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Back-stabbing the back stop

by Frank Schnittger Sun Dec 2nd, 2018 at 05:21:43 PM EST

There has been much speculation as to what will happen when Theresa May loses the Commons Brexit vote, as she almost certainly will, on Dec. 11th. Most observers don't expect that vote to be even close, with some estimating a margin in excess of 100 votes. Some speculate such a defeat will finally trigger a challenge to May's leadership. But if Rees-Mogg's co-conspirators couldn't even muster 48 votes the last time around, it seems hardly likely they will be able to achieve the 158 votes required to win a vote of confidence against her leadership and trigger a leadership election.

The downside for them is that the rules dictate that they won't be able to issue a renewed leadership challenge for another 12 Months if they fail. So they had better get it right the first time around. A lot will depend on how badly she still wants the job. So far she has won some grudging admiration even from her opponents for how she has stuck to her task against seemingly insurmountable odds.

The other downside is that the rules suggest a 12 week timeline for a full leadership challenge and the election of a replacement, which almost takes us outside of the Brexit timeline altogether. It's hard to see the EU Council extending the A. 50 deadline just to allow a Prime Minister Johnson settle into his job. They have fulfilled their A.50 obligation to negotiate an exit deal. He can take it or leave it. The internal machinations of the Tory party are none of their concern.

But there is an alternative scenario...


Suppose May does lose the vote and declares that she will renegotiate the deal with the EU to "take account of the objections of the House". Conservative MPs will be reluctant to pull the trigger before they can see what alternative deal she can come up with. Of course the EU Council have declared that the negotiations are over and cannot be re-opened, but there is one change that they, just, might be prepared to consider.

The original back-stop proposal involved just Northern Ireland remaining in the Customs Union and Single market (CUSM) if no alternative solution to keeping the Irish border open could be found or agreed. The DUP objected vociferously on the grounds that that would result in a border "down the Irish sea" and threaten the Union between N.Ireland and Great Britain.

In response, Theresa May agreed to keep all of the UK within the CUSM until an agreed solution to keeping the Irish border could be found - meaning effectively no border down the Irish sea. This also enabled Theresa May to minimise disruption for UK business until such time as a comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and EU could be negotiated and agreed - and an alternative solution to keeping the Irish border open could be found.

This deal was greeted with howls of protest from both Brexiteers and Remainers, who noted that free trade deals can take many years to negotiate, and that the UK could remain stuck in the CUSM almost indefinitely, without a say in the ongoing development of its regulations, and without being able to negotiate its own trade deals or achieve full control of freedom of movement. For Remainers it was so obviously inferior to full membership. For Brexiteers the promise of a global Britain securing more favourable trade deals around the world was postponed indefinitely.

What has been less remarked upon is that it was also rejected by the DUP. For the DUP, anything, but anything, which hints at N. Ireland being treated any differently to the rest of the UK is an absolute no no, and they have a lot of practice at saying NO! Despite the fact that Theresa May's current deal offers them the best of both worlds - access to the Single Market and the UK market with no hard borders - they have rejected it outright - to the howls of protest from the N. Ireland business and agricultural lobbies, who can recognise a gift horse when they see it.

But the DUP rejection also provides Theresa May with an opportunity should she wish to grasp it. As the DUP votes are lost anyway (and as they have been making common cause with Boris Johnson) she can revert to the original backstop proposal of retaining N. Ireland, only, within the CUSM until such time as an alternative solution to keeping the Irish border has been found. This would require at least a temporary border down the Irish sea, but she can argue that there are already controls on food, livestock and agricultural products down that border, and that these have no constitutional implications for N. Ireland's status within the UK whatsoever.

She can present this "new" proposal to the Commons as an enormous concession by the EU, even thought that was the original EU proposal in the first place. Great Britain will be free to leave the CUSM any time it chooses, and N. Ireland can follow just as soon as an agreed mechanism for keeping the Irish border open has been found. The DUP has always said that should be possible using "new technology" if only there was good will all round... so they would be "hoist on their own petard" to an extent.

The DUP will of course again vote against, but Theresa May can hope to bring many more Remainer and Brexiteer votes on board to vote for a proposal which does not tie Britain to the rules of the CUSM indefinitely, or prevent it from negotiating its own trade deals.

Does this mean that Theresa May will win a second vote on this new deal? Probably not, as she doesn't have an overall majority without the DUP's 12 votes. However it does mean that the margin of defeat could be reduced from possibly over 100 to less than a dozen or so. Enough to raise hopes that a few Labour MPs could be seduced into voting for the deal by a knighthood, or frightened into voting for it as a no deal Brexit looms.

It would, at the very least, increase Theresa May's bargaining leverage with the SNP, Lib Dems, and Labour as a hard "no deal" Brexit day approaches. If she survives that long. Or even wants to.

Display:
Perhaps but:

- The margin of loss is looking like 300-400. Is it possible to bounce back from such a defeat via a market-fright and token changes?

- British business may howl about being thrown out of the backstop. But who listens to them...? Not likely to make Tory pragmatists vote for it.

But anyway, if I was in charge (ruuuunnn...), that would be the kind of thing I'd push for. Hard Brexit for GB and a somewhat softer Brexit for NI. If things remain stable in NI, this could be an economic boon for NI. Because they'd be in the UK and with one foot in the CUSM, all kinds of businesses would want to move there. God knows they need it. GB on the other hand would suffer economically, politically. And maybe they need that too.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sun Dec 2nd, 2018 at 07:19:34 PM EST
I hadn't seen that margin of loss projected before. If it's even close to that she should avoid holding a vote at all, because that margin of defeat would be impossible to recover from. It suggests she was delusional even to try. She would have to resign.

Her only option would be to try and delay the vote while she negotiates the sort of deal I suggest in the diary - without losing a vote by such a margin first - which would undermine her credibility and legitimacy.

It also raises the question of what possible alternative to no deal there could be, and who could negotiate it. Even if they decide to hold a second referendum, what options could be on the ballot paper? Hardly an option voted down by a 300-400 majority of the Commons.

This is looking more and more like no deal, even though almost no one wants it. The UK is losing the capacity to act. If there is a leadership challenge and election it could be months before there is a new Prime Minister is elected and a new government is formed.

For the moment the EU can only watch and wonder as there is a collective melt-down in Westminster. No one will be able to do anything and all sorts of wild and wonderful proposals will fill the media and political vacuum.

At the end of it all, the status quo will start to look a lot more attractive to all concerned, but how can a continuance of that even be achieved? We are in for some truly fantastical times, to quote the bold BOJO, the ghost of Churchill in waiting.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2018 at 08:10:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
She would have to resign.

Sounds inevitable. And yet it seemed inevitable after the election. I think at this point we have to assume that May can't be shamed out of the office.

by generic on Sun Dec 2nd, 2018 at 10:16:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a theory - it could be wish fulfilment - that May will have a screaming insane meltdown on the floor of the House, and will have to be led away quietly.

The other possibility is a very public and very dramatic conveniently timed terrorist attack - rather like the spate of attacks we saw just before the election, which inexplicably ended as soon as the election was over, almost as if they'd been intended to herd voters towards the so-called safe option.  

But of course that's just crazy talk, because the British Establishment would never collaborate with the violent despotic regimes it sells arms to, especially not to keep out someone who has promised to end that trade.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 08:24:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Labour - with cross-party support - have tabled an amendment that makes No Deal impossible.

I'm not expecting 300-400 against. I think most Tories - in the interests of putting party above country, and also because it will dissuade the whips from revealing the dirt they have on them - will vote for the deal, possibly further persuaded by a knighthood or perhaps a peerage, as a reward for outstanding patriotism under pressure.

So the actual majority will be less than 100, and could be at the low end of that.

My guess is the ERG will make its no-confidence move then. It all gets a bit messy at that point, but Labour will be frantically trying to push through a no-confidence and/or a second referendum vote - which may well win, and which the EU are likely to respect.

I don't think the ERG can force No Deal without massive public protests. Things are getting to the point where even the British public may be considering moving beyond mass tutting and satirical Twitter posts.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 09:31:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How does Labour's amendment make no-deal impossible? As far as I can tell it makes it impossible for the government to manage the consequences of no-deal which is a different proposition.

It's like preventing a car crash by disabling the airbag.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 6th, 2018 at 10:47:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it is the revocation of Art 40 if you read it backwards?
by generic on Thu Dec 6th, 2018 at 11:45:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is this the amendment in question:

https://mobile.twitter.com/hilarybennmp/status/1068209119683928067

?

by fjallstrom on Thu Dec 6th, 2018 at 12:41:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently it's been superseded by an amendment by Dominic Grieve.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 6th, 2018 at 03:23:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've seen suggestions that the margin of loss is being exaggerated to manage expectations and make the actual margin of loss look like a win.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 10:18:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
117 days until March 29, 2019.

9 days until December 11, 2018 when the UK parliament in all likelihood votes down by a massive margin the only deal they're likely to get.

So it is looking like the UK goes Brexity* (= in an unsuitable or undesirable manner or direction) 106 days before Brexit.

* h/t  epochepoque

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Dec 2nd, 2018 at 09:21:09 PM EST
And the UK goes all Brexity just because the Irish got all uppity...

There must be a Limerick in their somewhere...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 01:56:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem with all this speculation, and the reason I'm doing very little of it, is that the situation is so chaotic that predictions are nonsense.

We're down to three outcomes at the end of March 2019: this deal, (with or without changes to the political declaration, which has no legal weight and I doubt the EU would care about changing), no-deal or no Brexit. The EU have no motive to renegotiate the important part of this deal - from their point of view there's four years of negoatiating with a third country before the backstop is even triggered, so what's the big issue?

It seems to me that which of those outcomes falls out of the maelstrom is beyond prediction. Common sense is useless in dealing with desperate, shallow ideologues and narcissists, the UK political system has broken down, the civil service are being ignored, the polity is clueless - it's been suggested that a third of people think "No deal" means "status quo".

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 10:10:19 AM EST
"Common sense is useless in dealing with desperate, shallow ideologues and narcissists, the UK political system has broken down, the civil service are being ignored, the polity is clueless."

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 12:57:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it's been suggested that a third of people think "No deal" means "status quo".

Which has been my theory all along. It may take a couple of years of near chaos for people generally to realise that the dear old EU they so hated may not have been the cause of all their problems all along.  Trouble is, by that stage A.49 will be their only option, and that may give Macron his opportunity to have his De Gaulle moment...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 02:11:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
there you go

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 02:50:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your abstinence is noble, your eschewing all predictions, wise. It is difficult to be found wanting or wrong in those circumstances. However, what fun you are missing! Where is your gambling buzz? Where are your predictive instincts?

There is art of finding reason in irrationality, beauty in ugliness, wisdom in the truly stupid. Let us revel in the human condition as found in Westminster, without gloating in misfortune, exulting in schadenfreude, or laughing in the face of disaster.

There but for the grace of the gods go we. Our parents had to deal with worse.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2018 at 03:06:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know it's the Canary, but apprently Westminster has gone onto election alert.

Canary - Theresa May spilled the beans. The Tories are preparing for a general election.

Theresa May has been promoting new Conservative prospective parliamentary candidates on social media. Labour's disciplinary office - known as the `Whips' - saw the photos as evidence of preparation for a general election.

And there are growing signs that might be right.



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 05:53:00 PM EST
Government has just been defeated 3 times, including "no deal cannot happen" & government found in contempt

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 06:09:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the turkeys are voting for Christmas?


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 07:33:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's a sign of desperation. I think they'll do a lot of TV in the next couple of weeks talking up the govt position and how this is the only way to rescue brexit, because until the electio s called the BBC are under no obligation to even pretend to be even-handed.
Then go to the country on the claim that Labour will not deliver anything but unknowable chaos, so vote for the chaos you know

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 07:39:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Turkeys always vote for Christmas. What do you think the referendum was?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 07:44:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Samuel Beckett's previously unstaged last play?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 07:47:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually this could be the best move for the Tories.  They hand the mess over to Labour and when it all goes pear shaped get to beat Labour about the head and shoulders for the next 50 years for it.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 07:36:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other hand, it could be a bluff to scare conservatives into voting for the deal, as the alternative is a certain General Election and a likely defeat to Corbyn et al...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 07:48:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even with all this shit the Tories are a few points ahead in polling. Could this be a play to (a) get back the majority, (b) get rid of a good chunk of the ERG cohort (unlikely), (c) get rid of Corbyn by him losing a second consecutive election? All to get it through?

The problem of course being: there is no fucking time for all this.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Tue Dec 4th, 2018 at 08:58:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The only demographics (still) firmly for Brexit are pensioners and the working class.

Labour still doesn't want to fight an election on remaining in the EU.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Dec 5th, 2018 at 07:58:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only thing the polled people seem to be in favor of is "renegotiating with EU if May deal fails". To which the EU already replied: 'no dice'.
by Bernard on Wed Dec 5th, 2018 at 08:21:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's almost touching, this naive sense of entitlement.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.
by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Wed Dec 5th, 2018 at 10:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at those numbers having a position, any position, on Brexit is hardly a vote winner.
by generic on Wed Dec 5th, 2018 at 09:13:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Economist thinks a second referendum is just peachy.

The best way out of the Brexit mess - The Economist

The government's struggle to get the deal through Parliament exposes a crack that Brexit has created at the heart of Britain's democracy. Most MPs believe, with reason, that Mrs May's imperfect compromise is worse than the status quo. As the people's elected representatives, they have every right to block it. On the other hand, the referendum of 2016 gave them a clear instruction to leave. Although that vote carries no legal weight, it has taken on a moral force like little else. Today's paralysis is the result of Britain's inability to reconcile its tradition of representative democracy with its more recent experiments in the direct sort.

Many argue that MPs should shut their eyes and vote for what they believe to be a damaging plan, out of respect for the referendum. They are wrong. Their argument rests on a flawed assumption: that the majority for Leave in 2016 means any resulting deal reflects the will of the people. It is far from clear that Mrs May's plan does. It breaks many of her own negotiating red lines, never mind the promises made by campaigners in the run-up to the vote. The government has largely given up arguing that its deal will be good for the country, instead insisting that it is what democracy demands. Yet no one can claim to intuit what the people want. The only way to know is to ask them.

Mrs May's deal is not the turkey that hardline Leavers and Remainiacs claim. The notion that a Brexiteer could simply hop on a train to Brussels and negotiate a better one is fatuous. The prime minister has made it her priority to bring the free movement of people to an end--a bad idea in our view, but hardly an unpopular one. That entails leaving the single market, a big loss. But she has otherwise kept about as close an economic relationship with the EU as possible, partly to avoid introducing new border checks in Northern Ireland.

by Bjinse on Thu Dec 6th, 2018 at 07:58:33 PM EST
What is the --one, specific-- question that The Economist author proposes to present to citizens of the UK on the occasion of the next referendum?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Thu Dec 6th, 2018 at 09:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps "Should Article 40 notification be revoked?"

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 7th, 2018 at 03:41:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
searching ... searching ...

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Dec 7th, 2018 at 06:34:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I expect May to resign after losing the vote on Tuesday, no matter for what margin. Afterwards there is no way forwards for her and her government, whatever political initiative is left, it will be all with Parliament.

Long term no idea how this will end. I would only note that any scenario other than no-deal requires the timely agreement of both the House of Commons and the EU institutions. Beyond me how is that going to happen.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Fri Dec 7th, 2018 at 12:31:48 PM EST
In any ordinary circumstance most Prime Ministers would have resigned by now, having lost so many vital votes and having been found in contempt of Parliament. But evidently no one else wants the job right now as the realisation dawns that there is no good Brexit deal possible, and that there will be hell to pay when the electorate finds out.

So May may be allowed to "soldier on" "riding into the valley of death" where no one wants to lead and few enough follow. The DUP are keeping the conservatives on life support by not voting "no confidence" in the government although they are opposing much else. However they have said they will vote no confidence if May's deal is passed by the House of Commons.

The position if there is a Tory Party leadership challenge is even more fraught as the process of challenging, voting no confidence in, and replacing a leader is supposed to take 12 weeks. I doubt the EU Council would extend A.50 just to let a new Brexiteer Prime Misnister be elected...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 7th, 2018 at 07:14:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
May's primary distinguishing characteristic is her stupidity.  Anyone with the brains of a gnat would have refused to lead their country off a cliff and never sent the damn stupid Article 50 letter.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Dec 7th, 2018 at 09:50:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
no, tbh that is not just unfair, it mistakes where her problem lie.

It is not that she is stupid bu she but she has an extrordinary lack of emotional intelligence.

She is also prone to fixation on one approach, she is famous for her inability to be flexible in negotiations. Her tendency is that it must be her way or no way. Which is all very well when she is working from a standpoint of strength but, in the current circumstances, she will always deliver far less than was possible because she does not recognise opportunities to trade one postion for an alternative.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Dec 9th, 2018 at 04:46:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That last fairly well describes "stupidity" to me.  I concede YMMV


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Dec 9th, 2018 at 07:43:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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