Brexit – born again

On October 18 I argued that Bojo’s “deal” had effectively ended Brexit since it had no chance of success. That was proved spectacularly wrong as I had not correctly taken into account the narrow calculations of Scottish Nationalists and the blind treachery of Liberal Democrats.

Bojo has won a comfortable majority so the Brexit saga certainly does have quite a long way to run. The majority may well be large enough for the public not to be greatly involved in any drama about agreeing to an extension of the transition period by July and failing to negotiate a Free Trade agreement before 2021. There won’t be a sudden “cliff edge” and the fight over trade policy while the UK declines (and possibly disintegrates) may well be confined to battles within the establishment.

The fact that a majority are now opposed to Brexit and actively opposed to the party now firmly in power for the next five years, will certainly have long term consequences, especially as that majority includes most of the next generation. But I gave up attempting to follow the details as soon as the election was called as the short term is depressingly predictable and uninteresting.

If the Libdems and Nationalists were not what they are, things could have gone as I expected:

14. Whatever happens, whether Bojo becomes a lame duck or is replaced by Corbyn or by some other PM, whoever is in government will have no working majority, no way to deliver Brexit and no way to escape. There is only one other way to get a general election since the power of the Crown to dissolve Parliament was removed by the FtPA. That is by agreement from both the Labour and Tory parties for a 2/3 majority. The Bojo bounce will either continue a slow descent or start to plummet, since Bojo and the Tory party obviously cannot deliver anything promised.

15. The House will proceed to legislate for a Final Say referendum to be followed promptly by a general election before the new Brexit deadline. If necessary it could force the necessary funding by tying it to other Supply. Since the EU has actually agreed to Bojo’s variation, a simple binary self-executing choice can easily be agreed on: Yes automatically ratifies the deal. No automatically prohibits it. The Libdems might try to insist on Remain as an option, but that would only help get Brexit party voters to support Bojo’s variation of Leave.

16. Bojo will lead the Leave campaign whether he is PM or leader of the opposition. He will sideline the Brexit party even more if his posturing as champion of the people against the establishment, big business, Courts and Parliament is not undermined by remaining PM as well being a Tory toff from Eton and Oxford. But Leave cannot win against both Remain supporters and Brexit party voters.

17. The best Bojo can do is to lead that campaign to glorious defeat since there never was a majority for a viable hard Brexit, let alone for one that breaks up the UK. That is still a plausible Tory plan since it would save some seats at the subsequent general election by sidelining the Brexit party.

Without the SNP and Libdems the only prospect for Baldrick’s cunning plans was a steady decline in support for Brexit while Bojo was left floundering with nothing at all he could do about it until it suited his opponents to put an end to his misery with either a referendum or a general election.

That prospect did not suit either the Libdems or the SNP.

As I mentioned on 11 August:

Libdems now have more need for an early election than for stopping Brexit but cannot admit it.

Likewise the Labour, Tory and Brexit parties all had opposite tactical and strategic interests from their core policies on Brexit.

So did the SNP although I did not pay much attention to it.

I assumed the Libdems could not get away with treacherously helping Bojo achieve Brexit when the whole basis of their greatly increased support had been outflanking Labour as opponents of Brexit. So I assumed they would not do it. All they needed to do was wait while the Tory peak subsided and their own vote grew. But of course once Brexit was defeated in a referendum they would no longer have anything at all to attract anybody with, while they could at least hope to prolong their relevance by producing another hung Parliament in which their (increased) numbers would decide who governs. If that was their calculation it was a gamble that has not worked out. They have become irrelevant much earlier than if they had waited.

What they did get away with was not being instantly recognized as treacherous idiots. Labour had no option but to agree to the election that would happen whether Labour agreed or not so there wasn’t even much discussion or awareness of what the Libdems did. In that sense the Libdems did not have to “admit it” and so they did get away with it.

Of course the Libdems have not really got away with it. They will be even more irrelevant than before as the party that saved Brexit by stupidity and whose MPs cannot swing the outcome of any vote.

Anyway, I should have known not to underestimate either the mendacity or the stupidity of liberals.

I was aware that there was also a risk from the SNP because:

1. Five years of Tory goverment imposing Brexit against a solid majority of Scots supporting Remain could highlight the contempt for Scots among English nationalists and drive more Scots into the arms of Scotch nationalists. Failing that, another hung Parliament would still leave the SNP in a strong position and could enable an early independence referendum from a minority Labour government.

2. I am told by somebody who knows a lot more about these issues than I do that EU hostility to separatism is very real, even when consented to by the EU member being seceded from. So the SNP would find it much easier for an independent Scotland to join the EU if the UK had (temporarily) left and it would still be in the interests of both sides to avoid unwanted barriers between Scotland and Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I find it difficult to believe that the EU could object if the UK had agreed to Scottish independence, but events are consistent with the SNP having a different view on the likelihood of that (or of UK agreement to Scottish independence).

3. The former leader of the SNP goes on trial for sexual offenses in January. That is the only factor mentioned much in the UK press although I doubt that it was decisive.

But again I did not think the SNP could admit it or get away with it.

Anyway they did it and unlike the Libdems they did spectacularly well in getting away with it and have not had to admit doing it.

Again, I should have known not to underestimate the mendacity and narrowmindedness of nationalists.

Although the bankruptcy of the UK two-party system has been highlighted again and this will have long term repercussions, there is no short term prospect of a live issue for reform within the current Parliament that could affect similar issues in Australia and the US, so I don’t expect to be paying close attention to UK Parliamentary politics (and especially UK Tory politics) for quite a while. Extinction of the Tory party and consequent support for PR looked possible at the time of the EU elections but they dodged that bullet some time ago and have done rather more than merely dodge it now.