Brexit: Out of Runway

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Can someone get me whatever large swathes of Fleet Street seems to be smoking? It’s one thing for the dog that caught the car, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. to believe what he is selling. And it is conceivable that Johnson is so high on his personal mythology and actually being Prime Minister that he believes his blather (although my take is he is a prototypical bullshitter, as in the truth is of no importance to him, plus a gambler, who figures he still has a chance as long as the game is on). It’s another for adults who appear to be in possession of operating brain cells to treat his Brexit plans as having any possibility of getting done. But then again, participants in the Tory conference are also pretty mullered:

Putting aside the fact that Johnson’s scandal with his busty female friend is also getting garnering press interest, the press is back in horserace mode. Johnson is about to present his plan to the EU! And he’s demanding that they nix an extension too! Per The Times:

Boris Johnson is asking the European Union to rule out a further extension to Article 50 as part of a new Brexit deal, The Times has learnt. The prime minister will publish a legal text spelling out his proposed alternative to the Irish backstop within days as negotiations with Brussels enter a crucial period. He has privately made clear that an agreement should include a commitment from the 27 other EU nations that they will not allow another Brexit delay. Mr Johnson’s intention is to confront MPs in parliament with a binary choice of agreeing the revised deal or ensuring that Britain falls out of the EU without agreement at the end of the month. If he succeeds, the prime minister will, in effect, nullify the Benn Act, which compels him to seek an extension to Article 50.

As those of us who are sober, which includes EU negotiators, know all too well, even if Johnson were to cinch a deal, this Parliament would not have voted it through even before he infuriated most MPs with his Jo Cox remark.

And he has already presented a deal which Ireland has rejected:

Tony Connelly ferreted out the details:

The higher-level write-up at RTE:

The UK has proposed the creation of a string of customs posts along both sides of the Irish border as part of its effort to replace the backstop…

The proposals would effectively mean customs posts being erected on both sides of the border, but located perhaps five to ten miles ‘back’ from the actual land frontier…

Even more controversial is a proposal that the goods moving from a so-called “customs clearance site” on the northern side of the border to a similar site on the southern side would be monitored in real time using GPS via mobile phone data, or tracking devices placed on trucks or vans….

Under the British proposals, both the UK and EU would create what are believed to be called “customs clearance sites”, but to all intents and purposes a customs post.

Traders would have a choice of either a straightforward customs declaration which would have to be lodged and cleared on either side of the border, or the so-called ‘transit’ system.

Under a transit scheme, the exporter becomes a registered ‘consigner’ at base, and the importer becomes a registered ‘consignee’.

The method requires a bond from a financial institution to guarantee that the relevant customs duty, excise and VAT have been paid and that the goods do not go illegally off the beaten track en route.

The tweetstorm points out this would take a lot of tech tracking and politely intimates that there would be a lot of hostility toward that from the citizenry.

Connelly also points out that this scheme hasn’t yet been presented to EU 27 diplomats. The scheme is to be presented shortly after the Tory conference ends, and it’s possible they’ll be revised. But it’s hard to think that the Government will come up with anything much different.

In the meantime, the Independent says the EU not surprisingly has low expectations:

The UK is set to bring forward concrete proposals for the Irish border after Tory conference this week, to minimise their political impact on the government. But diplomats from the EU27 are concerned the plans could turn out to be “rubbish”.

Concepts presented so far by the UK were described as “way short of being a basis” for actual detailed negotiations, diplomats believe.

The loyalist press has nevertheless been playing up the notion that the Government has some sort of secret sauce. From Richard North:

That one thing – that proposals will soon be on their way to Brussels – is hardly a secret. We are getting multiple press reports that the UK’s proposals for replacement of the backstop have been finalised. However, there is a twist to this story. The Telegraph is claiming that the “final plan” will be first delivered “to EU leaders” within the next 24 hours.

This will be done “in a series of calls to EU capitals” ahead of a formal text being delivered to Brussels after Johnson’s speech to the Tory conference on Wednesday.

The Independent confirmed that Johnson intends to go to the EU states, end-running Brussels….a strategy that worked so well for Theresa May.

Johnson in the meantime is spinning that the press has gotten his plans wrong enough to make a difference. From the BrexitCentral newsletter:

In the last few minutes [AM London time], Boris Johnson has been interviewed on Radio 4’s Today – his first appearance on the programme since becoming Prime Minister – where he where he confirmed that he would be tabling new proposals “fairly shortly”, although insisted he would “veil our proposals in decent obscurity” until they had been shared with his “European friends”. He did however say that some of the speculation about his plans in the media today was “not quite right” and specifically said the idea of customs posts away from the Irish border was “not what we’re proposing”, while insisting that “a sovereign united country must have a single customs territory”. On the idea that he was asking the EU to rule out extending the Article 50 period again, he said “we haven’t made any such request”, but asserted that “they want to get this done as much as we do” and that no purpose is served “by corralling the UK against its will in the EU”.

The Government will have its plans revealed very shortly, and very soon after that, the entirely predictable EU rejection. What does Johnson do then? And how does the “too deep in this for their own good” press respond?

There is a well developed psychological literature that when people hold strong views and are given authoritative information that contradicts them, they double down on their prior. So the likely outcome is an even shriller warble from the hard core Brexiteers. But what will their defense be?

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  1. ChrisPacific

    So the solution is to have a hard border that isn’t actually on the border, and claim that it technically qualifies as keeping the actual border open. That would seem to offer all the disadvantages of an actual hard border, while creating a kind of legal no man’s land in the gap between the real and enforced borders as a bonus.

    The small problem of attempting to comply with a condition in narrow technical terms, while actually doing the opposite in practice, is that the EU needs to agree. Johnson surely can’t be so dumb as to think they will do so. I suspect that he is not, and that this is largely for domestic consumption.

      1. Math is Your Friend

        Personally, I suspect that the EU is also his audience.

        What he probably wants to do is to convince the EU that Britain is an incorrigible trouble maker, that they do not want to take back into the Union, even if Britain asks to return. That could sabotage any attempt to re-enter for quite some time.

  2. The Rev Kev

    I claim no expertise with the issue of Brexit nor am I that well versed with the intricacies of all the twists and turns of the legal aspects. Nonetheless I am going to say that this idea of Boris’s for a solution to the Irish border problem is a non-starter and that he knows it. I can only conclude then that he is deliberately trying to run down the clock for Brexit to crowd out any serious ideas or solutions in the remaining time except for his ultimate “vision”. The man is a consummate bs artist but he is doing no favours to the UK by this course of action. Of course, in case he is serious about this idea, then that can only mean that the Brexit “party” has adopted a theme song for themselves-

    1. BillK

      That’s correct. Boris is in electioneering mode. He knows that the EU will not accept any of his ‘ideas’ but he has to create a cloud of confusion to give himself time to run down the clock.
      Whether or not the UK leaves the EU on 31 Oct is less important than setting himself up for a landslide election victory after 31 Oct.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If Johnson got near-100% vote in England, a minority in Wales, and near-zero in Scotland; would Wales and Scotland attempt to seccede from the UK, announce themselves to be Independent Nationas, and seek admission into the EU?

        And if so, would the EU accept a Welsh and a Scottish Republic into the EU?

  3. PlutoniumKun

    On the general point of ‘what are they smoking?’, this article by sociologist William Davies in this morning’s Guardian is well worth reading for those wondering how the British establishment (because that’s what the Tory party is supposed to be) managed to lose its senses.

    What does the Conservative party stand for in 2019? If you survey the central tenets of Tory ideology from the past 50 years, it is hard to find a single one that is still intact.

    The party of business is hellbent on undermining access to an export market of half a billion people. The party of law and order is now raging against the judiciary – with senior Tories being regularly asked whether their government intends to obey the law.

    The party of “family values” – “back to basics”, as John Major put it – has now fallen for the charms of a famous philanderer, who is currently being dogged by questions about how his “close friend”, Jennifer Arcuri, was awarded £126,000 of grants during his time as London mayor. The party of the establishment is provoking a constitutional crisis, angering the Queen and expelling some of its most distinguished MPs from its benches.

    A large part of the answer is the media.

    Over those 30 years, there was one force in Britain’s public life that never gave up on the Tories: the press. All those resentments that took the place of conservative ideology – the loathing of multiculturalism, Brussels, Blairism, immigration, and the vast riches being made in London – were given a safe space in the pages of the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph. With their constant attacks on all symptoms of liberal globalisation, these papers provided the incubator for the rage currently sweeping British politics, during the long years when national borders and rural England were out of political fashion.

    With one of those newspapers’ favourite sons ensconced in No 10, the boundary between the opinion pages and Westminster has dissolved. The resentments that had brewed for decades – towards “political correctness” and the milieu of metropolitan graduates – now flood public life, with the arrival of a prime minister who speaks his mind as recklessly at the dispatch box as he once did on the page. What these forces of reaction stand for is not “free markets” or “private enterprise”, but the sort of back-scratching, long-lunching privileges that once made the establishment tick.

    The collapsing division between Conservative party and conservative press has produced an optical illusion in which the concerns of the party are constantly mistaken for those of the country. One of the curiosities of David Cameron’s recent round of memoir-promoting interviews was his complete inability to distinguish between “Europe” as a problem facing the nation (where fewer than 10% of the public deemed it to be an important issue, right up to 2016), and Europe as a problem ripping through the Tory party.

    It is baffling that a subject that only interested maybe 10% of the population at any given time has now risen to consume the entire country.

    As to the point – Johnson must surely know those proposals will be laughed out of Europe. The Irish government isn’t even pretending to be polite anymore, and I doubt the other capitals will be any more hospitable. They know the proposals aren’t serious and that even if they agreed to them, Johnson could not get them past Parliament.

    1. Briny

      You could easily make the same observation about the Democrats and the never-ending Impeachment of Trump saga here in the US. I certainly have.

  4. vlade

    Island of Ireland, meet Korean peninsula.

    Except you’ll probably have people living in in the DMZ that Johnson wants to build, so I’m really curious how he’s going to handle that. Or will those people need to do their shopping, moves, farm purchases and what have you via these “custom clearance sites”?

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yeah, that’s why its so laughable – anyone who wonders why it won’t work only needs to open googlemaps and scan along the border area. There are numerous cross border movements made every day by locals just going about their business on hundreds of crossing points.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen a proposal dismissed with such contempt by an Irish government minister before (at least, not one made by a foreign leader). It takes a rare move to unite Sinn Fein and a Fine Gael minister (not to mention every other politician on the island), but Bojo has managed to do it. Even the DUP have been conspicuously silent, as they know full well their rural border supporters will be horrified by it.

  5. New Wafer Army

    This is so frustrating. When I read about the custom post, sorry centre, proposal I just put my head in my hands and said FFS. They’re not even trying. This is just so insulting to Irish people. And the British press will still scream that it’s all the fault of obstreperous, jumped up Ireland and their allies, the evil EU.

    With apologies to British readers, I now hope a very heavy rain will fall on the UK. I will gladly eat potatoes, mackerel and butter every day of the week if it means even greater discomfort for Britain. When the British proles finally revolt, it will not be pretty, but it may ‘Let all the poison that lurks in the mud, hatch out.’

    Once again, I am not Brit-bashing, just exasperated by the nonchalant, jolly-chappy malignancy of Boris & Co.

    1. Harry

      Sometimes a little reality is the only cure for what ails.

      Sadly the wrong lesson is bound to be drawn. Its going to be the fault of that terrible Jeremy Corbyn, dont you know.

      1. wilroncanada

        PK — A little levity is sometimes needed. It wasn’t paper though, it was clay tablets sent from on high.
        A question though: If the dog ate them, why is Boris Sh***ing bricks?

  6. @ape

    JoJo: “a sovereign united country must have a single customs territory”

    And there’s the nub that he finally accidentally explained. The “border problem” isn’t a border problem per se — it’s that the UK wants to disambiguate the status of NI from being a shared sovereignty zone to part of a clearly united country. That’s obviously something that a not insignificant portion of the NI population do not want (they prefer the current ambiguity, both identity-wise and legally), and it’s obviously something that goes against the long-term aim of the RI, given it’s historical role and development.

    I understand why the diplomats won’t say this — I just don’t understand why analysts go along with the diplotalk rather than facing the issue here directly: a clear border means a clear sovereignty; an ambiguous border is part and parcel of the ambiguous and dynamic sovereignty which is the key to the GFA.

    There is no sustainable solution that isn’t either BRINO or involves giving up the NI.

    1. FKorning

      I guess that’s why the bailiwicks of the channel islands and the tax havens of the west indies are bound by the same fiscal and commercial laws as the rest of the UK right? oh. sorry.

  7. Clive

    The problem you have there is, for your typical British prole, there’s little that is more annoying than the Liberal intelligentsia (which is the antimatter to Toryism’s positive matter) in full-on holier-than-thou pompous indignation that its divine right to have a monopoly on thought-leadership and role as spokesmodel for the “ordinary people” has been resoundingly kicked to the curb by the aforementioned proletariat.

    Remain has got itself stuck in this close association with metropolitan goodthinkers and while it cannot free its ideological basis from their grasp, it’s not going to have the working or even the lower middle class joining it in fighting the supposedly good fight.

    Or, to put it another way, when I went back the the (grimly deprived by most measures) South Wales valley town, where my mother grew up, a few weeks back, they’d politely (hmm… maybe not that politely, actually) have told you where you could stick your appeal for your mass uprising.

    (intended as a reply to New Wafer Army, above, but which WordPress seems to have mangled out-of-sequence for some reason!)

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, Clive.

      As someone whose origins are far from these shores, may I add that having the likes of Gina Miller, Anand Menon, Femi, Ayesha Hazarika etc. lecturing, if not patronising, my fellow proles, yokels and country bumpkins from rural Buckinghamshire about the benefits of remain is not going to work. I find them, Blairite scoundrels and opportunits frankly, quite repellent.

      I look forward to meeting you on Thursday evening.

      1. PeteW

        Will Bott discusses the “annoying Liberal intelligentsia” trope here.

        It seems clear that it is a resentment of education and smarts rather that a genuine attack on the arrogant, unearned elitism of the true “Establishment”.

        I don’t feel lectured to or patronised by Gina Miller, or anyone else who is in command of their brief, at all: rather I find her clarity of thought, courage, and willingness to put her time, money and well-being where her mouth is thoroughly admirable.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you.

          That may be so to Will Bott, but he should get out of London more.

          A few months ago, Polly Toynbee, perhaps writing from her Tuscan bolt hole, wrote about (Lexiter) working class men with northern accents. She’s not the only one to let slip the mask of (centrist) moderation.

          Guardian rabbit hole contributor “Fripouille”, a Brit commenting from France, implies that leave voters, especially Lexiters, are embittered losers. Perhaps, they have a right to be.

          I used to work for a trade association that Gina and Alan Miller’s firm belonged to. I can assure you that it’s not her money at risk and she’s more than happy to court the limelight.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Its a huge problem, but I’m not sure what the solution is. There are plenty of solid Remainer ‘proles’ – I know quite a few of them. The Three Blokes are obvious examples (well, two of them anyway). But somehow the Intelligentsia always insists on nominating one of themselves to be the public face.

      The right of course have always been expert in persuading everyone that their establishment wealthy spokespeople are ‘of the soil’. Farage being an obvious example, but the Tories are full of them. All the right wing papers seem to specialise in ‘plain speaking’ Jeremy Clarkson types. People seem to fall for this stuff so easily.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you and well said, PK.

        Funnily enough, Clarkson is a remainer, as per, and not as big a fan of (American) laissez faire as one might imagine. Some of his programmes in the early noughties were quite clear about his European sympathies.

        Out of that deracinated elite called the Chipping Norton set, which includes Clarkson and Cameron, only Boris Johnson and the (JC) Bamford clan are leavers.

        Sometimes, I wonder if Brexit is a bust up in the elite with the rest of us caught in the cross fire. Too often the people fronting either side of the argument, as per my comment above, are neo-liberal, some pro-EU and some not.

        With regard to your latter point, one wonders where the leftist plain speakers are? They are certainly not in the middle class plaything called Momentum. The only lefties allowed on the air waves, Owen Jones and Ash Sarkar, are fakes and know where their bread is buttered.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Hey, I didn’t know that about Clarkson, my bad in making assumptions about his opinions.

          One Irish neolib politician once said that she was ‘more Boston than Berlin’ in her politics, and I think there is an element of that split among the neolibs. I suppose you could say its a conflict between the mainstream corporatist wing and the libertarian types, the latter hate any type of international structure as they somehow imagine without them they’d be free to go and buy islands everywhere to set up a chain of HK’s and Singapores, just without the respective health systems.

          I can’t recall his name right now, but there is a US academic who has written quite perceptively about the very radical schisms between mainstream Anglosphere right wing thought, it is impressive how they usually keep these things in-house, unlike the left.

          On that subject, in Ireland the one elected member of the Socialist Party has just split from his party to form another one. Only in Ireland could a one-person party actually have a schism.

  8. Jacques

    If Ireland invade Northern Ireland today and annexe it I believe Boris Johnson would be very grateful.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Jacques.

      I would not be surprised if the Brexiteers sold the Unionists down the river. Gerry Adams and Martin MacGuinness did say that if ever Irish unity was to be achieved, they expected it with a Tory government.

    2. Joe Well

      How much would Johnson have to offer them in backchannels to get them to do it? Probably more than could be kept off the UK books. And since no one trusts Johnson’s word, anyway, the Irish would probably say no.

      Maybe one of the noble US intelligence agencies could step in and offer some money they found in the couch cushions? I am really not being sarcastic, this kind of thing is right up their alley, only instead of backing separatists (Donbass, Tibet, Iraq), they’d be backing reverse-separatists.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, Juncker is a famous drunk but he isn’t a negotiator. Plus he is reputedly sober until noon.

      And the really scary bit is while he looked like a clown during the 2015 Greek bailout negotiations, repeatedly trying to get a bigger role for the European Commission and every time getting slapped down, he’s looked positively statesmanlike compared to the revolving door of UK officials who’ve trekked to Brussels.

      Will fix the typo, thanks.

      1. Harry

        Absolutely, but any opportunity to include video footage of my favorite EU official in action.

        Totally agree. BoJo’s greatest achievement to date is making Junker look like Metternich.

  9. David

    Part of the explanation for this behaviour, banal as it may seem, is simple ignorance and lack of vision. As I’ve said before, none of the main players in this ghastly saga has ever been through real crisis, and the scope of what is likely to happen is too massive for them to understand and internalise. So they take refuge in things they can at least understand, even if their proposals are laughably inadequate. At some point, I suspect , perhaps in the last few days, the current denial of reality will be replaced by total panic, at which point there will be some (grim) amusement to be had.
    The other part of the explanation, I think, is that political time moves at a different pace to time for the rest of us. In political time, 31 October is years, even decades away, and anything may happen between now and then. It was always the case that politicians were fixated on the next day or so, but with social media that’s down to the next few minutes. Events in the calendar a few weeks away seem impossibly distant and unreal by comparison, and who knows, something may turn up.
    Many years ago I was involved in a genuine crisis, although thankfully on a much smaller scale, and I pointed out to my then boss that we were about to do something silly, which we would certainly regret later. “You’re probably right” he said “but we’ll worry about that later. At the moment we have a crisis to deal with and Ministers are freaking out.” And I was right, and we did regret it, but the political system was so obsessed with its own navel that it couldn’t think beyond the end of the day, much less the end of the week.
    It’s what will happen when the crisis can no longer be ignored that I find frightening, though.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      This is just it. I find it weird the sort of cognitive dissonance I see all the time with Brexit – even people who understand the consequences just get sucked into commenting on the day to day soap opera, without really absorbing the true potential impact. As you’ve pointed out before, the UK political system is breaking down entirely – the PM has questionable authority to govern, Parliament can’t make a decision, the cabinet is breaking down, and there is little prospect, even with an election, of this getting any better – even if Bojo or Corbyn won a majority (both unlikely events).

      This is not like Belgium going with a government for a year, this is a political meltdown in action, right in the teeth of a potential economic calamity. Yet the media gives no indication of this at all, and even business and the markets seem to be trundling on without any particular problem. It really is quite bizarre, and the only precedents I can think of are those accounts of a strange sort of normality taking hold before a war breaks out. I can only assume that this is what comes of having several generations in a row having lived in relatively speaking, great comfort, without ever facing a genuine calamity, of the sort that has happened in living memory of many continental Europeans.

      1. notabanker

        This is basically my reaction to about 90% of the stories on NC, PK. It’s like there are no consequences for the complete lack of responsibility on full display in capitalism, and everything will just work out OK, because someone else, or something else will come along and fix it all.

        When the food stops showing up in the grocery stores, or the electricity is gone in the middle of winter, the hard reality will settle in, and by then it will be too late.

    2. Joe Well

      But politicians aren’t always that short-sighted. Cameron fell on his sword rather than trigger Article 50. Why aren’t more politicians willing to do that?

    3. Anonymous 2

      Thank you David. Very perceptive and interesting comments as always.

      My worry is that in Johnson we have a Prime Minister who may in fact be mentally disturbed and would actually enjoy seeing the UK in major crisis. I wish I did not have these anxieties but, the more I learn about the man, the more I question his sanity. These are deeply worrying times.

      1. Tony Wright

        Yes, maybe substitute the odd spliff or two for all that cognac and red wine and Bojo’s decisions might be a little more cautious…..

    4. flora

      and I pointed out to my then boss that we were about to do something silly, which we would certainly regret later. “You’re probably right” he said “but we’ll worry about that later. At the moment we have a crisis to deal with and Ministers are freaking out.” And I was right, and we did regret it, but the political system was so obsessed with its own navel that it couldn’t think beyond the end of the day, much less the end of the week.

      I wonder… were you afterward shunned by those who you’d expressed doubts about the plan? In larger bureaucracies it’s almost a crime to be ‘prematurely right’ when most others are wrong. (old joke). Someone high up the chain decides something sounds good, so people farther down the chain agree it sounds good, so that sets the “who could deny the rightness of this” approach to whatever, no matter how many sensible people say it might not be a good idea for various reasons. Group think in action, which is more about agreeing with the group than about thinking, imo.

  10. Winston Smith

    Driving back from a visit to the Great North, I was listening to an extended interview on CBC of David Cameron who has a book out. The whole thing left me shaking my head as the interviewer did not seem to have a grasp of the Brexit issues (despite claiming that she lived in London at the time) or just did not want to press the august ex-prime minister. Pathetic-CBC really going down. The podcast can be found here (

  11. James

    I would like to see Britain exit the EU, and I happen to think that those who are anti-Brexit have more in common with the cult members described in When Prophecy Fails than I do. First the “experts” said that if Britain didn’t join the EMU that its economy would suffer greatly – that turned out to be completely wrong. Then we were told that the EMU was going to work because countries that didn’t follow germanic fiscal policies would be fined (which never made much sense but never mind) and yet the EMU has turned out to be a disaster. Now we are told that if Britain leaves the EU that its future will be ruined. I would say that it is the “we need a United State of Europe, a customs union isn’t enough” crowd who Leon Festinger should be studying if he was still with us.

    1. fajensen

      Me too! I have made some beer from the hops in the garden and brought some BEAR certificates, both should be ready around the 31’st. I have popcorn also, so it will be quite a feast.

  12. Freddo

    There is an excellent article in the Guardian which makes the point that at the heart of Boris’ strategy is an acknowledgement that a no-deal exit would be a disaster for the country and, more importantly, him personally. He wants to avoid that at all costs. Seen in that light, his plan seems to have been:
    1. Force an election BEFORE 31 October during which he would be the champion of the Brexiteers and before any no-deal repercussions. That strategy failed miserably when Labor refused to take the bait. Further, disastrously, MPs actually took Boris seriously. The Benn Act said BORIS had to seek an extension. No wonder Boris was pissed off with the 21 rebels. Was sacking them an attempt to precipitate an election?
    2. Since then, Boris has been screaming about a no-deal exit and there has been talk about loopholes in the Benn Act. But Boris does not want loopholes. He does not want a no-deal exit on his watch. He will resign and force the opposition parties to seek the extension. He will put the responsibility in their lap. Then, he will fight an election as the champion of the Brexiteers.
    So, my prediction is that Boris is going to resign before 31 October. He obviously does not want a deal and he does not want a no-deal brexit. He wants to offer his tripe the PROSPECT of a no-deal exit without the pain.

  13. ambrit

    “What will their defense be?”
    I fear that this lot have taken hold of the aphorism that; “The best defense is a good offense,” and run with it, straight towards a cliff.
    As goes the joke, “The falling part is fine, it is the sudden stop that hurts.”
    I fear that Parliament will not survive this crisis intact. Perhaps an “Executive Cabinet” form of governance is next. Let’s give Whitehall a break and call it “The Mandarinate.”

  14. DaveH

    Parliament to be prorogued again next week. A theory:

    Pomp and circumstance for the Queens Speech lasts all that week. The vote happens the day before the European Council meeting and the Benn Act coming into force.

    The Government loses the vote on the Queens Speech. Johnson stands up and says “I have lost this vote, which tradition treats as a vote of confidence. I therefore no longer see myself as Prime Minister, will not be going to represent the UK at the EC meeting and do not consider myself to be the person to whom the Benn Act refers. So I ain’t writing no letter to nobody”

    He sits down, does nothing.

    What then?

    A court case is no longer “has the Prime Minister broken the law” and a court order is easily obtained to fix it. But “is he the Prime Minister if he claims precedent says he isn’t?” which eats up time.

    By the time the court says “yes, you are still Prime Minister” there is no time for anyone go do anything.

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