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

May 29, 2019

Untangling the confusion about a no-deal Brexit

In this note we explain in detail why we think the risk of a no-deal Brexit is much larger than most commentators and financial-market actors believe. Over the last couple of days we noted a series of misleading comments from journalists and politicians, who are either ignorant about the legal procedures - Article 50 and the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act - or obfuscating. The key issue will be how these procedures will interact with the politics. 

We can never emphasise enough that the reason why the UK did not leave the EU without a deal on March 31 was Theresa May's reluctance. It was not the House of Commons. The role of the prime minister will remain critical because of the way Article 50 has framed the withdrawal process. A no-deal Brexit cannot be stopped by parliament except through ratification of a withdrawal treaty or outright Brexit revocation. The UK parliament has rejected both, which is why no-deal remains the default position, not only theoretically, but actually.

What about a vote of confidence? Under the FTPA, the leader of the opposition can call a vote of no confidence. If successful, that would trigger either a general election or the election of another prime minister. The latter is perhaps the Remainers' best hope. MPs could, for example, vote in favour of Dominic Grieve as prime minister with a limited mandate to ask the European Council for an extension, and to legislate for a second referendum or else trigger the FTPA provisions for an election. That would require an astonishing degree of self-sacrifice by Jeremy Corbyn.

If that doesn't happen - and we don't think it will - the no-confidence procedure is likely to be self-defeating. Any Tory MPs who vote against their own party leader will be deselected. The eleven MPs from Change UK would also lose their seats. Their best hope would be to merge with the LibDems, but it is not clear that this will happen, or that it will happen in time.

And then consider the FTPA timetable. The new Tory leader will be in place by mid/late July. The UK parliament will be in recess from 20 July until 5 September. When MPs come back from the holidays, it could be already too late. 

If, say, they vote on a confidence motion on September 10 and the motion passes, there would be a period of 14 days until parliament is dissolved and new elections are called. In that period the prime minister remains in office, but parliament is dissolved. The Tory party conference will take place from Sep 29-Oct 2 and would coincide with the beginning of the general election campaign. The newly elected prime minister would come under massive pressure by the conference to deliver Brexit on time. And if he or she believed that a no-deal Brexit would be less suicidal than asking for an extension, there is nothing parliament could do because it would already have been dissolved. 

So, when considering the question of a no-deal Brexit, we have to look at how the procedural timings and the politics are likely to interact. The key variable in all of this is who the next prime minister will be, and how determined they will be to accept no-deal. If they hesitate like Theresa May, Brexit will be dragged out. If they want a no-deal Brexit, they can have it.

We would also urge caution against false security from opinion polls. We noted a poll yesterday in which Labour, Conservatives, Brexit Party and LibDems are all around 20% - a mind-boggling combination in a first-past-the-post electoral system. What will be decisive in the upcoming general election is not the absolute number of Brexit vs Remain voters, but the marginal distribution across seats and the willingness of the various camps to co-operate. Only a fool would extrapolate from the European election results, and conclude that the Tories must at all costs avoid an election this year. 

We agree with the pollster John Curtice that delivering on Brexit is the singular key variable for Tory success of failure. If they deliver Brexit, we would not rule out that their support will surge. The certain road to perdition for the Tories is to agree another long Brexit extension, and for the Brexit Party to develop an effective national network of candidates in time for the regularly-scheduled elections in 2022. 

Show Comments Write a Comment

May 29, 2019

Meet Germany's serial blunderer

We noted before that Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer made a stupid mistake when she published a European manifesto asking France to give up its nuclear arsenal, its UN Security Council seat and Strasbourg as one of the seats of the European Parliament. Or when she poked fun at trans-gender toilets during the carnival season. 

The effects were to display her deep ignorance of European politics, and to remind President Emmanuel Macron that Germany is ultimately not to be trusted. We were not clear at that time whether this was merely a slip. Helmut Kohl slipped up a few times in his early days but, when he did, he apologised and moved on. So did Angela Merkel, when she once remarked that France had structurally low productivity growth and was reminded by Jacques Chirac that French productivity growth exceeded Germany's. 

With AKK we see a rather different pattern. Her latest pearl of wisdom was a series of comments on regulating opinions by so-called influencers on social networks. As with her Europe paper or her toilet comments, she hasn’t thought this through and hadn't talked to anybody beforehand. 

And, unlike Merkel and Kohl, she keeps digging herself deeper and deeper into her holes. After the furore of her initial remarks, she doubled down with this:

"I don't want to regulate the expression of opinion. Freedom of opinion is a high value in democracy. But we have to talk about rules that apply in elections."

So, she is now saying that freedom of opinion is ok, but not in elections. 

It is too early to make any forecasts about her future. We discount the reports that Merkel is beginning to distance herself. What we know for a fact is that AKK is by far the most inexperienced politician ever to be leader of a large German party. The learning curve is very steep. If what we have observed is a character flaw, she will be in considerable trouble. 

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

  • 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
  • September 21, 2018
  • SPD ministers want to continue grand coalition
  • March 28, 2018
  • The real reason for the sanctions against Russia
  • Wishful thinking: Brexit edition
  • Wishful thinking: Future of euro edition
  • Wishful thinking: Italy edition
  • 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 10, 2017
  • Nein, nein, nein, und nein
  • Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t
  • On how not to exit the euro
  • 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
  • September 18, 2019
  • No doubt, this is a constitutional crisis
  • Macron's immigration bid
  • May 13, 2019
  • Brexit Party has already changed UK politics
  • Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait
  • Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • April 25, 2018
  • Macron's pitch to Trump
  • Montoro in Schleswig-Holstein
  • The old world and the new
  • December 22, 2017
  • Will Macron be the new de Gaulle?
  • 2018 through the looking glass
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • April 20, 2017
  • Don’t bet on Trump turning globalist
  • A note on UK election polls
  • December 20, 2016
  • The politics of terror
  • On Lagarde
  • Is a disruptive Brexit possible?
  • 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 28, 2019
  • Merkel’s legacy
  • November 11, 2019
  • Grand coalition agrees to continue grand coalition
  • Can Greens and conservatives agree on priorities?
  • Germany - self-content and without energy
  • October 23, 2019
  • Putin brokers deal to push Kurds away from border
  • AKK’s biggest gamble yet
  • October 07, 2019
  • What did Conte know?
  • September 23, 2019
  • Corbyn’s last big battle
  • Germany’s CO2 compromise meets all targets - except the climate targets
  • September 09, 2019
  • Chances of no-deal are rising and rising
  • Resist the beginnings
  • 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 19, 2019
  • Instex shows the EU is caught between the US and Russia
  • Johnson’s two Brexit options
  • July 10, 2019
  • Turkish drilling off Cyprus - a test case for the EU
  • Labour’s new Brexit policy is not really a shift
  • July 02, 2019
  • How not to choose
  • Why no-deal Brexit has emerged as a strong probability
  • June 24, 2019
  • Economic reform has torn up the SPD - climate policy does the same for the CDU/CSU
  • Not intruding, not really
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • June 11, 2019
  • Politics and the new sense of urgency
  • Ten little monkeys jumping up and down - down mostly
  • June 07, 2019
  • Keep looking, gentlemen, said the King
  • Message from Peterborough
  • The decline of the grand coalition is accelerating
  • June 03, 2019
  • Reinventing the French right without Wauquiez
  • Tory leadership election is between feasible and unfeasible Brexit options
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • May 30, 2019
  • US threatens Instex
  • Alliance - surfing on the Remain vote in Northern Ireland