We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.
close

November 19, 2018

May’s pushback is kicking in

As commentators, we know only too well that the strength of one’s opinions can sometimes correlate negatively with the depth of one's knowledge. The reason we believe that Theresa May’s Brexit plan will ultimately prevail is that it seems that she is the only senior politician who has actually read the 585-page withdrawal agreement, or at least the chapters that matter politically. Her Brexit strategy is accident-prone, but it is not doomed from the outset. Her relative preparedness puts her at a massive advantage over her opponents from the right and the left, who are both incoherent. 

We also doubt that a single political commentator in the UK has read the full document or even major parts of it. We are reminded of Kenneth Clarke’s infamous admission that he never read the Maastricht Treaty. A chronic disinterest in legal documents is one of the deeper reasons why the UK is leaving the EU.

May’s pushback started on the weekend with a media blitz that led even the uber-critical Daily Telegraph to express some admiration for her Lutherian here-I-stand attitude. It does not matter that Angela Merkel or Mark Rutte both said the deal was final. May says so herself. She will not renegotiate - beyond some technical details and of course the yet-unsettled question of the precise end date of a renewed transition period. It was left open in the draft treaty as 20xx. Michel Barnier is now proposing an end date of 2022, which is awkward for the UK's political timetable, as it takes the UK past the next scheduled elections. We presume that May will insist on a pre-election end-date. We are now talking about two or three transitional phases before a trade deal takes effect: the normal transition period running until December 2020; the extended transition with an end date yet to be agreed; and any period in which the all-UK backstop takes effect if there is no agreed trade deal by then. That period is open-ended, but legally finite nevertheless. The reason is that, under EU law, it is not deemed possible to use Article 50 to agree a permanent trade agreement. Which is why we are relaxed about the Hotel California/vassal state scenario. 

As we suggested on Friday, what appeared to be an imminent rebellion by Tory MPs seems to be in doubt. The number of applications for a leadership challenge was still well short of the target of 48. It might still go ahead but, even if it did, we doubt there is a majority among Tory MPs for replacing May as leader - given the alternatives. We will see over the course of this week whether the threat is for real. A leadership challenge could still damage May, as it would undermine her standing. A gang of five rebels, led by the semi-loyal Michael Gove, wants May to renegotiate the deal. But she already told them that she won’t and can’t. We always said that the UK political classes were delusional in their failure to recognise the take-it-or-leave-it nature of the withdrawal agreement. In this context we noted a Telegraph story according to which pro-Remain Tory MPs were discussing a fallback option with Labour MPs in favour of an EEA option. When these people start to acquaint themselves with the material, they might be shocked to realise that the EEA is not a menu choice at this stage. Accepting May’s deal is probably still the best option for those in favour of EEA membership. It can always be negotiated. However, the EEA precludes a customs union. Do they want this?

We would like to draw readers’ attention to two comments from the weekend. One is by Max Hastings in the Times, who despairs about the lack of realism in the Conservative Party - of which he is a supporter. He says the big issue facing the EU over the next decades will be mass immigration from Africa, and Brexit will do nothing to manage this problem. He is right of course. This is also true of the many problems facing the UK - the Londonisation of the country, a failing education system, excessive reliance on finance. He says the main job for the government is to restore lost consensus to UK politics. 

In his FT column, Wolfgang Munchau dismisses hopes of a Tarp effect - that financial markets would force the House of Commons to vote in favour of either May’s deal or a second referendum. Brexit is not a financial crisis as evidenced by the relatively muted market reaction after the referendum in 2016. There are very few hedge funds who are speculating on a dramatic downturn even in the case of a no-deal Brexit. It will have many effects - including short-term economic effects - but the long-term economic impact of Brexit is far from clear.

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.

 

Recent News

  • May 28, 2018
  • A no-confidence motion that could backfire
  • The political repercussions of a historic referendum in Ireland
  • Why the lack of an international role for the euro matters
  • September 15, 2017
  • Juncker dragged into the Catalan fray
  • What to say in Florence
  • How to fill the gap left by the British MEPs
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • April 26, 2019
  • How Brexit has given rise to different perceptions of reality
  • The EP, not Madrid, will boost Spanish clout
  • How realistic is a Gaullist Europe?
  • September 17, 2018
  • About the new partnership between Russia and China
  • EU ponders Irish backstop protocol to help May
  • February 07, 2018
  • A short note on bitcoin
  • July 04, 2017
  • On the CDU’s programme
  • Macron defines his presidential style
  • Why do we criticise modern macro?
  • November 28, 2016
  • And now what Monsieur Fillion?
  • The inescapable logic of an interim agreement
  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • April 01, 2019
  • Meaningful IV
  • Caputová elected: a turning point for central Europe?
  • October 02, 2018
  • Whatever it takes - diesel version
  • Is Macron's European discourse too simplistic?
  • April 06, 2018
  • Schleswig Holstein collapses Spain's strategy against Catalan separatism
  • On the implausibility of conspiracy theories in the Skripal case
  • October 09, 2017
  • UK is starting to prepare for a no-deal Brexit
  • Why Germany will resist meaningful eurozone reform
  • April 12, 2017
  • Macro in a state of denial
  • Where Schulz is vulnerable
  • Schäuble’s three party tricks
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • January 31, 2019
  • EU will play hardball until February 14, and stick to backstop beyond
  • French left and right moves ahead of EP elections
  • Tighten the belts as the economy prepares for landing
  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • May 21, 2018
  • Another snap election in the UK? Tories are preparing
  • Merkel and Putin - the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
  • January 15, 2018
  • Is the section on Europe for real?
  • Can Drahos upset Zeman?
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 23, 2016
  • Sarkozy launches candidacy in a book
  • Rajoy plans to try again in October
  • Turkey recalls ambassador from Austria
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • August 02, 2019
  • A useful object lesson of what can go wrong for Johnson
  • Maréchal - a rising star on the French right?
  • Could Steve re-ignite the gilets jaunes?
  • July 11, 2019
  • Focus on election timetable, not prorogation...
  • ...and not on Darroch either
  • June 20, 2019
  • Forget the candidates and look at those who vote
  • The death of the old guard in French politics
  • When to take Salvini seriously, and when not
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • May 13, 2019
  • Brexit Party has already changed UK politics
  • Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait
  • Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears
  • April 24, 2019
  • May's final and biggest gamble
  • Will the EP be Brexit's great parliamentary beneficiary?
  • Can Loiseau fight the far right given her past?
  • April 03, 2019
  • Game on
  • Can someone please take the table off-the-table!
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • March 04, 2019
  • Macron's two-month sprint
  • May's numbers are not there yet
  • Greening QE
  • On the "hope" of a rate raise
  • February 18, 2019
  • How the splits on the left and the right will affect Brexit
  • February 05, 2019
  • Pressure on Varadkar rises - the EP turns up the heat
  • When grounds shift - literally
  • January 25, 2019
  • Is this the beginning of the end of the gilets jaunes?
  • Kurz speculates about longer Brexit delay
  • January 14, 2019
  • Our Brexit predictions
  • 1789 - Macron's version
  • Tsipras calls confidence vote after Kammenos pulls out
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • December 21, 2018
  • Not just Brexit makes 2019 a year of EU uncertainty
  • Sentiment is fickle, especially about sentiment
  • Father Christmas - French edition
  • King suspends Michel's resignation
  • EP has objections to the withdrawal treaty
  • Let's break the law
  • December 14, 2018
  • Running down the clock
  • Macron, Philippe - untouchable no more
  • EP blasts Commission over Babis
  • December 06, 2018
  • There can be no deal as long as delusions of easy alternatives persist
  • What do the gilets jaunes mean for green fiscal policy?
  • November 30, 2018
  • May’s one and only trump card
  • Are the gilets jaunes as powerful as the 1995 protests?
  • Tsipras is dishing out more goodies
  • November 26, 2018
  • Two German plus two Dutch makes four spitzenkandidaten
  • Yellow vest protests - radicalisation and new political alliances
  • November 23, 2018
  • Why this deal is very likely to be approved - in the end
  • What to make of the political declaration
  • The EU's spy school is no laughing matter
  • November 21, 2018
  • The need and limitations of plan B Brexit options
  • The revenge of the left behind - French edition
  • November 20, 2018
  • How the German diesel scandal is driving voters away from the grand coalition
  • Two victories for Theresa May, and one setback