Brexit schmexit

53172815_1106348306228155_6328474207160107008_n We appear to be reaching the End Times, so I feel the need for another post. I was hoping that nice Dr Annan would spare me the trouble but he's too busy twitting agit-prop3.

So: last week was dramatic and exciting, and slightly confusing, so I hope I've got the story straight.

On Tuesday, May's stupid deal was voted down yet again1.

On Wednesday, MPs rejected leaving with no deal2.

On Thursday, they voted to delay Brexit.

This - with some minor quibbles, see the notes - forms a creditably logical sequence, and is an advert for representative government over referenda, since it would have been impossible to do this via a referendum.

In an ideal world - in which we clearly do not live - da govt would now go to Brussels, ask for an extension, be told they can only have a nice long one of several years, and say oh-all-right-then. Several years is long enough for passions to deflate, May to be replaced by someone competent, and indeed any number of dei-ex-machina to swoop in and save us.

In the non-ideal world, May appears to want to put her rubbish deal to MPs again next week4, presumably in the hope that now they see that if they vote that down the only alternative is a long extension - which many would rightly fear would turn into no-Brexit - they will hold their noses and vote for her rubbish deal. However, I think that is unlikely to work. Many MPs live in fear of their constituencies, or in fear of the more vocal parts thereof - and arguably, so they damn well should - but those said constituencies are unlikely to rip them too badly for voting down May's deal, since everyone knows it is rubbish.

That passed, the other obvious problem is negotiating the extension. Here it would be easy between two parties of good faith, but it isn't obvious that either party will act in same. May could just as easily sabotage her own negotiation in order to end up with no deal, and I find it impossible to read her motives - I cannot understand how she behaves as she does, so I cannot predict her behaviour. JA's favourite response is to say that her plan is to survive and wait and see what turns up, which argues for her not turning down whatever the EU offer.

So, my not-very-confident - because it is the outcome I'm hoping for, and I've been disappointed so often by this process - prediction is for May to ask the EU for an extension, and them to give her a long one.


1. By a large margin - 149 votes - but less than the first time; though I haven't seen anyone trying to spin that into a victory.

2. This is one of the more confusing bits, if you care about the detail, which I am by no means sure you should, since I doubt the detail is important in this case. There were two votes. The first, narrowly won by four votes, was to reject no deal under any circumstances. The second - arguably unconstitutional, since it was a subset of the previously decided matter - was to not leave with no deal on the 29th, and was won by forty-three. [Update: see comments by PS and CR. It looks like I misinterpreted it (to be fair to me, the Beeb who I was skim-reading didn't report it clearly): the first vote was to amend the motion which the second then voted on.]

3. Update: James speaks.

4. Arguably unconstitutional, again as per point 2 but more correctly; and now appears to have been so determined by the Speaker. Tee hee.


Parliament has spoken. This is what it said:

Meanwhile, TM has offered to fuck off, but only if her deal is passed, which is fuckwitted of her.


The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity
* Dec 2012: JA: The failure of brexit; me: Brexit, again.
* How much has Brexit uncertainty slowed growth? by Scott Sumner; EconLib


CapitalistImperialistPig said...

What I love about Brexit is that it allows us Yanks to imagine that we might not be the stupidest democracy in the world.

David B. Benson said...

To think that parliamentarians oft do a PPE degree at Oxford...

PaulS said...

So, my not-very-confident - because it is the outcome I'm hoping for, and I've been disappointed so often by this process - prediction is for May to ask the EU for an extension, and them to give her a long one.

Would that really count as an outcome?

On the two votes thing, I initially thought the first vote was for an amendment to be added to the final "not no deal" vote. So the win for that first vote modified the later "not no deal" vote to "oh my god not no deal", but wasn't itself a win for "oh my god not no deal". The later vote was what passed the amended "oh my god not no deal" motion, despite the government reversing course and trying to push votes against it, because of the amendment making it blasphemous or something.

That's how I made sense of things but I have no idea if that's right or not.

crandles said...

I think I more or less agree with PaulS, the 4 vote victory was a victory for getting the 'in any circumstances' amendment added to the motion which was to be considered. Therefore this vote alone is not an outright victory and does not make it a "previously decided matter", it just allows it to be considered. The second vote then considers the amended motion. So both votes had to go the way they did to make it decided in that way.

It got even more fun on Thursday with an amendment to an amendment. ;)

The government whipped to vote against what was their motion before the amendment. The government was conceding they needed an extention through gritted teeth but they didn't want the 'in any circumstances' part.

I could easily be misinterpreting reasons here but: Presumably govt didn't want 'in any circumstances' part as it might reduce their room for manoeuvre in future. The way to get remainers to vote for a bad deal might be to threaten them with an even worse no deal. If that threat is removed, remainers might be able to stand firmer in their opposition to May's deal. OTOH perhaps if no deal supporters see that they won't win then they may be persuaded to vote for a second best May's deal. So maybe it is all just complicated and if it will remain complicated for some time then it makes sense for government to want outcome that does not limit their room for manoeuvre.


Anyway is it all beginning to look like a plot to get 3rd and possibly 4th meaningful votes still rejected and with EU asking for unacceptable terms for a delay so we get to 28th March and only way to carry out Parliament's wishes for not May's deal and not no deal that can be done in time is to revoke article 50?

I don't believe in the politicians being able to keep such a conspiracy secret. Nevertheless, the more it goes on, the more that looks like the outcome that we are working towards. Or is that being too hopeful?

crandles said...

"John Bercow has ruled out another vote on the government's previously rejected Brexit agreement if the motion remains "substantially the same".

The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg said the Speaker's intervention could have a "massive" impact on the Brexit process - with 11 days to go before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March."


When do journalists ever say this isn't very important? Delay is needed anyway. Just pack a bit extra into motion when/if May wants to propose it again?

Andy Mitchell said...

Macron of France now says that the UK is heading for a no deal Brexit if MPs do not accept the deal Theresa May has negotiated. It is interesting that it is Macron who is saying this: a UK brought to its knees by a no deal Brexit would provide a powerful object lesson as to how a country can be wrecked by right-wing demagogues. That would provide a considerable election boost to EU politicians who are under pressure from similar right-wing demagogues. Chief among those is Macron, for whom Marin Le Pen poses a considerable threat.

Phil said...

Signed the petition yet?


17.4m should be about enough.

Andy Mitchell said...

I signed it. It was at 1.3 million when I signed, at this moment it's at 2.2 million. But it's only to underline the point that Brexit has not been about the "will of the people" ever since the people changed their minds in sufficient numbers to make the referendum result obsolete. I'm afraid the 70 votes of the ERG count for more.

Phil said...


Andy Mitchell said...

New black comedy. The Brexiter Tory MPs want a second referendum. Eh what? No, not for us, we don't get one. But the Brexiters want a second vote on Theresa May's leadership of the Tory Party.

Some Tory MPs are so exasperated with May’s leadership that they want to change party rules, enabling another vote to have her removed.

William M. Connolley said...

I signed when it was about 400k I think; now above 4M.

I see I was wrong about extensions, at least initially. Only that things will be stupid is predictable, not the details.

As for the Tory leadership... I predict (ha!) that if she doesn't go soon the Tories will indeed do something desperate like change the rules. Except they still face the problem that they have no-one to replace her with.

FWIW, as I was in the capitalist paradise of Waitrose this morning doing my shopping it came to me who we needed to step forward: Tony Blair. Alas he is shop-soiled, but still, if only we could forget the war he would be just what we need at this point. He could even join the Tory party if that would make them happy.

Andy Mitchell said...

I just heard on the radio that there are two petitions.

The remain petition is now at nearly 5 million.
The leave without a deal petition is at 510k votes.

crandles said...

I signed before 800k, nearing 5M now.

But does and should it make any difference? Long way to go from 5M to 17.4M. OTOH largest petition and one of largest marches surely should have some effect?

Could almost imagine they are so split on what to do re May and Brexit, and relieved that EU extension gives a little more time that they might forget to change law saying we leave on 29th March :P

crandles said...

Deadline for 511k no deal petition is 17 April 2019 so over 5 months into its 6 month period. i.e. nearly run its course.

5M revoke petition deadline is 20 Aug 2019. So still early in its 6 month period and nearing ten times as many votes.

William M. Connolley said...

> But does and should it make any difference?

Some difference, yes, Unless it gets to 17M, which is rather unlikely, then it won't be definitive. It's a bit like having a big march. It might embolden some of the MPs who are scared of their vocal leavers.

PaulS said...

might forget to change law saying we leave on 29th March :P

If we legally leave on the 29th and no-one realises, have we still left?

William M. Connolley said...

I think the EU have given us a short extension to the 12th, but I suppose that if we don't knuckle down and actually change the law, we'll leave on the 29th anyway.

Andy Mitchell said...

The govt. has posted a statement on the petition website. It reads:

"This Government will not revoke Article 50. We will honour the result of the 2016 referendum and work with Parliament to deliver a deal that ensures we leave the European Union."

To put it another way: the current government has zero interest in what the "will of the people" now is. To me it looks like "no deal" is almost a certainty.

Andy Mitchell said...

The govt. is using the following logic: we are leaving, if we can get the support of the ERG and the DUP then we will leave with May's deal. But we are definitely leaving, so if we don't get support from the ERG then we leave without a deal.

But as the ERG want to leave without a deal I don't see their motivation for supporting May's deal.

crandles said...

There is supposed to be a statutory instrument(SI). If the SI isn't passed then there seem to be differing opinions some saying EU law takes precedence, other say 1972 ACT is repealed and UK law takes precedence and I have also seen someone say that a process that ministers need to start hasn't yet been started yet so the 1972 Act is not repealed and therefore EU law takes precedence.


Betfair claim "UK - Brexit - Will Article 50 be extended?" is still open. Rules say
"Will the deadline of 29-03-2019 23:59:59 CET under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty be extended?

Yes will be settled as a winner if the European Council unanimously agree to extend Article 50."
There is press release saying the political agreement is formally adopted.

Betfair is claiming there are two conditional extensions and neither has taken place nor will take place until either May's deal ratified or 11pm on 29th March.

So presumably if the statutory instrument is not put in place, then the deadline is extended by EU but UK just chose not to use extension. However if we revoke before 11pm on 29/3 perhaps the whole process including the deadline evaporates and the deadline isn't extended despite there being a unanimous EU council decision to extend the deadline.

Seems a bit weird and asking for trouble to me.

To my mind there is conditional extension to 22 May. The other extension to 12 April effectively takes place in all other circumstances. It is worded as two conditional extensions but there is really only one condition that is either satisfied or not. So is it really two conditional extensions or one conditional extension and an unconditional extension?

Anyway, for clarity I am hoping SI is passed and we revoke on 30th March or later.

Andy Mitchell said...

Oh, its getting more bizarre now. It seems the ERG is changing course and will back the PM's deal. Their perception is that May has lost control: Bercow is now running the Brexit process and that may allow MPs to block any form of hard Brexit. So they will now back May.

crandles said...

SI passed last night.

Betfair judged extension claim this morning though according to their logic neither condition for an extension has happened. So was it SI passing that caused judgement or have they decided it is pretty much impossible to revoke A50 by tomorrow?

Andy, that sounds more sensible rather than more bizarre to me. Maybe not happening though and certainly some ERG members seem to be holding firm in opposition to May's deal which could still result in long delay and possibly no brexit as more likely outcomes than a no deal exit. Seems weird but anything that makes no brexit more likely is something I'll happily accept.

Andy Mitchell said...

It sounds bizarre to me because Bercow is just the speaker of the house: the EU will not be negotiating with him. As long as May is PM the Brexit process will be determined by her, so the ERG need not worry about sanity getting a look in, unless the govt. falls.

William M. Connolley said...

> As long as May is PM the Brexit process will be

I think that's not technically true; Parliament can pass laws against her will if it wants to.

crandles said...

Half deal lost by 58 so back to hoping EU only offer a long one.

Andy Mitchell said...

May has put one half of her deal - that has already been defeated twice by historic proportions - to the vote again. It lost by 344 to 286.

She says the implications of a third Commons defeat for her agreement with the EU are ‘grave’. I'd say having a dimwit as PM who continued to try and plug the same deal over and over after it lost the first vote by the largest margin in UK Parliamentary history is the grave bit.

crandles said...

If going to predict, why not make it worthwhile. I have been laying at digital odds as low as 8.2 today she won't be replaced in March 2019 as conservative leader. Takes a while for 1922 committee to meet and set a timetable and allow a week for tory MPs' to announce they will run.... Stepping down with immediate effect does not seem likely to me. Lay odds now up to 30.

William M. Connolley said...

I have no faith in my ability to predict what this bunch of clowns will do.

I am genuinely fearful that they will accidentally pass the wrong bill through error, tiredness, boredom, carelessness or confusion.

Andy Mitchell said...

Its a bit like watching Brownian motion: any prediction of the direction travelled is impossible. I note with some amusement the Guardian downplays Boris's chances of become PM because Boris was hopelessly exposed as a man without honour or judgment. I thought those were the necessary qualifications to be a Brexit PM.

Andy Mitchell said...

Breaking news. Theresa May has come up with a radically new solution: having a fourth vote on her deal. Only this time the threat is: vote for my deal or I'll call another general election.