"Let the Massacre Begin" says Eurointelligence.
The gloves have come off on both sides. MPs are now plotting a strategy to take total control of the House of Commons, and anti-Brexit Lords have devised a strategy to frustrate a filibuster. The important question is not whether a legislative route is theoretically possible within the time limits - we think it probably is - but whether the rebels have the votes, and if they do, whether such legislation is effective. On the first, we don’t think they do. On the second, we are sure that it is not.
Regarding time limits, Eurointelligence seems to have come around to my point of view that the real physical limit may be September 9.
Alternatively, both of us noted a chance of everything getting done precisely on September 3. That mathematical chance always existed.
Possibly we are discussing two different things depending on what Eurointelligence means by "legislation".
The point is moot because even if there is time and there is a sufficient number of votes, Eurointelligence has the view I have stated many times recently "we are sure" that it won't work.
There is a lot of arm-twisting going on in the background - coupled with the implicit threat that a vote in favour of anti-Brexit legislation would most likely trigger elections and the certain deselection of Tory rebels. Tories and Labour MPs are both aware that extension is not a popular option in the country. The April extension brought victory to Nigel Farage’s party in the European elections in May. If parliament votes in favour of a law to extend, it is possible that Johnson would then risk a pre-Brexit election, with the support of Corbyn. We think he will probably do at least as well as Theresa May did two years ago, but with MPs that are committed to his Brexit strategy.
Not Understanding the Law
The default legal position is that Brexit happens on October 31.
The UK cannot unilaterally change that even if Parliament passes a law declaring it illegal.
I have been amused from the beginning about such tactics, have frequently stated such laws are not binding. Eurointelligence comments similarly.
The Remainers’ biggest weakness is a lack of an overall strategy that extends beyond the narrow confines of the House of Commons and its ancient rules. The single biggest misunderstanding in the Brexit process relates to the nature of Art. 50, which is EU law, not UK law. We were reminded of this once again yesterday when we saw an article in Prospect magazine, which compared the five-week prorogation to Hitler’s Reichstag fire. Apart from the fact that it is never a good idea to make casual Hitler comparisons, the comparison reveals a lot about the author’s exaggerated views on the role of the parliament. Art. 50 gives parliaments two specific rights: ratify a withdrawal deal or revoke. Prorogation will not restrict the parliament’s ability to do either of those things.
Johnson could frustrate even a watertight extension bill by threatening to become a rogue member of the European Council, vetoing every decision that is put in front of him. If push comes to shove, the European Council is more likely to side with Johnson against the parliament, than vice versa, unless they have the confidence that the parliament can produce an alternative PM. This is why the rebels really need a new prime minister in place by end-October. Legislation to extend only works if there is at least some collusion from Number 10, as was the case with May.
Three Part Scenario
Once again we return to the one and only scenario that has a chance:
- A motion of no confidence that succeeds
- Parliament agrees on an alternate caretaker PM
- Johnson goes along with it and resigns or loses a legal challenge if he doesn't.
Even then, there is a high likelihood that Johnson wins the ensuing election.
That margin would likely give Johnson a workable majority.
And I suspect that Johnson would cooperate with the Brexit Party for a huge majority unless Labour and the Liberal Democrats united.
The Brexiteers are united, but Labour wants a referendum for which there is little public support while the Liberal Democrats want to remain.
It's even a bit more complicated for Labour because Corbyn personally supports a customs union.
This is the huge problem for Labour at the moment.
We Have a Way
Boris Johnson made this claim today: "We Have a Way to Get Brexit Done".
- Boris Johnson has warned MPs that trying to block a no-deal Brexit makes that outcome more likely. Defending his decision to prorogue parliament he said: “The weird thing is, that the more the parliamentarians try to block the no-deal Brexit, the more likely it is that we’ll end up in that situation.”
- Johnson also claimed the government had found a way to get Brexit done. He said: “We are in the last stages now of negotiating with our friends about a way to get it done. If we can’t succeed in that negotiation we must come out anyway.”
- Ken Clarke has said he “probably would” back Jeremy Corbyn to be caretaker prime minister in order to block a no-deal Brexit. But he added: “I don’t think it’s going to happen, because I must be one of a tiny number of Tories prepared to contemplate that.”
- Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney insisted that any Brexit deal with the UK must be based on the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May.
Willing to Fall on Their Own Sword
Read point three carefully. It's a point I have made repeatedly.
Any Tory who votes against the government will be immediately outed from the party and lose their seat in the next election.
Point four ensures No Deal. I expect Ireland to cave, but I would rather they not.
If Ireland insists on keeping the backstop, there cannot be a deal and that is the best outcome for the UK other than a straight-forward Canada-style tariff deal.
Let's see how many Tories are willing to fall on their sword. Even a handful might be insufficient because a similar number of Labour MPs are hard Brexiteers.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock