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

April 03, 2019

Game on

Brexit has now literally reached the moment of crisis in the classical Greek sense of the word: a turning point. This can now go two ways: either Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn reach a compromise or, failing that, the UK can still crash out of the EU without a deal. A new avenue has opened up, but the odds of no-deal Brexit are the same. 

The new situation leaves EU leaders no choice but to go along with it for now. We will know within a few days whether May and Corbyn can reach agreement, or whether this goes back to the House of Commons. The main constraints for both leaders is the enormous radicalisation in British politics. A majority of 14 out of 27 cabinet ministers are now in favour of a no-deal Brexit. And a YouGov poll has 44% of Brits in favour of a no-deal Brexit against 42% Remain - if this were to be the final trade-off. 

There have been no ministerial resignations yet, but the Tory party was clearly not a happy place last night. We thought this morning headline of the Daily Telegraph summed up the mood in the party right now: 

"Theresa May's cabinet signals support for no-deal - but she turns to Jeremy Corbyn for help."

And the usually-smug second-referendum supporters were also distinctly unhappy about the prospect of being sidelined by May and Corbyn.

On a technical level, the route forward is relatively straight-forward. As we have been arguing before, the solution lies in changing the political declaration. Andrew Duff has an interesting new proposal. The European Council could separate withdrawal agreement and political declaration, and agree to have the latter amended and finalised during the transition period. A customs union would be, in our view, a sensible framework for a discussion, but it is not an off-the-shelf solution that can be agreed between two party leaders at a meeting. Nor does it solve the Irish border backstop problem. So, if there is compromise, it will be more about procedure than concrete outcomes. 

The danger for May is that by pivoting towards the customs union May could lose more Tory MPs who supported her deal than Labour MPs who switch. It is not clear that, even if May and Corbyn were to agree on a compromise, it would find favour in the Commons. We assume it would.

This leaves us this morning with a similar set of choices as before: some version of a future relationship, based on the existing withdrawal agreement, versus a no-deal Brexit if this process falters. Both scenarios would be consistent with elections. No matter what happens now, May's government is likely to lose its majority. 

The important thing to remember is that May's priority is to secure Brexit, not for her successor to win an election. Herein lies a political opportunity for compromise. There is a clear but narrow path forward. And we don't think the Tory party is ready for an election at this point. Her hand is perhaps a little stronger than it would appear.

Show Comments Write a Comment

April 03, 2019

Can someone please take the table off-the-table!

We marvel at the sheer illiteracy of the recurring idea to take no-deal off the table. It is legally impossible to do - since no-deal is the default. And it is politically impossible to do, since the EU rightly insists on a positive decision - be it acceptance of the deal or revocation. What is happening in the UK is that MPs want to revoke but don't dare do so publicly. They want this process to end in revocation, but without their fingerprints all over it. 

We received a good analysis from a UK official whose judgement on this process has been consistently reliable. We think it is worth quoting the analysis in full. Its overall conclusion is that the Cooper/Letwin bill and the indicative votes are going to lead nowhere:

"I do not really see the need for legislation when an affirmative motion would achieve the same end. I think this is a diversionary tactic after the indicative votes have all failed and Cooper/Letwin realised they weren’t going to get any majorities tomorrow either (why would they get one tomorrow having not gotten one yesterday?).

On my analysis of the situation, I think Speaker Bercow has totally disgraced his office and he is now openly using his powers as chair to facilitate a soft Brexit, and he is not applying the rules equally (preventing the government presenting the same motion twice, allowing remain back benchers to present the same motions over and over again – some of these amendments have been voted on five times now!).

Also I thought it was a pretty disgraceful spectacle of Nick Boles storming out of the Commons, crying, because not enough people voted for his motion. That really is the last thing anybody needs right now.

On the options that have all been rejected, I cannot see how any of them is even feasible. The second referendum has lost now several times and this view will only be reaffirmed when free voting is ended on any final motion and the Cabinet are whipped to vote against it. Common Market 2.0 is absolute sheer fantasy. Why would EFTA rewrite their own treaties to grant the UK a derogation? It also is predicated on the twin delusion of controlling migration and having a say in all trade policy, neither of which is going to happen.

The Customs Union doesn’t solve the Irish Border issue (you still need the backstop) and, again, Clarke and the other proponents still think a British vote on EU trade policy, as a non-member, is a goer."

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

  • 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
  • September 26, 2019
  • Could Johnson be headed for an electoral landslide?
  • Macron's conquest of public opinion over pension reform
  • Marion Maréchal keeps dream of political comeback alive
  • March 29, 2019
  • Don't take Macron for granted
  • Green is EU's future - Loiseau takes a stance
  • October 01, 2018
  • After the referendum, more turmoil in Macedonia
  • What will happen if the UK parliament votes No?
  • Barnier's no-thanks works much better than a yes-please
  • April 03, 2018
  • Is the time for Brexit revocation running out?
  • October 04, 2017
  • On why Theresa May is likely to survive
  • On how to resolve the Brexit talks
  • Social housing - not a good start for the French government
  • April 11, 2017
  • What to expect, and not expect from Schulz
  • The view from Berlin
  • The view from Moscow
  • 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
  • October 02, 2019
  • What Boris wants...
  • Ditched again - the decline and fall of Manfred Weber
  • May 27, 2019
  • The rising chances of a no-deal Brexit
  • January 18, 2019
  • Why Dublin won't yield on the backstop
  • Town hall debates vs street protests - who is winning?
  • September 13, 2018
  • Bravo Mr Juncker for raising the issue of the euro’s international role. But what now?
  • Are the eurosceptics imploding?
  • May 10, 2018
  • Time for some clear thinking on Trump and Iran
  • Will Corbyn accept the EEA? Brexiteers can relax. He won't.
  • What next for the DUP?
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • August 24, 2017
  • Legislative hyperactivity for Tsipras' new narrative
  • On the deep causes of euroscepticism
  • April 23, 2017
  • The demise of the AfD has accelerated dramatically
  • On how France will need to confront Germany
  • December 21, 2016
  • A culture of denial
  • Ukraine agreement hangs in the balance
  • Valls U-turn on 49-3
  • Beware of exotic Brexit options
  • August 22, 2016
  • Gold for Brexit
  • EU and Turkey talking past each other
  • Switzerland is the next migrant transit country
  • On the death of neoliberal economics
  • 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
  • November 25, 2019
  • Twenty years on - and less safe than ever
  • Philippe's last round of talks ahead of strike actions
  • November 06, 2019
  • Could the German coalition fall over the basis minimum pension? Quite possibly.
  • Philippe to present new immigration policies
  • The sharp edge of soft power
  • October 18, 2019
  • The horrifying implications of Merkel’s 5G decision
  • September 30, 2019
  • A pyrrhic victory for Kurz
  • Will there really be UK elections?
  • September 12, 2019
  • DUP opens up to compromise
  • Spain to repeat elections after all
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 29, 2019
  • No-deal Brexit is no longer just a scenario
  • No German warships to the Strait of Hormuz
  • July 15, 2019
  • No queues in Berlin for von der Leyen’s succession
  • Mitsotakis moves fast with tax bill
  • The feel-good factor in the pre-Brexit days
  • July 01, 2019
  • The questions we will be asking tomorrow
  • What category of diplomatic accidents is Sea Watch 3?
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • June 03, 2019
  • Reinventing the French right without Wauquiez
  • Tory leadership election is between feasible and unfeasible Brexit options
  • May 23, 2019
  • ...twere well it were done quickly
  • The Tsipras-Mitsotakis duel dominates EP campaign in Greece
  • May 14, 2019
  • Trump gives Orbán his blessing
  • Outcome of Belgium's parliament election on Sunday totally open
  • Has Trump really got the economics of trade all wrong?
  • May 07, 2019
  • … while Macron’s European troubles have already begun, and might get even worse
  • Don't discount a Brexit deal
  • Is Tsipras too complacent?
  • Costa - the fiscally responsible Socialist
  • April 30, 2019
  • Labour's big day
  • Spain now turns to its next elections
  • On the hypocrisy of the German debt debate
  • 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 15, 2019
  • Finland's far right changes the game
  • Brexit party drawing almost even with the Tories
  • April 10, 2019
  • EU first needs to decide what it wants from an extension: 2nd ref or ratification
  • All signs point to major transatlantic trade conflict
  • Montenegro - how China deals in Eastern Europe
  • April 08, 2019
  • Welcome to the new Brexit grand coalition
  • Waiting for Macron's next move
  • April 04, 2019
  • Juncker seeks to pull the plug on no-deal temptations
  • Which campaign promise to break - French edition
  • The failure of strategic thinking and its consequences