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Brexit: The Final Furlong

J.J. Patrick photo
J.J. PatrickUnited Kingdom
Brexit: The Final Furlong
As reality lands, there are still people who believe a no deal outcome automatically means Brexit will not happen. This is a dangerous fantasy.

As we enter the last stretch of the negotiating period, which concludes in 6-8 weeks, Prime Minister Theresa May attended the EU summit in Salzberg, taking a tone which the remaining 27 members saw as aggressive. The upshot was a very public dressing down which sent her home with a flea in her ear. 

The Chequers deal is not acceptable to the EU, leaving no workable deal on the table.

With not even the bad deal which is Chequers on the table, the national position is somewhat  crystallised.

For many this came as a surprise, however the truth is May's Chequers plan was never going to be acceptable to the European Union as it crossed the cherry picking red lines set in stone by the bloc and consistently upheld throughout the negotiations. The freedoms are not divisible.

On May's return, we saw and angry reaction from the Prime Minister, a hostile and war-like speech against a backdrop of Union flags in which she made clear no deal is better, in her mind, than a bad deal. 

With not even the bad deal which is Chequers on the table, the national position is somewhat crystallised.

Sadly, it has been clear in credibly sourced information from Westminster from the outset that May has long planned a no deal outcome. Chequers, subsequently, was a strategically brilliant ploy. It not only ensures no deal is the only thing on the table, but has also enabled May to do something Thatcher and Major never could: settle the Tory civil war with the eurosceptics which has crippled previous administrations. 

The shadowy ERG have nothing to challenge her over, and as I wrote in February this year in an article, this capitulation has been deliberate. A tax haven plan is now in full effect.

Britain is about to find out what it feels like to be a small country on the outside of a relationship which saved its economy.

For the observant, it's become apparent the EU have recognised what is happening and it has now been made clear by both Merkel and Macron among others that a prolonged transition is likely to be off the table on the basis of the UK's behaviour. In essence the hands of friendship are being withdrawn.

This is unsurprising and, in fact, makes sense as the Union cannot set a precedent which sends a message that it is open to abuse of process and flip-flopping which could cause extended periods of uncertainty. With it being responsible for 560 million people, it's clear that Britain is about to find out what it feels like to be a small country on the outside of a relationship which saved its economy.

But, as this reality lands, there are still people who believe a no deal outcome automatically means Brexit will not happen. This is a dangerous fantasy, article 50 triggered a ticking clock and nothing more, and the Prime Minister has ruled out an extension. She is committed to the will of the people as decided in 2016.

Others believe that no parliamentary majority for a no deal Brexit will see it voted down. This is a fatal misunderstanding of the provisions of the Withdrawal Act which was debated at length in both houses before being given Royal assent. In the event there is no trade deal, all the government has to do is present a neutrally worded motion indicating how they are going to proceed and no deal simply happens.

Some have pegged all hopes on a further general election. This is simply unlikely and has now been firmly ruled out by the Prime Minister. Strategically, Labour have just positioned themselves as pushing for a general election as a first option, with a People's Vote as their back up plan.

And within that position, extension of Article 50 is seen as a manifesto pledge for the election which won't happen.

Even remain MPs and rebels have made clear they will not cross the party lines and hand an election to Labour when what is fundamentally an unlimited power grab is on the line.

With their commitment made to vote down a bad deal done by May, and Chequers being the bad deal the Conservatives have united behind, the end result can only be a neutrally worded motion to proceed on the basis of no deal. Even remain MPs and rebels have made clear they will not cross the party lines and hand an election to Labour when what is fundamentally an unlimited power grab is on the line.

Subsequently, a People's Vote is rendered a potential pledge for a future re-entry and nothing more, and it becomes even less likely when consideration is given to boundary changes which will reduce the number of MPs to 600 before the 2022 election.

Of course, the reality of a People's Vote has always been that it is defunct by time alone. The Constitutional Law experts at UCL have calculated that the earliest such a vote could be held is the day before exit day, providing there is a full parliamentary consensus, which simply does not exist. It has always been, in truth, a Back In campaign ticket to harness the remain vote of the future.

These are niceties which change nothing and dose of reality is needed now more than ever.

Court cases are also pending which centre around whether or not Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked. 

While nice to have settled law, these are academic questions because there is no will to revoke it in the first place. The only conceivable result is that the courts will confirm the obvious: it can be taken back, as long as the remaining EU members agree. The same rules which apply to extension.

In short, these are niceties which change nothing and dose of reality is needed now more than ever.

It is essential, especially in wake of the latest technical notices on no deal impact that people are prepared for the very worst. While these documents contained nothing which hasn't been publicly known for a long time, it is the first time the British government has informed its own population that flights will stop and transport won't function, among other things.

To be ready for these events is not to surrender hope, not to stop fighting for a change of tack, but rather a necessity in order to get through and continue to be able to do so.

#Brexit, #No Deal, #Chequers, #Theresa May, #Labour, #General Election, #People's Vote, #Article 50, #EU

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