Brexit – end game

According to Greg Sheridan in The Weekend Australian”:

“Only one prediction is certain: the Brexit mess, which has already exhausted the patience of the British public, has a long way to run.

Previously he had concluded from his inability to accurately predict anything at all, that “nobody knows” while also saying:

“…no-deal Brexit or the no Brexit at all are about equally likely.”.

Now he is back to being “certain” but certain of something quite different from BOTH his “equally likely” main options.

Once again Sheridan picks the most widely spouted and least plausible prediction.

It is of course still theoretically possible that there could be a “hard Brexit”. It could happen “by accident” if one of the EU 27 vetos an extension or if the EU initially grants only a short extension until offered a credible reason for a longer one and the UK does not provide one in time. But even that would not have “a long way to run”. There would be some immediate emergency response to an “accident”.

Another theoretical possibility is that the UK Parliament could very narrowly adopt the currently proposed deal and reject holding a referendum to “confirm” it. This is being hyped at the moment with some Tory Brexiteers indicating that they might humiliate themselves by voting for the deal that they denounced, correctly, as far worse than remaining in the EU in order to keep on whining during the subsequent transition period. That could qualify as “a long way to run” – if anybody let them just keep exhausting “the patience of the British public” through the long transition period.

But that too could only happen by “accident”. The focus on loud mouthed Tory Brexiteers who keep voting against their party whip ignores the fact that there are far larger numbers of Tory remainers who have been complying with the whip only because they have not had any need to defy it on votes where the “deal” would be rejected by an overwhelming majority anyway. They are anxious to get it over with and have been prevented from doing so only by Corbyn’s tactics of assisting the Tory party to tear itself to pieces by delaying the end game now in progress and by Theresa May’s tactics of minimizing the damage done by lunatic Brexiteers by totally isolating them.

Certainly adopting a humiliating “deal” and refusing to let the people vote on it would keep the “omnishambles” running. But not for long. After such an “accidental” vote and the reaction to it, the necessary legislation would still not get through a Parliament that has a solid majority opposed to Brexit. Again, there would be an emergency reaction to the “accident”.

It is tempting to conclude from Sheridan’s latest prediction that it will be all over within a few days. The Tory party whip is no longer effective even for senior cabinet Ministers so it would be possible that a third motion to adopt the “deal” could still be put tomorrow after Theresa May has extracted the maximum humiliation from her Tory opponents by getting enough of them to publicly commit to voting for it. Then an amendment to make it “subject to confirmation by referendum” could be carried (or even accepted by the Government). The final motion would be overwhelming, would leave it up to the people and would totally isolate the Brexiteers.

But that scenario requires that the third “meaningful vote” is actually held soon, presumably based on enough Tory Brexiteers and some from Labour) having signed on to the “vassal state” deal based on agreeing that the “backstop” is acceptable with an agreement that it will apply to the entire UK rather than establishing separate regulations for Northern Ireland. Granted that they are even more unprincipled and stupid than Greg Sheridan, there are still two reasons to doubt that the vote will actually be held this week.

1. Sheridan said last weekend “May will submit her deal to the House of Commons for a third time next week”. This of course is not conclusive evidence that it won’t happen. Greg Sheridan probably believes the earth is not flat, yet he would be right about that. Still, it would be unusual for anything he expects about Brexit to actually happen.

2. The EU has started making preparations for BOTH a brief extension and a subsequent longer one. This suggests that people who are following events a lot more closely than I can, do think there is a serious possibility it won’t be all over this week. A decision tomorrow for a referendum would automatically result in a longer extension without a preceding short extension. Likewise a convincing decision for the “deal” without a referendum would automatically result in a short extension without a subsequent longer one. Only an “accident” or an ongoing deadlock could need both.

If a deadlocked vote is held this week and the deal is rejected again with no decision for a referendum, the UK will request a long extension to sort itself out. The natural EU response, already announced, would be to offer the extension conditional on a “credible reason”. With Labour plus an insufficient but large number of Tories having already joined the minor parties in proposing a referendum it could become obvious to anyone except Greg Sheridan what is needed for a “credible reason” to expect that a long delay would result in an actual decision.

There could be some back and forth but it would fairly quickly emerge that a referendum will be needed.

If anybody wanted to be fair, and to humiliate the Brexiteers further, the choice between Remain and vassal state BRINO would require a qualified majority to be binding. eg If BRINO wins with a larger majority than “Leave” in the previous referendum it is binding. If Remain wins with a larger majority than in the previous referendum that becomes binding. If either majority is not larger there was no result and the debate would then have “a long way to run” with alternative options during the long delay.

This would be “fair” to the hard Brexiteers who could simply campaign for a boycott as they would anyway.

Likewise it would be “fair” to advocates of other imaginary proposals.

But I doubt that any of the decision makers want to be “fair”. Apart from the hard Brexiteers they just want to get it over with as soon as they can be reasonably certain of the outcome not being anything that idiots like Sheridan would like.

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