Brexit Election Bluff or Double Bluff

We enjoyed the great mutterings in the press since the weekend about whether the Tories secretly want to have an election BEFORE Brexit day on Halloween.

It appears to have been started by Tim Shipman in the Sunday Times, who suggested that the Government would quite like to have an election on 17 October. However, recognising voter-fatigue, they want Labour to take the hit from the Brenda-of-Bristols who are annoyed at “Not Another One”. The thinking goes that Boris is far ahead in the polls, and so could attend the Euro summit the next day with more power to his elbow, and really give the EU leaders what-for!

The polite word to describe these rumours is bunkum. (The less-polite word also begins with B and has two syllables.) There are two major flaws with the plan. The first is that 18 October is way too close to Brexit day, and so no matter how much power there is at Boris’s elbow (or anywhere else on his anatomy) there just isn’t time for a deal to be pulled together and approved in all the places in which it needs to be passed. Also, two weeks before B-day is just about the worst time to be holding an election – project fear will be in full swing and the media will be full of the impending doom. Boris and his team certainly need to be planning on how to win the peace after B day at that point, but the public may have more pressing matters on their minds.

The Anti-Brexit Forces Are Too Split to Perform

Another week and another proposal from the anti-Brexit brigade. Part of their problem is that they all have agendas so different that they cannot agree on a shared approach.

Mr Corbyn has dreams of No 10

Last week, it was J Corbyn’s dream of rounding up support to propel him into No 10. That wasted another 7 days of precious time. However, putting Mr Corbyn into No 10 was a suitable objective for only Mr Corbyn.

This week, the rebels seem to have dropped the idea of an early no-confidence motion. So perhaps the Sunday papers’ double bluff about the Tories wanting such a thing was successful after all? The latest plan is to take control of Parliament and pass legislation to force Mr Johnson to extend Brexit. The trouble is, all of the people involved are playing politics, working out whether such a step helps their own person ambitions. However, despite Mr Bercow’s self-belief, the Government controls order papers, and can easily string out any arguments about procedure – perhaps reminding Parliament that they are not in the business of dis-obeying instructions from the electorate.

Frau Merkel in better health

Meanwhile, Frau Merkel’s sarcastic comment to Boris suggesting he should try to solve the Irish backstop in 30 days (when it hasn’t been closed down in over 30 months) has held open the prospect of a last minute deal, taking away some fire from the stop-No-deal faction of the anti-Brexit rabble.

 

 

What Will Happen?

In our view – remember, we are almost as clueless as the next person, depending on who that next person happens to be – Boris has got B-day in the bag for 31 October. It feels like there will be too much egg-on-face for the EU to renegotiate, and so a No-deal Brexit seems the most likely outcome. However, this time there has been ample warning, and so trade will keep flowing, people will continue to travel, and most of the strain will happen behind the scenes. This is kind of the inverse of the fig-leaf Brexit we forecast in the spring, when we thought a net-curtain of a deal would happen to save face. Now it looks like both sides will rush towards No-Deal, for the message that will send to their own electorates, but behind the scenes everything will function!

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Brexit With Only A Short Delay

Sorry, Brexit again today!

Still businesses cannot plan for the second half of the year. Will the EU27 put us out of our misery? Everyone has had enough of Brexit by now surely – except for the media?  I’d love to know how it affects newspaper sales and radio/tv listener and viewer figures.

The betting is on a much longer extension than Mrs May’s proposed 30 June. Given that she has been neutered by Parliament, she will have to accept whatever delay she is given. Of course, the EU leaders will determine what is in their own best interests. They can agree on any date they like, and even demand all sorts of concessions. What will be their drivers?

  1. Nobody wants to take the blame for a No Deal Brexit.

  2. The EU does not want to have endless focus on Brexit when it has plenty of other issues to resolve

  3. They must expect that forcing the UK to hold European elections on 23 May risks a huge vote for the Brexit Party/UKIP – which is not the example they will want to show to their own populist voters.

  4. They can see that the Tory/Labour “talks” are being held for show, and are unlikely to get a Parliament-proof agreement.

  5. Any date beyond 30 June will mean that they have a new UK Prime Minister, who will be keen to make a mark by taking a much tougher approach with negotiations, starting with tearing up the existing Withdrawal Agreement. This is not good news for the EU.

It feels like the best scenario for the EU is to keep those deadlines short and tight, perhaps pushing Parliament to choose between the current May Deal or revoking Article 50 altogether. This could result in a cast-iron, firm leaving date of 22 May – and maybe even as soon as 26 April.

From a business point of view, the uncertainty must cease. Having a year-long postponement just means kicking the can down the road, with nothing being settled for another year. Such an outcome will not play well with the electorate, and could be very damaging to the Conservative Party. But it would give plenty of time for a new leader to be installed and start negotiations anew.

Given the five aspects listed above, it is clear that No-deal could still happen, and to us, a short extension feels most likely, with 30 June as the backstop. (No, not THAT backstop.  Actually, the Ireland Island issue has been quiet recently hasn’t it?). And this time, there really will be No Deal if Parliament doesn’t vote for anything else.

 

Please, just get it over with, and make it as quick and painless as possible.

 

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Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. at Parliament

Well the Guardian already has the headline “No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. With all those “No’s”, it could almost have been a negotiation with the DUP. We are now past despair and into gallows humour at Brexit.

Guardian Front Page captures Parliament’s Historic Choices

So the House of Commons took control – and then didn’t know what to do with it! Laughable isn’t it? But once we have finished smirking at their incompetence, it does leave one small, irritating, nagging point hanging there.

WHAT NOW?

Democratic Unionist Party. The Clue is in the Name!

As we said yesterday, we don’t think that the DUP will fold. If they did, then the May Deal would get through, she would resign in the next few weeks, and we can have the excitement of a leadership election over May and June.

Assuming that Mrs May’s Withdrawal Deal doesn’t get through, then what? A general election seems as unlikely now as it did when we reviewed in January. Whilst the Tory Party has plenty of turkeys, they still won’t vote for Christmas. A long delay still feels like No Brexit, and that won’t get through Parliament either.

Having failed to make any decision for all this time, will the EU put us out of our misery? Someone has to be the grown-up in this relationship – and, humiliatingly, it is not the UK.

Suddenly, No Deal is looking more likely than ever!

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Tariffs for a No Deal Brexit – The Negotiations Continue

Clever move eh? Cutting tariff levels to zero on a wide wide range of imports has two clear messages;-

Goods Being Imported
  1. To the EU that perhaps they need to be a bit more flexible in their no-more-negotiations approach, or they can expect their exports to UK to decline drastically (especially hot topics like Irish farmers and German car-makers)

  2. To the UK consumers – who tend to be voters – that leaving the EU without a deal could have some upside too, with cheaper prices for a wide range of goods.

So they just need to protect the farmers (hence still some taxes on imports of agricultural products) to avoid any bad publicity.

Oh, and a third message to Brexit Nerds (such as us). The May Deal is still open for negotiation.

The fun goes on!

Cheaper Imports?
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Two Hours in Strasbourg Resolves Brexit! (Not)

Forget about Relate, ACAS or all of the thousands of arbitrators and facilitators. Has your divorce, or workplace negotiation, boundary dispute or EU Withdrawal Agreement gotten nowhere in the last two and a half years? Clearly what you need is an evening in Strasbourg.

Pretty Strasbourg
Theresa of London
Jean-Claude of Brussels

Theresa of London had been travelling to Brussels to resolve an awkward tiff with her estranged partner Jean-Claude. Despite months of trying, she had achieved nothing but a trying time. Bringing in her lawyer Geoffrey and her “fixer” Oli had made matters worse. But two hours with Jean-Claude in the magical surroundings of Strasbourg has made all the difference.

 

Back to reality!

Sadly, in the cold light of day, what seemed like a wonderful way forward in the French moonlight now feels like a mistake. Will Theresa ever learn not to give so much away without more commitment? First it was her £39bln exchanged for nothing more than a vague promise of goodwill. Now she has bet everything on a “legally-binding” complementary document.

European Parliament Building in Strasbourg

Will she regret giving her trust by tonight? Sadly, once this morning’s euphoria wears off, we feel Theresa won’t make it across the line this evening. We know and love the phrase “It’s a long shot but it might just work”. But those advocating gambling on long-odds horses should ship out to Cheltenham for the Festival. By definition, the chances are that you will lose! It was a sterling effort by Mrs May, and like nearly all the real people in this country, we just want it over. Will the DUP change their minds – and will Bill Cash and his star-chamber of lawyers change their minds? We can’t quite see it.

Cheltenham Festival starts today
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Fig-Leaf Brexit Deal Still Most Likely- and Parliament Misses the Irony.

Harold Wilson

Harold Wilson thought a week is a long time in politics. By which, he meant that a lot can happen in a short period of time. In contrast to that, a week continues to be a short time in Brexit.

Since we commented a week ago, two weeks ago, four weeks ago, and even five weeks ago, very little has changed. I can’t remember what happened three weeks ago, when we couldn’t even repeat our usual comments.

Geoffrey Cox MP

So the song remains the same. This week it is Geoffrey Cox who has drawn the short straw to go to Brussels and then come home empty handed. The EU will not compromise on its single market principle, and so will not time-limit the backstop.

To be fair, it was fun to see Theresa May twisting on her Brexit Means 29 March mantra last week. It must have been like cutting off one’s leg to keep the wolves at bay for a couple of weeks. To avoid a defeat last week, she engineered a certain rebuff to her scheme for next week! Confirming a vote on delay takes away any incentive for Remainers to accept her deal.

Theresa May

Or was it a cunning plan, figuring that the Remainers will not come around to support her plan in enough numbers, so her only hope is to threaten the Brexiteers with delay and ultimately No Brexit, if they do not support her. Clever eh? It’s a long shot but it might just work (anybody know from where that line originated?) Clever, but ultimately doomed to failure. The Brexiteers will not support her deal in enough numbers.

Here’s how we see the next few days panning out……..

  1. Geoffrey Cox returns essentially empty handed

  2. ERG denounces his attempts at weakening the backstop

  3. Mrs May’s Deal is defeated again in a parliamentary vote

  4. Parliament votes to avoid No-Deal

  5. Parliament votes for a delay of 3 months

  6. Michel Barnier refuses a three-month delay as merely postponing the cliff-edge

  7. Parliament votes for a 21 month delay

  8. Michel Barnier refuses a 21 month delay as he believes nothing will change in Parliament, and he doesn’t want the UK to send lots of Brexiteer MEPs to Brussels in the summer.

  9. Mrs May begs for a 4 week delay to enact all the necessary legislation and to finalise vital matters

  10. Within that time, the Fig-Leaf Deal to keep things working at an operational level is concluded.

  11. UK leaves with a Fig-Leaf on 26 April 2019

  12. Life goes on.

As a final thought, isn’t it funny that Parliament has taken control of Brexit – and is doing its damnedest to cede as much power as possible to Brussels? It feels like they would rather have the EU run our economy with Parliament having no say at all. Did all our MPs miss the course on how to be power-crazed megalomaniacs? Have they no self-respect?

Houses of Parliament
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Is the Fig-Leaf Brexit Deal Looking Shaky?

It’s been 8 days since we last commented on Brexit – but our view remains the same. A Fig-Leaf Deal will be conjured up in the last couple of weeks.

Brussels

However, with the end-game in sight, things are happening. There continues to be no majority in Parliament for anything. So what do we make of the changes over the last 24 hours?

  1. The Labour Party suddenly support a second referendum

    But which referendum? Mr Corbyn has been forced at gunpoint (not literally – as far as we know) to go against the Labour manifesto and support another poll. It remains unclear just what sort of referendum they want. Is it a May-deal vs Remain, a May-deal vs No Deal, or No deal vs Remain. In reality, this move is all about managing the Labour Party to try to prevent any more defections to the “Tiggers”. (Ha, I wonder if they realised what would become their inevitable nickname when they chose The Independent Group? Are they full of enthusiasm – or bouncing around in an uncontrollable manner? Time will tell I guess.)

    It seems that Mr Starmer would give the electorate a choice of Brino (Brexit In Name Only – staying in the customs union and single market) or no Brexit at all. It is hard to see this getting through the commons

  2. Peter Kyle (Labour back-bencher) Wants a Take-It-Or-Leave-It Referendum for the May-Deal

    Peter Kyle leading “Is This The Way to Amarillo” – perhaps.

    Mr Kyle’s proposal would kick in if Mrs May’s Deal is approved by Parliament. Thus it is a choice between the May-deal or the current stalemate. It is hard to see why the Tories would support this.

  3. A Short Delay

    There could be some support in Parliament for a short delay, to at least give the No-deal scenario time to sort out the emergency planning. However, this seems to be more of a worry for UK than EU. So it is not clear why the EU would agree to it. After all, they still want to make an example of us “pour encourage les autres” . It perhaps could be agreed if the alternative was a painful chaos for the EU, just to give a bit of extra time to conclude the Fig-leaf deal. Two months at most!

  4. A Long Delay

    This still seems doubly unattractive. It would be a defeat for the Tories. Parliament will be wary of going down this road for fear of appearing to ignore the referendum poll. And even if we did request it, the EU would only accept a postponement if accompanied by a clear intention not to leave at all. Otherwise, it would cause all sorts of complexity around the forthcoming elections. The last thing the EU, Mrs May OR Mr Corbyn want is a resurgent UKIP winning lots of seats in the May (the month not the PM) elections.

All of these People’s Vote alternatives have the disadvantage of a delay, with potentially no proper solution after the vote. So it still looks like the clock is being run down, and we’ll end up with a Fig-Leaf Deal – perhaps no tariffs for 2 years and equivalence of standards. This will be increasingly likely if Mrs May is tortured into agreeing to take No-Deal off the table today. She has too much capital tied up in 29 March and understands that there is no way forward for her (and probably the Conservative Party) if we do not leave on that day or very shortly afterwards.

So the conclusion stays the same as we said 8 days ago in Still Still It’s a Fig-Leaf Deal Brexit. Peak Brexsteria is Over. Which was the same as we said 19 days ago in Still It’s a Fig-Leaf Deal Brexit. Oh, and 28 days ago we predicted Brexit – Now It Will Be a Fig-Leaf Deal on 29 March.

Nothing is certain in the current Westminster climate, and given the cabinet meeting this morning, 3 hours could be a long time in politics, to paraphrase Mr Wilson. Let’s see what today brings!

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Still Still It’s a Fig-Leaf Deal Brexit. Peak Brexsteria is Over

Twenty days ago, we wrote “Brexit – Now It Will Be a Fig-Leaf Deal on 29 March”.

Eleven days ago, we wrote “Still It’s a fig-Leaf Brexit”.

Today we are writing “Still Still It’s a Fig-Leaf Deal Brexit”.

Next week we’ll compose “Still Still Still It’s a Fig-Leaf Deal Brexit.”

Groundhog Day

What did John Logie Baird write about It’s Deja Vu all over again? And at least in Groundhog Day, Bill Murray had Andie MacDowell to hold his attention. We have nothing so exciting to contemplate. However, it is hard to feel any rising panic in the air about Brexit. And yet that seems to be Mrs May’s tactic: frighten the country into agreeing her Deal. Her approach has failed. Is it just me, or has the country gone past peak Brexsteria?

 

With Brexit we continue to have the intractable Northern Ireland issue. The EU considers integrity of its market as sacrosanct. The UK holds its territorial integrity as indivisible, and Parliament will not agree to an endless submission to external rules. Each side expects the other to blink first. Neither side will give way, as they would each rather blame the other side and have no deal than break their principles. This has been clear to all observers since about June 2016.

More Air Travel for Ministers

And yet Theresa May continues to scuttle off to Brussels. This week she even has her ministers going all over Europe as well. What a disaster for climate change! All those wasted gallons of jetfuel.

Yet the politicians have to be seen to be doing something. Which is why they will pull a fig-leaf deal out of the hat at the last minute. Food will continue to be imported, planes will carry on flying and numerous protocols will be established so that life carries on without too much impact. – and the politicians can take the credit for “saving us”! That is the Fig-Leaf deal Brexit.

 

Yogi Berra

PS. OK, we know it was Yogi Berra with the Deja Vu comment. Just seeing if you were awake.

 

PPS. Does anyone know if the cartoon character was inspired by Berra’s name? We need to know these things!

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Still It’s a Fig-Leaf Deal Brexit

Do you think Theresa needs the airmiles? Or the ritual humiliation?

Can’t think of any other reasons she is flying to Brussels YET again, just to be told NO. Perhaps she likes airline food? Or the little gift packs that BA give out in first class. We have to assume that she turns left when she boards the plane don’t we?

The EU is in no mood to bend on the Irish backstop. Parliament is in no mood to change its mind either. Many commentators predict that the EU will negotiate at the the 11th hour – but I don’t see that.

It feels like postponement or a second referendum are off the agenda. Have you heard anything about either of them in the last couple of weeks?

So no deal it is – but both sides don’t like the politics of that, so there will be a late fig-leaf deal to cover their collective embarrassment.

Just one last thought. How is it that every step of the negotiation has involved the UK contingent scuttling off to Belgium? If the EU is truly interested in a fair and balanced talks, why don’t they ever come to London? Oh, I think I answered my own question there!

 

Previously…….

 

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Brexit – Now It Will Be a Fig-Leaf Deal on 29 March

Nein, No, Nee, Ne, Nie, He, Nu, Nao, Nem, ziadny, No, Uimh, Nej Le, Nullum et NON. There is no way that the EU will agree to a No-Backstop Withdrawal Agreement this week.

We have to remember that Hell Hath No Fury Like An Ever-Closer-Political-Union Scorned. Mrs May’s trip to Brussels is nothing more than political theatre, with no prospect of any substantive negotiations taking place.

These are the stages we see for the “negotiations” (Ha, we placed them in quotes because a negotiation needs two willing parties, and here there is only one.)

  1. This week, Mrs May goes to Brussels. She will be insulted, and come home empty-handed. If she was any normal person, she’d have her tail between her legs, but Theresa-The-Resilient will still think she is in the game and hold her head high

  2. In a couple of weeks, she’ll return, and the EU will make some concessions on the backstop – but also want a quid pro quo of something that is totally unacceptable, perhaps fishing rights or sovereignty over Gibraltar.

  3. Parliament will quite correctly reject these demands – but this will take until the end of February.

  4. Parliament will try to extend Article 50 but be rebuffed by Mrs May AND Brussels, in a rare moment of harmony.

  5. In the second half of March, a very thin “Deal” will be agreed where the UK pays a substantial amount of money for relatively restricted short-term smoothing benefits and the right to negotiate a trade deal in the future. It will in effect be No Deal, but presented as A DEAL.

  6. Thus we still leave on 29 March. Everyone will know it is No Deal in all but name. What we will actually have is a FIG-LEAF DEAL!

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