Multiple Rumors of Johnson Seeking a Deal with Ireland, Dumping DUP

-edited

Numerous articles note a softening of Boris Johnson's stance, especially in regards to Ireland. Let's take a look.

Failure of Statecraft

In Dublin, on September 9, Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) held a joint press conference in Dublin on the backstop.

Boris Johnson said the UK could get through No Deal, "But it Would be a Failure of Statecraft”. Johnson also brought up the idea of a Northern Ireland only backstop.

I thought it was general posturing. After all, Johnson has to make it appear as if he wants a deal, whether or not he really does.

Genuine Breakthrough?

The Guardian reports EU Looks to Northern Ireland-Only Backstop to Break Brexit Impasse.

The Journal reports Northern Ireland-Only Backstop Ruled Out by Boris Johnson, says DUP

See the flaw in the second headline?

Here it is: "says DUP".

DUP Dump Coming?

Theresa May's coalition had a majority at the time of 3. She needed 10 DUP votes to stay in power. Johnson does not need 10 votes, he needs dozens.

What convinced me Johnson might be changing his tune is a discussion on Eurointelligence.

So what is Boris Johnson going to do with the five weeks he gained from last night’s prorogation of parliament? Yesterday he met with Leo Varadkar in Dublin. The main impression Johnson left is that he is serious about reaching a deal, calling it a failure of statecraft if a compromise cannot be achieved before October 31.

Johnson rejected Theresa May's negotiated backstop, so what kind of deal does he have in mind? A common zone for agri-food and animals as well as trusted-trader schemes are part of the discussions. This could be extended to a Northern-Ireland-only backstop which solves the Irish border issue by moving the checkpoints to the Irish channel. This was a proposal by the EU earlier in the process, but rejected by the DUP in Northern Ireland.

At this stage, the discussions are about sounding out those proposals that may have a chance to succeed.

But the device of a NI-only backstop with consent is tricky. A simple consultation process may be considered too weak, and a stronger notion could make the EU's future trade rules subject to a unionist veto at Stormont. There is no way the EU would agree to this.

Everything Flawed

This is where it gets tricky. There is no agreement on anything.

These proposals may not be relevant in the end because it is far from clear that a deal with a Northern-Ireland-only backstop would command a majority in the House of Commons. There are Labour MPs who bitterly regret not having voted in favour Theresa May’s deal.

But we think the party’s official position will be to accept a deal only on condition that it is put to a second referendum. We still don’t think that this option commands a majority in the House of Commons either. The 20+ Tory rebels are also not unanimously in favour of a second referendum. But, for a new deal to pass, it is essential that the number of Labour supporters of a bill exceed the number of Tory detractors. We have no doubt that Number 10 will do the math on the bill much more carefully than the previous team.

The Math

If Johnson proposes something, he will either have the votes or be within spitting distance of them.

However, the European Research Group (ERG), the hard-Brexit backing Tories not only want to kill the backstop, they want to kill the political declaration as well.

To understand why, please consider Even if the EU Offers to Remove the Backstop, the Draft Withdrawal Agreement Must Still be Rejected.

There are many features of the Withdrawal Agreement which are just as bad as the Backstop, but which have received far less attention, notably from our Prime Minister.

The Withdrawal Agreement would maintain the supremacy of EU law over the UK, including new laws created by the EU over which the UK would have no voice. This means that UK courts would be required to strike down Acts of Parliament if they are determined to be inconsistent with EU law.

Worse, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice would be retrained, either directly or through a dispute settlement system modelled on the one the EU has with the Ukraine through which a notionally neutral tribunal would be bound on issues of EU law by decisions of ECJ. Since the UK would have no judge on the ECJ, it would effectively be under the jurisdiction of a foreign court.

If that isn’t anti-democratic enough, although the UK would be bound by decisions of the EU institutions, including the European Commission, it would not be able to submit proposals or even requests for information to these bodies. Moreover, UK companies would be subject to EU State Aid rules after the transition period, removing a valuable tool of economic policy from the British government. Add to this the fact that the Withdrawal Agreement has very strict financial penalties for breach of its provisions and there would be no recourse to international courts for their resolution.

Theresa May truly negotiated one of the worst deals in the history of the world.

Let's return to Eurointelligence.

Canada Deal

What about the European Research Group? They reject any form of a backstop, but what might be tempting is the possibility of a Canada-style trade deal for mainland Britain under this solution. A Northern-Ireland-only backstop is also the EU’s preferred option. But there is a catch. The EU would almost certainly insist that the UK refrains from undercutting the EU on social standards. There is technically no reason why a simple free-trade deal should be intrusive, but the EU will argue that the UK is a much bigger economy than Canada, and much closer. We don’t think the UK would accept any restrictions on its ability to regulate its own economy under a simple Canada-style free-trade deal. Theresa May avoided this issue with the nature of her withdrawal agreement. A different deal will reopen the issue.

Whereas the ERG may have been content to kill just the backstop with Theresa May in charge, they expect and demand more from Johnson.

I support a Canada-style free trade deal. But it cannot be at the expense of all the ERG objections above.

And note those Labour members who now regret voting against May's deal. It failed by only a few votes.

Conclusion

In the end, we believe that Johnson could end up in the same spot as Theresa May: with a rejected deal and renewed opposition by Nigel Farage and the ERG who will be demanding a clean Brexit. Johnson's advisers will surely say that he won’t be able to move to a more conciliatory position until after an election. This is why we remain sceptical about the prospects of a deal this side of a general election in the UK.

Election Solution

The solution, of course, is to hold an election.

For all Cobyn's whining, he does not want an election, at least not now.

That will not change until Corbyn thinks he has a good chance of winning.

Salvini Trap

Eurointelligence mentions the "Salvini Trap".

Matteo Salvini of Italy's League party killed his coalition with the Five Star Movement, M5S.

Salvini was comfortable doing that because he had an unbeatable advantage in the polls.

But check out the result. After the coalition dissolved, instead of elections, M5S was able to form a coalition with PD.

This new coalition came into being despite the fact that M5S came into power (with the League) running totally on an anti-PD platform, calling the PD leadership corrupt and stating they would never enter a coalition with them.

The League is now out of government with no election in sight.

Imaginary Scenario

The House of Commons returns in October. There is a no deal. Jeremy Corbyn calls a no-confidence vote, wins and agrees to support a national unity government under Kenneth Clarke as interim prime minister. Clarke may only receive a mandate to seek an extension. But, as we observe in other parts of Europe, interim government can prove sticky.

Can’t happen? Consider Corbyn is a much diminished figure these days. Imagine that Labour’s popularity will continue to shrink, and that the Labour leadership concludes it cannot afford elections at this point. What started as a short-lived government of national unity would then remain in office because those that support it are desperate to avoid elections. They are playing for time. That government could seek a Brexit extension until after the next scheduled elections in 2022 - at which point the British electorate may have lost interest in Brexit.

This is not a prediction, only a scenario. But look at what just happened in Italy.

We admire Cummings’ strategic acumen, but strange things happen in politics that are beyond the grip of a strategic planner.

We don’t think it is possible to game the multitude of interacting political scenarios beyond October. Our baseline scenario remains that the House of Commons will ultimately not succeed in stopping Brexit. But it looks increasingly uncertain that Brexit will happen on October 31.

Not a Prediction

Eurointelligence says "This is not a prediction, only a scenario."

Eurointelligence put no percentages on the idea. I won't either. It's hard enough to figure out what will happen before Oct 31 to ponder such an idea.

The primary counter is Corbyn has no genuine support from the public, the ejected Tories, SNP, or the Liberal Democrats.

The counter to the counter is what happened in Italy.

What About Benn?

I am confident that Johnson will not ask for an extension. Politically he can't.

I am also confident Johnson has a way around Benn.

However, he may not need to use whatever method he had in mind.

Those who thought Johnson may revive May's deal might be close. As long as we are speculating, what if Johnson comes back with a deal after all.

To do so, he will have to dump DUP. Would Parliament reject it?

Will things even get that far?

I am still trying to get an answer to a simple question: Is Johnson obligated to give a Queen's Speech on October 14. Can he wait until after the EU meeting on the 18th?

Ultimately, it is the No Confidence vote that is in control, not this Benn sideshow.

Eurointelligence is back on track with this statement: "It looks increasingly uncertain that Brexit will happen on October 31"

What We Do Know

  • The Benn bill passed. It requires Johnson to ask for an extension or present a plan for Parliament to vote on.
  • A vote of No Confidence is the most sure-fire way of getting rid of Johnson and preventing No Deal.
  • On Oct 17-18 Johnson meets with the EU.

What We Don't Know

  • What tricks Johnson has up his sleeve pertaining to Benn.
  • Whether Corbyn will wait for the 19th before launching a motion.
  • If Corbyn's huge ego will get in the way of him supporting a caretaker government led by someone other than himself.
  • If Corby insists on himself, if the expelled Tories, SNP, and the Liberal Democrats will go along.
  • If Johnson plans to dump DUP or how Parliament would vote if he did.

Wait and See

Recall that Boris Johnson will "Test Legal Limits" of the Benn bill.

Also recall Chancellor Sajid Javid reply when pressured in an interview by Andrew Marr about how it is possible to obey the law yet not seek an extension.

Javid responsed "We will be consistent with obeying the law but also sticking to our policy. You have to wait and see that happen."

We may have to wait until October 19 unless Corbyn files a motion before then. Such a motion cannot occur before Oct 14. Thus, October 14 is the minimum wait.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (64)
No. 1-18
Wagner99999
Wagner99999

Mish, as a long time reader of this blog, it is hard for me to read these Brexit articles about Boris playing 4D chess without having to cringe all the time.

Please, switch back to writing about how Tesla will be bankrupt next year. At least those articles were somewhat entertaining; and I know that deep down there you did not believe it will happen and were just trolling.

avidremainer
avidremainer

Mish, If the DUP gets dumped then the Tories have gained an eternal and dangerous enemy. As I've said I am from Ulster catholic stock and have no brief for the DUP. These people are about the only civilians in England who are allowed a concealed carry. I don't suggest that they will do anything violent but they are hardasses and will never foget.

Country Bob
Country Bob

New campaign slogan for the entire UK:

"Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory..."

BaronAsh
BaronAsh

For sure it's fascinating to game out the situation in the UK. But I think you might also find it fun to focus more on the EU part of the chessboard here. That speech by the AfP leader was dynamite (going into the origins of this whole fiasco being the EU's unwillingness to cut Cameron some slack, and now threatening basically to treat them like Paraguay and Papua New Guinea instead of a close, large and friendly neighbour). Then there was the Nederland PM pointing out that this whole thing has to do with the unnecessary stress created by insisting that along with a customs and free trading zone, political union has also been imposed, and that many countries are chafing under this yoke.

In other words, I think we might be in for a surprise if any sort of request for extension is granted.

What would happen in the next five weeks, for example, i.e. before October 14th, if two or three senior EU nations were to formally announce their intention to deny any application for extension?

Really, there's no time for a comprehensive post-Brexit treaty any more given previous attempts have fallen so far short. So either Brexit is cancelled, or the UK exits with only a framework 'deal,' but with positive expectations of working through things together well over the next 12-24 months or whatever during which period no new trade treaties with non-EU states will be signed so the current flow of goods and services can continue unimpeded.

The Irish issue will have to be solved and it sounds like there is movement.

Also, you might consider what leverage UK might have in terms of pressuring the EU to accept UK departure and begin to cooperate therein rather than be so bloody minded and rigid. Can US help exert pressure? Can we exert pressure on some member States such that they will provide assurances of an extension veto?

He still has the powers of a PM and as such is the chief negotiator who can threaten and offer many things without parliamentary approval or scrutiny. Yes, these can be reported on after October 15th, but meanwhile there is much he can do.

Finally, I wonder if the DUP are happy because although there might be a North Sea border in the offing, also a devolved Parliament there can be fast-tracked, and a more complete Constitution envisaged with four Empowered National Parliaments and the H o L's reconfigured as the Senior House for the United Kingdom. Something real go-forward, positive, visionary - and fun.

Country Bob
Country Bob

@BaronAsh -- if the EU had "stuck to its knitting" and been a free trade bloc, the UK wouldn't want to leave, the EU wouldn't be bankrupt, the ECB wouldn't have gutted Deutche Bank to not save Greece, and illegal immigrants wouldn't be pushing Germans to vote for AfD. If the EU had put itself up for a popular vote in ALL the member countries, but especially the four anchor countries (UK, France, Italy, Germany), it wouldn't have such a legitimacy problem.

In summary, the whole catastrophe boils down to the arrogance of Brussels.

I would bet that there are many many women bankers in the EU besides Christine Lagarde (men too, but we must be politically correct). There is no reason to put in a proven failure just because she is a crony. Taking a chance on a promising unknown is risky, but still makes more sense than betting it all on a proven failure. No functioning organization would put in a disaster when there are so many other options available. Christine Lagarde is what many in the States like to label an unforced error.

The EU is the problem, and not just for the UK. Nothing that happens in London is going to fix a problem in Brussels, which is why the UK would have been better off cutting their losses as quickly as possible.

George_Phillies
George_Phillies

The UK has some scheme for recaling members of Parliament. I ahve seen it mentioned in the Guardian as havnig been applied. Is there some likelihood this would be applied to deal with, e.g., Tory Remainers? I have nevver seen the rules on this, which may well not be applicable, set out.

Latkes
Latkes

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister)

What a f*cking clown world.

Expat
Expat

Prorogation ruled illegal by Scots. Clowns 6: Mish 0

Je'Ri
Je'Ri

The bill that received Royal Assent on Monday was European Union the (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 c. 26.

I thought the Benn Bill was European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6).

What did I miss?

Quatloo
Quatloo

The situation is rapidly spinning out of Tory control. If BoJo has cards, he needs to play them in the next month or risk losing any possibility of Brexit in the foreseeable future. Once Brexit happens with no deal, realistic deal discussions can begin. Until then, striking a deal is impossible when the other side knows the UK cannot walk away without a deal. [Imagine one spouse telling the other in front of a car salesman “Negotiate the deal, but we absolutely, positively are not going home without this car”. How good of a deal do you think they will get?] So all of the government’s resources need to be dedicated to leaving the EU on Halloween.

msurkan
msurkan

All this UK political drama further highlights the insanity of Brexit. Attempting any kind of massive constitutional change (which Brexit is) when opinion is SO sharply divided is idiocy. Worse, when your constitutional change requires high stakes negotiations with other nations to succeed there is absolutely no hope of success while you continue to fight battles on the home front over those negotiations.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"Prorogation ruled illegal by Scots"

No chance this survives - already died in England Courts

Country Bob
Country Bob

@msurkan -- "...Attempting any kind of massive constitutional change (which Brexit is) when opinion is SO sharply divided is idiocy...."

In other words, it was idiocy for arrogant political types to ram thru things like the EU and Obamacare when the population was so divided.

Brexit isn't the problem. The EU never got popular support in the first place. The Brexit referendum was the first time the population was even asked. That was the mistake.

The pompous as?es in Washington DC shoved Obamacare down our faces without any popular vote, and then to rub salt in the wound they exempted themselves. That was a mistake.

EU must get repealed. Obamacare must get repealed. Big changes to society must have true popular support -- not a 50.001% margin or anything that is close to a statistical tie.

Herkie
Herkie

Headline at Reuters: Brexit in chaos after court rules PM's suspension of parliament was unlawful

Scotland’s highest court of appeal ruled against Johnson’s decision to prorogue, or suspend, parliament from Monday until Oct. 14 — a blow for the government as it seeks to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.

So the remainers went judge shopping and found an SNP inclined judge to rule in their favor even though...

Last week, the High Court of England and Wales rejected a similar challenge by campaigners, saying it was a political not a judicial matter.

Remainer drama queens are demanding that BoJo resign for "misleading the queen," who I am sure is going to be thrilled to have the SNP and remainers paint her as so gullible as to okay prorogue Parliament based upon a BJ lie?

The thrust of the "excoriating ruling" is that Johnson and his aids/allies were discussing their options prior to prorogue as a way to stymie debate, in other words politicians being politicians, even though no law was broken by their discussing their options. Talk about trying to stymie the opposition, the Tory government can't even talk about how to handle their duties without some podunque judge up in Scotland "excoriating" them.

Even though Johnson had the confidence of the parliament after he called for both early elections (DENIED) and for a motion of no confidence in the government (also DENIED) so if Johnson (and by default the queen who approved the prorogue) suspended debate till October 14 it was with the very parliament's consent which they later now sue to overturn.

The divisions in the opposition Labour Party over Brexit were on display on Wednesday, when its deputy leader, Tom Watson, said he supported pressing for a second referendum before an early national election. Meaning: He wants a revote of the Brexit article 50 immediately, prior to a snap general election in November (presumably because he knows the divided left will lose to the Tories who would then shut down any move to revote Brexit.

Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party which could take votes away from both main parties, offered Johnson an election pact on Wednesday but said that unless there was a clean break with the EU, the Conservatives would take a “real kicking” in any election and could not win a majority. So, with a compact between Johnson and the Brexit party they have a majority right now if Johnson were to yield and comply with the ruling in Scotland which the MSM would portray as him losing yet another battle with the remainers. All Farage wants in return is a clean break with the EU, presumably a no deal Brexit on the 31st of October.

I normally would say go for it BJ, yield to the Scottish ruling and end prorogue, let the fancy drama queens back into the building to cluck and pule and spread their feathers as they preen before a ruling EU elite. It will not matter because conservatives combined with DUP and Brexit party will have a majority. But, I don't say that because just like the way the moron remainers who have fallen into every trap you have set for them there may well be a lefty trap set here also.

Johnson though must have other ideas because the story says he has ruled out a pact with Farage, who in turn said that if they get to November 1 and the UK is still in the EU a lot of conservatives will defect to the Brexit party. I don't like the tone of that, it can only warm the cockles of the liberal/labour hearts.

Side note, I did not realize what a small party the Lib Dems were till I went to the HoC MP web page and counted them. Seventeen. From all the press they have gotten you would expect them to be many multiples of that.

dansilverman
dansilverman

As it stands now, a no-confidence motion on Oct. 17 is probably Brexit's greatest threat at the moment. You mention quite prominently in your piece above. The remain forces are strong in Britain and across the EU. If Brexit get's extended, then it will never happen under this parliament. Another election? Who knows.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"As it stands now, a no-confidence motion on Oct. 17 is probably Brexit's greatest threat at the moment."

That and "emergency" legislation are in fact the ONLY threats. This Scotland thing is a political joke.

frozeninthenorth
frozeninthenorth

It's increasingly hard to care about the possible outcome. Let's just wait till the end of october and see what happens. Frankly, it's like watching a bad soap opera, and I feel I've missed too many episodes

Herkie
Herkie

A minority of hardliner political class Unionists in NI are the ENTIRE problem here.

One of the problems May had and now Johnson is that the stodgy protestant buggers in NI are still thinking it is 1978, and the ironic thing is the parts of NI that are most heavily protestant are the parts that voted with the UK to leave the EU while the Catholic parts voted to remain. Now it is the protestants that are standing in the way of a deal to leave the EU. Time to dump them, the majority of the protestants might still be unionists but are no longer deeply involved in politics and many are angrier about NI being relegated to second class citizenship and being governed by the Home Office which appointed a new governor recently that said she "did not know much about Northern Ireland."

If Johnson and Varadkar can get a deal done for an Ireland only backstop there would be no stopping Brexit on October 31. So naturally the old queens in Labour will try to stop it.

The ancient mandarins of the DUP and Ulster Unionists see any backstop as basically London giving NI to the RoI. And I have seen Youtube vids recently from NI that ask the people there what they think of a possible referendum to leave the UK and unify Ireland, the great majority of Catholics say great as long as our new protestant friends are not too overwhelmed. And the protestants mostly say no but that if it happens it happens, not that big a deal. Many though also said they would prefer to be part of Ireland and the EU than to be part of the UK without the EU. I am betting that the old hardliners in the Unionist party really do not want a backstop because it would inevitably lead to reunification of Ireland once everyone sees that as far as NI goes it would be better for them than to be an afterthought in the eyes of the home office.