May 24, 2018
A Brexit high noon?
We noted a comment by Faisal Islam (@faislaislam), political editor of Sky News, who tweeted about a potentially important change in the British government’s Brexit strategy. He writes that the government would announce today it is bringing forward all the Brexit-related legislation to June. This includes the 15 amendments on which the government lost in the House of Lords. Recent expectations had been to delay the legislative process until the last moment.
Islam writes that the purpose is for the government to face down the Tory rebels who support the customs union. The rebels remain confident that they will win. One of the political moments of truth in the Brexit process is approaching.
He notes that some of the rebels believe that this is a threat to call snap elections, not a prospect Tory MPs would relish right now. We are not in a position to assess whether this is a tactically smart move by Theresa May. We are less sure than some Tory MPs that a pro-customs union vote would necessary trigger elections. As this would affect only the political declaration attached to the withdrawal agreement, we think that the temptation for a fudge remains on the table.
Alex Barker writes in the FT that the reality is dawning that the full extraction of the UK from the EU will not be complete until the mid-2020s. He said the necessity of an EU afterlife is accepted, in principle, by both sides at the Brexit negotiation table. There are big differences about what form it should take, though.
One option would be to make the transition agreement renewable. We doubt the EU will agree to that. The emerging consensus is for a time-limited customs union, which as we noted before constitute the best option for a political compromise, both within the UK and between the EU and the UK.
The article contains an interesting snippet of information - that May got irritated by Leo Varadkar when he probed her on the precise conditions to bring the Irish border backstop to an eventual end. A time-limited customs union does not really solve the problem, it just postpones the moment when it needs to be solved.
Our general observation is that, if kicking the can down the road solves a current dilemma, the EU will always choose that. This is why the eurozone crisis never really ended.