BREXIT: Another go for May come MONDAY, Handicapped in Favour of the status quo, UK Stays in the EU

Those who must live with the result of the referendum longest want to remain
Those who must live with the result of the referendum longest want to remain

May I be excused? No, Theresa, no you may not!

By Peter Spencer

AIWA! NO!|As the Brexit psychodrama unfolds the political chaos gets steadily worse. All the signs are Theresa May’s got virtually nowhere in her attempts to find common ground with other parties. But, as our political correspondent Peter Spencer reports, she’s got no choice but to face her enemies on all sides of the chamber on Monday…

In the English breakfast, the hen is involved but the pig is committed.

Which is where Brexit has left our MP’s.

Grunty, snorty porkers.

In normal times politicians are involved in the cut and thrust of debate.

Now they are committed.

Which is why Theresa May’s attempts at cross-party talks are as likely to succeed as taking out an army with a spud gun.

Each of the many factions doesn’t think, it knows, exactly what the seventeen million leavers and sixteen million remainers really wanted.

Complete cojones, of course. The referendum question was yay or nay. No details, no subdivisions, no shades of grey.

Makes no odds. No one’s listening to anyone now.

Trying to sort the mess is as tricky as reversing a vasectomy. Simply too many loose ends to tie up.

Love her or hate her, you have to admire Mrs May’s sticking power.

Last week’s commons rejection of her departure deal looked like the biggest defeat for any British government since the Battle of Hastings.

And yet she soldiers on, trying to get someone to agree to something. Anything, really.

A big ask, when even her own cabinet is riven with dissent. Up to twenty ministers are reportedly ready to quit if she doesn’t make sure we don’t crash out of the EU with no deal.

Still, she’s in good company there. Jeremy Corbyn faces a tranche of top table resignations if he goes for a second referendum. One reason why he’s swerving her cross-party Downing Street talks.

Yup. It’s that polarised. And we’re now only weeks away from Departure Day – March 29th.

Little wonder everyone’s getting the jitters. Fears escalate of food and drug shortages. The motorway out of Dover turning into a car park. A serious slump in the housing market. Possible problems for anybody trying to fly to or drive in Europe. The list goes on. Happy days.

Theresa May’s Monday despatch box gig never was going to produce anything much, though the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, deserves a mention for making it happen at all.

In so doing he overturned centuries of parliamentary practice and really put one on the powers that be.

Calls to mind Mr Speaker Lenthal. He it was who stood up to King Charles 1st when he barged into the chamber with a load of soldiers and demanded to know where the MP’s he’d come to arrest had gone.

‘May it please your majesty,’ Lenthal replied, ‘I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me.’

In short, up yours.

Some suspect that’s Bercow’s attitude too, seeing as his wife got a sticker for her car that reads ‘Bollocks to Brexit’.

He may yet play a pivotal role when the voting that matters takes place on January 29th. Tilting the balance of power still further from the government to the commons.

Not that anyone’s in charge just now, meaning anything’s possible.

Currently, the second referendum is creeping up the likelihood stakes, as is a much softer Brexit than Mrs May has in mind. While a delay to the scheduled departure date is definitely a runner. Though the spectre of a no-deal departure continues to hover round Westminster.

Most MP’s fear it’d be the greatest act of self-harm since the Suez Crisis, though Brexit ultras see it as the greatest escape since Steve McQueen got on his bike at Stalag Luft 111.

Be it a threat or a promise, it’s potent. Which is why the game everyone’s playing now is something between strip poker and Russian roulette.

No messing around, this is a constitutional as well as a political crisis. And the stakes could hardly be higher.

And yet this week David Cameron managed to keep a straight face when he claimed he didn’t regret calling the referendum in the first place. Because he’d promised one.

It’s worth remembering that in those faraway tranquil days surveys clearly showed Europe was way down almost everyone’s priority list.

Everyone, that is, except a hardcore of right-wing agitators. And of course Cameron did have an election to win. Had to keep his people sweet.

Harsh though it sounds, the word appeasement springs to mind.

Of course, he did his best in trying circumstances. But so did Neville Chamberlain…

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his wonderful takes on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


Theresa May to deliver key Brexit speech at Stoke-on-Trent factory

Prime Minister Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May

The Prime Minister will visit the city ahead of Tuesday’s crucial vote in the House of Commons

|AIWA! NO!|Theresa May will deliver a speech to Stoke-on-trent factory workers – in a last ditch effort to rally support behind her Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister will visit the ‘Brexit capital of Britain’ on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Commons vote on her withdrawal agreement.

People in Stoke-on-Trent voted around 70-30 in favour of leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum, one of the highest Leave votes in the country.

In her speech, at an unnamed Stoke-on-Trent factory, Mrs May will warn that if MPs vote against her deal, Brexit may not happen at all. This follows last week’s votes in the Commons, which will make it harder for the government to implement a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Mrs May will say: “As we have seen over the last few weeks, there are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so.

The EU referendum: How you voted
The EU referendum: How you voted

“I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.

“Imagine if an anti-devolution House of Commons had said to the people of Scotland or Wales that despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, Parliament knew better and would over-rule them. Or else force them to vote again.

“What if we found ourselves in a situation where Parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a remain vote?

“People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm. We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.”

Mrs May has been attempting to win over Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas – such as Stoke-on-Trent’s Gareth Snell and Ruth Smeeth – in order to boost her chances of winning Tuesday’s crunch vote.

Theresa May Brexit Plan B: What Are Her Options If She Loses Vote?

A demonstrator calls for Theresa May to resign. Picture: PA

A demonstrator calls for Theresa May to resign. Picture: PA

|AIWA! NO!|What will Theresa May’s Plan B be if she loses next week’s meaningful vote as expected? LBC’s Political Editor Theo Usherwood assesses her options.

Yesterday’s defeat means that if the Prime Minister does lose, she must return to Parliament to set out her Plan B within three working days.

What will that Plan B look like? Here is what she might do next.

1) Kick the can down the road one last time

Theresa May will no doubt speak to Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s vote. If – as expected – she loses, her job will be to persuade them both that she could win second time round if they are forthcoming with more substantial concessions.

The offer would have to be much better than what we have seen over Christmas, but the EU has plenty of other things to worry about other than Brexit. The growing feeling in Brussels is that a deal needs to be done. That would give the PM one last chance to get something better, and bring the vote back to Parliament towards the end of January, or the beginning of February.

Likelihood rating: 4/5

2) A second referendum

Mrs May would need to immediately ask the EU for an extension to Article 50. She has of course repeatedly ruled out a second referendum. The argument from Number 10 is that the British people has already had its say and we voted to leave.

The obvious strategy would be to put three options on the ballot paper: Remain, May’s deal, No Deal. That risks enraging leavers as it splits their vote in two.

But a second poll doesn’t necessarily have to reverse the 2016 result. Mrs May could propose the question: My Deal or No Deal? That would put the onus on Jeremy Corbyn to order his MPs to vote for the inevitable amendment to add Remain to the ballot paper. A high risk strategy for a Prime Minister most do not think actually countenances leaving without a deal.

Likelihood rating: 2/5 (May deal v No Deal: 1/5)

Could Theresa May call a People's Vote
Could Theresa May call a People’s Vote. Picture: PA

3) Call a snap general election

Last month’s no confidence vote was politically costly because Mrs May had to promise she would not fight the next general election in 2022. The date is important: the Prime Minister leaving open the option that she could call a snap general election and fight it.

On the plus side, it is the only way to break the deadlock in the House of Commons. We are where we are because as things stand at the moment there isn’t a majority for anything.

On the downside, it is hard to imagine senior Tories within the party allowing Mrs May to fight a snap election, especially after what happened last time. Given the internal turmoil within the Conservative party at the moment, it is also hard to see how Mrs May could campaign with a coherent message to win over voters. Needless to say, this is the ideal route for Jeremy Corbyn. Just like the previous option, Mrs May would need to extend Article 50.

Likelihood rating: 2/5

4) Sit tight and wind the clock down

Similar to option one, this course of action relies on Downing Street buying, with the help of prevarication in Brussels, as much time as possible. A tough ask but Downing Street’s consistent argument to Remainers has been that they should vote for the PM’s deal or face a No Deal Brexit because that is the default option. The closer we get to Brexit D-Day – March 29 – the more powerful this argument becomes.

The only problem is the Government has to pass six pieces of Brexit legislation (excluding the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill) by 29th March, on everything from immigration to fisheries. Given what happened with Yvette Cooper’s amendment on Tuesday to the Finance Bill, those pieces of legislation would be cut to shreds by Tory Remainers and Labour in an effort to grind the machinery of Whitehall to a halt.

The problem for the Prime Minister is that she will lose increasing amounts of control the closer she gets to  D-Day. And then there is the strong chance Remainers in the Government will knock on the door and tell her to go, or face mass resignations.    

Likelihood rating: 3/5 

5) Cancel Brexit

It is worth including but it is not going to happen, not least because it wouldn’t get through Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t support it and it would end in a bloodbath for the Conservatives at the next election.

Likelihood rating: 0/5 

6) Hold a series of indicative votes

The problem at the moment is that MPs cannot decide between themselves as to what to do. Mrs May could announce next week that she will hold a series of indicative votes in an effort to build a consensus.

There have already been discussions with Labour MPs in leave constituencies – the likes of John Mann and Caroline Flint – but given the splits within her own party, Mrs May will probably need Jeremy Corbyn to whip his MPs to support her next move.

A softer Brexit pushed through by Labour MPs will damage the Tory brand and cause uproar amongst leavers within her own party. And for a Labour leadership focused on a general election, it is not particularly desirable to let the PM off the hook. But then the Labour leader won’t exactly relish a second referendum and the implications for his unity within his own party. 

Likelihood rating: 3/5

A demonstrator calls for Theresa May to resign
A demonstrator calls for Theresa May to resign. Picture: PA

7) Resign

This is the last thing the Prime Minister is going to do. Theresa May had wanted the chance to implement her own domestic agenda to resolve the burning injustices she saw in society when she walked in to Number 10 in July 2016. That won’t happen now.

Brexit is her mission, and it is one she is determined to fulfil. But there has been speculation in recent days that her most senior aides are looking for a way out once the first stage of Brexit is over. If this happens, Mrs May would then have to revive her office with fresh staff and impetus to complete the lengthy and tortuous trade negotiations, not to mention deliver on her reforms to the social care system and education. A seemingly impossible ask.

Likelihood rating: 0/5 before Brexit, 4/5 after Brexit

For Brexiteers, ‘No Deal’ Is a Better Option Than the Deal on the Table Now

Brexiteers; ‘No Deal’ Is a Better Option Than the Deal on the Table Now

A Pro EU protester holds fake bank notes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg outside Parliament in June 2018
Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A Pro EU protester holds fake bank notes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg outside Parliament in June 2018
Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

One is hard put to see how a government commissioned to negotiate in good faith for independence could have come up with a deal quite this bad.

Christopher Caldwell


|the weekly Standard|AIWA! NO!|Like Hannibal’s Carthaginian army after the battle of Cannae, Britain’s supporters of Brexit have won but they don’t know it—and if you don’t know you’ve won, you’re at risk of losing. Two years ago they triumphed in a referendum that asked whether Britain should exit (hence the word “Brexit”) from the European Union. They beat a better-funded opposition and a government-sponsored scare campaign that enlisted everyone from World Bank economists to Barack Obama. Led by Prime Minister Theresa May, who did not back Brexit when it was up for a vote but promised to see it through Parliament after it won, they filed a formal declaration of withdrawal in 2017. If nothing else is done, on March 29, 2019, under Article 50 of the E.U.’s Lisbon Treaty, the E.U.’s laws “shall cease to apply” in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

But in mid-November, May’s negotiators returned from Brussels with something suspicious in their luggage: a draft withdrawal agreement that seemed to undo everything Brexit had won. The reasons for having a withdrawal agreement should be minor and marginal—figuring out travel and residence rights, assessing the value of refunds due from discontinued projects, etc. There should be little friction between two polities that have spent a quarter-century harmonizing their laws, economies, and cultures. But this agreement surrendered the sovereignty won at the ballot box. The architects of Brexit announced they would not vote for it. Four of May’s cabinet members resigned. Member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg called for a vote of no confidence. May has stood firm, announcing that it was the best deal she could get.

Maybe none of this will matter. If Brexiteers can get the country to next March 29, Article 50 will go into effect willy-nilly, even without an agreement. But the losers of Brexit, who tend to be the winners of the global economy, have now rallied to demand a second referendum, which they have the effrontery to call “the People’s Vote.” If they can only keep the ball in play, they may still be able to sabotage Brexit altogether.It is astonishing how unrepresented Britain’s interests are in the draft agreement May negotiated. Among its highlights:The divorce bill. This is journalists’ term for the $50 billion (at least) that Britain is to pay for the privilege of governing itself once more—as if the E.U. were not a multi-governmental empire but a fly-by-night credit-card company. The principle that makes this divorce bill necessary is that “no Member State [of the E.U.] should pay more or receive less because of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union.” You would think that a shrunken empire would have to pursue more modest projects. Not the E.U.! It is demanding that Britain keep it in the lifestyle to which it has become accustomed. This is a matter of desperate importance for the E.U.’s leaders, since its citizens have lately developed a neurasthenic sensitivity to new fiscal demands. In mid-November, protests erupted across France against Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to levy a gas tax to fight climate change.The backstop. This is the name for a vague aspiration to regulatory harmony and an open border between the Republic of Ireland (which belongs to the E.U.) and Northern Ireland (which belongs to the U.K.). Because of the interdependence of the two Irish economies and because of peace agreements negotiated in the 1990s, there is a case for keeping Northern Ireland in the same European Union customs area as the Republic. But it’s hard to do. It creates a different economic regime in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the U.K. and risks allowing the territory to converge with the E.U. over the long term. May’s solution was to draw the whole U.K. into the backstop, and for this, the E.U. requires long-term down-the-line harmonization of trade policy. That puts an end to what roughly half the people who voted for Brexit thought they were voting for: a deregulation of the economy. An “independent arbitration committee” would settle any disputes that arose.The transition period. This is the killer. It would establish, even after Britain’s independence becomes a fact next March, a “transition period, during which the E.U. will treat the U.K. as if it were a Member State, with the exception of participation in the E.U. institutions and governance structures.” In other words, Britain would get all the taxation of being in the E.U. with none of the representation. E.U. law would continue to apply until at least the end of 2020, at which point the transition period can be renewed until (what follows is the way it appears in the agreement) “20xx.” The European Court of Justice will be, by common consent, the highest court in the land, and that preeminence will continue until eight years after the transition period. So not only does the agreement deprive Britain of the sovereignty its voters sought for a quarter of a century—it does so in a way that is unfixable. And possibly permanent. Europe’s courts, following the example of the United States in the past half-century, have become policy-making and opposition-harassing bodies. If Europe’s courts are supreme in Britain, it will only be a matter of time before one of them declares Brexit illegal.B

One is hard put to see how a government commissioned to negotiate in good faith for independence could have come up with a deal quite this bad. Lead E.U. negotiator Michel Barnier was tough. He considered it a “duty” not to compromise the E.U. position. Britain must be damaged, punished, and humiliated for Brexit. German chancellor Angela Merkel backed him. It is not that Europeans are especially cruel—only that if the negotiators sent a message that a country could retain the benefits of E.U. membership while winning more independence and autonomy, there would be a rush to the E.U. exits.

Where Europe was obdurate, Britain was divided. British elites, no less than continental ones, have been browbeaten with the lesson that the root of Europe’s problems is “nationalism” (which has come to mean any form of national feeling), that the E.U. is Europe’s only possible antidote to nationalism, and that any criticism of the E.U. is therefore radical. Almost the entirety of the press is of this view. We can limit our quoting to Times of London columnist Jenni Russell, who wrote in the New York Times of those who favored Brexit: “These hard-liners are ruthless. They aren’t prepared to accept a compromise. . . . They have destroyed any sense that I—and many others—had that we owe it to them to honor and accept the original referendum.”

May’s heart was not in it. Her people arrived at the negotiating table in Brussels unsure whether they were upholding their constituents’ rights as British citizens or their rights as European citizens. Many Brexit supporters take a more conspiratorial view—that May did an end-run around her official negotiators, Dominic Raab and David Davis, and entrusted the real work of hammering out a deal to young Europhile aides working behind the scenes.

The E.U.’s defenders warn that without such a deal, Britain will “crash out” of the union or get a “hard Brexit.” That rings hollow. To those who voted for Brexit, no deal would be better than this deal. To repeat: No deal is necessary to bring Brexit into effect on March 29. But a functioning, pro-Brexit government is. May’s majority is razor-thin, and the pressing question now is whether the deal could be rejected in Parliament without triggering an irresistible cry for fresh elections, which would serve as a proxy for the second referendum that Brexit supporters would never otherwise grant.

Britain has tried to do everything by the book. It activated Article 50 patiently, debated it patiently, passed it patiently. It would be excellent if Britain could regain its independence this way. But that approach is failing. Brexit is not about economics or efficiency or fellow-feeling. It is about sovereignty, which is built on strange and savage paradoxes. To do things by the book is to legitimize the government you have called it intolerable to live under. Few requests for sovereignty as polite as Brexit have ever prevailed.

CHRISTOPHER CALDWELLis a national correspondent at The Week