What’s happening? Well a lot has happened since my last post, and then again nothing has happened, apart from a great deal of shouting. Because nothing is agreed, although I qualify that with, actually, there are things that are agreed over the water in the EU, and then not a lot here in the UK (but see timetable). However, things are ratcheting and speeding right up. I’ll stop talking in riddles and tell you that I’m going to write about i) the ‘Agreement and Political Declaration, ii) the timetable and iii) what might happen, or not. But not at any length, as everything is so uncertain. However. There’s stuff happening shortly that will really warrant some discussion. So, first:
- The Agreement and the Political Declaration
A couple of days after I put up my last post the official ‘Withdrawal Agreement’was published. This is a 585-page document which, although I downloaded this to my desktop, I haven’t read. I look at it every now and then and feel faint at the thought of either reading or analysing it, so I’m relying on the journalists who have. But suffice to say I can guarantee that within those 585 pages you will find something to disagree with. In fact, this document has united our divided country in its dislike of most of the contents and their meaning.
In a nutshell the three main areas agreed are: a) Citizen Rights Anyone arriving from the EU to live in the UK up to and including the end of the transition period (which could be to the end of 2022) will enjoy the same rights of any EU national. Apparently, Mrs May didn’t want that, but has had to concede this. Then b) The money we pay It’s £39bn, which is a slight reduction from the £40bn that was bandied about. And before anyone gets scratchy about this, note that this money is to fulfil commitments to the EU made by us. And c) The Irish border. Ah yes, that. The idea is that if any future trade talks with the EU (that’s by 2020) fail to avoid that dreaded hard border the whole of the UK will remain in the Customs Union and Northern Ireland will continue with some Single Market rules. What people (as in politicians on the right, most Brexiteers, and a lot more besides) are a trifle wary of is that in this agreement the UK cannot make an independent decision to leave said Customs Union. Hence the view that because any technological solutions to having a soft or no border are still on the drawing board (and considered to be a fantasy) the UK might be remaining in the Customs Union indefinitely.
This is THEcontentious issue. That we’re not leaving the EU at all. But, note Mrs May’s solution is that we are actually leaving and then again, we’re staying. Not the best situation. But apparently according to Theresa May it is the best solution. And as far as the EU is concerned it is the only solution, because, there is no Plan B, from the EU.
Then there is the Political Declaration. A few days later came the Political Declaration, which once upon a time was thought would include a trade deal with the EU. No such luck there as that idea was scuppered quite early on. Instead we got a 26-page document with some intentions but little else. Apparently, there are many vague phrases about considering appropriate co-operation and arrangements.
2. The timetable – the past couple of weeks
Wednesday 14thNovember – Cabinet meeting. Bit of a shouting match with no resignations.
Thursday 15thNovember – Agreement presented to Parliament. I watched 1½ hours of the 3-hour session (that was enough). Very little praise for the Agreement. And oh yes, a few resignations. There was one person we knew, Dominic Raab, and a few more (?3) from people we didn’t. Not exactly a wave of resignations then, as reported by CNN. Apparently, Michael Gove, a rabid Brexiteer (although no-one trusts him as he blows with the wind) who was thought would have resigned would rather be in the Cabinet than out. And I think he’s part of the Pizza group, or maybe not. (Yes, if you haven’t heard of this phrase before you have now) because there are 5 Cabinet ministers who meet over pizza to discuss Brexit and 5 who don’t, eat pizza that is
On the same day (15th) Rees-Mogg threatened that there will be many letters of no-confidence coming in to the Chief Whip. (48 of these are needed to trigger a leadership contest). That number never materialised and the great Rees-Mogg and his challenge is somewhat diminished.
Sunday 18thNovember– after a bit of flag-waving about Gibraltar from the Spanish leader (have you visited Gib – strange place) resolved by Mrs May agreeing to leave Gibraltar out of any trade deals, the EU met and ratified the Withdrawal Agreement. There is a sense of sadness and ennui emanating from the chief negotiator and EU leader.
3. The timetable – The next couple of weeks
But Theresa May? What of her? Over and over again, she tells us she’s not giving up on this. But somewhat oddly, instead of making her priority the House of Commons where the vote will be lost (but see more about this below) she’s currently going around the country ‘selling’ the deal.
Meanwhile, two key dates to note are as follows: December 4th Parliament’s formal debate on the Agreement begins and December 11th the vote.
At some point between those dates May is going to have a live televised debate with Jeremy Corbyn, but not, says Jeremy, on the day of the I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here final. One journalist has likened the debate to Cersei’s walk of abasement in Game of Thrones (anyone seen that?) as in, May is not a natural debater and Corbyn is possibly a better speaker (and I say possibly as where he scores is in meetings with adoring followers) but as Corbyn’s stance towards the EU is a muddled mess, maybe May is not so stupid to want this debate, thinking it might reveal rather more of Corbyn than he would like and remind people what they might end up with if there was a general election. But tbh, the whole of the past few weeks has been a walk of disaster for Mrs May. The Agreement won’t get through Parliament (or will it – see below) and everyone hates the Agreement and tells her so. I’m not sympathetic to Theresa May. OK, she’s the opposite of a bolter, but she’s responsible for the Agreement, and her exceedingly narrow majority, and some rather shady policies in the Home Office, so, no, I don’t warm to her, but this has to be a most unpleasant experience.
4. What might happen
Who knows. There are numerous articles that contain opinions on what might happen. But I’m going be quite economical with my opinions. Instead, here’s a few pointers re: what could happen – and note I can’t be sure of anything.
December 11thvote in House of Commons – deal approved. We leave the EU on March 29thunder the Withdrawal Agreement terms and conditions. Now the thing is everyone is saying that won’t happen, there just isn’t the maths. I won’t go in to the details but there are just too many MPs against the current deal. But, don’t take that as 100% certain – you can bet that behind closed doors all sorts of arm twisting and deals are being done, including some tweaking of how that vote is actually carried out. So, watch that space closely.
December 11thvote in House of Commons – Parliament rejects deal.This is when the s..t hits the fan, and everything spirals out of control.
Here are some possibilities:
- We leave without a deal, end of.
- Mrs May goes back to the EU and asks for some concessions. Here we have two possibilities. The EU says yes, gives some concessions, there’s another vote – and the deal gets through. Or the EU says no, and we’re definitely in a crisis and….
- Political turmoil with May resigning (really? She’ll have to be told to go), or a leadership contest (hasn’t happened so far) or a general election (unlikely but not impossible).
- All of the above leading to a Second Referendum.
Now the challenge here is what are the questions going to be and how many will be asked? If there are only 2 questions and they are: Mrs May’s deal or no deal, what do you think will be the result? It will be Mrs May’s deal, which is why she’s going around the country now. But will there be 3 questions? With one of them – do we Remain in the EU? If it’s no deal or Remain, Remain would win, but if all 3 questions are there, it could be very close. Consequently, the Second Referendum is not the answer to everyone’s dream if the question – do we Remain – is excluded. And it is not totally certain that Remain would win if there are 3 questions. The only certainty would be two questions: no deal or Remain.
I leave you with some reading re: the latest information coming out from the Bank of England and, and the government that we are going to be considerably worse off, for at least a decade, if we leave the EU. Economic forecasts from many sources are all saying we’d be better remaining in the EU.
Let’s see what happens next week, and on the 11thDecember and thereafter.
Penny Kocher 29thNovember 2018
For the best reading of the Brexit situation and the consequences thereof look at the Financial Times. There’s a paywall to this paper so I’m not giving any links but their analysis is sound and not as biased as some media outlets. I give you two Guardian articles as anyone can read these.