Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Tusk's Response Changes Nothing, But Changes Everything

This morning, I wrote that May had boxed herself into a corner, whereby she would have to revoke Article 50.  Subsequent to that, May alienated further members of her Cabinet and parliamentary party, by reneging on her commitment to ask for a longer extension to Article 50, as a fall back to a request to have a shorter extension.  At PMQ's, May also made it clear that she would no accept a longer extension, with the clear indication that if her deal is not agreed, and a short extension approved by parliament, she would resign, though as I said this morning, that statement could also be interpreted as her indicating that she is about to call a General Election.

The EU has responded to May's letter to them, requesting a delay until 30th June.  Donald Tusk has told May that the EU will agree only to an extension until 23rd. May, and then only if May can come to them, with Britain having agreed a deal.  So, on one level, Tusk's response changes nothing from the situation I described this morning.  The EU, as I suggested, has told May she can only have a short extension if May can first come to them with an approved deal.  Its clear that having had her deal voted down with huge majorities on two occasions, May cannot guarantee she can go to the EU with a deal.  Indeed, Tusk's response changes nothing in May's deal itself, which is what would have to be the case for May to be able to come back to parliament for a Meaningful Vote 3.  It only changes the conditions under which such a vote would be taking place.  Those changed conditions are, of course, what May has hoped for all along, of parliament having a gun to its head to vote for her bad deal, or be plunged into a No Deal.

But, the reality is as I said this morning, parliament has no more reason to vote for MV3 than to have voted for MV2, or MV1.  Indeed, for many there is now every reason to vote against.  For hardline Brexiters it means that there would be more chance of a No Deal crash out, which is what they want.  For Remainers it means more chance that there will be No Brexit, because, as the financial markets continue to indicate, everyone knows that when push comes to shove, May will not, and would not be allowed to push through a No Deal crash out.  The reality is that come next Thursday, if either three is no vote on MV3, or if as seems likely, MV3 is again voted down, the result will be that May will have to revoke Article 50.

But, Tusk's response has also changed everything.  It is clear that EU member states are fed up with Britain's behaviour.  They are now prepared to accept a No Deal Brexit, which will be inconvenient for them, but will be catastrophic for Britain.  By making clear that an extension to May 23rd, is dependent upon May getting a deal approved, it means that May must either reach across to get some compromise deal agreed, which seems impossible at this late stage, or else she might as well push for revoking Article 50 now.

The behaviour of May itself has started to give rise to some concern that she is not acting rationally, which means that an accident could happen.  With the timescale now concertinaed as a result of Tusk's response, and with May's dismissive attitude to parliament at PMQ's, it has already now provoked an unprecedented level of opposition to the government even from within the ranks of Tory MP's.  The potential now, that, even before next week, sufficient Tory MP's might express no confidence in the government is growing.  As I suggested some time ago, it is possible, as the danger of an accidental crash out materialises, that the financial markets may belatedly respond, increasing the aura of crisis surrounding the country, and leading to a Vote of No Confidence in the Government, with a caretaker government put in place, that agrees a lengthy extension of Article 50 with the EU, in order to undertake, a General Election, and arrive at a longer term solution.

That would mean that Britain would also have to take part in this year's EU parliamentary elections.  I suspect the result of those elections will be the opposite of what many are suggesting.  I suspect that anti-Brexit candidates would sweep the board in those elections, as the frustration and anger of opponents of Brexit is the force that has the wind in its sails, that will turn out in large numbers at those elections.  That is one reason the Tories do not want them to be held. 

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