by John Ward
Just when you thought Brussels had petulantly shot itself in the foot, details began to emerge this evening of a Seven Card Trick designed to convert the soft (and struggling) Withdrawal Agreement into pure BRINO – Brexit in Name Only. The Slog examines the slow poisoning of Sovereign Brexit.
Wishfully Unthinking Theresa Chamberpot came back from
BerchtesgartenBrussels last night with half the Brextension she wanted and (as always with the EU) lots of homework to do. Unfortunately, the 27 have given an Arts scholar the task of calculating the mass of Saturn’s rings by the end of next week. For the first time since they began repeating their favourite mantra nearly three years ago, Britain’s Remoanoids will be correct next week if they observe that MPs “don’t know what they’re voting for”.
The situation is so complex now – seven options and umpteen possible consequences, intended or otherwise – that nobody can vote on anything in the Commons with other than a sense of foreboding.
Last night, the Brussels Commission strategy seemed very clear….and could be summed up in three bullet points:
- They had given the PM a task they know she can’t complete. They know full well that WA3 won’t pass (Macron came out of last night’s session quoting the chances at 5%) and they also know that May will do anything to avoid leaving without a deal. So she would need a longer extension. But that was refused.
- The main condition of getting even the month or so Brextension was that WA3 must be passed. They grasp that this will be defying the desire of 647 UK constituencies out of 650, but don’t ever confuse the EU with those who like democracy or free speech.
- Although not conditional, the 27 made it clear to the Prime Minister that their ideal solution would be the revocation of Article 50….again demonstrating the contempt they have for the 2016 referendum result. (Needless to say, Baron Adenoids has already popped up on British telly to say what a smashing idea he thinks that would be.)
It was all smiles later with lots of moowa-moowa-kissy-kissy, but Mrs May now appeared to be painted into an even tighter corner than she’d been beforehand. There to advise her, however, was the omniscient (some say omnipotent) Olly Robbins, grinning the fatuous smile that has made him infamous in recent months.
Also with her in that corner was the Labour Party, which simply cannot go back on its demolition of what is being proposed in the Withdrawal Agreement…but doesn’t want the UK to crash out from the cliff edge into the deep abyss of life doing what most other countries do in the world, viz, trade on WTO terms.
Now on Planet Earth, the three points above would mean that 1) WA3 doesn’t pass and so 2) the Brextension becomes null and void, thus 3) we leave without a deal on March 29th anyway.
In that context, my first thought was that the Brussels Mob had decided that they must bite the bullet, and be mainly determined that all the blame be laid at Britain’s door. Germany’s Minister for Europe this afternoon seemed to confirm that theory, bombastically suggesting that Britain’s “indecisive Parliament” was entirely to blame for not coming together to help get through the Withdrawal Agreement. To repeat the earlier point, this is just crass virtue signalling – and could be phrased more accurately as, “We are sick and tired of your unwillingness to stab your citizens in the front, so it’s time you went away, Britischer wimpy democrats”.
The real reasons we’re here are first, because a Merkel-led clique dictated a capitulation to Robbins et al; and second, May was dense enough to imagine MPs would ever buy into it. But having made that mistake, the 27 appeared to have chosen a route that guaranteed the worst possible outcome for them.
The European Commission is of course a terminally stupid and profoundly vainglorious operation, so in that sense the behaviour fits. Nevertheless, having mulled it over this morning and made a few (albeit brief) phone calls, I still felt there was a cunning plan in play. And at 5.35 pm GMT this evening, The Plan appeared.
Examined closely, the Magnificent Seven represent five obvious dilutions of Sovereign Brexit, and two others.
I do not believe The Seven came from the brain of our Prime Minister, simply because the ruse is a both creative and clever way to disguise responsibility. Most likely it was cooked up by Robbins with his German counterpart. The options are:
1 Revoking Article 50, 2 a second referendum, 3 the Prime Minister’s deal, 4 her deal with a customs union, 5 Her deal + customs union + single market, 6 a standard free-trade agreement, or 7 a no-deal Brexit.
Why is this clever? Let me offer a take on it.
Given these are to be voted upon by our MPs, we can immediately rule out 1 (blatant spit in the face of the electorate) 3 The PM’s deal (already turned down twice) and 7 (90% of MPs against it).
4 & 5 would bring Labour on board, and leave Brexiteer MPs stranded as an impotent rump. But it would tie us forever to the EU in even more ways than the May Deal alone.
6 is the obvious solution for both wobbly and hardline Brexiteers, but pointedly leaves out the elements that would get Labour on board, and isn’t terribly appealing to Tory Remainers.
2 suits Baron Adenoids of the Remainoids, but cannot be arranged quickly. May has in the past called the idea “a slap in the face of the electorate”, but this needn’t concern us, as she is a performing seal prepared to twist and somersault every which way in order to get the result she wants.
Options 4 and 5 are therefore the clear front-runners. And to sweeten the pill, I suspect there would be the offer of a Second Referendum between April and May – such that The People’s Vote then appears to ratify what would in effect be a Brexit so soft, its presence in the accompanying paperwork woud be borderline homoaeopathic.
I do also sense, however, that if the electorate’s reaction to this subterfuge is hugely negative, we can scrub the Second Referendum idea. After all, we don’t want any more “mistakes” now, do we? Of course not.
Funnily enough, I very much doubt a massive public outcry. I think so many people are now exhausted, confused and disgusted, they will fall into line with any solution that can be spun 24/7 as “the only way to get Brexit”.
We shall see. Or not.