Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Still on for no deal.

The thing about Boris Johnson becoming PM is that absolutely anything could happen. This is a man with no deeply held beliefs whose only objective is seeking and retaining power. Consequently, nothing this man does is likely to surprise me. Leaving the EU without a deal wouldn't surprise me, but then passing the withdrawal agreement wouldn't either.

Were it that the parliamentary party felt the same way as the membership there probably wouldn't be much of a debate, but being that the Tories have only a tiny working majority, this could be a short lived administration if there isn't a sincere effort to close a deal. It all hinges on whether a handful of saner Tories see the severity of the no deal fallout.

In any case we are likely to go through the theatricals of a new round of talks with Brussels as Johnson attempts to persuade them to drop the backstop. Categorically this is not going to happen. The Alternative Arrangement Commission has come up with nothing at all bankable. We are therefore likely to see a staged showdown with accusations of intransigence thrown in the direction of Brussels.

With The Telegraph and Daily Express lining up behind this narrative, the Tory grassroots will buy it wholesale, failing to recognise that the AAC report is little more than a smokescreen. Their proposal cannot work but then it was never designed to. It's a stage prop in a piece of theatre.

At best, some of the proposals could be written into the political declaration but it wouldn't substantially change the nature of it in that the PD already creates the space to phase out the backstop being that neither side wants it as a permanent feature.

Depending on the electoral arithmetic, Johnson may have to sell this as a major breakthrough. This is where his capacity to tell bare faced lies may well be a national asset, and if Johnson declares black is actually white then the sycophants of The Spectator etc will support that view. The withdrawal agreement may yet limp over the line if MPs realise it really is their last chance to avert a no deal Brexit.

But then with things being as they are, and with Johnson drunk on his party mandate, it could just as easily go the other way where there's a last minute drama where the EU shrugs off the intensity of threats and then as the clock ticks over midnight we are no longer in the EU while parliament vents its impotent rage. It's difficult to see how they can prevent it. They could perhaps register a protest vote, but it's unlikely to be heeded by Johnson.

Were I a betting man I would say we are still on for no deal. It's not just the politics of the situation. As much as the ERG brigade are indeed mendacious shits, ultimately, they and those close to the PM genuinely believe there is nothing to fear from no deal. Nothing anyone outside that immediate bubble says is likely to penetrate. The fever has taken hold and it seems there is no cure.

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