November 28, 2018
Short postscript on post-first-vote scenarios
In yesterday’s briefing we gave a series of possible Brexit scenarios. We would like to highlight one of these today, and add a new one following a discussion we had yesterday. The scenario we included, and which seemes to be gaining ground, was the Norway option. Nick Boles, a Conservative MP, suggested a pragmatic compromise to get a Brexit deal passed: accept the withdrawal agreement with no changes, but change the political declaration towards what he calls a Norway-Plus option - the combined Efta/EEA package plus co-operation in specific ares such as foreign policy. Interestingly, this option has the support of some eurosceptics, the DUP, and many Labour MPs. For the DUP, this option would remove the main stumbling block of differential treatment for Northern Ireland and the UK mainland. Scottish Tories favour it as it removes any advantages Northern Ireland might gain over Scotland. And some English Tories, including cabinet ministers, favour it because it reduces the probability of the UK remaining in the purgatory of an all-UK customs union post-Brexit. It does, however, remove the possibility of an independent immigration policy.
We understand the position of the DUP and the Scottish Tories, but we find that Theresa May’s much discredited deal is not nearly as bad as the press it is getting. It ticks a number of boxes that the EEA/Efta arrangement does not. But we, too, would acknowledge that ,if May’s deal is voted down on December 11, then this is what might emerge as a good second-best alternative. It might stand a better chance of gaining support from a majority of MPs, including a good number of Labour MPs. We noted, for example, Stephen Kinnock tweeting heavily in favour.
On the second referendum, our main scenario was an election followed by a new government and a Commons majority in favour. We would like to add another possible second referendum scenario that could happen without an election. After the December 11 vote, the House votes in favour of a motion for a second referendum. Motion passes. Government refuses to legislate a second referendum. Parliament then passes a vote of no confidence in the government. An alternative, pro-referendum government is formed within 14 days, the prescribed period in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. We think this is the less likely of the two referendum scenarios, but the idea of a short-lived government of national unity, with the sole purpose of pushing a second referendum, cannot be entirely excluded, especially as we are approaching a no-deal Brexit alternative.
We remain convinced that a deal based on the current withdrawal agreement - but not necessarily the political declaration - is the most likely of all options.