Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Certainly not boring

The way of Brexit seems to be that bugger all happens for months then it all kicks off at once. I've now had to endure watching two days of parliamentary shenanigans - which is a timely reminder of why I detest the whole lot of them so very much. When they're not grandstanding and posturing they're making a total pig's ear of it.

If, though, the Cummings/Johnson master strategy was to scare the bejesus out of MPs so they get their act together then it seems to be working. Just lately you'll have noted on this blog that I've been drifting toward no deal in that there is no actual point in extending if MPs are not going to vote for a deal and there is no value in them being there in the meantime. MPs would have to spell out what they would usefully do with an extension.

That, though, seems to have been taken on board by Stephen Kinnock whose amendment to the extension bill passed this evening ensures that there will be another crack of the whip for the dreaded withdrawal agreement. The amendment appears to have passed by accident and Johnson doesn't seem to have been in a position to whip against it.

Having pruned his own majority, having failed to secure a general election it appears that Johnson is now a lame duck having endured a third significant commons defeat in two days. Parliament is very much in control by the looks and they would be fools to cede that control to Johnson should they agree to an election.

This puts a managed departure very much back in the frame where, as I presently understand it, unless Johnson comes back with a deal of his own making then there must be another vote on May's deal with all the gubbins that goes with it.

This puts the Brexit Party and the ERG on high alert in that they always suspected a Johnson administration would see the deal they hate so much coming back to haunt them. This time it;s the ultimate test of whether MPs are serious about averting no deal. If they are, then it would seem that no deal, for the moment is dead. We await the response from the Johnson administration.

Johnson would have it that the bill tonight has killed off any chance of securing a deal - again implying that the active threat of no deal is the only tool they have to persuade the EU to drop the backstop - which is a wholly dishonest and silly meme and nobody serious is buying it. No deal is the design and there are no serious negotiations taking place.

This puts Johnson on the backfoot, demanding an election when he is in no position to demand anything. He's hobbled himself, betting the farm on Corbyn falling for the election trap. His no deal game looks to be up.

This, of course, prompts the full outpouring of Brexiter histrionics about MPs betraying Brexit but I think even our quarterwits now realise that if the withdrawal agreement comes up again they have to vote for it lest we be back here at this crisis point again, whereupon they'll be forced to hold a general election that would perhaps put Johnson back in the game. Another reckless remainer gamble would be foolish even by recent standards.

At least, though, we are back in interesting times. If there is the possibility of leaving with a deal then we should at least entertain it. Brexiters will sulk and wail if we do leave without a deal but the no dealers are still in the minority and cannot claim to speak for all those who voted leave.

The fact is that no deal Brexit is not remotely in the national interest. Even if we write off warnings of medicines shortages and chaos at the ports as "project fear" we are still looking at the full array of third country controls decimating trade with out most important partner, trashing participation in major supply chains and hammering small business with no plan B in mind.

Then, of course, as this blogger is tire of repeating, no deal cannot stay no deal and we are then tasked with building a new relationship with the EU from scratch which will be entirely on the EU's terms - and for every week we dither, EU member states further cannibalise UK market share in goods and services. There is simply nothing to recommend no deal save for ending the eye-watering tedium of Westminster procrastination.

Like the Brexiteers I confess to some doubts about the integrity of parliament and there is certainly a game in play to stop Brexit but even now I think the majority realise they have to deliver a Brexit of a sort lest they face the electorate when they turn around and say our votes didn't count. The ultra remainers could conceivably force a second referendum but with a now broken Tory party and no reason to trust them ever again, we'll see a resurgent Brexit movement on steroids and that certainly won't be the end of the matter. The withdrawal agreement, suboptimal though it may be, is really their only option if they want to heal the divisions in the country.

Though the ultras will wail and cry betrayal, I rather suspect most people will settle for it. It then starts a fresh debate about the shape of the new relationship, moving on from fighting the same old tedious battles. If they wanted it some other way then they should have had a plan. Anyone could have anticipated that a hell for leather charge for the exit without a deal would be met with maximum resistance. They are the ones who decided to gamble it.

But then, as I write this, the situation is in flux and may again look radically different tomorrow. There are questions over the viability and significance of the Kinnock amendment, which does not seem to enjoy the support of Corbyn so there is still every chance they could royally screw it up again. Competence might be just too much to hope for.

Amidst the uncertainty, though, the one thing we can rely on is that there will be a general election soon - and Corbyn can't duck it forever simply because a minority government can't hold out that long. There may yet be more defeats and defections that make an election impossible to avoid. But that's only my reading of it. I'm not alone in wondering just what the hell is going on and every time you think you have a grasp of it, something changes. Whatever else we might say about Brexit this week, it isn't boring... for a change.

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