Brexit Fictional Politics: What's Really on Macron's Mind?

-edited

There are only two places I have seen that are willing to say France may offer a short or conditional extension.

I have been proposing for days that that French President Emmanuel Macron may not offer the January 31 extension that the Benn Act requests.

Today, I stick with that assessment.

The only other site with a similar view that I am aware of is Eurointelligence.

Here is the Eurointelligence take from this morning.

In Brussels, people seem to have finally noticed that Emmanuel Macron does not agree with Donald Tusk on Brexit. We have been warning readers for some time not to take the French position for granted. Brussels correspondents of UK media and other commentators have a tendency to misread the French position, especially at times when that position shifts.

He has no interest in a no-deal Brexit, but is more keen than other EU leaders to leave Brexit behind. He may not get his way on a mid-November end date. But we would expect him eventually to prevail with the argument that the EU cannot extend Brexit forever. The time will come when the EU will have to pull the plug.

He might even go along with a January extension, in exchange for a binding end date. What we need to look out for in the EU discussion right now is the extent to which Macron's arguments are winning support among other leaders. When Charles Michel takes over from Tusk at the end of the week, Macron will have an important ally as president of the European Council. Of all the top level appointments made during the summer, Michel's might have been the most important.

Eurointelligence Sees Three Possibilities

  1. The EU extends until end-November. The UK would have just enough time to conclude the Brexit process. There is a caucus in the UK parliament working behind the scene towards a new programme motion - that would extend the discussions on the Brexit legislation to a few more weeks. Of the likely amendments, only a second referendum would be damaging. If that were to pass, Johnson would pull the legislation. But a second referendum is still around 40 seats short of a majority. The probability of a customs union amendment is higher, but ultimately less destructive. The next parliament is only bound by the withdrawal agreement, but is free to determine the framework for the future relationship.
  2. The EU extends until end-January, with flexible break-dates. In theory, the same could happen as above, but we think a long extension would have the effect to frustrate the discussions in the UK parliament. A parliamentary majority for an election emerges - possibly a coalition between the Tories and the SNP.
  3. The final scenario is that the impasse goes beyond January. In theory, it could last until 2022 because the majorities will not. This would be the scenario where the binding end-date discussion becomes important. Tusk took the view that extension would help the Remain cause. which is why he keeps supporting it. We think the premise is wrong. The longer this goes on, the stronger the pro-Brexit forces in the UK will become. Labour has no incentives to support an election now. If they continue to trail in the polls, they might continue to oppose elections. It does not matter what Jeremy Corbyn might have said at some point. When John McDonnell was asked about elections last night, he said that sure, he was in favour, but first he wanted to unite the country. In other words: no. So, yes, the situation could continue until 2022.

Eurointelligence says those are in "no particular order".

I commented earlier this morning on amendments. Here is a Tweet to reconsider.

Trapdoor

I commented "That is pure nonsense. The trapdoor cannot be removed by the UK. Say an amendment passes requiring the next PM to not go for a WTO Brexit. The next government can easily pass new legislation allowing it." Eurointelligence said the same thing in point one above regarding the "future relationship".

In regards to a referendum. There won't be one. Even the Liberal Democrats agree.

EU Extends To January With Flexible End Dates

This came up today in several places including the BBC and Guardian Live.

Sorry, that makes no sense and cannot legitimately solve any French demand as is. It provides no incentive for the UK Remainers to do anything but wait until January 31. I doubt France would fall for that straight up, but it is possible.

I reviewed the options yesterday in EU Postpones Brexit Extension Request. Let's go over them again.

Option Review

  1. Very Short: 10 days or less
  2. Short: 11 days to 3 weeks
  3. Intermediate: longer than 3 weeks but no longer than Jan 31.
  4. Long: Anything beyond Jan 31. That's what Tusk wants.
  5. Flexible: Makes no sense UK will not do anything but delay. But I do not rule it out.
  6. Conditional: France demands a way forward such as elections.

Options 1-4 are mutually exclusive.

Options 5 applies to options 1-4.

Option 6 applies to options 1-3. A way forward rules out a long extension and perhaps even an intermediate extension.

Increased Chance of No Deal

I believe, as does the Eurointelligence, and likely France as well January Brexit Extension Increases Chance of No Deal.

Eurointelligence did not discuss point 6, a conditional extension.

I believed all along that is where we are headed and odds of that just rose.

This just in from Guardian Live on the position of Amélie de Montchalin, France’s Europe minister. She told RTL radio that giving more time would solve nothing unless there was concrete action in place in the UK.

"Our position is that simply giving more time – without political change, without ratification, without an election - would be useless.

The French position is to give more time if it is justified, if we understand why more time is needed. That could be more time to ratify, because there’s a deal on the table. Or it could be because they say want to hold elections. Then we’ll look at that.

But it’s one thing to say we’d like to maybe have elections and another thing to say elections have been organised.

We’re partners. We live 50km from each other. We’ll stay strong partners and neighbours, we’ll have a future relationship. So this is not about an ultimatum, it’s about getting clarity.

We need clarity ... so our work is not about giving ultimatums, nor confrontation. But we do need to know why we would be giving more time. Simply giving more time alone leads to getting stuck in a rut.

If there’s a clear scenario that will change things, for example a ratification or elections – not just suggested but organised – then we can take decisions. But we ask Britain for facts – we’re not in fictional politics, we need facts to make decisions.

Decisions will be taken in the next hours and days in terms of what the UK parliament says and what has really been actioned [in the UK]."

No Long Extension Without Conditions

Montchalin denied France wanted to give Britain an ultimatum. Label it how you like, but it's a reasonable demand that stops perpetual delays.

If accurate, and I believe it is. There will not be an unconditional extension until January 31.

I suspect the "flex" extension most expected will not be what they expect. Rather, it will be a simple choice.

UK's No "Fictional Politics" Choice

  1. Accept the Withdrawal Agreement with an extension no longer than three weeks (and possibly much shorter).

  2. Commit to elections before mid-January (and possibly mid-December or early-January).

This morning Johnson proposed December 12. The EU may accept that date as reasonable.

Something along these lines is now my most likely case.

Remainer's Nasty Choice

If accurate, Remainers will have a nasty choice, not "fictional politics" as France’s Europe minister aptly phrases things.

This will be discussed Monday. The UK will have 3 days to decide between an election, ratification, referendum, No Deal.

And Eurointelligence scenario 3: "The situation could continue until 2022" vanishes into dust.

Way Forward - Addendum

Assuming the EU does demand a way forward, expect elections.

Reuters reported this afternoon "Scotland's Sturgeon asks Labour's Corbyn to back snap general election".

This makes perfect sense, actually. I have commented on this idea before.

SNP and Even Lib Democrats want elections far more than Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

I am almost surprised Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems are not on board too. Why? Guess what happens to the Lib Dem Remain platform if there is a deal before an election?

Thus, don't be surprised to see Swinson back an election if the offer from the EU is conditional. Swinson won't back an election in a losing cause but if SNP is on board, there is a good chance.

Finally, Swinson cannot stand Corbyn. She has an alternate agenda and that is to get rid of Corbyn.

Labour will get smashed in the next election by running on a wishy-washy referendum idea while Swinson runs on a Remain platform.

As for Sturgeon, she has a legitimate case to demand another Referendum because conditions have changed. She will lose, heavily, but she might get her referendum.

The Math

How will Labour vote if presented the choice I gave above?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (69)
No. 1-21
Bagger
Bagger

Will EU wait and see what Parliament does on Monday before deciding/announcing extension? All a bit chicken and egg. Labour want extension before (possibly) committing to election. EU want to see what Labour do before committing to an extension. In the meantime, the clock keeps ticking. Surely, Boris wouldn't still walk or will he?

Mish
Mish

Editor

EU says decision tomorrow. I do not know if morning or evening. Could be any time but certainly tomorrow. I would guess mid-morning if forced.

Mish
Mish

Editor

regarding my comment yesterday: "Johnson refuses to stand down."

Deep Purple replied "What you have described here is a constitutional crisis of first order."

Absolutely Not! The Fixed Term Parliaments Act is flawed. I am very surprised the Remainers did not patch it with emergency legislation.

The FTPA gives Johnson 14 days to regain confidence. But it also allows another PM. It does specify the PM has to stand down if parliament approves an alternate.

Johnson could legally refuse to stand down for 14 days. Even if that was challenged, there is no longer much time to do so.

The earliest a motion of no confidence could happen is Tomorrow. The earliest the vote could be is Monday.

I am unsure if they could appoint a caretaker on the same day or not. Impossible to get this done if alternate approved on the 29th or 30th and on the 31 Johnson simply never stands down.

No time for emergency legislation and most likely no time for court action either.

Again, surprised they did not fix this.

BaronAsh
BaronAsh

Well, I just hope that Macron comes through and creates a deadline that can no longer be extended. Because right now the Parliament can say in situ for another two years and can inject itself into Govt with unconstitutional Laws like the Benn Act ad infinitum. So there are no boundaries and HMG has been castrated away from being able to impose any. But a deadline from the EU is enough to change this endless limbo. Indeed, everything going on now (and for the last few months) is an attempt to get an election to change the Parliament so that something can happen. Because as long as this Parliament is sitting, nothing will happen.

Frankly, I don't think it makes much difference - within reason - what is in the WA or whether or not there is No Deal. The same bunch will be sitting around the table for a year or so hammering out the details, ideally along Free Trade / Independence lines. But again: with this Parliament, neither will happen.

If after next election there is still a Hung Parliament, nothing will get through again unless EU holds firm (because they actually like the arrangement). But if the next Govt has a majority, as looks possible for the Brexiteers - they can make things happen one way or another and will be in a strong enough position to probably get what is needed to finally untangle from EU control.

Harry-Ireland
Harry-Ireland

Right. This isn't ridiculous at all. So a country where the majority of its people voted to leave the EU three mothersticking years ago, is now waiting for a decision by an EU memberstate whether or not they're allowed to leave on some arbitrary timetable?

FloydVanPeter
FloydVanPeter

Suppose the EU offers and extension of some sots.

How long till UK must accept/reject it? Could BJ delay "Reject" to the 30th? Or, could legal challenges result in similar delayed of "Reject"?

Mish
Mish

Editor

"If after next election there is still a Hung Parliament, nothing will get through again unless EU holds firm (because they actually like the arrangement). "

That is Tusk's view - NOT France - and it only takes one. The UK will sink Macron's agenda in the European Parliament and France, not Germany gets extra MPs when the UK leaves

Tusk is gone tomorrow!

Mish
Mish

Editor

"I see at Reuters this afternoon that Nikola Sturgeon secretly asked Corbyn to support a GE"

Makes perfect sense. I have commented on this before. SNP and Even Lib Dems want elections far more than Corbyn.

Almost surprised Lib Dems are not on board too. Guess what happens to their Remain platform if there is a deal before an election.

Thus, don't be surprised to see Swinson back a GE if the offer from the EU is conditional.

Will add this to my article.

Mish
Mish

Editor

Addendum Added

Thanks Herkie!

Mish
Mish

Editor

Seems AvidRemainer is back I want comments on my election math the other day - Earliest possible date

George Phillies
George Phillies

A possibility seems to have been missed. Macron could conclude that there is no likely of the UK Parliament approving anything, and veto any extension. His precedent for this would be Charles de Gaulle, who vetoed UK membership in the EEC. Twice. 1963 and 1967. "veto" appears to be a reasonable reading of Amelie de Montchalin's statement.

Expat
Expat

Brexit uncertainty is costlly for the UK but also for the EU. Since France is the main connection point to the UK, France is the most concerned about sorting this out. The French are fed up and frankly think the English are being wankers. If they really want to go, then they should go. But as is obvious, the Brits don't want to really go; they want to have their cake and eat it, too.

The UK does not want a No Deal Brexit. Some irresponsible politicians do, riding the xenophobic ignorance to the polls and getting ready to blame post-Brexit on Remainers. Most voters want a deal or believe that they have the right to leave with many of the benefits of membership but none of the annoying responsibilities (like paying a mere £10 billion a year or having to classify cucumbers by shape).

By the way, how are the clowns doing? Batting 100% it seems while the pitcher's ERA is reaching five digits.

Mish
Mish

Editor

Well - Strike my "certainly tomorrow" (now today) decision by the EU.

Rumors say the EU want to see Monday's vote and the Opposition wants to see the EU act first

Who knows - all rumors Time Helps Johnson if he is going to disobey Benn - which I doubt - Otherwise no help - depending of course on exactly what the EU decides.

I do expect conditions. Way Forward demand will end the perpetual extensions

HenryV
HenryV

Happy St Crispins day. What was the score again at Agincourt? England 10,000, France 100? A decisive win for England methinks ... Ah the glory days, set to return ‘ere long.

Harry-Ireland
Harry-Ireland

'Downing Street has said if the EU offers a Brexit delay the Government can change the date of departure through secondary legislation, known as a statutory instrument.' Can anyone explain this to me in English?

Deep Purple
Deep Purple

Brexit is not a good topic for Labour. If the small parties do not support Corbyn as interim PM, then the deal will pass "accidentally" like the second reading did. He wants to exclude any other option, therefore he wants a short deadline.

There is exactly one thing that is bad for Labour: a general election before Johnson's deal is settled somehow. It can be accepted or rejected, not much of a problem, but it must be settled. Corbyn will oppose the election until that happens.

CrypticPseudonym
CrypticPseudonym

I'm puzzled by the belief that the cuckold Macron will put his foot down and put a stop to this silliness. That would risk losing the £10 billion per annum plus unhindered access to the world's fifth largest economy that the EU gets for very little in return. And with the exception of the brutal suppression of the Yellow Vest protests, Macron isn't the kind to take a risky stand on anything.

I'd love to be wrong, but I just don't see anything in this creature that convinces me that it is a vertebrate.

JustASimpleMan
JustASimpleMan

We seldom disagree Mish, but we're at odds on the French position here. Sure, Macron doesn't want to fall out with all his EU chums but he desperately wants to be seen to lead, both by other nations and for his domestic audience.

Remember also that the UK is everything to the EU that the French don't want. We'd continue to rail against the common agricultural policy, Euro army, bigger Europe, shared debt. bigger budget, anti-Atlanticism, etc. But if forced to stay by parliamentary scuppering, we'd be ten times worse than we were.

He can't wait to see the back of us and before long, the demise of Merkel, who's far to keep to hold out any hope of us staying.

A two tier extension is perfect for Macron, "Okay, I'll go along with the other 26 because I'm a good European, but we should try and help them out earlier if we can and by the way, we need a line under it this time to stop it. They can have their second referndum, they can vote the LibDems into power, but they're going and we're getting on with business."

.

Country Bob
Country Bob

The EU is already destroyed.... by the likes of Macron and Merkel.

Any self sustaining "union" of states must have support of the general population, not just the edicts of two egotistical nutjobs.

Macron's selfishness is the reason the EU will not last, and it doesn't matter what England does or doesn't do.

Time to stop bickering about legal loopholes in UK Parliament and start the countdown clock for the entire EU

Pater_Tenebrarum
Pater_Tenebrarum

Macron's mind? He has a mind? :)
As Francois Baroin remarked about Macron: “He says nothing about nothing, and probably doesn’t think much more than that about it either.” Marine Le Pen said to him in a debate: “You have an insane talent, you end up speaking for seven minutes, I cannot even summarize your train of thought, you have said nothing, it is like the absolute void between the stars.”
Macron himself noted: “We all have our roots. And because we are all deeply rooted, there are trees next to us… there are rivers, there are fish… There are brothers and sisters…” Indeed.