I haven’t been following closely enough but my previous comments on Brexit since June 2017 seem to have held up reasonably well:
Latest development is that the Tory party no confidence vote to remove Prime Minister May and replace her with nobody in particular has of course imploded. I didn’t predict that because I didn’t predict there would be such a vote. The reason the minimum required 50 letters to trigger a vote were not submitted long ago, despite far more Tory MPs than that having no confidence in May was that if she won, no further attempt could be made for another 12 months. This is intended to ensure such votes are called only when there is a clear replacement available with majority support (in which case the party leader would usually resign anyway). It was intended to avoid the recent shambles in both parties in Australia. Since May was appointed as a stop gap after Cameron blundered into the Brexit referendum and there is no plausible replacement I had no reason to expect that the 50 letters would suddenly appear.
Since she won by about a two thirds majority it is either yet another example of sheer irrationality and tactical ineptitude making the situation too unpredictable for analysis, or else some clever tactical maneuver that was intended to create the current situation. Given that the European Court of Justice had just announced that Britain does not need EU consent to end Brexit it could be certainty on that point has increased resolve among Tories who want to get it over with so they signed some of the 50 letters.
The level of understanding of these issues in “The Australian” is indicated by a report from Ticky Fullarton:
“Yesterday came news that the European Court of Justice ruled that Britain could delay Brexit beyond March 29. Were Johnson or any other alternative to take over they will need such a delay.” (p29 Tuesday 2018-12-11)
This of course is nonsense. The announcement was that Britain can unilaterally cancel its withdrawal notice under Article 50. It cannot unilaterally change the 2 year delay specified by Article 50 that was triggered by Britain’s unilateral notice. The impact is to reinforce that it is either the ridiculous deal offered, a “no-deal” crash from Brexit or “no Brexit” and it is entirely up to Britain to make its choice. This did not help Johnson or anybody else wanting to have their cake and eat it.
Ok anybody could make a mistake about the implications of news that is only a day old. But the same nonsense was repeated the next day, so nobody noticed.
Anyway, the current situation looks to me like this:
1. May cannot be replaced as Tory party leader until long after the current March 29 deadline. Johnson et al are now visibly irrelevant.
2. No deal that the EU could accept can be accepted by the current UK Parliament. There is no reason to expect the underlying reasons for that would change after a general election.
3. Nobody with any real influence wants the UK to have just crashed out with no serious preparations on April Fool’s day. This will now be admitted by everybody except those with no influence. Most support for Brexit was in fact based on the assumption that the UK could have its cake and eat it. Only a small fringe really want a well prepared Brexit with no deal. Pretence at preparations will cease and the bluff will no longer be available as a “negotiating tactic” so further pretence that the UK has anything to negotiate with will become pointless, which need not prevent such negotiations being vigorously pursued and solemnly debated, but does mean the negotiations won’t get anywhere.
4. The EU has no reason not to graciously allow a postponement of the deadline while the UK sorts itself out and both sides stop wasting resources on preparations for “no deal”. The whole point of most of the maneuvering has been to reduce the damage from hysteria whipped up by lying Brexiteers screaming “betrayal” to distract attention from the sheer absurdity of what they mendaciously promised and a majority of voters temporarily fell for. Refusing a postponement would only help the hysterics.
5. The EU also has no reason to let the farce of the past two years go on until after the next scheduled fixed term UK election 5 May 2022 or while people still governing the UK are threatening to crash out without paying their bills and with no deal. So the postponement will either have to result in:
5.1. A vote for an early election by a two thirds majority of the House. This would require a large number of Tories to support a vote for losing their seats earlier than they currently hope. There is no obvious reason why they would do this given that the outcome of such an election could not fundamentally alter the current situation.
5.2. A no confidence vote in the House that results in Corbyn forming a minority government. Possible if a much smaller number of Northern Ireland DUP and other Tories simply abstrain so that the Labour party gets stuck with the mess while the Tories sort themselves out. They would prefer a minority Corbyn government to the risk of a majority Corbyn government. Whether heading a majority government formed by election or a minority government, Corbyn could either put up a pretense of attempting to negotiate some other form of Brexit in Name Only – BRINO or “put it to the people” by holding another referendum.
5.3. Attempts by May to negotiate another form of BRINO, again ending up with “put it to the people”.
6. It would be theoretically possible for either Corbyn or May or somebody else to negotiate something similar to EFTA membership like Norway. This would do no great damage to the UK or EU or global economy but just reduce “Great Britain” to a similar importance to Norway in EU affairs, bound by the same rules, including free movement of labor, but with no vote. It would not defuse the hysterics about “betrayal” and would leave its supporters looking foolish. The EU might not object to such a BRINO since it would remove British obstructionism slowing down the ever deeper union. But Norway might not welcome it in the EFTA. So I would say, possible but less likely than the only other alternative – “put it to the people”.
7. My guess is that there is nobody stupid enough to call another referendum until the result is quite certain. So there will be lots of carrying on until a convincing majority are committed to ending Brexit.
8. No way to tell how long that will take but I think it could soon become reasonably obvious that this is the direction and the “negotiations” will most likely end with the end of Brexit rather than any BRINO.
9. It certainly doesn’t seem to be obvious to most of the media now. Strongest confirmation for my expectation that “no deal” is no longer a significant danger and “no Brexit” is now far more likely than any BRINO comes from Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor of “The Australian” with the diretly opposite view:
“Although I would trust no one’s forecasts on this – least of all my own – it would seem that the no-deal Brexit or the no Brexit at all are about equally likely.” (p12 Thursday 2018-12-13).
Greg Sheridan has excellent reasons not to trust his own forecasts as he never has a clue. But this level of self awareness is something quite new. He used to be confident as a reliable echo of whatever the US State Department wanted Australians to think. Since there are no coherent briefings coming from the US these days, “analysts” like him have been left completely floundering in “a deep miasma or newilderment and uncertainty” as he said of the stock market last Saturday (p20):
“No one in British politics — no one — knows what’s going to happen.”
“May’s crisis is just one part of a broader crisis across the Western alliance that makes the global strategic environment more fluid, more uncertain, potentially more dangerous, that at any time since at least the end of the Cold War.”
In the absence of State Department briefings all he can do is echo British media that is divided between expecting a “no-deal Brexit” and “no Brexit at all” just as the “Stubborn May Crippled by Bexit Monster” (p12) said before winning a two thirds majority confidence vote.