September 10, 2019
Beware of the Salvini trap
Let’s imagine the following scenario: the House of Commons returns in October. There is a no deal. Jeremy Corbyn calls a no-confidence vote, wins and agrees to support a national unity government under Kenneth Clarke as interim prime minister. Clarke may only receive a mandate to seek an extension. But, as we observe in other parts of Europe, interim government can prove sticky.
Can’t happen? Consider Corbyn is a much diminished figure these days. Imagine that Labour’s popularity will continue to shrink, and that the Labour leadership concludes it cannot afford elections at this point. What started as a short-lived government of national unity would then remain in office because those that support it are desperate to avoid elections. They are playing for time. That government could seek a Brexit extension until after the next scheduled elections in 2022 - at which point the British electorate may have lost interest in Brexit.
This is not a prediction, only a scenario. But look at what just happened in Italy. Who would have foreseen a few weeks ago that Matteo Salvini’s exit from government would lead to a coalition between Five Star and the PD? But it did, because Salvini’s electoral support surged and so it is in the interest of the two other parties to stop him. We admire Cummings’ strategic acumen, but strange things happen in politics that are beyond the grip of a strategic planner.
We don’t think it is possible to game the multitude of interacting political scenarios beyond October. Our baseline scenario remains that the House of Commons will ultimately not succeed in stopping Brexit. But it looks increasingly uncertain that Brexit will happen on October 31.