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

March 25, 2019

An object lesson in realpolitik

Beware of the UK newspapers this morning or over the weekend. Theresa May is not about to resign. We are ready to believe that there was a Tory plot. But it was not an intelligent one. The plotters and the journalists they co-opted did not think this through. Theresa May is where she is for a reason - she sits right on the crevice that divides the party. Everyone else is either a Remainer or a Leaver. We have not often cause to quote Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader. But we sympathise with his observation: if David Lidington is the answer, then was is the question? 

The official news from the Chequers meeting between May and a group of eurosceptics is that there was no handshake - she resigns, they vote for a her deal. But this is not how things work. There was never an explicit deal between Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand over German unification and the euro. But there was an implicit understanding. The same is going on here. We, too, don’t think that she has a long political life left after Brexit, but a decision cannot be credibly pre-announced. It would weaken her in the final moments.

May is different from the kind of politician UK political commentators have grown used to. She gives terrible speeches. She does not know how to campaign. She can’t do small talk. EU leaders found out Thursday that, even in this critical moment, May showed no human emotion and refused to engage in any discussions of what would happen if her deal gots voted down for a third time. She came to Brussels to ask for an extension. And managed to offend the people she was asking. 

The Sun newspaper this morning was calling on her to resign after Brexit. Such a course of action makes sense. She will have delivered Brexit. She would resign afterwards, stay in office while her party selects her successor, and then hand power over. She is not going to hang on until December when she is certain to lose a leadership challenge. 

But beware of different Brexit scenarios intruding: there is still no Commons majority for her deal. The ERG is not backing her, at least not unilaterally. The waverers in the Labour Party have also pulled back since they have the opportunity to express their preference in indicative votes. No option will win outright, but her deal could still emerge as the relatively most supported option. In this case, the deal might pass in a fourth meaningful vote. In the unlikely event that the second referendum gets the most support, we think she could risk an open confrontation with parliament, force a no-deal Brexit on April 12, and then quit. If one of the soft Brexit options like the customs union receives the most support, we think she could reach out to Jeremy Corbyn and seek a compromise. The dilemma faced by the hard Brexiteers remains unchanged: by withholding support for May's deal they increase both the chances of a no-deal and of a soft Brexit, or even of no Brexit.

Show Comments Write a Comment

March 25, 2019

On the probability of a no-deal Brexit

In his FT column Wolfgang Munchau makes the argument that a no-deal Brexit is possible even if it is nobody’s first choice. He says the probability of a no-deal Brexit has grown since the EU summit last week. For starters, Theresa May can have a no-deal Brexit if she wants to. The UK parliament does not have the legal tools to stop it. One of the biggest and most persistent misunderstandings about Brexit is that the whole business of extension is between the prime minister herself and the European Council.

There is a reasonable chance that the indicative votes won’t get the job done. The Tories have no mechanism to oust her now. A parliamentary vote of no-confidence is technically possible, but too much of a nuclear option to be credible. Munchau’s overall conclusion is that a no-deal Brexit is not the first choice of any of the decision-makers involved, but the more relevant point is that they are not ready to pay a high political price to avoid it. This also goes for EU leaders.

That message was also corroborated by a report from Jennifer Rankin and Daniel Boffey in the Guardian, who got hold of some verbatim accounts from Thursday evening at the European Council. We knew before that EU leaders were intensely frustrated with May, and have given up hope on the next instance of the meaningful vote. What we thought was interesting was the acceptance by the group that a no-deal Brexit was indeed very likely. 

"The leaders were deeply aware as a group that if they accepted 12 April as the new cliff edge, it could mean a no-deal Brexit. Macron turned to Varadkar and asked: ‘What will happen if there is a no-deal Brexit on 12 April. Would you be fine?’ He responded: ‘We can cope.’"

Merkel was pressing for the compromise solution on which the European Council eventually agreed. But we didn't get the sense that she is out to prevent a no-deal Brexit at all costs. Die Welt reported that Merkel’s main concern right now was for Brexit not to hijack the European election campaign.

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 11, 2019
  • Thoughts on how the European elections in the UK could affect UK and European politics
  • Far right to enter Estonia's government
  • October 17, 2017
  • Catalan separatism has its martyrs
  • European Parliament agrees to restrict posted workers
  • Foreign policy will be key in Austrian coalition talks
  • 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 25, 2020
  • What should the EU do about Belarus?
  • March 13, 2019
  • Not really all that meaningful
  • Will the EPP merely put Orban on probation?
  • Why AKKs riposte to Macron is deeply disturbing
  • October 02, 2017
  • Catalonia recalls EU and eurozone instability
  • French trade unions increase pressure over labour reforms
  • Watch out for a political accident in the UK
  • Municipal elections boost Portugal's Socialists
  • 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 07, 2020
  • Europe on brink of serious conflict with China
  • Erdogan's Libya strategy gains support at home
  • February 11, 2019
  • SPD dumps Hartz IV
  • Macron's revival
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • 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
  • May 18, 2020
  • Why this won't be a symmetric shock
  • Towards a new cold war
  • January 07, 2019
  • What to look out for in the Brexit debates
  • Macron's last-resort tool for the gilets jaunes
  • August 31, 2017
  • Where are the Républicains?
  • Poland unmoved by EU rule-of-law sanctions
  • May will stay through Brexit, and then fight the 2022 elections
  • 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 03, 2020
  • After medical concerns, economic concerns take centre stage in Greece
  • New momentum to exclude Fidesz from the EPP
  • The Swedish experiment
  • December 12, 2018
  • 48 letters
  • A sense of deja-vu
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • 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
  • February 02, 2020
  • Is Sinn Fein the Irish anti-establishment vote?
  • Don’t assume that nobody will follow the Brits
  • October 29, 2018
  • Why the EEA is no longer a Brexit option
  • Behold the rising superpower: post-catholic Ireland’s European miracle
  • July 27, 2017
  • Löfven's move
  • The nearing end of petrol and diesel engines
  • Why a second referendum in the UK won’t happen, and why it would be wrong
  • 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
  • December 12, 2019
  • Greta is right - the EU’s fight against climate change is most likely a PR exercise
  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • 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 17, 2019
  • A dangerous game for the EU
  • After Brexit, get ready for a German EU budget rebate
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • June 20, 2017
  • How to soften Brexit?
  • The deep roots of Brexit: Thatcher and the Germans
  • 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 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • May 31, 2017
  • Getting real in the debate on the euro's future
  • Russia's growing influence in Italy
  • 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 06, 2020
  • Did Covid-19 escape from a Wuhan lab?
  • What to make of Angela Merkel's U-turn
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • 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
  • May 10, 2017
  • PSOE primary campaign in full swing
  • Czech government crisis escalates
  • Backroom dealing on electoral reform in Italy
  • 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 06, 2020
  • The feedback loop of Covid-19 and inequalities - part 10 of our series
  • How confinement affects mental health
  • April 09, 2019
  • What can go wrong now?
  • April 13, 2018
  • German support for eurozone reform next to zero...
  • ... and no support for France on Syria either
  • A French sermon
  • Why the euro endures
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • 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
  • January 06, 2020
  • A decade that started with a bang
  • What to expect of Spain's next government
  • Divide et impera: Macron's pension reform strategy
  • January 29, 2019
  • What comes after plan B fails? Plan C, of course. C for cliff-edge
  • Gilets jaunes, how to structure a movement in free flow?
  • European Court of Auditors criticises Juncker’s investment fund
  • February 26, 2018
  • Angela Merkel's cabinet
  • March 27, 2017
  • Governing formation troubles - Northern Ireland edition
  • Did Trump present Merkel with a bill for Nato?
  • 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 17, 2020
  • How Putin could divide the EU over Belarus
  • The impossible mission of forming a federal government in Belgium
  • September 23, 2019
  • Corbyn’s last big battle
  • Germany’s CO2 compromise meets all targets - except the climate targets
  • November 13, 2018
  • Peak Salvini?
  • Protest uberisation
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • February 28, 2017
  • Is Hamon losing the right wing of his party?
  • Something we just don’t understand
  • Solve the problem
  • 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
  • March 11, 2020
  • While Italy is in lockdown, Germany allows football matches
  • Ireland grand coalition
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • November 09, 2017
  • From street protests to road closures
  • What Russia wants
  • January 31, 2017
  • Project fear against Italexit
  • On how not to frustrate Brexit
  • 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 06, 2020
  • Did Covid-19 escape from a Wuhan lab?
  • What to make of Angela Merkel's U-turn
  • October 21, 2019
  • Philippe to brace for more union protests
  • Greens are the electorates' new favourite
  • February 07, 2019
  • Forget Tusk - the real action is elsewhere
  • On David Malpass and the Trump legacy
  • 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
  • July 14, 2020
  • Why the far-right might win in the end
  • December 03, 2019
  • What to look out for in the last week of the compaign
  • Trump threatens tariffs on French luxury exports
  • 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 24, 2020
  • If Trump refuses to go, spare a thought for us Europeans
  • March 25, 2020
  • Scientific advice and politics
  • Why the Oxford study is so useful
  • 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
  • June 22, 2020
  • What we learned from Trump in Tulsa
  • Greece seeks EEZ deal with Egypt to counter Turkey
  • Political pressure on French judiciary in Fillon probe?
  • February 10, 2020
  • A new era in Irish politics with Sinn Féin
  • More fish, please
  • 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
  • September 18, 2020
  • EU hydrogen targets are a bunch of hot air
  • August 17, 2020
  • How Putin could divide the EU over Belarus
  • The impossible mission of forming a federal government in Belgium
  • July 15, 2020
  • EU cheating on spending for climate protection
  • June 16, 2020
  • Is Trump preparing for a final propaganda war against Europe?
  • A historic coalition deal for Ireland
  • May 18, 2020
  • Why this won't be a symmetric shock
  • Towards a new cold war
  • April 20, 2020
  • What if we are wrong?
  • March 23, 2020
  • Orbán seeks to extend his powers
  • UK as the double counterfactual
  • February 24, 2020
  • Coronavirus comes to Europe
  • Municipal elections - a precursor for Le Pen?
  • Germany and France get involved over Idlib
  • January 30, 2020
  • Trade union politics on balancing France's pension fund
  • Johnson ready to let go of frictionless trade
  • January 06, 2020
  • A decade that started with a bang
  • What to expect of Spain's next government
  • Divide et impera: Macron's pension reform strategy
  • December 10, 2019
  • Squeezed between US and Russia - Open Skies edition
  • November 18, 2019
  • Is Macron facing another uprise against elites?
  • Forget the inflation target: Lagarde’s job is much bigger.
  • October 27, 2019
  • German political centre is melting
  • Train drivers in all-out confrontation with Macron
  • Erdogan makes threats again
  • October 07, 2019
  • What did Conte know?
  • September 17, 2019
  • Beware of the diplomacy of humiliation
  • Germany’s climate hypocrisy
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • August 06, 2019
  • Macron's next bet: municipal elections
  • A victory for Salvini and his coalition
  • July 22, 2019
  • Will Johnson go for elections?
  • How will von der Leyen handle the east?
  • July 08, 2019
  • Instex, forever around the corner?
  • Why Rory Stewart is not really what Remainers should be looking for
  • June 24, 2019
  • Economic reform has torn up the SPD - climate policy does the same for the CDU/CSU
  • Not intruding, not really
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • May 30, 2019
  • US threatens Instex
  • Alliance - surfing on the Remain vote in Northern Ireland
  • May 20, 2019
  • Far right on the march
  • A plot against the EU - a new weapon to stop Le Pen?
  • May 10, 2019
  • Target2 debate raises legitimate questions with unsatisfactory answers
  • No more German questions please
  • May 02, 2019
  • Ahead of a meeting with Salvini, Orbán brands the EPP as suicidal
  • What role for trade unions amid gilets jaunes?
  • The church vs the EU
  • 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 09, 2019
  • What can go wrong now?
  • 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
  • April 01, 2019
  • Meaningful IV
  • Caputová elected: a turning point for central Europe?
  • March 28, 2019
  • Fidesz exposes EPP to barrage of provocations
  • How Berlin has turned the ghost of Aachen into a poltergeist
  • March 26, 2019
  • No, the UK parliament has not taken control
  • Barnier for president?
  • March 25, 2019
  • An object lesson in realpolitik
  • On the probability of a no-deal Brexit