May 21, 2018
Another snap election in the UK? Tories are preparing
One of the great things about the Royal Wedding is that it managed to displace Brexit from the front pages for a brief moment. But we note that the Times also managed to sneak in a political scoop - that Tory MPs are preparing for new elections in the autumn.
There is a domestic political logic to that. The Tory Party cannot agree to a customs union as of now. The parliament as a whole cannot agree to anything else.
According to the article, some Tory MPs have spoken to their local party associations asking to be readopted as prospective parliamentary candidates. This followed a private meeting with Theresa May last week, which left the backbenchers increasingly convinced that another election would be inevitable.
This discussion is typical in the sense that it fails to take into account the complex dynamics of the Brexit negotiations themselves. For starters, we don't believe there will be a deal ready for ratification in the autumn. This may drag on until December. Will the Tories risk elections a month or two before March 30, 2019? And secondly, British commentators tend to ignore the critical point that the future relationship is not an integral part of the Article 50 agreement itself, but is laid out in the accompany political declaration. It is a statement of intent, not a legally binding trade or association agreement. This is the bit that can be fudged if both sides want it.
If this a fudge is not possible, we would not rule a failure of the whole deal. The probability of this has been increasing as there is no obvious solution to the customs union dispute. If May decides that it is in her political interest to take the negotiations to the brink, and then to live up to her image of a "bloody difficult woman", all bets are off. No deal may well turn out to be the politically easiest option, because it does not require parliamentary assent.