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

December 19, 2018

May’s strategy and the consequences of failure

Amidst the sound and fury over the government’s no-deal preparations, we noted an interesting story in the Guardian about Theresa May’s strategy to achieve a majority for her deal. The story says that the strategy consists first of getting the DUP on board, as this would lead to the Conservative opposition to her deal crumbling to a smaller, more manageable number. That would still leave her some 20 votes short of a majority, but the hope is to persuade a number of Labour MPs to back the deal.

We have argued before, too, that DUP support is absolutely critical for a deal. That will depend to a large extent on the EU’s readiness to compromise on the Irish backstop. We see no evidence of this, but this has partly to do with the illusion among some EU leaders that Brexit might be averted at the last minute. Once the reality of a no-deal Brexit as the only alternative to a deal sets in, we expect the position to shift as there are vital interests at stake in the EU as well - from German exporters to the French and Belgian border regions. 

The UK's no-deal preparations are now starting in earnest, with serious money committed to logistical operations, the involvement of troops at the ports, and even the mass purchase of refrigerators to store several months worth of medicines in case of a no-deal Brexit. We heard yesterday a senior Tory MP threatening to resign from the party in case of a no-deal Brexit, and we expect many others to follow him. The same would be true in case of a second referendum. In either of those cases, the May government would lose its governing majority. Election would follow in either case. So from a political perspective the choice to be made by Tory MPs is not so much deal vs no-deal but deal vs elections. May has been wise enough not to threaten this outright. There is no need to.

We note a further anecdotal sign that some of the more extremist commentators are reconsidering their position. Allison Pearson, one of the most unrelenting Brexiteers in the UK press, writes this morning that she has changed her mind about May’s deal. She is really scared by the prospect of a second referendum. As there is now growing certainty that May’s political career will not survive Brexit for a long time, we would not be surprised if Tory eurosceptics concluded that their best chances consist of accepting the deal, obtaining a majority in the next leadership election, and later defaulting on the deal using the Vienna Convention. We don’t think this is legally possible, but for so long as Tories believe that it is, we might consider this view a fortuitous error of judgement to be followed by the usual assertion that no one had told them. 

We also noted a story in the FT about the fury among pro-European Labour MPs about Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to bring about a vote of no-confidence. They are furious that Corbyn is not falling for their second-referendum ploy, which is what the whole no-confidence debate is about. Corbyn’s best chance to get into Number 10 is through elections, and the most likely path towards elections is through the failure of a deal, not through a second referendum. 

Show Comments Write a Comment

December 19, 2018

Belgium loses its government

Belgium may be facing early elections after Charles Michel tendered his resignation to the king yesterday. Earlier this month, the hard-right Flemish party N-VA had left the ruling coalition in protest at Michel’s decision to sign the UN Pact on migration. Since then, the liberal prime minister had fought an increasingly desperate and politically messy fight to cling on to his position as the leader of a minority government. The bid foundered finally on the opposition’s decision to force a confidence vote next week. Michel went to see King Philippe, not waiting for the vote itself.

Belgium is one of the few European countries where the king retains a modest but real political role. He assists as an impartial facilitator in the often-complicated forming of a new government coalition, and is similarly involved in the management of a political crisis once a government has lost its majority. King Philippe, who faces his first test of this kind, could now ask the government to continue in a caretaker role while refraining from any new legislation. The alternative would be early elections ahead of those already scheduled for May.

Le Soir writes that the N-VA’s decision to quit the government offers clear evidence that it wants to make migration its main campaign topic in the next elections, despite having entered the coalition with the liberals in 2014 to focus on economic reform. Michel, the paper adds, lost a lot of credibility by veering frantically to the left and signalling a change of policy in the final hours of his premiership, in a bid to convince the opposition to grant him more time in office.

Given the fragmentation of Belgium’s political landscape, the possible shape of any government emerging from the next elections is impossible to predict. In 2010 it took over 500 days to form a new coalition, a situation that was avoided in 2014 when the liberals and conservatives accepted to enter a taboo-breaking coalition with the hard-right NVA. We note that Belgium has joined the growing club of countries whose politics have been thrown into a crisis by the migration issue. We expect climate change to become an equally disruptive issue in European politics soon.

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

  • 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
  • July 08, 2019
  • Instex, forever around the corner?
  • Why Rory Stewart is not really what Remainers should be looking for
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • May 15, 2019
  • Why an anti-Macron vote may mobilise in this EP election
  • May's last throw of the dice - a meaningful vote on June 4 or 5
  • April 30, 2019
  • Labour's big day
  • Spain now turns to its next elections
  • On the hypocrisy of the German debt debate
  • April 15, 2019
  • Finland's far right changes the game
  • Brexit party drawing almost even with the Tories
  • April 01, 2019
  • Meaningful IV
  • Caputová elected: a turning point for central Europe?
  • 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 05, 2019
  • The most promising Brexit strategy we have heard yet
  • February 22, 2019
  • The maths of a Brexit deal
  • Does public protest crowd out of climate change?
  • February 13, 2019
  • What to make of the man in the pub - and other tales
  • Macron loses more early advisers - or cuts them loose
  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • January 28, 2019
  • Battle of the amendments
  • How the Prespes deal affects the next Greek elections
  • January 20, 2019
  • Groundhog Britain
  • January 14, 2019
  • Our Brexit predictions
  • 1789 - Macron's version
  • Tsipras calls confidence vote after Kammenos pulls out
  • January 07, 2019
  • What to look out for in the Brexit debates
  • Macron's last-resort tool for the gilets jaunes
  • 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 20, 2018
  • Revenge of the stupid women
  • China's marching orders to the EU