by John Ward
May’s vote tomorrow will fail, and Parliament will move to ensure No Deal is taken off the table and thrown in the bin in short order. Dominic Raab talks a good game about that making for an impossible situation, but his “belief” that the UK will leave the EU on March 29th doesn’t add up. Leavers are exaggerating the ‘difficulty’ in changing the Withdrawal Act. The Slog analyses where we’re going.
One of many things both good and bad to be revealed by the shambolic Brexit process is just how shallow the vast majority of mainstream media “analysis” of events is. Sky News, for example, has but one mode of “informing” us: this is to drag in yet another media-trained smoothie pol and then ask them questions beginning with, “But isn’t that just….”
Astonishingly, the interviewee says “No”, and then trots out the latest wriggle-room line from HQ. The assumption seems to be that a selection of self-interested lies will sooner or later reveal some kind of outcome.
But in the 21st century, it is no longer enough to go medium close-up on a good presenter who’s thought about all the motives, the cui bono, what makes sense and what doesn’t…and says, “It looks to me like”. Now we have to go over live to Amber Rudd leaving her house in the morning in order to hear her say “Good morning” politely several times and then get into her limo for another hard day’s apologising.
This is my best shot at a segue into analysing the half-baked guesses about what is going to “happen” in these The Final Brexit Hours, and why.
Let’s start with tomorrow’s vote – The Big One. Is Theresa May’s capitulation – not one word of which has changed since November 26th 2018 – going to pass the Commons? Well, you can listen to the “We’re still hopeful that MPs will do their duty on this one” guff from the May camp, or you can observe that nothing’s changed (her words, not mine) and say “Don’t be silly, No”.
The word is that May wants the vote now to be provisional not meaningful. It isn’t going to make any difference. The PM has lost the plot.
OK, so there’s one thing we know. Now let’s review why she’s the woman painted into this corner sporting the Dunce cap.
She’s there because Brussels had a paint pot behind its back, and steered her towards the corner. Now think about this a little. If the Barniers and Junckers really wanted a deal, would they have painted her into the corner and left her there marooned by slow-drying paint? I mean, is the backstop really so important to the Commission that it’s worth turning it into a deal-breaker?
And here too, the answer is “No”: because they don’t want a deal. They don’t want any deal in which Britain stops sending money to Brussels, and losing money on Franco-German trade.
Their assumption is that Britain is heading into extension. Indeed, Barnier gave the game away the week before last when he blithely announced that it would happen, and he reckoned a few more months might do it. At which point, Macron said, “In your dreams sunshine….this can’t be sorted in a few months”.
Despite majority Leaver assumptions that the money is now heavily on ‘Leave with no Deal’, I’m afraid I’m still with Brussels on this one: the most likely outcome is a messy, half-arsed extension. Why?
OK, let’s start with Sophie Ridge’s interview with Dominic Raab yesterday on Sky. Raab (whose politics are closer to mine than anyone else involved in the Whiteminster ruck) wasn’t challenged by Sophie. He took command early on and said, “We’re leaving without a deal on the 29th, and that’s the right thing to do”.
While this may have cheered the Leave mainstream up no end, Mr Raab said precisely what you would expect him to say. His brief spell as Brexit secretary has convinced him that Brussels is utterly untrustworthy, and terrified of No Deal Brexit. He is also presenting himself now as the man ready to tell Brussels to get knotted….the leader in waiting once the long knives finally do for Theresa. “I voted Leave, and I meant it – you can trust me” is his pitch. He wants Juncker and Merkel to hear that, and think that their stonewalling has been a mistake. That’s good for the country, good for a serious renegotiation, and of course, very good for his career prospects. He hopes that, when faced with admin chaos and the loss of £39billion by trying to be too clever by half, the Barnier Mob will think again. And, equally, he hopes to persuade diehard Tory Remainers that we should leave on time, and then take a cosh to Brussels afterwards.
So now today, social media Leaver expectations have swung back towards “We leave on the 29th – hurrah!” Much as I’d like this to happen, I still doubt that it will.
This time it’s about Parliamentary maths. Frankly, they don’t support Raab’s contention.
We already know there is a massive Commons majority in favour of taking No Deal off the table. Further, we know that this (and a second referendum) are now Labour Party policy. Apart from its own smallish knot of Leave MPs, we know that at some point between now and March 27th, the Cooper Amendment will achieve rock solid Labour support….plus that of the Tory globalist Right. Add to that the support of the LibDems. Then take off some Tories in tight seats worried that extension will lead to the Party being slaughtered at a perhaps imminent election.
You’re still looking at a majority of well over 150 MPs.
Now take all these likelihoods, and see where we end up. It isn’t pretty. Parliament has voted down the May Deal. Under the very clear Law of the Land, in theory we must therefore leave on the 29th. But then Parliament has voted that, Law of the Land or not, it rejects a No Deal departure.
The No Deal Leavers insist that there isn’t time to change the Law and draft another one. But then, they would say that. And on the other hand, they’re right: normally, from First Reading to final draft for Royal Assent and then codification into Law takes a year.
There is a general legal (and accepted) convention that it should not take longer than a year. But these are not normal times: if you’re motivated enough and Parliament plus the Palace are up for it, you can do it in a week….and there are no usage or convention precedents relating to that.
In May 1940, following the Nazi invasion of France, Parliament passed and entire and massively encompassing Treachery Action in under three weeks.
“The passage of a piece of legislation from start to finish can be done in a few days,” says a Government pamphlet on the subject issued by the Cabinet office in 2013. Reading the document, it becomes clear that there are two issues with getting it done quickly:
- Setting aside other planned legislation which has already been given a time slot. It is hard to see any legislative bills on the stocks right now that could possibly be deemed more important than changing the Brexit withdrawal date….especially if 75% of MPs want to do it. Which they do.
- The dolling out of jobs for the boys in the legal profession and Whitehall to ensure there are no cockups. That’s me being a tad cynical – but not overly much: this excerpt give you some idea of what’s involved:
I’m here to tell you that despite the army of “experts” involved, it is rare for any Act of Parliament to reach the Statute book without being full of holes, impractical idiocies and confusing codicils. But set that aside, and instead take this on board: all we are talking about here is a change (open-ended or otherwise) to the departure date. There is no reason at all in this Bill to talk about renegotiated deals, or the abolition of the withdrawal.
If the Cooper amendment is passed this week (there’s no earthly reason why not) Parliament could then instruct the Executive to introduce a new Withdrawal Bill. Passing it through and getting the Queen’s signature on it before March 29th would be child’s play if the Revised Withdrawal Act 2019 is introduced by (say) March 20th . And believe me, Ollie Robbins and his gang of Putschists would be just gagging to do it.
Much as I like Bill Cash and approve of Raab’s chutzpah, we of the Leaver persuasion are facing the same impasse as we did the morning after the June 2016 referendum: a suppliant Parliament that wants to Remain, plus a civil service disloyal to the British People.
I would love to leave on the 29th. I still believe we won’t. I should like to see an early election following the election of a new Conservative Leader. That is the one, last chance we will get to achieve full Sovereign Brexit….by voting in a Parliamentary Coalition that is rock-solid for Leave.
Meanwhile, the silence from Nigel Farage is deafening. (Cue launch of his New Party Wednesday morning?)