorrow, because something very interesting-sounding has just happened on the floor of the Commons, which has a bearing on this question.

            Various Conservative bigwigs have been asking the Speaker about the proceedings which were technical and difficult to necessarily get the meaning and purposes of. But they are trying (and possibly succeeding) to trip the Speaker up using the same reasoning that he’s invoked to allow the Bill to be read.

            Iain Duncan Smith referenced a court case where (to cut a very long and convoluted story short, which risks oversimplification, but here goes…) the prerogative was used, a case was brought about the legality, or not, of the prerogative being utilised to manage the matter, the court made a ruling (which isn’t pertinent here as I’ll explain now) and Duncan Smith asked the speaker if he would be bound by the court ruling and the permissibly of the prerogative. Apologies if this is hard to follow, these things inevitably are.

            The Speaker told the House that, in line with his previous statements, the Commons would not be bound by a court’s rulings, in essence, Parliament defines its own rules and makes its own determinations about whether or not there has been an infraction. It is not for a court to do so. This is the basis for allowing the Bill currently being debated, in long-accepted custom and understanding and is not in itself controversial.

            So why did Duncan Smith ask this? The reason is…

            It’s a trap!

            The Speaker has just settled (and confirmed) the precedent that, should Johnson not adhere to the terms specified in the Bill — and Johnson claimed it was permissible through the executive’s the ability to execute under prerogative — then by the Speaker’s own words, this is not a matter for the courts. It is a matter for Parliament and Parliament alone to determine. So even if the Bill is passed into law and even if Johnson “broke” the law, in deciding where the “case” would be heard, the speaker has said that the courts don’t have jurisdiction. So Parliament would have to determine the outcome and any sanction. A court could not.

            But of course, Parliament would be prorogued ! It can’t determine anything if it isn’t sitting. An MP (or MPs, or anyone else with standing) could bring a case in the courts against Johnson. But immediately, the government would have, if not exactly a defence, at least a possibility to delay court proceedings while the court determined jurisdiction (or lack thereof). See also my comment below about how the courts in the UK have signalled pretty loudly and clearly they are not willing to be “politics by another name”. The ruling against the proceedings to stop Parliament being prorogued today is more evidence of this.

            This is what happens when you abandon conventions. You open up a Pandora’s Box. No-one can tell what might be in there. The government (Johnson) only benefits in this situation — ambiguity is their friend. Your typical Daily Express reader isn’t likely to be interested in this kind of finer detail. But they’ll nod sagely to a headline of the “Boris Takes on Our Parliament Gone Rogue!” variety. It’s the court of public opinion which will count in this, Johnson will at least have the ability to make out his argument.

            1. vlade

              It is a point I have been making for quite a while – how does Parliament actually physically MAKE Johnson (or any other PM) obey it? And the answer is – it can’t.
              It can lock it up in Big Ben (yep, BB, not the Tower), but that doesn’t mean it can MAKE them do something.

              The only way Parliament can “do something” (non-legislative) is that it gets in a new government that would be (hopefully to the Parliament) more compliant. There is no other way.

              If the Johnson says he’s going to ignore the law, then he will ignore it.

              On the extension, the Parliament has also the option to ask the Queen to act directly instead of via her PM (but it can’t order her, as technically the monarch is outside the law). But that’s about it.

            2. shtove

              I suppose the argument would be that Johnson’s refusal to follow legislative commands is ultra vires and subject to judicial review. As for procedural delays, I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

            3. David

              I would be interested to see exactly what the Speaker said, because I suspect that it was in the context of Parliament’s right to manage it’s own affairs. But the question here is about the relationship between Parliament and the Executive, where the Courts certainly have a role.
              One other interesting point. If you look at the Preamble to the Lisbon Treaty, you will see that it starts with the statement that various European Kings, Queens and Presidents …..

              DESIRING to complete the process started by the Treaty of Amsterdam and by the Treaty of Nice ….

              HAVE RESOLVED to amend the Treaty on European Union …. and to this end have designated as their Plenipotentiaries …various Ministers.

              This is unusual for a treaty, and may provide a sliver of a way forward. The Queen could instruct Johnson (as she formally “instructed” Blair) to carry out an act envisaged by the Treaty she helped cause to be negotiated (ie ask for an extension) on the basis that this is what Parliament wanted. She could also theoretically designate someone else as a plenipotentiary, following the same logic.
              One of the consequences of the “Crown in Parliament” doctrine is that there isn’t supposed to be any daylight between the Queen and the PM. If there were to be so, then since the PM is only someone called on to do a job for a period, she could in theory ask somebody else, on the basis that the PM had clearly lost the confidence of the House, which would be observably true. All highly speculative of course, but what isn’t this week?

              1. Clive

                I had exactly the same things cross my mind, more-or-less.

                To attempt to deconstruct it all to something easier to grapple with, let’s take — only because it’s easy for me — a basic law. Where I live, as I’m in sufficient proximity to a railway station, there’s a high chance that, understandably maybe, some people in their cars don’t want to cough up the £6 a day parking charge in the station car park. So they drive around nearby roads, looking for somewhere to park “for free”.

                This led, inevitably, to a nuisance and, certainly for residents, to what would be deemed anti-social parking — on pavements, in front of driveways, in dangerous places where people couldn’t see to drive safely and so on.

                So the local authority imposed parking restrictions. There are, as is usual, markings on the roads and signs saying something like “No Waiting 08:00 — 18:00 Waiting Limited to 2 Hrs — 2 Hrs No Returning” or that kind of thing.

                But what happens if a driver takes exception to this “law” (and it is a law, albeit in my example, delegated to the local authority to enforce, but it is subject to a legal power)? They’ll get ticketed and if they don’t move after a few days, they’ll get towed away. So, all nice and straightforward — you break the law, you face a penalty.

                This does not mean, of course, that if I as an individual, take issue with a vehicle and a driver who parks in front of my house, I can demand payment of a fine or seize property. I have, by some measures, standing, to demand legal redress. But I must, as one of “the people” whom the law serves, exercise this through (in this situation) the local authority, who can pursue court action. It is only the local authority who has the true legal standing — I can be a party to proceedings or a witness, but it is not I who can bring the case. No matter how wronged I’ve been.

                But, if Johnson disobeys the stipulations of the Bill, who, exactly, has been “wronged”? Is it I, as one of “the people” to whom Parliament exercises sovereignty? If so, I can take proceedings against Johnson myself, as a citizen. I can do so, however, only via a court. I can’t “demand” Parliament use any internal procedure — as the Speaker said, Parliamentary proceedings are strictly a matter for Parliament. What, though, if a court declines to hear the case I bring because it is a purely political matter — as was decided today in the Scottish court about the rights and wrongs of proroguing.

                But if, rather, it is Parliament which has been “wronged” then only Parliament has standing to seek legal redress. Whom, though, has been “wronged” in this hypothetical case? If Parliament represents “the people” then while some people would be very agitated about what Johnson had done (or not done). But some other people would say “you crack on luv, more power to you!” and be delighted. It would be no use trying to drag a court in to make a ruling. The Speaker has already said that, if it is Parliament which has suffered from a Member being in contempt of failing to use the prerogative as Parliament wants the prerogative to be use, it is Parliament and Parliament alone which can determine whether the Member is, in fact, in contempt — and, presumably, decide what to do about it. But Parliament cannot do anything while Prorogued. And it can’t “un-prorogue” itself to decide the matter, either.

                And then, even stickier, what if Johnson says, as you point out he and the Crown are inseparable in this field of government? The Crown is immune. Johnson, as an individual is not immune, but if he is acting as the Crown, if he is guilty of contempt of Parliament, does that not unavoidably make the Crown in contempt, too, if the sovereign is acting as instructed by her minister?

                I really don’t think they’ve thought this all through.

                1. David

                  I don’t think anyone has thought it through : indeed I’m not sure that it’s really thinkable through beyond a certain point.
                  The problem is that the indispensable myths of the British political system are now being subject to legal analysis, which was never intended and indeed may destroy things rather than provide answers.
                  IANAL but I think the answer is that for someone to be found in violation of a law does not presuppose a victim. Over the last generation European concepts of administrative law have steadily been imported into the UK system, and the Courts have generally applied the test of whether the government’s actions have been reasonable or not, with quite a high threshold for ‘reasonable ‘. Critically, these cases have been about policy decisions taken by government, and obviously Brexit falls into this category. A claimant would try to show that the Government acted unreasonably in refusing to obey a law, and by extension refusing various options for resolving the crisis by agreement. Would it work? I have no idea.

                  1. Clive

                    I’m probably being not a little evil here, but I’m almost hoping Johnson holds out against the Bill, just to see how it all would go.

                    I’m with you in so far as, if a U.K. court would hear any case (I’m still completely at a loss who could bring a proceeding, but I, along with Parliament right now, will gloss over that for the time being) a lot would turn on a test of reasonableness — both in the performance (or not) of the government and of the original request made.

                    The logical avenue for seeking redress is a Judicial Review, any remedy would probably be a Mandatory Order.

                    But the whole thing is fraught beyond words. A Judicial Review is intended to be used where there is executive overreach or executive abuse of power. An executive which said “we don’t want the power (to make a request of the EU Council)” would seem to be not a valid cause for involvement of a Judicial Review.

                    Leaving that aside, as you point out, it would all turn on (very nebulous ideas) of “reasonableness” and “natural justice”. I would also wonder how Parliament could have any “legitimate expectations” of performance, being as how Johnson stood on the steps of Downing Street and said in an address to the nation “there is no way I will do that”. Even Larry the cat heard him say it.

                    I can’t see the courts wanting to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

                    1. David

                      You are probably right about the Courts but there are better and worse ways of dressing the issue up. To get a Judicial Review (and I agree it would probably have to be that) it could be argued that (1) the government had behaved unreasonably in disobeying a law passed by Parliament (2) the contents of the law were essentially procedural, requiring the government to do various practical things, rather than a change of policy and (3) the government was being unreasonable in deliberately rejecting the possibility of compromise and more time for negotiation which had been offered. As I say, whether this would fly I have no idea.

            4. Ellery O'Farrell

              Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian has floated, but without explanation or elaboration, the possibility that Parliament could delegate the Speaker to request the extension: I suppose the Speaker could then be delegated to Revoke, if that were to be on the table (although it seems beyond the pale of probability now).

              That came out of the bright blue sky as far as I’m concerned. Anyone know whether it could work? And if so how?

              The possibility of a Humble Address to the Queen seems less revolutionary. But who knows what she’d do in a conflict between her government and her parliament.

            5. Nell

              All wonderfully logical, but there is procedure and there is politics. Corbyn is building a consensus by getting all the disparate MPs to work together. Thereby reducing the hostility towards him via cooperative actions. There will be a point when the only way out of No Deal is a vote of no confidence and Corbyn as caretaker PM to allow him to get an extension, then GE. Working together on a common goal builds trust, which will make MPs less hostile to him as temporary leader. Fortunately, Johnson is helping this along with his arrogance and dependence on the much despised Cummings. This is an incredibly difficult feat to pull off, given the high levels of antipathy towards Corbyn. So I’m not betting on success. But admire the effort. I also assume this is a shadow cabinet strategy – Corbyn is not a one man band. And I doubt they think of their strategy as a classic in-group/out-group strategy.

              1. Hugh Mann

                The current high levels of antipathy have been greatly reduced, in order to stop Brexit.


                ProQuest search results, national newspaper articles mentioning ‘Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’:

                August 2018 = 1,700

                July 2019 = 1,086

                August 2019 = 167

                Hmm. Stop Brexit first, then normal service can be resumed.

          2. vlade

            That is part of Clive’s point. Technically, only the head of the state can talk to the EU. Which means the Queen, who delegated it really to her PM.

            I believe the most the Parliament could do there, w/o trying to depose the PM (which, at the very least, would require a proclaimed majority for some other PM), would be to ask the Queen to do so.

            Which she might or might not do (I’m inclined to say she would).

            1. Wyoming

              Which she might or might not do (I’m inclined to say she would).

              Why are you inclined? Has the Queen, or the entity which she is part of, (I’m thinking here that what you Brits call “The Crown” really is more of an organism than a person) indicated or implied in some way whether she/they/it is remain or leave?

              There comes a point in this intriguing bit of civilizational chaos where the personal feelings of the Queen would have a significant impact on their getting involved. And would definitely guide their actions. If the Crown thought that it would have a better future or more power by leaving might they not put up with Johnson regardless of their dislike of him?

              Or is this not the case?

              1. vlade

                Nothing to do with her personal preferences.

                All to do with the fact that if Johnson refused to step down and there was a clear declared majority for a different PM (i.e. the Parliament voted a Humble Address to the Queen to install XYZ as the PM), it would be trying to avoid a constitutional crisis. The PM etc. are advisors to the Queen, and while she usually follows it, she follows it because they usually follow the customs. She is not bound to follow it, and if they break the customs in a way that generates chaos*) I believe she would ignore it.

                *) Proroguing does not generate chaos. The Parliament could have used SO24 to trigger different laws, if it wanted, for example:
                – to remove the pro-roguing powers and/or declare it would sit anyways
                – to get full control of the agenda between 14th and 31st, to pass any anti-no-deal measures it saw fit unless Johnson presented a new deal to vote on by 14th (which IMO would have been better, as it would get the ball in Johnson’s court very much so).
                – to drop or amend FTPA
                – etc. etc.

                But having two people claiming to be PM at the same time, but the one not in the office having Parliamentary support, would generate chaos and be a real constitutional crisis.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I can stand corrected by those among us who know more than I about this, but my understanding is that Bercow (the Speaker) is essentially allowing SO24 to be used as a method of sneakily allowing a motion to Parliament before it is prorogued.

      Essentially, the government can, through its control of the Parliamentary timetable, prevent a motion being moved early. But SO24 allows an MP to call for an emergency debate. It seems Bercow will not just allow the debate, he may allow the debate to include a substantive motion – which presumably will be one that says that the Executive must try to extend the Brexit deadline to avoid a no-deal*. If passed, this bypasses the whole purpose of the prorogation, which was to prevent Parliament blocking anything Johnson wanted to do.

      So far as I understand, SO24 has never been used for this purpose, at most its been used to allow MP’s to get something off their chest, its never been used to introduce a substantive motion. Whether this may allow Johnson to describe it as illegal and ignore it… well, who knows.

      *it could still potentially be blocked at the Lords.

      1. jabbawocky

        That’s basically my understanding, except that it was used once before, for the Cooper Letwin Bill which forced Theresa May to ask for the original Article 50 extension. It seems basically up to the Speaker whether to allow it.

        Note that after a general election a new Speaker needs voting in.

      2. DaveH

        It does show the problems with the non-codified constitution. Obviously the Government normally controls the order paper, but it’s not because it’s written on tablets of stone it’s because normally because a Government is supported by enough MPs to make sure that what they want to happen (mostly) does. As soon as that stops (stopped), they call an election and get a new Government.

        The addition of the Fixed-Term Parliament Act removes that fix to the blockage, so the SO24 stuff never gets used in the way that it is now. so it’s not illegal, it’s just that it was always useless and irrelevant until the FTPA decided to make it not so.

      3. David

        Yes, SO24 was not designed for this situation because this situation was never supposed to happen. It was designed essentially to enable MPs to ask for debates on urgent issues and the debate is at the Speaker’s discretion. The point is that whilst SO24 was not designed for this, there’s nothing that says it can’t be done. The strength of the UK system, if you like, is that anything is allowed which is not explicitly forbidden.

        1. vlade

          And the Parliament can change what is forbidden, because no past Parliament can bind any current of a future one.

        2. NotReallyHere

          Correct and it goes both ways. Meaning MP’s will have their SO24 theatre – but nothing will happen in the end because it’ll die in the lords. Boris can have his prorogue theatre but again he can’t be credible in any potential EU negotiation – if there is any negotiation that is – with an “uppity” parliament throwing tomatoes.

          I think Yves has it right – this drama doesn’t effect the final outcome. It will just makes the seeming inevitable crash out all the more bitter.

          The intriguing bit for me is the messaging – SO24 is “parliament restoring democratic accountability” when- in fact – it doesn’t. The move to prorogue parliament is outrageous executive overreaching when it isn’t.

  5. Nemo123

    Just curious: what would happen if Keir Starmer took over from Corbyn? How would this change the playing field? Any chance of this happening?

    1. PlutoniumKun

      There is I think a less than zero chance Corbyn and his people would give up their position without a fight. And now is precisely the wrong time to have internal Labour bloodletting. I think this is one thing the Corbynites and centrists agree on.

      1. Paul O

        Keir Starmer was fairly supportive of JC and his legitimate ambition to lead a government when questioned in some detail on the Today program this morning.

        As a hypothetical question – ok. Parliament might form an alternative administration around him on the case of a (now given) no confidence vote. But to quite what end is still unclear. The bill under consideration appears to go as far as any such coalition could.

        But it is purely hypothetical.

        1. Hugh Mann

          Starmer and the rest of the Blairites will support JC just as long as he’s stopping Brexit. The moment that’s accomplished, open warfare will be resumed.

          Although with Luciana Berger moving to the Lib Dems, it’s possible they could constitute the “moderate” (Middle East wars, bank bailouts, surveillance state) Blairite party come the next election. And the Lib Dems would sell their souls for power – they’ve done it once this decade already, but as a united Remainer party they could attract MPs from both main parties and maybe even form a government – the first for a century.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, a few of us suspected that was the plan all along. But the miscalculation Johnson seems to have made is to provoke a crisis too early. It remains to be seen of course, but I think yesterday did him an enormous amount of damage and has boosted both Labour and the LibDems.

  6. The Rev Kev

    It sounds like that Boris could now be charitably described as a few Seats short of a Parliament. Anyway, there is another thing that concerns me about this whole saga and that is what happens in fifty-seven days on October 31st when the UK is supposed to be out of the EU. I saw mention of the fact that it is also the day Federica Mogherini – who is the EU High Representative – has her mandate run out, along with the rest of the current European Commission. What this portends for UK-EU relationships or negotiations I have no idea but it really does not sound like a good idea that the transition date for the EU also coincided with the potential departure of the UK.

  7. Geoff

    Just a comment as someone who knows a bit about the thinking within the Labour party.

    Labour absolutely do not believe the polls that they will lose 20 seats. There is no way they will pass up the chance to have an election on any reasonable terms. They believe their policies will be popular with people and that they will win more votes during the campaign. They, perhaps naively, think that people will take note of issues like education, NHS, poverty and climate.

    Of course they may be worried about tactical timing issues around the October date, and push to hold it at a time they think favourable. But they are in opposition, and have very little to lose.

    1. Redlife2017

      I agree. Corbyn, et. al., want to make sure Johnson isn’t going to force through no deal during an election. The polls at a national level will be useless as it is going to be a fight on the ground in many constituencies. This will be the toughest and most open election in this country in a very long time.

      In all my time that I have followed British politics, I’ve never seen in my life so much distrust of a Prime Minister (this includes Tony Blair lying about the Iraq War!). Last night when the heads of the opposition spoke after the vote I was in shock. No one would let Johnson speak and then Corbyn came out swinging. That was a huge breakthrough. The opposition is united. We are in a fluid situation and lots of options are now open.

      I would like to note that the EU earlier in the year had noted that if the UK’s redlines change that the withdrawal agreement could change. Afterall, this is the only agreement the EU could come to with May’s redlines. That’s why they repeat that this is the only agreement on offer. If Corbyn is in charge, we will have (as he’s stated) VERY different redlines.

      Everything is up in the air now.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I’m not ‘on the ground’, but certainly all the polling I’ve seen isn’t good for Labour and two of the most astute reporters for the feeling on the streets that I know, John Harris and Aditiya Chakraborrty, are saying quite clearly I think that the mood is very much in favour of the Tories/Brexiters. I’d also fear that there would be no Corbyn surge this time, simply because he is a known quantity to people now. The surge in LibDem and Green support is terrible news I feel for Labour, it will deny them key seats. All the polls are clear that the SNP will wipe both Labour and Tory out north of the border.

      Much as I would like to believe in a Labour surge, I really can’t see beyond another hung Parliament, or the Tories getting a nose ahead if they run a very good campaign – and Sanders is a very good campaigner. Although having said that, his reputation has taken a huge blow over the past 24 hours, I wonder if it will recover. A lot depends on the reaction of the right wing media.

      My feeling is that Corbyn and his team share this analysis – if they didn’t, they would be far more gung ho now about moving for an election.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Ooops, that was quite a Freudian slip… (I think it comes from having to resist the urge to type ‘Boris’ every time)

      1. DaveH

        I think this depends a lot on how the battlelines are drawn. It seems safe to assume that Greens / CUKTIG / Lib Dems are up for a loose electoral coalition. I certainly can’t see Labour thinking about joining that at the moment.

        But – this election stands or falls on the Farage / Johnson relationship. If they throw their lot in together then I can’t see far beyond a majority for that unholy coalition. But on face value, it’ll involve a lot of backtracking from at least one side. Farage has said he’ll fully endorse Johnson if they go for full-on suicide Brexit. If he doesn’t, they’ll run against him. But if Johnson agreed to that, presumably he loses a load of wavering voters to the Lib Dems (while still hoping that the Leave brand is stronger than the Labour brand in the north and midlands).

        And if the Johnson / NF pact happens, might it realign Labour’s thoughts on a loose relationship with the Lib Dems et al? Even without, if Johnson loses ten in Scotland to the SNP, ten in the south of England to the Lib Dems – where are all these seats that he is winning to make up the difference that they failed to win in 2017?

        There are an awful lot of moving parts to that potential election.

        1. vlade

          Your last point is very important. Basically, in 2017 Tories sucked up all UKIP voters, so that is likely the best result (% of vote) ever they can get. I do not believe that (all) dissatisfied Labour leave voters would vote Tories (someone like JRM is a huge offputting thing to them I suspect).

          They may get some Labour marginals, but will they get 20+? I have no idea.

          LD will most likely get a few Tory and a few Labour seats, and SNP will very likely sweep Scotland (again).

          IMO it’s all in the air.

          1. David

            Absolutely. It all depends on how far an electoral pact between Johnson and NF is feasible, and will be adhered to. I wouldn’t buy shares in that. Historically Tory voters have defected to the LDs , but this time they could have the option of NF as well. So whilst the Tories could theoretically wind up with a majority, they could equally be squeezed into oblivion from both sides. Advice to those thinking of predicting Brexit developments after tomorrow : don’t

            1. Paul O

              Agree. The position of the Brexit and Tory parties vis-a-vis each other will be key to what happens constituency by constituency. The polls don’t always reflect the ‘electoral college’ very well. Johnson will be desperate to avoid any extension to Brexit ahead of that – Labour seem to be ready to wait for 19th Oct. Farage has said that the Tories must campaign on no deal to get his support – that is still a huge stretch for many the Tories that are left with the party.

              Also relevant, whether the Greens might chose to stand down in favour of the LDs. In my (remain) constituency that would likely unseat the incumbent Tory where tactical voting has returned LDs up to the last two elections.

      2. shtove

        For all the electoral calculus, the only route to a transition period is Corbyn as PM. I hope that settles in to people’s heads. It’s a clear message.

    3. thoughtful person

      General election likely it appears, if so when?

      Best time for torries likely soon after Brexit, say Nov 7 to 14. In this scenario a “we delivered” bump up in polls – before effects of deal too obvious?

      Best time for the opposition? Preferably after Brexit extention (keeps torries divided on that issue) or if Brexit, after sufficient time for voters to see no deal was not best idea.

      Post no deal brexit, or prebrexit after 31 Oct, there will still be negotiations with the EU regarding the future: trade, border crossings, etc.

      Who does the EU prefer to negotiate with?
      – someone with a mandate
      ? Not sure if there is much preference otherwise?

  8. Clive

    So much ground to cover, so pressing a need for brevity in view of the countless words spilt and more still to be spilled.

    Firstly, the core of the current melee is a classic executive-vs.-the-legislature tussle. Johnson doesn’t intend to and certainly doesn’t need to throw in the towel to Parliament. He won’t. For those attuned to how the (oh I hate this word, but needs must…) British Establishment communicates both within itself and semi-officially and publicly, the Supreme Court has signalled through Lord Justice Sumption (anyone interested in the current state and future direction of the British constitution should listen to all his recent lectures but especially pt. 4) that the court has gone absolutely as far as it is willing to do in stepping in to settle political discord. There is absolutely no way the courts are going to be placed in any role which has them adjudicating on Brexit. They have seen the hideousness which has befallen the US judiciary and have no wish to go there.

    So, there’s going to be no dragging Johnson off to the Tower. Parliament made this mess and will have to fix it itself. Parliament puts Johnson in a position that no Prime Minister could ever accept, he refuses to accept it, then it’s Parliament which must decide what to do next and what the political not the legal consequences are to be of any reaction that Parliament provokes.

    Secondly, there’s an inexorable force which is pressing upon politics the world over which both Leave and Remain have failed to adequately adapt to. This is what I term the demise of “snowflake politics” — I don’t use that phraseology in the typically generational description it’s usually found in. More that we’ve reached the end of a twenty year or so cycle of no political actor can seemingly make anything impactful in terms of policy because, whatever policy is proposed, there’s a prevailing and stifling overhanging mood music of “you can’t do anything because of everything”.

    What I mean by this is, because the world is so apparently interconnected and there’s so much complex intertwined cogs and gears, our cultures descended into a inherently very conservative and self-limiting (and self-imposed) inability to act in any meaningful way, because whatever policy response was proposed, some interest group or other could — entirely correctly — pipe up and say “oh, no, you can’t do that, if you do that, then this (implied Really Bad Thing) will happen”.

    Now, undoubtedly, when any policy is enacted, there’s inevitably some consequences. Somebody benefits and somebody else suffers a detriment. No-one ever wants to be the latter and, in modern times, few politicians wanted to be the ones who caused it.

    But life can’t work on that basis. Everything we do has consequences. We live our lives in a constant struggle to figure out what we want, what we have to do to get it and what the cost (and I don’t merely mean financially, but that can come into it) will be. To reduce our existence to sitting fearfully, incapable of, well, doing anything because of something isn’t viable in the long term. We know this.

    Trump knew it, too. He found power, lying in the street. It had been abandoned by both classic Republicans and classic Democrats alike. They were all standing around, looking at it, but too afraid to go near it, let alone pick it up and do anything with it. Johnson encountered the same situation here in the U.K. — but the snowflake politics is even more in evidence. The epitome of it is a U.K. Parliament which desperately, desperately wants to exercise power. But equally desperately, doesn’t want to be the government which has to actually be in power.

    Voters are no longer willing to accept parties and politicians who are determinedly acquiescing to be in government, but not in power.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks for the blue sky overview, absolutely invaluable. Its so easy to get caught up in the day to day political arguments, fun though they are – but as you point out, the truth is that we are seeing something much bigger at work. This is history changing gears.

      1. David

        Yup, I’ve been banging on for the last year about Brexit’s capacity to destroy the UK political system and I think we are now seeing that process underway. Historically, revolutions take place mainly when the government is weak, rather than when the opposition is strong.
        Last night’s vote does not, of course, stop no-deal’ still less stop Brexit. But to put it simply it’s a necessary condition, if not a sufficient one. With control of the parliamentary timetable, the government could run out the clock and allow a no-deal Brexit to just happen. Last night’s vote doesn’t stop this happening, but it gives Parliament an opportunity to debate and pass a law that would force the government to do something. Moreover, the correlation of forces has changed to the point where the government can no longer rely on having control of the timetable in the future. Johnson has broken one of the cardinal rules of politics: never create unnecessary enemies.
        And in politics perceptions matter enormously. Johnson is now Officially Weak, both in the country and internationally. His opponents will be emboldened and potential rebels are more likely to jump ship.
        I don’t believe this government will survive even a short extension of a couple of months. And whatever else an election may produce, it won’t be a stable Tory majority. Johnson, as if this morning, is an ex-parrot.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Yes, I think with all the noise and storm and fury yesterday, the only real ‘fact’ we can see is that Johnson has been severely diminished, the exact opposite of the ‘plan’, which was to show him as the Man in Charge of Delivering Brexit.

          The only caveat I can see to this is that the regular man in the street reading the Daily Mail or Sun doesn’t necessarily buy into the same interpretation as parliamentary sketch writers. Its entirely possible that the majority of voters just saw a load of idiots braying at each other and just thought to themselves ‘lets just get Brexit over and done with’. The irony seems to be that the more people become disenchanted with Parliament and politicians, the more inclined they seem to be to think Brexit needs to be done with and that only the Tories (or Farage) can do it. This to me is the real danger for Corbyn, and its not clear to me that he sees it.

          1. vlade

            I’d be careful with burying Johnson just yet. He may now look like beset by the enemies (the EU and the Parliament). Enemies are good in uniting people.

            To frustrate Johnson, you’d need to avoid elections.

            1. David

              In politics you can be surrounded by enemies and still strong. Johnson’s problem is that he can’t unite his party against proposals that many of them actually support. The EU is prepared to be helpful, there is a roadmap for an extension followed by an election and a further referendum, and Corbyn has played his hand quite well. Is ‘follow me over this cliff instead of doing something sensible’ really going to provide Johnson with a Commons majority ?
              In any event politics is very much about perceptions. Johnson is wounded now, and seen to be both incompetent and petulant. Knives are no doubt already being sharpened, for use when the time arrives. I wouldn’t write Johnson off, but I don’t think he has the skills of a survivor.

              1. vlade

                He’s wounded in Commons. But the thing is, does the Commons theatre matter to the voters? I’d say no, based on the past experience.

                So, being wounded in Commons now, if he can get what he wants (elections) and to boot look like being taken on by the nasty remainers/what-have-you, may be an electoral advantage.

                Now, here’s a way to trigger elections that no-one considered yet.

                Johnson may try to get his Tory loayalists to trigger a no-confidence vote _and_ vote against the government. That would be more than a bit extreme, and would make very very clear that he wants elections (but can’t call one due to FPTA), but still could pass.

                Imagine how it would play – Labour, LD, SNP and all other voting for Johnson’s government? Even abstention would not matter if the “loayal” Tories voted technically against the government.

                Far fetched? Maybe. Would the voters Johnson targets care? Unlikely if he tells them that the only way he can get them elections so that they can elect a proper “Brexit” government. And he can put it in as “we do not have a confidence tha this government can deliver Brexit”. So play with words as to make it more palatable, but the same in result.

                1. NiX

                  But the thing is, does the Commons theatre matter to the voters? I’d say no, based on the past experience.

                  Although last night Parliament live clocked about 750,000 viewers, 10 times their normal crowd. And, according to the Guardian, there have been more than 100,000 new voter registrations in the past 48 hours, so maybe things are changing on that front.

                  1. Clive

                    It is utterly mesmerising and I for one am totally glued to it all as a piece of performance art.

                    But this politics/Love Island mash-up, a so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasure, has two audience demographics who might as well exist in different parallel universes.

                    One is the Westminster village. I saw it the other day as the taxi I was in took a detour — all placards, flag waving, TV network gantries, satellite trucks, craft support, sound crews, makeup artists (I saw a queue of, presumably, politicians and commentators lined up at a — what can only be described as — pop-up boutique to get ready for their appearances; like an impromptu Avon party that has entered the wrong details into Google Maps but had decided to just make the best of it) and so on. To this self-referential viewership, it was all Very Serious Stuff.

                    I, however, like others I’ve discussed this with, sat on the sofa, cup of tea in one hand, biscuit in the other, staring at the screen, thinking to myself “I cannot believe this”.

                    So what voters will make of it and what effect it might have on voting intentions may not be at all what the political and media classes think it will.

    2. lambert strether

      Where are the snows, and flakes, of yesteryear?

      > “You can’t do anything because of everything”

      In a crisis, things correlate. But this crisis seems to be unfolding in political time. Just wait ‘til whatever financial-time gearing there is engages…..

      1. Clive

        Yes, it is important to distinguish between a real, genuine crisis (like when the GFC froze up essential components in the world’s financial plumbing such as trade credit guarantees so no shipper could send their goods in transit because they wouldn’t get paid until the consignment was delivered and there was such doubt about counter-party financial institution viability, it was seriously a possibility that the bank involved would go bankrupt before your goods got to their destination) and serious situations which are chock full of significant implications but aren’t genuinely pressing must-fix-this-today crises.

        An ability to dress the latter up to look like the former is a big factor in the art of perception management. Requesting, nay, demanding a crisis-like response to what is not a crisis situation is a powerful tool in the armoury of an interest group with sufficient influence to wield it. In a crisis, there is a tendency to opt for traditional “safety first” choices because, under stress, we tend to pick the familiar rather than risking something new.

        In the US healthcare debate, expect the insurance industry, their tame politicians and the medical (clinicians and drug companies) industrial complex who benefit enormously from the current system to invoke this — complete with shroud-waving — when pressed. The financial services industry ran this sort of “the world will end if you…” scam, too, for a long time. I’d postulate that it was only the GFC which dissipated it, because bad things still happened, even though (although it was in fact “because of”) everyone was happy letting big finance run untrammelled through our societies.

          1. Clive

            I can’t claim credit ! It’s a very commonly invoked expression in British English, I’ve a hunch it might derive originally from the time when the NHS was introduced to lambast the medical profession for criticising its enforcement of state monopoly healthcare and the necessity for doctors to, primarily, be employed by the government (where, of course, all manner of bad things would “inevitably” come to pass as a result).

    3. templar555510

      This has been going on a very long time . James Burnham’s book The Managerial Revolution, which George Orwell wrote a very long critique of, set out the course in 1941. Since then the ever increasing complexity of Western societies and their capture by self reverential, self serving elites has made the exercise of power ( as Clive intimates ) something to be feared by politicians even if their rhetoric would suggest otherwise. So as Clive says it took an outlier ( possibly an accidental one as in ‘ did he really want to be president ? ) like Trump to push a garbled narrative which nonetheless gave the impression of being something revolutionary. Are Johnson and Corbyn revolutionaries ? I think not , but Bernie – well that remains to be seen. But be assured nothing short of a revolution ( not matter what form it takes ) is going to alter the deeply technocratic status quo.

      1. Carolinian

        Inverted totalitarianism–the system as dictator?

        And the media play a big role in maintaining, or trying to maintain, the status quo.

    4. Susan the other`

      Thanks Clive – this is a great comment. Snowflake politics. Yesterday, posted on Zero Hedge of all places was an excellent summary of the conundrum of the economy, hence politics, by Gail Tverberg of Oil Price. She expanded her thoughts that Yves posted some months ago about the interconnectedness of the world economy and the impossibility of tweaking prices because it hurts somebody somewhere. And she concluded that the only way out of the doldrums we are in is by raising wages and dealing with the ensuing inflation, because profits. I think the message is that if you want profits you must have inflation or growth, which goes against the very core of both neoliberal austerity and environmentalism. The reason this is so snowflake is because “nobody really has the ability to do anything because there’s always something.” We need a better powwow.

      1. Summer

        “And she concluded that the only way out of the doldrums we are in is by raising wages and dealing with the ensuing inflation, because profits…”

        Big picture: is this really about increasing the standard of living for those that did not get the benefit of over-inflated assets to be whether the coming inflation storm?

        The financial system is not designed to tackle inequality. The system is designed for winner take all. Tweak it, it just redistributes upward in a different way.
        Inequality won’t be solved within this system.

        1. Susan the other`

          She actually went quantum physics and talked about an economic “singularity” where some critical factor in the calculations of the balance goes to infinity. And the logic cannot be resolved. That sounds about right. This is when we oughta wipe the slate clean and start over, but how to do it when the economy is so critical and so fragile at the same time.

    5. ChrisPacific

      I think for a certain class of disaffected voter, it’s no longer about the details and mechanics but about the principle. For once they were asked to vote directly on a policy matter (a rarity) and returned a result different from what the party elites wanted (even more of a rarity). Fast forward a few years and – surprise! – it turns out that what they voted for isn’t possible, for a whole variety of reasons, all very good and sound and supported by evidence that can’t be challenged by the less informed. If Brexit was possible at the time but isn’t now, then the government has either betrayed them or failed them. If it never was possible from the beginning, then the referendum and subsequent process was a sham, and they have been constantly and persistently lied to. What’s a voter to do?

      The core group of Brexit supporters are starting to remind me more and more of a drunk outside a bar on Friday night, asking what you think you’re looking at. Trying to reason with them won’t work – they are just trying to make themselves angry enough to hit you.

      1. JBird4049

        Why should the core group of Brexiters not be angry? Or drunk? Or even most of the citizens of the UK not be? The government apparently is just stuffed with either been big time liars or just plain incompetent buffoons.

        If I was living under their leadership I might be drunk as well as they have made my own state government of California look competent, and the United States government less shambolic which is something.

    6. JBird4049

      “Voters are no longer willing to accept parties and politicians who are determinedly acquiescing to be in government, but not in power.“

      Yes. This increasingly seems to be a thing; let’s get power, but really use it for anything except maybe block its use, and we certainly do not want to have anything like the responsibility of even controlling it, let alone using it for anything!

      It has been a gradual seventy five year long process of slowly stealthily abandoning anything that requires using politically inconvenient authority. Using the American Congress as an example we could look at its refusal to declare or stop wars. Before the Korean War it was expected that it required Congressional approval to go on a full scale multiyear war with another entire country. The Congress could end all our wars tomorrow by cutting off the funding. It could, and if the President gave any problems, they could be impeached and removed from office. The Congress has just absolute authority to subpoena anyone in the country to testify, and to arrest and imprison them, if they don’t, for as long as they want. They used to have jail cells in the building although it was very rare to do so. Now it’s all about the appearances of doing something being used as cover for the actions that enrich the chosen few.

      Going to the current circus in Parliament, it looks like to this American like most of the people in government have spent almost all their efforts on avoiding meeting their responsibilities by looking for new rocks to hide under because meeting them might be inconvenient enough as to get bad press or even (gasp!) get in the way of getting more money. They keep hoping that it will be the other fools who will deal with Brexit.

      This why so many people are so frustrated. The laws, the rules, the forms needed are all their, but all we see are a bunch of supposed adults who did campaign for, or accept the nomination, or just applied for whatever position they have in government spending all their time running away from doing anything. At all.

      It is really strange for me to see this even though I have been seeing this most of my life.

  9. Jen

    “Voters are no longer willing to accept parties and politicians who are determinedly acquiescing to be in government, but not in power.”

    This, exactly. Thank you, Clive.

  10. oaf

    …spinning; out of control…

    “oh!-the humanity”…

    This will be miserable; for mercy’s sake…git-er-done!!!
    …and the Great Unmasking….begins…

  11. jabbawocky

    Thanks for the summary despite the holiday season. It’s becoming clear that Boris has shot himself in the foot. The uncertainty is whether it is a mere flesh wound or something more serious.

    Corbyn wants a soft brexit, but will accept a referendum. He realises that the essential importance of the EU is protectionist- to defend against US trade deal bullying, as often so eloquently outlined by Michael Hudson on this site. The question is whether Corbyn can line up the lib dems and SNP to submit to his brexit plan. The Tory rebels have always indicated they would support a soft brexit.

    All Corbyn has to do is pass the legislation for extension, then call a vote of no-confidence and try and form a caretaker government. Of course if Boris tries to get an election motion passed by 2/3 majority, or tries to repeal the Fixed Term Parliament act, Corbyn will be tempted whip against.

    Previously I agreed with all on this site that a Government of National unity was a non-starter. The actions of the Johnson administration over the last 2 weeks have changed this from highly improbable, to very difficult but not impossible, in my estimation.

    For the wider electorate the Tory purge is a major mistake. Boris comes across as untrustworthy and ruthless. If Boris makes a promise, he is on difficult ground persuading anyone he will keep it. This is handy for his enemies on all sides. Kicking out Churchill’s grandson is a major PR failure.

    Also on Corbyn’s side is that its starting to become obvious what brexit is really about: a taster of the labour campaign to come came from Diane Abbott on Opendemocracy this week. They will paint the brexiteers as foreign stooges determined to give british assets and give up citizens rights to the US on the cheap, by crashing sterling and signing a rigged trade deal. They will say that you can’t trust Boris’ promises. Labour have the advantage of being credible on both accounts.

    The Financial Times has even suggested it would support Corbyn in an election campaign (!!).

    The big moral dilemma will be for principled brexiteers, those that wanted to leave the EU to restore, soverignty, rule of national law, democratic legitimacy, or perceived over-regulation by the EU. I know and respect many such people, but who is offering this version of brexit?

    1. vlade

      What would the NU do? Would it call a GE? That’s what Johnson wants (although he just said at PMQs he doesn’t. Typical Johnson)
      Would it repeal A50? W/o a referendum? No way.
      Would it schedule a new referendum? Possible. But that takes 12-18 months, and during that time, the NU government would have to, well, govern. How? The intersection of LD, Labour, PC, SNP and Green policies is very very small.

  12. guilliam

    This editorial in yesterday’s Evening Standard is worth a read. It’s clearly by the editor, George Osborne (former tory chancellor) and the description of Johnson’s inept, counterproductive attempt to prorogue parliament which lead to yesterday’s vote is a shocker, especially considering it’s supposed to be sympathetic. How can ANYONE seriously believe these incompetent chumps are capable of negotiating a better deal from the EU than Theresa May did?

      1. vlade

        Given May’s redlines, it was impossible to negotiate a better deal than she did. In fact, as people who actually read it know, it was an amazing deal for NI. Totally, utterly unprecedented where the EU would allow a part of non-EU state to be within single market for goods, w/o any other commitments to the “four freedoms”.

        1. robert dudek

          Well there is a non-EU state that is part of Schengen but does not abide by full freedom of movement (it retains total control of immigration).

      2. Paul O

        That depends on perspective surely? Would you (or more broadly, everyone) be happy for Labour to negotiate a close and lasting customs union, for example?

  13. DanP

    I’ve said for years that the Brits were lucky to have the system they do. They always have a monarch sitting in the wings.

    Things get bad enough and people lose enough faith in parliament then a popular monarch, say a King William, could step up and lead.

    People think I am nuts when I say this but to me it is a real possibility. If parliament ceases to function or be able to govern and enough of the population gives up on them or the military gives up on them they could turn to the monarchy. It already exists. It has a long history and is unquestionably legitimate.

    I could see the Queen or her successor turn to the people or they to her. She could justify her actions as necessary in the face of failed government and put forth the idea that her assertion of authority is temporary until new elections can be held with new rules.

    People might be so exaughsted that they accept that as a reasonable alternative.

    1. Tom Bradford

      This has always been my view, too. I have absolutely no interest in the doings of the Royal Family as people, but as a flexible, unconstrained backstop able to intervene in utterly unpredictable crises, above politics, above corruption, above factionality, I have always attributed huge value to the institution.

      Now the rubber has hit the road. We face the possibility of a Government ignoring the Parliament that is supposed to represent the wishes of the People. If the Monarchy fails to respond I shall reluctantly have no option to agree with those who argue it no longer has a function and should be abolished

      1. Lambert Strether

        I’m a little dubious about “the People,” capital P, as a construct, especially in this context. The referendum should never have been set up to be decided by a simple majority; as we see, that really wasn’t sufficient to create a mandate. (People keep asking, with reason, for historical parallels. An equally intractable issue in the United States is Roe v. Wade.)

  14. vlade

    TBH, the more I think on this, the more I’m not sure whether it’s more than a theater.

    Ok, so say the bill passes (it almost certainly will).

    Now, Johnson just said (in PMQ) that he doesn’t want an election. So he won’t call the motion (as it’s clear he’d not get it right now).

    So we have now a few possible options.
    The “extension” bill almost certainly passes. Ok, so what? [I assume that if Johnson would refuse to ask for it, it would be legal for the Parliament to petition the Queen to do so, and I believe she would likely comply. Johnson would likely loose points for putting the Queen into uncomfortable situation with some older conservative voters).

    The ball is now in the EU’s court. If it grants the extensions, what for? Two extra months of fluffing?

    Certainly not for any deal renegotiation. It could consider it if the UK changed it red lines, but even then it would need a much longer extension than Jan 31.

    I believe it would say “tell us what you need the time for”. And if the answer was vague, it would either present a much longer extension (18-24 months), or none at all (remember, it has to be unilateral. If Italy had Salvini, I’d almost expect him to kill it).

    If it comes as too long, the UK Parliament may well kill it.

    If we get elections before Oct 31, I believe the likely outcomes are (in no particular order):
    – small Tory majority (with or w/o DUP and/or BP)
    – hung parliament (IMO most likely)
    – rainbow coalition (Lab+LD+SNP+PC+Greens) small majority.

    There’s zero chance of Lab securing an outright majority IMO, if for nothing else because they will lose seats to LD in metro areas and will not get any in Scotland against SNP.

    The first and second outcome mean no-deal Brexit, first by design (because that would be more or less what the Tory party would campaign on), the second by default (because there would not be anyone able to do anything else).

    The last result would be a referendum no 2 (because that what they would all campaign for), but as I wrote above, it would take 12-18 months to implement that, and I’m not sure whether the coalition could survive that long as it would also have to govern (especially if a recession is coming, as it likely is).

    Even with a second referendum, leave/no-deal could win. Even if it doesn’t, Tory party as is would likely morph (in interest of self-presevation) into Brexit Party, promising at the very least a new leave referendum, or even “we’ll trigger A50 again, and leave immediately”. So Brexit would likely be on the UK’s political agenda for decades, always threatening. How well would that play with the EU, who knows.

    1. David

      I think the point is, as I said somewhere else, that we look as if we are going to have the necessary conditions for some sort of exit from this chaos even if at the moment they are not sufficient. Time is probably the most significant factor in politics, and at the moment time, which Johnson wanted to work in his favour, is turning against him. The longer this crisis goes on, the relatively more likely it is that some kind of sensible resolution will be found. Not much, I grant you, but better than the situation last week.

    2. Brian (another one they call)

      A50 has been triggered and only the head of government in the UK can stop it, correct? There is no one that can win an election (according to what I have read above) because interests are spread out all over the landscape and enough want to leave to make it hard to apply pressure to them or lose them as members of any coalition.
      What does a new election bring? Time delay on knowing who is head of the government. If no one knows who it will be, who wants the election? Will it matter when Oct. 31 rolls up and its over?
      As a citizen of New Blighty, all of this is both fascinating and revolting. Taking it down to the roots, it seems the majority voted to leave. It also seems the EU was able to bribe the former prime minister (and many others) to do their bidding to interfere with anything but the EU desired result, making sure the UK is in their flock and instructing them what to do, from now on. The EU government doesn’t allow for either democratic representation or a vote of the people. It does amaze me that so many want this outcome and want just one boss to tell them what to do forevermore. If the majority doesn’t get its say, there is no democracy. So what does that say about both the UK and the EU? How many times do you have to say “won’t get fooled again” before you realize you are in a self sustaining feedback loop?
      The voice of the people doesn’t matter, that much is clear.

      1. vlade

        ” It also seems the EU was able to bribe the former prime minister (and many others) to do their bidding to interfere with anything but the EU desired result, making sure the UK is in their flock and instructing them what to do, from now on”

        Any proof?

        “The EU government doesn’t allow for either democratic representation or a vote of the people. ”
        There is no EU government. Please buff up on the EU institutions before writing nonsense.

        “The voice of the people doesn’t matter, that much is clear.”
        Which voice of which people? No-deal was not a referendum option, and a number of leading no-dealers were ruling it out before the referendum (google things like “easiest deal ever” etc.).

        Given the narrowness of the result (it wasn’t 60-40, it was 48/52), what do you call ignoring the losing majority entirely?

        Three years ago, I believe that a majority of the UK (leavers and remainers) could be united on some softish Brexit.

        The hard Tory leavers pushed the boundaries on what leave means to the point that May’s deal is now considered “soft Brexit” – when it’s really as hard a Brexit as it gets short of no-deal.

        1. Brian (another one they call)

          No proof, just an idea based upon the comings and goings of representatives that allege they are looking after the UK interests. They appear to come home dictating what Brussels says. Ms. May did make darn sure that nothing could happen during the course of her time as PM. Did she argue with the EU about their instructions? If she did, there is no indication of it. Was that a benefit to the UK? Is it a good thing backing a withdrawal agreement written by the EU without the vote of the people? Making sure that no one could do anything as long as she persisted? Parliament thought it odd and voted it down thrice. How many personal interests were involved and how many competing ideas? Or is this all an ego trip?
          What else can cause so much bloodletting amongst the ruling class as money? It isn’t principles, we have seen they are lacking ad infinitum. We see NI voting only on their own behalf, as is Scotland, and Ireland. Isn’t the hard border a prime example of money changing hands?
          It is always about the money. Why would the UK do everything to bypass their voters and bow to the EU dictat? Ideology be damned.
          If my mention of bribery is not acceptable, then is there a better explanation?

          1. David

            There were no EU ‘instructions ‘. There was a long negotiating process between the UK and the 27, for which the UK was poorly prepared and thus came off worse, although the EU was more helpful than it needed to be on Ireland. If you don’t know what you want, it’s hard to get a good outcome. I really wouldn’t introduce ideas like bribery if I were you : stupidly and incompetence will do fine.

          2. vlade

            And pray, how could May “argue with the EU about their instructions”? If you’re buying a house, do you argue with the agent about the instructions that the seller gave him? No, the instructions are what the seller wants. You put in yours, and maybe you’ll meet.

            But unless you can actually understand that the EU has interests too, and those interests are not aligned to the UK’s interest (only sometime), then there’s no point of talking.

            The EU did what any negotiation party ever does. It negotiated in ITS interests, using the leverage it had. That the UK could not understand that does not change the reality.

            The WA was NOT written by the EU. It was written by the UK government and the EU, given the red lines the UK put in.

            You seem to have no idea how negotiations work. That a weaker party caves in is reality, and it does not require the weaker party to be bribed. In fact, you need to bribe stronger or equal party. Which the UK very emphatically is not in this negotiation.

            Let repeat the facts:
            – it is the UK that wants to leave, not the EU ejecting the UK.
            – because of the above, the EU has no moral or any other obligation to look after any other interests than its own
            – the EU is 5 times the UK economically, so any loss will be felt much less overall (although the concentration will be important)
            – the UK had no idea what the hell it actually wanted, repeatedly asking for things that the EU could not legally ever deliver (and, if it did deliver, it could as well just dissolve itself. See point 2).

            These are facts. Make of them what you will, but saying that May was bribed by the EU is the most ridiculous conspiracy theory I ever saw on this, and that’s something.

    3. Ignacio

      Hi Vlade. I think that if the Queen presents an extension request to the EU with BoJo as Prime Minister or even if BoJo himself does succumb to the Parliament bill and presents it, what will still be missing from the UK side is a credible plan for anything as you have aptly described the possibilities. So, even if the EU doesn’t want to be seen as forcing a no-deal brexit, the prospects for WA approval are minimal and depend on timing and tactics under a pro-no-deal goverment. My conclusion is that, being BoJo the PM of the UK, the EU should not grant additional extensions. Another question that might (or should) be arising in the EU is that of the uncertainty that a prolongued brexit brings in the current economic context, that will almost certainly require emergency measures. I wonder if ever-brexit situation will make it more painful than a “clean” brexit without a deal.

  15. John A

    From today’s PMQ, Johnson is clearly trying to goad Corbyn into calling for a general election. All bluster and soundbites, calling Corbyn by his name (By tradition MPs are addressed by the name of their constituency), calling him frightened (even using Thatcher’s dialect frightening or ‘frit’), a chlorinated chicken, interspersed with calling May’s deal ‘ the surrender deal’. All the while Johnson claims to be renegiating a ‘better deal’ even though the EU has said both no fresh negotiations and that in any case no negotiations have been requested or are in progress.
    I just hope Corbyn rises above these tactics and holds his nerve. Johnson owns this mess.

    1. Clive

      I’d characterise it as a joint mess. Sir Kier Starmer was interviewed this morning and, while he got more softball questions than anything especially tough, he was asked, assuming that the Bill to force an extension gets passed and somehow doesn’t end up falling down one of the many, many trapdoors it’s standing on, then when Labour “agrees” to an election, what is Labour’s policy on Brexit?

      Now, keep in mind that I am a Labour Party member. So I get all the national Labour Party communications, some largely incoherent Momentum guff and also Constituency Labour Party news, meeting agendas and minutes — the whole kit and caboodle. I have absolutely no idea about what, if any, is official party policy. So I was keen to hear it from, as it were, the horse’s mouth.

      Sir Kier uttered the most incomprehensible baffle-gab I’ve heard, hmm… certainly this week (and that’s a high bar, this has certainly been an impressive week for nonsense). If I understood correctly, and while I’m not bad at picking things up, Starmer did his best to thwart me, what a Labour government would do is renegotiate with the EU for, to quote “a better Deal” (although what, as vlade correctly said above, this would entail without giving up various UK “red lines” or segueing into a Brexit In Name Only, he didn’t elaborate on) — which was bad enough — but then he went on to add that, the Deal would be “put back to the people” in a second referendum. Still with me? Good. But then on top of that, it would be Labour Party policy to support Remain, and thereby request the voters vote down the “new” “Labour Deal”.

      I kid you not.

      Of course, these people (Labour party politicians and members, well, some of them anyway) aren’t stupid. So why would we end up with an obviously not unintelligent person like Starmer coming out with this turgid drivel? The reason is that Labour is hopelessly split on Brexit — and again, I should know, I’ve seen it first-hand — so trying to not be riven with division is a number one priority. This has led to the current stage-y spectacle we’re being treated to.

      Knocking the crap out of Conservatives in general and Johnson in particular is enough to get ’em out their seats and dancing in the aisles — the political equivalent of the time I was dragged to see Mamma Mia when Take a Chance on Me was played although I fear that this tradition, like chlorinated chicken, is a US-import — but is no substitute for the highbrow and intellectually-demanding task of coming up with and agreeing a coherent policy.

      It is the “agreeing” part that is difficult. Just ask the Conservatives. But the Conservative Party is nothing if not well-versed in the art of self-preservation. It has, already, realised that “one party, two political philosophy systems” on the EU is no longer tenable. So it has picked its poison. The Conservative party is a Brexit party generally and a No Deal Brexit party if that’s what it has to be. It has, or is in the last stages of, clearing out any europhiles or middle-way’ers. It is gruesome, from a perspective of witnessing political carnage and car-crash-like destruction of old, or old-ish, edifices. But those edifices could no longer stand. There’s no going back for the Conservatives in respect of the EU. If you’re not an anti-EU voter, don’t look to the Conservative party to give you an ideological home. The party, will, though, survive. Diminished and narrower. But stabler and more coherent.

      Labour has not even begun this process, in terms of deciding what it wants to be, for voters, in terms of its EU policy. If and when it finally understands it will have to pick a side, the mess will be every bit as icky as that the Conservatives were in. As will the unavoidable consequences of the inevitable realignment (be it pro- or anti-EU). It is, instead, a political zombie. Staggering around, presently looking full of life, or at least the semblance of life. Strutting its stuff on the streets, even.

      But its dead inside.

      1. vlade

        I have only a couple of things to add to this:
        – a number of longstanding customs of the UK politcs were broken, and as such are, for all terms and purposes gone.
        – the executive vs legislative struggle will continue until it is again, in some form, codified. It would be in the UK’s interest to do the codification properly, but I don’t believe it will get there yet (short of more crises).

      2. Paul O

        You description of Starmer’s position (let’s take it as accurate – you typically nail these things rather well) reads, on first pass, like a rather astute political tactic.

        However, I agree with the general position that there are bigger factors in play than the machinations of current UK party politics. And there may not be any good answers here.

  16. urblintz

    Here’s a take from Counterpunch:

    from the conclusion:

    “Any wavering by BoJo’s Tories on a commitment to an “at all costs” Brexit could induce the party’s hardliners, most of whom are Little Englander ideologues barely in touch with political and economic reality (shades of Trump’s supporters), to give their votes to Farage in a general election.

    Farage has already given a signal of his intentions by asking BoJo for a “non-aggression pact” in an election.

    Such a pact would of course be on Farage’s terms, that is, a commitment to a No Deal Brexit regardless of any consequences.

    BoJo’s strategy is thus determined almost entirely by domestic politics, with Brexit as the background on which this will be played out.

    For now Farage has BoJo hostage to electoral fortune, and all the latter can do is show he has the balls to match, step by step, the former’s reckless prospectus for a forthcoming election.

    The only way for BoJo to survive is thus for him is to match the mirage represented Farage and his Little Englander fantasist supporters.”

  17. Deschain

    Regarding this throwaway line at the end

    > Short of a real military coup, where troops are sent in to root him out, there doesn’t seem any other way we could get rid of him.

    I think it’s worth noting that the British military loyalty oath is as follows:

    “I (your name), swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me.”

    E.G. – the army’s first loyalty is to the Queen, not Parliament or the Prime Minister.

    1. Jack Parsons

      Heh! The Royal Army sided with one of the Cromwells against the King in some war a few hundred years ago, and that’s why they are the “British Army” and not the “Royal Army” now. But I would assume that this oath predates that little dust-up.

  18. George Phillies

    In addition, the EU will need to decide whether there is any likelihood of forward progress, or whether come October 31 they should present the UK PM with a bottle fo champagne wrapped in a large ‘Bon Voyage’ ribbon. The British may argue all they want, but the EU also has a say in the matter.

  19. Summer

    RE:”The problem is that the claim that the proposed legislation would stop a no-deal Brexit is false. All it does is kick the can down the road yet again. It would require the Prime Minister to seek an extension to January 31 if he had not secured an agreement with the EU by October 19. If the EU offers a different extension, Parliament has the right to reject it.”

    They have to pass a law to get the Prime Minister to request an extension.
    I don’t think it would lead to better or more negotiation for them (Parliament) to sign the withdrawal bill that the EU is finished negotiating. It would just be more time for more posturing for finger-pointing and blame for no-deal. I get the sense that the politicians are more worried about blame for no-deal than the fact that it is around the corner.

    And I can’t believe I’m even bothering to write about it. Technically, the country is still a monarchy and everybody is pretending it’s not a monarchy. It’s just another layer of absurdity, whatever the outcome.

  20. SlayTheSmaugs


    Thanks for keeping your eye on the ball, that is, only three real paths forward exist: enacting the withdrawal agreement, revoking article 50, and crashing out. Nothing about that has changed. It’s just like the Ireland situation; if Brexit happens, there’s only three possible outcomes (though it would take time for one to be realized); a united Ireland in the EU, a united Ireland in the UK, and a hard border.

    It seems to me that what’s happening right now is simply that some people are starting to shed their denial about what a no-deal Brexit means, enough to oppose *that.* But it doesn’t mean they’ve shed enough denial to accept that the only Brexit paths forward are the withdrawal agreement or revoking article 50. (And there’s something very Upton Sinclar in the refusal to shed denial.) The conversation seems to remain dishonest about some third option (that no one has meaningfully articulated).

    So in a real way I’ve stopped paying attention to Brexit. It’ll get interesting a) if crash out happens or b) the conversation becomes more honest and therefore either passing the withdrawal agreement or revoking article 50 are on the table.

  21. Matthew G. Saroff

    This neither a deep nor profound insight, but I believe I have found the best Blackadder quote to apply to BoJo’s past few days:

    There Hasn’t Been a War Run This Badly since Olaf the Hairy, King of All the Vikings, Ordered 80,000 Battle Helmets with the Horns on the Inside.

    1. DaveH

      Brexit via Blackadder has plenty of choice pickings.

      General Melchett would probably sum up the UK’s position as “If nothing else works, a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through”

      1. shtove

        Look up how George joined the war – The Cambridge Tiddlewink team leap-frogging down to the recruitment office. They all ended up dead.

  22. Anonymous 2

    Excellent discussion , for which many thanks to all.

    I am travelling so have had little time to keep up with discussions/developments, but did glean that some thought the attached of interest (though whether it will have any practical effect……….).

    I am no expert on constitutional matters but have read that Craig is well regarded. Does any one of the many who are more expert than me have views on Craig’s piece?

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’m no constitutional expert, but he lays out his argument very clearly and it makes sense to me.

      I suspect though that the key issue is whether the notion that ‘Parliament is Sovereign’ means anything if you have an executive in place and Parliament refuses to do the one thing it can do to enact its will, which is to remove it and replace one that agrees with Parliament.

      1. David

        Yes, it’s a good lawyer’s argument, although he makes his own views pretty clear. I suspect a pro-Brexit lawyer could make an equally persuasive opposite case, which is in a nutshell the problem with lawyers.

        1. vlade

          More to the point, this is the problem with common law and a no-precedent, no law situation.

          Which is why written constitutions are worth it, especially the ones that clearly separate executive and legislative powers.

  23. JohnB

    If they can pull off (yet another) extension into the future, demonstrating that a No Deal is unpalatable to them, then perhaps this may start to politically legitimize the option of Revoking Article 50 – seeing as the Withdrawal Agreement is also unpalatable.

    Moreso, if there is an extension and then an election, this will take the DUP out of the picture most likely – then we may see more options open, with a Sea Border – a big enough shift, which if committed to, perhaps could get the EU back at the negotiating table.

    Also…there seems to be an even bolder move by the SNP for progress towards a new independence referendum, in 2020 (also a Scottish ‘Green New Deal’ type thing mentioned, there – but it’s not that exciting):

    If the EU keeps granting extensions through 2020, while Scotland is drifting apart from the UK – maybe even long enough for such a referendum to pass – then that’s going to make NI’s place in the UK (which has a close cultural affiliation with Scotland) a lot more questionable – and we may see a Border Poll in Northern Ireland, maybe closely following the Scottish vote.

    In effect, if the UK keeps asking for extensions, and the EU keeps granting them – then we might actually see the UK disintegrate before we see Brexit happen – unless the UK solidifies around a viable solution for Brexit.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’ve no idea if this is being discussed in Scotland, but the SNP do have a nuclear option, which Irish nationalists used in 1918. Irish Republicans simply refused to accept that the London Parliament had sovereignty anymore, and its elected members formed their own Parliament and refused to sit in Westminster (Sinn Fein still do exactly this). They then set about making Ireland ungovernable by the existing apparatus, and just formed a shadow government. This, more than anything, undermined British rule in Ireland.

      Now obviously we are in an entirely different context, not least because of the massively more complex systems needed to run a country, but if the SNP were to announce that henceforth they will ignore any direction from London which is not in Scotlands interest as judged by elected Scottish representatives, then that could precipitate a crisis very rapidly. They could, potentially, say that they do not consent to being ejected from the EU with no deal, because the Scots voted to stay. Johnson may even welcome this, as the SNP could well then withdraw from Westminster, leaving him with a new majority.

    2. fajensen

      When the prorogation ends, the UK parliament can be asked again by Boris Johnsons to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, which exactly fulfils their demands on him of a “no no deal Brexit”, sticks the problem back to them and stitch up both Nigel Farage and the swivel-eyed tribals for good (if it passes).

      Then Lays can do a commemorate bag of crisps flavoured “Brexiteers Tears” and half the country will buy it!

  24. robert dudek

    What I think will happen:

    Vote of no-confidence in October after Parliament comes back. Caretaker government requests extension. EU agrees. General Election called.

    New prime minister will likely be a soft-Brexiter. Red lines change. Customs union in place during the transition, i.e. BRINO (Brexit in name only). New trade agreement worked out over the next 5 years, resulting in a Canada-style relationship except with Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union.

  25. vteodorescu


    Are we witnessing the end of democracy? everything seems to be upside down.

    So today we have a prime minister with no majority that the opposition is determined to keep in his job

    When the Prime Minister does not obey Parliament, the Parliament does not send in the troops, the Parliament sacks him by calling a general election. Not an option now, it seems.

    Asking for the ultimate in democratic power excercise – a general election, is seen as antidemocratic

    Afer 11 years of struggle, today one of the major economies of the world (UK) ends austerity. No-one notices. We wanted the end of Austerity for so long, and when it happens we are not satisfied.

    Strange days

    1. fajensen

      Not really. Parliament, everyone else who has ever had access to the internet, apart from his loyal dog, knows that Boris Johnson is not exactly the kind of person to be trusted on anything that he promises.

      Setting off a general election over the kind of Brexit one wants and then just leaving it to Boris Johnson alone to set the election date …. perhaps until a hard Brexit has happened by default ….. is just such an obviously silly idea that even Corbyn’s special advisors did not fall for it.

      So, the order is: First Parliament must legislate to nail the PM’s feet solidly to the ground on Brexit. Then they can have the election.

      Nobody seriously believes that the Tory’s will end austerity. This is coming from a party that is fundamentally dishonest about everything and basically wants all poor people to die in misery. That these people should suddenly see the light and become humanitarian, totally by coincidence right before an upcoming election??? Nah!

      1. Clive

        There’s no such way of nailing Johnson’s feet anywhere on Brexit. Given that now even Labour are saying they won’t (or might not, we’re still awaiting their approach) agree to an election on any date until after there has been an extension to the Exit Date granted by the EU (we’ll set aside that the EU27 might not even want to grant the U.K. anything at all and where that would leave everyone), this shows that Labour don’t even believe the efficacy of their own Bill to ensure it does what they want it to.

        So the last few days (and the next few days) jiggery-pokery have been a complete waste of time in terms of “guaranteeing” anything. Which was always obvious — there is no such thing as “no No Deal”. And the legislature has very limited sway over the executive where the Royal Prerogative is concerned. And even if the legislation is legally water-tight (which is a huge “if”) then getting any remedy if Johnson chose to defy it is neither a given nor going to be especially quick due to the lengthy legal processes involved.

        1. vlade

          Post no-deal Brexit you can’t put the ketchup in the bottle no matter what the courts would decide.

          Said it before, and I will likely say it again. The only real way to prevent Johnson from “Exit on Oct 31 come what may” is to replace him as the PM. Which, if possible at all, requires two votes to be passed – a vote of no confidence and a vote on a new PM. Plus persuading the Queen that she should name the new PM regardless of what Johnson does or does not.

          Anything else is a theater.

          Even the above is a different theater, as it would have to be followed by a GE, where there’s no guarantee that Johnson would not win it, or that anyone could put together a government.

        2. fajensen

          There would be if they ‘signed’ the Withdrawal Agreement. Sadly, Labour’s heads are also firmly buried up in the “we shall have sparkly unicorns shitting skittles for Brexit”-la-la-land.

          Maybe there is a parliament procedural precedence of the throwing of a rogue PM from a 3’rd floor window that can be relied on? Or there will be soon?

  26. Ignacio

    Well, isn’t it true that the very same parliament that rejected with a large majority the WA is trying to make BoJo renegotiate what the EU said it was not re-negotiable? A relived unicorn? How can you try then to force an extension, by a government that doesn’t want an extension, asked to an institution that astonishingly watches the depths in which UK politics is willing to descend?

    1. vteodorescu

      Yes, the one way to guarantee no ´no-deal´ is to vote the Withdrawal Agreement through. I believe there is an amendment to the bill saying exactly this being debated at this very moment. Probably it will be rejected.

      The WA – for the ones who read it, as Vlade says above, was a very good deal, astoundingly and unprecedently so, especially for the Northern Ireland.

      Let´s see what happens, maybe they will vote the WA through, just to spite Boris… Unlikely coherence of purpose, though… :)

      1. vteodorescu

        I stand corrected. The Kinnock amendment actually passed, but it is about the reason for the extension, not about any re-voting of the WA. Well, it seemed like a good thing while the illusion lasted… :)

        1. Ellery O'Farrell

          It only passed because the Government didn’t provide tellers to count the votes (the No lobby was apparently full). Lots of surprises for me today–I’d have thought a failure to count would mean an amendment would fail; instead it means it passes.

          Since it seems rather unlikely that this was an accident, there’s speculation that it’s all part of (yet another) Cunning Plan

 and immediately following tweet of Alex Sobel

        2. DaveH

          Via some spectacular parliamentary chicanery.

          It had nowhere near enough support, but Parliament only votes on the amendment if a “teller” from both sides of the argument shouts both for and against.

          The Government didn’t provide a teller for “no”, so while the division was crammed with MPs trying to vote against it, nobody shouted “no” to ask for it to be officially put to a vote and just went through by default.

          Another day, another constitutional embarrassment.

  27. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    So basically we are none the wiser in relation to how this will end & the whole issue is like trying to unravel the Gordian knot, which constantly reveals on closer examination further entanglements. Perhaps Boris seeks to emulate one version of Alexander’s method by simply chopping it in two.

    Thank you all……Michael Palin sums it up for me.

  28. ChristopherJ

    Thank you Yves and Lambert for enabling comments on this important issue. That said, I hope that your vacations are going as planned and you get some time away from your lap tops and phones. Sometimes, it’s good to just turn off and not know what’s going on.

    And, thank you, Clive, PK, Vlade and other regular Brexit commenters. I am sure I am not alone in appreciating the effort and thought that go into your perceptive additions to NC posts. Clive, you must have a speech to type device?

    When Corbyn emerged, my heart lifted as a working class man, as he is the genuine article. Only now do I see how formidable the forces within and without have been to stifle and denegrade him as a potential leader of the UK.

    Three years on or so and Brexit and the right wing media in the UK have now totally destroyed the opportunity for Labour to gain a majority in an election. What chance is there Labour could form a minority government with support of one or more of the minor parties?

    1. Clive

      A much more mundane explanation, unfortunately! Aeons ago when I started out as a bank clerk, one of the jobs I did for a while was having to type out, manually, statements for a small subset of bank accounts which weren’t computerised for some obscure reason (the complexity of the account product meant that it was on a handwritten ledger). The amount of statements to be typed was fixed so the quicker I got them done, the sooner I could stop doing the tedious stuff and divert my mind to anything I fancied doing (within reason). It’s a skill, or perhaps just a knack, I thought I’d get rusty in, but it’s stayed with me. I can just type without any thought or concentration at all.

      1. ChristopherJ

        me too, Signals…

        Still takes a bit to tap out 1000 words of sense. Keep it up.

        Am Scouser btw, hiding away in FNQ, hence my interest in what’s going on

      2. ChrisPacific

        I’m the same. I can type almost as fast as I can speak (I generally clock in around 90-100 WPM on the speed checkers).

        Every so often, when I’m feeling particularly pessimistic about my career, I think about this and remind myself that I possess at least one genuinely useful skill.

      3. PlutoniumKun

        In school in the 1980’s I had a somewhat eccentric teacher of Irish (Gaelic) who insisted that all his class sign on for touch typing classes on saturday mornings and pay for it themselves. He was contemptuous of maths teachers trying to interest us in coding. He said ‘by the time you lot have graduated computers will have changed so much that anything they teach you will be long out of date. But one thing is for sure. You’ll have to type to use them’.

        So a bunch of us 14 year olds were working away with trainee secretaries to learn ‘no look’ typing skills for 2 hours every saturday morning for a term. And the teacher was entirely right, its a skill which has been a great benefit to me from student and working life. Mind you, my Irish is terrible.

  29. DaveH

    Can someone explain why there isn’t more panic about the House Of Lords?

    Unless I’m misunderstanding, this seems to rest on whether a load of old people can talk for a long time. And if they can, then the whole thing times out and all this for the last two days has been for nothing.

    What am I missing that means this isn’t actually pretty huge and a likely way to knock the whole thing down?

    The fact that nobody seems all that concerned about suggests there must be a good reason. I just can’t work out what it is.

    1. Clive

      Perhaps the Lords will talk the Bill out. Perhaps they won’t. Perhaps Johnson will advise the Queen to not give a Royal Assent. Perhaps he won’t. Perhaps Johnson will adhere to the Bill, if passed. Perhaps he’ll not.

      None of those things matter because none of these things will resolve the issues in play. Eventually, some finality will be possible and some viable conclusion reached and agreed upon. But only after every other available avenue has been trodden down, determined to be a dead-end, walked back again and something else tried.

      1. Anon

        Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

        Author unknown (to me).

        1. Tom Bradford

          In the House of Commons on 11 November 1947, Winston Churchill said:

          “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

  30. Carey

    ‘Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn : “Let this bill pass… then we will back an election”- BBC News’ https://:

  31. Jack Parsons

    Labour’s problem: if you’re a serious Leftist, you have to hate the current EU structure and its neoliberal bent: Brexit gives you a free hand. But Brexit will probably be done very badly, so you don’t want to own it.

    1. JackB

      What if Boris does nothing? He doesn’t send the legislation to the Queen for her assent nor does he ask the EU for an extension.

      Labour doesn’t want an election and even if they change their mind is there sufficient time prior to the 31st?

      Does the U.K. exit with No Deal on October 31st?

      1. Clive

        Johnson could do any or all of these things. The Bill is legally dubious and Johnson could just ignore it, if enacted.

        But Johnson has changed tactics (it was forced on him by events, but in these circumstances it is politically savvy) to say “bring on an election” so he can’t be seen to, himself, be stalling that by dragging out the enactment process and giving Labour an excuse to not call an election.

        Now, however, Labour seem to be in a position of having their “let’s have an election” bluff called and putting in place conditions that may not be meet-able before agreeing to an election. A good ‘ole “make something conditional on a non-happening event” ploy, in other words.

        1. Paul O

          Or maybe they (he) will actually follow through in trying to prevent No Deal buy whatever means necessary. In which case, postponing until an extension is requested is the required action at this point.

          I don’t think it was ever bluff. But circumstances change – quite quickly these days.

          1. Clive

            And be subjected to six weeks’ worth of Daily Express paid-for actors following him around dressed in chicken suits. And headlines — and jibes from Johnson — involving variations on the word “cluck”.

            Yes, it’s cheap politics. Which can be very effective.

            Slightly, but only just, more highbrow, the SNP could back the Conservatives to pass legislation overturning the Fixed-term Parliament Act then pass more legislation to call an election, which would then only need a straight majority. You’ve got the sight of Labour and Corbyn being “dragged into the polling booth”.

            1. vlade

              wouldn’t even need the first, just pass “there will be election on Oct X where X>14” act.
              the problem with that is that it’s subject to amendments, but likely rTories+DUP+SNP could see it through.

        2. robert dudek

          The EU has said that they will only extend for a concrete reason – they’ve said a democratic event, such as a general election or referendum. But they’ve also said no deal will never be the choice of the EU. These are not necessarily contradictory, depending on what they mean by “choice”.

          If Johnson refuses to ask (it is beyond bizarre that Parliament can legislate an action that is the prerogative of the executive), then the obvious solution is to bring a vote of no-confidence, agree on a caretaker government, ask for an extension, then call an election.

          Extension is granted, election might solve the impasse.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Hence their inability to state a clear position. Would have been interesting to see what Corbyn could have done with Brexit. He supported Leave until the referendum – and May was a Remainer.


  32. mrtmbrnmn

    And so the Parliament of Poltroons continues to sabotage the referendum they wanted and LOST! It looks like the disease of Soreloserism Hillary infected this country with has mutated over to Blighty. They are now so tangled in the weeds of denial, greed and lust for personal power they are devouring themselves. And good riddance.

    1. Paul O

      Please, this is a bit silly. Only a fairly small minority of the public support no-deal and the legislation does not attempt to stop us leaving the EU.

  33. FKorning

    New developments: after a marathon filibuster session in the lords, the peers have signalled they will clear the bill by Friday. The bill will pass, a no-deal crashout will be averted, article 50 pushed back to jan 31 (on EU assent), and a general election will no doubt be held.

    The lords might just have done their duty to long-term stability and staved off the tides. The deselection of pillar conservative backbenchers probably helped the cause. Corbyn’s election holdout looks to be vindicated.

    The litany of reversals in the Brexit saga keeps growing, but I dare say this is the first positive bit of agency in a while.

    1. Tipster

      I believe this time next week we will be in full GE election mode.

      Conservative’s will be Leave party
      Labour – The Remain Party

      The people will decide which which way they want to go. The GE will be a second referendum on Brexit.

      How it all pans out is anyone’s guess. If you put a gun to my head then I think the Tories will win a small but workable majority.

      1. Paul O

        The question is whether the Conservatives will be the No Deal party. The position vis-a-vis the Brexit party is central to the election.

    2. Clive

      Except that rather than moving anything on, it’s just getting wurse and wurse.

      John McDonnell (Labour’s shadow chancellor) has just refused to commit to any election. The deal (no, not that Deal, a deal with the Conservatives to not filibuster the Bill in the Lords, a sign of the weakness of Johnson’s position so it should have been a big chance for Labour to gain ground and set the terms of engagement) to agree to an election in October on the 15th is now being walked back.

      Now Labour wants to only agree to an election when some vaguely specified condition about the changes to Deal which Johnson is supposed to be negotiating with the EU (when of course there isn’t any negotiation) are published then Labour can see if there really is an amended Deal, whereupon, if there is (but there won’t be) then maybe, perhaps, Labour will allow an election.

      Of course, it’s really all about delaying the Exit Date. Okay, Labour might just be able to do that. But why? For what purpose?

      Sooner or later, the current impasse can only be settled by some exercise of a democratic process. That’s an election or a referendum. But a referendum will need an election to create a government which wants to hold one. So by a process of elimination, it’s an election or it’s an election.

      Which still isn’t in sight.

      Politics’ Waiting for Godot

      1. DaveH

        Surely the delays are nothing more than cynical politicking by Labour to make Johnson as weak as possible and prevent the election happening on his terms?

        As per the election chat above, Johnson’s worst-case scenario is having to fight this election against Farage rather than with Farage. So any election held in November, post-extension should help them. In October it helps Johnson.

        One thing I’d certainly do is make sure that the trigger for the election is via VONC rather than via the FTPA.

        And I’d disagree a bit about this leading to a conclusion. Either a Tory / NF Party majority leading to the crash out, or an everyone else majority leading to Labour’s fudgy fudgy “renegotiated deal versus remain” referendum.

        Not that would be the conclusion of the issue, either way. But it would a result at least

        1. Clive

          A referendum which doesn’t have Leave as an option would settle nothing. There’d just be another round of all this faffing about to have another referendum, because the second referendum wasn’t legitimate.

          And having delegitimised the first referendum, how can you expect people to believe that the “problems” of the first referendum are “fixed” by another referendum?

          1. DaveH

            Labour’s renegotiated deal would be a leave option. The fact that it wouldn’t meet the ideological purity tests of the more extreme advocates doesn’t mean it’s not a leave option.

            If those people are still unhappy, then they can, and will continue to campaign for election to improve upon it as they already have done for decades.

            I don’t think that any referendum or election “fixes” this. It’s broken, and will be for a long time. As I said, it’s a result. It doesn’t mean it’s fixed.

            1. Clive

              But Labour would, apparently, campaign on Remain. They’ve veto’ed their own Deal before they’ve even negotiated it. Sooner or later, Labour will need to come out for either Leave or Remain. Yes, it’ll split the party. But Labour can’t hold itself together through another three months of this.

              1. Paul O

                I am not convinced of this on either count. They can take a clear No Deal position during an election campaign and continue to suggest they will look for a better deal and put that to a referendum.

                It is not perfect but nothing can be at this point.

      2. Tipster

        There is of course the slight possibility that May’s WA will return to the HoC thanks to the Kinnock amendment. Whether by accident or design,I suspect the former given the chaos of Parliament.

        MP’s may well have a final chance to stop no deal if that’s what they want. In the current political flux anything is possible.

        You can’t say politics is boring, well not to political anoraks that’s for sure.

      3. vlade

        Absolutely. I suspect that the Labour wants to make sure there’s an extension before it helps to call GE, which may mean GE in November, which is going to be fun (the weather impact).

        That said, I’d really really like to know whether the “let’s look at THE Deal again” amendment yesterday was passed by mistake or not. Because it was opposed and would not have passed, but now gives Johnson a way out (with the ability to blame someone else).

        1. DaveH

          I don’t really see it making a difference.

          It mandated a new vote during the (presumably agreed and accepted) extension to the A50 period.

          So things that will happen before that vote are a) the extension and b) an election.

          So Johnson either has a way out already via either holding a workable majority or being turfed out of office.

          1. vlade

            I’m not sure. I suspect that Johnson could, to deliver the Brexit by Oct 31, put the WA to a vote again. Remember, after QS in mid Oct he can do it.

            1. DaveH

              He could. But it would be nothing to do with that amendment. If he wanted to go down that road then he can anyway. He controls the Parliamentary business.

              He could probably do it on Monday if he wanted to (well, not now as it would have needed to be on the order paper today), by claiming that a new Government is a sufficiently large change in circumstances to warrant another vote in this Parliament.

              If would be hugely funny though to see him fully supporting the policy that he’s spent three months trashing. Bring it on I say.

  34. Tipster

    The woman on the Clapham ominbus, I suspect isn’t listening to anyone at the moment and just wants this all done and dusted. The party that is going to end all the shenanigans will win the prize or the poisoned chalice

    Taking a straw poll around the ‘water cooler’ yesterday, the feeling is MPs should have passed May’s deal as it is the best deal we were ever going to get. The thought of more extensions just isn’t going to wash

  35. Redlife2017

    In speaking with a local councillor (Labour) I found out a bit about the local Brexit preparations that the central government has mandated. A key problem in finding out about this is that the local governments are not allowed to let even most people in the local government know exactly what the preparations are for no-deal. Only the executive council members know specifically. And he said point blank – that was so that the preparations couldn’t be used as a political weapon. Uhhhh…it would just be nice to know exactly what sh**show is going to take place…

    But what he was willing to say publically was the following: They have 8 to 12 weeks worth of medicine. They are stockpiling 8 weeks of food. They are planning for petrol rationing where only the emergency services are allowed petrol. Those with radiological medical needs are basically screwed. Whilst he didn’t say they would die (he is a politician), he said there is no way to stockpile that. Essentially the central government will have to airlift it in (that’s my intimation from the conversation).

    Mind you that’s what he could say publically. I am absolutely certain that there are some pretty awful things they are planning on having to do (beyond food rationing). Quite honestly if Labour staves off the no deal I don’t care what they do. I was disturbed by my local councillor’s demeanour as he is normally a) very diplomatic, b) a real Corbynite, c) an extraordinarily caring man. He is obviously worried and he knows more than he can say.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > The local governments are not allowed to let even most people in the local government know exactly what the preparations are for no-deal. Only the executive council members know specifically.

      Yikes. It would take only one council member breaking silence to, well, create a little volatility… Maybe some kind soul will throw some planning documents over the transom to Naked Capitalism!

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The first job in my working life was in an English local council. One feature of them is that they make the Mafia look like amateurs when it comes to enforcing an omertà. Sometimes its for very good reasons – I had access at work to information on hazardous development sites (essentially, most of the Council area), which would have led to vast areas blacklisted by insurance and mortgage companies had they access to those maps. So it was kept undigitised and locked up in un-labled cabinets. Nobody asked for access because nobody knew it existed, that’s how the Council liked it. It was solely used for internal purposes.

        I suspect much of it came down to these being good employers in local areas, mostly employing locals. It was hard to lose a job in a Council but if you did, there were far fewer alternatives than, say, for a civil servant in London who wanted to whistleblow. There was very much a culture of sticking to your section and doing your job and not asking awkward questions – and this applied to elected members too (not that they make much of a difference in most English local governments, which thanks to FPTP are usually either exclusively Labour or exclusively Conservative domains).

    2. vlade

      TBH, I do agree with North that this is overblown unless the shortages are created by panic buying (by people or government). The government can control food/medicines etc. imports as long as it’s willing to curtail exports significantly.

      I believe that the problems would, in case of no-deal, be more on:
      – higher prices of food and fuel (the 10-20% depreciation of sterling would hit there pretty much immediately). Other items would be more expensive too, via fuel if nothing else.
      – drop of in economic activity (exports go down and anything related to exports goes down too), with an increase in job losses but with some delay (2-3 months).

      So not necessarily an immediate Armageddon which likely would lead to false confidence, but significant and prolonged recession/depression instead with a large hit to real incomes both via job losses and inflation.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’d agree with this – only panic buying is likely to provoke real shortages, although the coincidence with the build up to Christmas might well create particular problems.

        I do wonder though about Marks and Spencers. Their food halls must depend on very intricate fresh food supply lines, I can’t possibly see them being able to keep them operating through an exit. More than anything else, this will upset a lot of Telegraph and Mail readers.

        1. vlade

          I think it really depends on how (and if at all) the government decides to prioritise food imports.

          A lot of M&S fresh food imports are actually airfreight (fresh green peas from Kenya? No way it’s ship/land based import).

          One thing that did occur to me right now though is if the govt decides to prioritise imports at the cost of exports, how will the shippers react. The UK lorry operators will already not be able to do much in the EU, and will the EU operators be willing to do only half-full (i.e. deliver to the UK, return empty) trips? Maybe, if they were paid for it (at close to full price).

          So it would be further increase in the prices (as I doubt the govt would subsidy it).

          1. Anonymous 2

            My information may be out of date/misleading, but I recall discussion in the past about continued UK access to third world suppliers of fresh food (Kenya?). The problem, it was suggested, is that at least some of the time (always?) the suppliers of the produce are EU sponsored and monitored so they can export to the EU. The problem for the UK? The producers are required, by the terms of their deal with the EU, to sell only to EU member states.

        2. vlade

          I actually just read about how it is very likely that if the govt prioritises food from the EU at the expense of no exports, and with NI border, the NI farmers will likely attempt to stop any lorries crossing from Ireland with food. Don’t know how much of food imports that is..

    3. Eustache de Saint Pierre

      I imagine that there would be a maintaining social order component to that plan in case of panic & goodness knows how it will affect those who already suffer from food insecurity, like the homeless of whom approx. 235,000 of them are children & of course there are many reliant on food banks.

      Here in NI it would make the border a very much more interesting place & I dare not even think about the possibilities & the repercussions of how they would plan to maintain order here.

      I’m with you fully on Labour staving off a No Deal.

        1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

          I agree, I just worry about the possibility of perceived or real heavy handedness in NI & I imagine that any effects from shortages will hit hardest the 14 million below the poverty line who are likely in no position to stock up. If those who can afford to do panic buy, it will likely only worsen the already pretty dire situation for those at the bottom.

  36. David

    With all of the talk about an election, I think not enough attention has been given to the political and personal effects of yesterday’s defeats, and the need for Johnson now to make an approach to the 27. That, I suspect, may be the real story, and how he reacts to being told to do something he doesn’t want to do, for the first time in his life perhaps, will have a big impact on the political situation over the next few weeks. It’s clear that the government wasn’t anticipating this situation, and there may well be deep divisions within the Cabinet about how to respond. Not all Tory MPs will be happy with Johnson making rude gestures at Parliament and refusing to obey the law. Moreover, Johnson has shown himself to be unstable, incompetent and a poor judge of politics, and it’s quite likely that he will now react in a way that will further alienate members of his own party, and even split his cabinet. So yes, what Corbyn does over the date of the next election is important, but it’s not all there is.

    1. c_heale

      What’s interesting here, is that on two occasions where he had to deal with a difficult situation, he basically ran awayfrom/avoided it. The two occasions I know of, were the riots in London while he was on holiday in Canada – he refused to return to deal with the situation, and the confirmation of the new runway at Heathrow airport (he went on a day’s flight to some other country, since he had said he would lie down in front of the bulldozers or something similar – my memory fails me here).

      So, I think he will deal with this situation by doing something else and claiming he doesn’t have time to deal with it, or something similar.

      Basically he is a coward, and he will act like one.

    2. Monty

      “Johnson has shown himself to be unstable, incompetent and a poor judge of politics, and it’s quite likely that he will now react in a way that will further alienate members of his own party, and even split his cabinet.”

      No wonder Trump likes him so much!

      Trump and Bolton being such big Brexit and Johnson enthusiasts may just be enough to tip the election Corbyn’s way.

  37. vlade

    I speculated above, but will again – what if the govt calls a no-confidence vote for itself, on the last day before prorog (which effectively means that there could not be any other govt), with instruction to Tories to vote depending on what Labour does – i.e. forcing Labour to vote FOR Johnson’s government or face elections on Johnson’s terms (as abstain or voting against could get the no-confidence passed).

    1. Paul O

      Could get hectic in the division lobbies :-)

      I think at the point you would actually end up with a Corbyn lead caretaker administration. LDs that I know are starting to consider this acceptable – defeating the Johnson administration all all costs.

      1. vlade

        The point of doing it just before the proroguing is that you’d have no time to get anyone in – because the Parliament would be off for five weeks. You may get something via SO24 again, but there would be no time for any inter-party negotiations, people might have already left for the day etc. etc..

        1. Paul O

          Maybe. But would the 14 days to form an alternative government really play out any differently? Parliament would not being sitting anyway I think.

  38. vlade

    Breaking news – Johnson resigns!

    But not Bo, Jo (brother).

    Choice quote: “I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension”

    Jonsons Xmas family reunion will be fun this year..

    1. Paul O

      Someone quipped elsewhere that it was rare for a politician to quit parliament to spend less time with ones family.

    2. ChrisPacific

      I decided to listen to Johnson’s speech today (possibly not a smart decision). General thoughts:

      – While they may have a point, the number of “If even your own brother…” questions was obnoxious.
      – Is it really “Sadgid Javvid”? Or is he the certain type of Englishman that makes a point of pronouncing foreign words/names incorrectly?
      – He ‘doesn’t want an election,’ but is seriously annoyed that Corbyn won’t let him have one (he came back to this again and again)
      – I heard no evidence that he even understood the issues in question for Brexit negotiations, much less had a plan for them. He seems to be a pure positional negotiator, trusting that if he holds firm and doesn’t give ground that the other party will cave and give him what he wants. But since what he actually wants seems to be not to have to answer any of the questions, it’s difficult to see how they could even if they were willing.
      – He was asked about the “people being British and the cattle Irish” in NI. He said this offered the ‘germ of a solution’ for the border but that it must be under ‘democratic control’ of the UK.
      – He was very clear that he would not request an extension beyond 31 October under any circumstances, even if ordered to by Parliament. When asked if he would resign first, he dodged the question.
      – The much-reported fluff on the police rights sounded like him doing the Boris schtick to me, but it fell pretty flat.
      – He never talks about negotiation, consensus, collaboration or anything like that. It’s all about staying firm and sticking to your principles. I think he has the instincts of an autocrat, which means he is even less suited to minority government style horse trading than May was.

      1. vlade

        Re your last point (“staying firm and sticking to your principles”). Unfortunately, that’s what lot of people like to hear now, as they are sick of “triangulation”.

        In my experience, neither works on its own, it’s all context.

        But, here, the even more important question is what is the context? A lot of people assume that the EU-UK negotiations are the context, but, over the last three years even more so, I came to belief that it’s really all about domestic party politics and domestic power, nothing else. If you consider any of the UK parties in any other light, you’ll get to wrong conclusions.

        From that perspective, declaring yourself rather to be dead than give in is a powerful message that resonates with a lot of electorate, and thus fulfils the ‘get/keep power’ goal. Also, if you trigger elections, and no-deal is a drawn-out, boil-the-frog catastrophe (against the background of a global recession too), not an immediate Armageddon, who knows what will happen in five years?

      2. Clive

        I agree, this whole “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” line is soap-opera level discourse and while useful as a bit of background information, it’s an insult to the audience to dwell on it extensively because we’re here to get an understanding of current affairs, if we wanted to watch reruns of Central Park West, we’d do that elsewhere.

        Yes, English accented pronunciation of names, especially non-Anglo origin ones, is often very amusing and completely hopeless. But then listing to Donald Trump trying to say “Theresa May” was, erm, interesting, too.

        The Irish cattle stuff was pure Johnson — trying to bring homespun folksiness to a complex subject and mangling it beyond all recognition in the process. It was a retread of a long-dismissesd notion that the EU would put Single Market regulation in the hands of an agency outside of the EU. This is not (and picture the scene of me, typing this, where I am struggling to not crush my coffee cup then stuff the crumpled remnants into my mouth to stifle a scream) how the Single Market works. Or could ever work. Johnson knows this. It is just a talking point. At least with Johnson, certainly to a British viewer, it is patently obvious he is signaling with total clarity, he doesn’t believe what he’s just said either, he’s saying it was a straight face, but in a manner which lets us all in on the gag. For my British reader, I would simply say that Johnson — in the role of “a Prime Minister seeking a Deal with the EU” — creates a scene akin to Hattie Jacques apparently lusting after Kenneth Williams. Everyone knows the setup and the ridiculousness of the entire conceit. But that’s what makes it so funny.

        And no, Johnson has no intention of asking the EU for an extension. The opposition (or are they the quasi-Executive? It’s so hard to tell, these days) in Parliament knows it, too. There may have been some eejits who thought the “no No Deal” “law” was a genuine device they could deploy, but even they know now it is a wet noodle that’s been left out in the rain. Johnson has numerous avenues to evade it, there’s no reason for him to, politically, commit to which he’s going to do, in what order. He’ll pick the one which is most expedient and effective in terms of politics, at the time it becomes an issue. If it ever does.

        As for negotiation, compromises, strategies for engaging with other agencies and political actors — not even now a question. Johnson has pivoted the Conservative Party to a No Deal Brexit Party (although if a Deal is offered which he could sell to this newly-targeted constituency, he might not say no to it, but realises it is a slim to non-existing probability). That’s all there is to it now. May-style compromising is out the window. End of, as they say on Facebook.

  39. Paul O

    Attempting to unseat Johnson in the forthcoming election also seems worthwhile. Perhaps Phillip Hammond or Rory Stuart might stand against him as a Real Conservative – which would help other efforts already being made.

  40. PlutoniumKun

    Its hard to sum up the sheer lunacy of the past few days of UK politics, it even defies satirists, but here is my attempt at an overview of where we are as of the end of the first week in September.

    1. Johnson (or should this be Dom and Dommer?) has revealed the real strategy. Provoke an election for mid-October running aggressively on a Brexit platform in order to try to get a majority and split the opposition. Brexit is almost a side issue to Johnson’s personal ambitions. He (and D&D) are prepared to destroy the Tory Party if necessary.

    2. Johnson’s team completely botched the plan. They didn’t expect Corbyn to call their bluff on an election and they didn’t expect so many internal Tory defections. Essentially, they overplayed their hand and now find they’ve run out of cards and lost their majority. They need a new plan quickly, the question is if they can do it.

    3. There now seems a much better than before chance of a 2 month extension being requested (probably as a condition of Johnson getting his election if necessary). I can’t see the EU turn this down unless Macron or a wild card leader objects.

    4. Johnson seems all at sea and suddenly seems to have realised that being PM isn’t anywhere near as much fun as he hoped. He is very rapidly running out of goodwill on his own side, and soon this could be reflected in the polls. This could make him reconsider the quick election he claims not to want but is desperately trying to provoke. This could mean the UK just crawling over the no-deal cliff with a deeply wounded minority government in charge, let by a buffoon who has realised nobody is laughing with him anymore.

    5. This weeks loser: Johnson blew his big moment. This weeks winner: Corbyn – he successfully called Johnsons bluff and has made himself the undisputed leader of the opposition. The LibDems now will have little choice but to back him in almost anything he chooses to do. This weeks other winner: The SNP. Never interrupt your enemy….

    1. David

      Yes, that pretty much nails it. I have seen more entertaining political suicides, perhaps but not many. I would add:
      1. Johnson turns out to be just as useless as PM as many of us thought he would be, and even more quickly. Far from being a single-minded, cold-blooded machiavellian schemer, he’s an idiot telling tales full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
      2. Corbyn has come out on top by appearing, at least, to play the long game. Whether he should or should not have backed a second referendum a few months ago is now shown to be completely irrelevant.
      3. I am more than ever convinced that a major constitutional car crash is imminent. Assuming Johnson doesn’t get his two thirds majority on Monday (which seems to be the case) and that there are no other ripping wheezes (ditto) then one of three things happens:
      Johnson resigns. Anything is then possible, most of it not nice.
      Johnson refuses to ask the Queen to give her assent to the Bill. Never happened before as far as I know. Constitutional crisis, Queen dragged into politics.
      Johnson refuses to obey the promulgated law. Constitutional crisis.
      Now in the last case, it’s important to realize that laws in the UK are promulgated by the Queen, not Parliament. The usual formula is:
      BE IT ENACTED by the Queen’s [King’s] most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same …..
      The government, you’ll notice, is not mentioned. So it’s arguable that this would put Johnson on a collision course with the Queen. Whispers of ‘treason!’
      Of course if Johnson goes humbly to Brussels to request an extension that would change many things, but how likely is that, And would he survive?

      1. vlade

        1 – see above. He’s not playing to you, me or even his MPs. We’ll see maybe next week what his real audience thinks.
        2 – ditto.
        3 I agree with. Johnson asking for extension would kill any of his GE chances, he’d gift a lot of voters to BP.

        In addition to the options you name, he can also call a no-confidence vote (I’ve seen it mentioned now :) ), with a simple intention of the theatre of forcing Labour either to abstain or to vote for him, both of which would give him PR ammunition.

        TBH, I believe him refusing to obey the directly law is least likely, as that could be too much even for some of his supporters.

        IMO, most likely scenario is that he resigns once the Parliament is prorogued – and recommends someone else than Corbyn as the PM, ideally someone like Starmer or a Blairite in Labour, to stir internal Labour trouble. It will also mean that Tory conference will be an electoral one, but Labour/LD will spend a lot of their time trying to work out some reasonable cabinet.

        After Oct 14, a new NU government is formed and asks for extension for the purpose of new elections, to be run in mid November.

        Johnson will run on “If I don’t get the best deal, I’ll leave with no-deal”, and have the street cred to be believable (unlike May).

        Labour says now it will run on referendum, which Johnson will use to show Labour as party of Remain + claim that even if it would mean eventual leave, it would be at least two years down the track, so if you want Brexit now, you have to vote for him.

        There’s one spanner that Labour could throw in, which is to put the WA for a vote again, whipped for it. LD/SNP would hate it, and leave the govt, but for Labour that would be only a plus. That would mean Labour could claim to deliver Brexit, and say that if it won the elections, it would look at much closer relationship than Tories. Hints of single market/EEA could draw in LD voters to help beat Tories, since there would be no great point in voting LD either (Brexit would be done). TBH, it would be a massive gamble. If it came off, Labour could claim it secured a “deal Brexit” (even if it’s false, the UK could still find itself in the same mire down the track), and neutralise a lot of BP voters. But if it failed, it woudl likely lose more voters to LD in the upcoming elections.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          On Davids point 3 – we now know that the people around Johnson, most notably Dom, are politically incompetent, suffer acute Dunning-Kroeger Syndrome, and may well have more than one psychopath among them, and they have at their head (or their puppet, depending on who you listen to), a buffoon who is visibly flailing and out of his depth. They are also, by any historic standards, radical revolutionaries with complete contempt for legal and democratic norms, and probably humanity in general. And they control (literally and metaphorically) the nuclear button. I can’t think of a more dangerous and unpredictable combination.

      2. Clive

        I agree — along with Robert Peston, although that isn’t for me a plus as he’s useless, but, anyway… — that we are, with Johnson, riding on a one-way train to Constitutional Crisisville.

        For several reasons, not least that, here, a constitutional crisis is Johnson’s ally rather than a negative. With the refusal to support a General Election, Johnson can paint the opposition as both running scared from “the people” and also the cause of the chaos. No, it’s not strictly true, but it’s not completely false, either.

        And for another, Johnson only needs to play a waiting game. Only a Head of Government can go to the EU Council and unless he’s replaced either in a General Election or in a Vote of No Confidence which led to a Labour/Liberal Democrats/SNP coalition, that’s Johnson.

        An election will bring whatever an election brings, but a “caretaker” Prime Minister of an “emergency” government could only rescind Article 50 or try to get an extension to arrange a second referendum.

        Rescinding Article 50 without the cover of some democratic process is third-rail territory and even if it were done, sooner or later there’s still got to be an election whereby an incoming Conservative government could feel entitled to simply invoke it again.

        Trying to hold an “emergency” government together for the perhaps up to a year while a referendum was legislated for is a big ask. For one thing, how would Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP all agree on a question? And government has to, well, govern. That means setting a budget, handling day-to-day crises de jour, foreign policy stuff — how would a cabinet be constructed? What about if the SNP demanded an independence referendum as a price for sustaining the “emergency” government?

        And all of that little lot would make the voters think more favourably of Remain, when there was, eventually, maybe a referendum?

        1. PlutoniumKun

          The only gripe I’d have with your analysis is that it assumes that for Johnson and the others the no-deal is the endgame. I don’t think it is. While many Brexiters of course just want to ‘get out’, for many it is a means to an end. For Farage its a meal ticket, which means no-deal means an end to that. For Johnson it has been his passage to No.10. For others, its the way to pursue their vision of a Bolsonarian Hong Kong in the Atlantic. For many, its just a means of keeping a more right wing Tory party in power.

          For many reasons therefore, I think a core number of Brexiters would not be unhappy at all if they were thwarted at the last minute for a no-deal. So long, of course, as they can blame it on someone else and keep the whole bandwagon careering down the road with them on board. If, for example, polls and their own analysis suggest they would lose an election held in a rapidly declining economy post a no-deal, they I have no doubt they’d concoct some reason to postpone it until they can have an election before or during the exit period. This is one reason of course why they hate the WA – it means visible hard work and having to finalise unpleasant looking deals, which gets in the way of their particular visions.

          When I try to put myself in the shoes of a Tory strategist (or even Farage), with my sole job being to keep the radical side of the Tory Party in power and myself in a job, I can think of at least as many reasons to try to manipulate an extension – or even an A.50 withdrawal – as I can to go for the earliest possible no-deal. The only hurdle to be overcome is to identify work out how to ensure 100% of the blame goes to Corbyn/the SNP/Macron or whoever is to hand..

          1. David

            I think there’s a big difference between an actual constitutional crisis, where the future of a political system is in play, and a crisis about constitutional issues. Johnson may all welcome the second, but I think it’s the first that’s coming, and it threatens to destroy him because it will unleash political forces that no spin-doctor can hope to tame. A genuine constitutional crisis will test and even change the normal rules of politics, and could break the system as we know it. Johnson seems to me to be in a very tough spot, and since he has managed to familyblog up everything else for the last week, I don’t see him finding some magic solution now.
            Time would work in Johnson’s favour if everything else were equal. But it’s not. He could be replaced as PM in a number of ways, the stress is obviously taking its toll already, the longer he is PM the more mistakes he will make, and the longer the crisis goes on, the more the scope for new problems he will be unable to resolve. As I suggested earlier, the PM acts only as a plenipotentiary to the Queen in dealing with Lisbon Treaty issues, and if things get really rough, she could appoint virtually anybody to that role, just as she could appoint anyone who might command a Commons majority to be PM. Yes, that sounds bizarre, but we’ve been in science fiction territory for a while now.
            Does all this matter? Does Johnson’s political base care? Perhaps not, but the Tories don’t need to lose a lot of support to be out of government, and there must be many ordinary sensible Tory voters who are very worried this weekend. Johnson’s appeal to his base might actually be his weakness, because the base issuing to vote for you anyway . He hasn’t quite got the bit about persuading those who might vote elsewhere.

          2. Clive

            I have jested on occasions that, just as Mao decreed that China be in a state of permanent revolution (to prevent the reemergence of the bourgeoisie), then one solution for the U.K. would be to exist in a state of “permanent Article 50 notice period”!

            Slightly more seriously, I’m not sure if seasoned Brexit watchers remember back to Easter when Brexit (last) whipped itself up to the current frenzy. At the time, I ventured that, should the EU27 grant a 18-month extension (which May would have had to accept) then there was no way that the country could have stuck it out — Article 50 would get rescinded, just because everyone wanted a break. I’m not entirely joking on this as an option — should the EU27 want to pursue it, if it presents itself.

            On the flip sides, and this is where I’d need non-U.K. input as you can’t help, if you live here, to adsorb the narrowness of the domestic debate and parochial culture, I do harbour doubts — now more than ever — whether the EU27 really can put up with much more of the U.K. Aren’t you all completely fed up with us, by now?

            1. vlade

              to my non uk side it’s more like seeing that the uncle we thought excentric but interrsting and possibly briliant in some ways (think dr. who) is really bonkers(think dr strangelove)

              sad, dissapointing, but shortly not our problem anymore

            2. David

              When we discussed this back in the Spring (seems a long time ago, doesn’t it?) I made the point that most of politics is about a choice between different unattractive options. If you asked most European leaders if they wanted to give the UK an extension, they would say no. If you asked most European leaders whether they wanted the UK to crash out with damage to many of their economies and the prospect of years of crises and further negotiations, they’d say no as well. Last time, the EU chose the less unattractive option.
              What’s changed now is that May has gone, Johnson is on the ropes, and there are at last signs of a grown-up approach. The EU will want to encourage this to limit the damage. As I’ve argued for a long time, it’s in the EU’s interests to play this long, in the hope that some semblance of sanity will appear. This is happening, although it has first to negotiate the Boris problem.
              As regards France, where the media is watching events in London in dazed disbelief, it’s now clear that Macron made a substantial error last Easter in pressing for a tough line. The compromise that resulted was the worst of all worlds: no real solution, but not enough time for the problems to be resolved, and just enough time for Johnson to take over and break things, without having to pay for them. It’s hard to tell how Macron, buoyed up by the success of the G7 summit, will react, but he’s done his hardline number, and maybe now he’ll be more reasonable. Despite what’s often said, there’s no real political advantage here in being beastly to the British for the sake of it, especially when the French economy will suffer as well.

    2. vlade

      1 – yes.
      2 – I think the point there is that Corbyn finally listened to some people in his party. Remember – on Wed he was till raring to go electioneering. What suprised me on your point 2 is that so many Tories actually did do what they were signaling before Johnson was elected..
      3 – Yes the EU extension is most likely. But think of alternate universe, where Silvini would be a head of Italian government. I believe it very likely he would veto it “to help our friends in the UK”.
      4 – Johnson is much more at sea than I expected, which suggests that “Dom” is really crap at dealing with reality. Which makes him potentially very dangerous IMO.
      5 – maybe. Remember, MPs, or even us here matter less than the UK voters, and 48% are still Tory+BP. We can laugh at Johnson all we can, but we’d remember how people laughed at Trump. I don’t believe there’s a point in declaring a winner before the elections – this week IMO made few changes in the electoral numbers.

  41. ChrisPacific

    I am now seeing suggestions that one option for Boris to force an election would be to move no confidence in himself, and instruct the party to vote for it.

    The obvious counter to that would be for Labour and the opposition to vote against, thereby preventing the vote from passing, and thwarting Johnson once more.

    Part of me really hopes that this happens, so I could tell my grandchildren about it one day.

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