Wednesday 10 April 2019

No deal was an empty threat by the EU

To try to convince the House of Commons to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, the EU threatened that the alternative was Britain leaving with no deal, for which the Continent was well prepared. In fact there was always a vanishingly small possibility of our leaving with no deal, despite President Macron's threats aimed at his domestic audience (and despite ITV Political Editor Robert Peston's insistence for months to the contrary). Now the threats are being quietly dropped.

Were the EU to refuse an extension British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond predicted yesterday that MPs would probably force the government to revoke Article 50, rather than leave with no deal, but for the EU leaders this would be too big a risk for them to take.

As Michel Barnier said yesterday, the EU will never force us to leave with no deal. The British civil service, which advises the Prime Minister without much competition from political advisers, now that Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill have been banished, is also determined to prevent the UK leaving with no deal. The Cabinet Secretary went so far as advising the cabinet that it could not vote on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mrs May is not the collegiate, clubbish person that a Prime Minister should be, who confides in the cabinet and is first among equals. She is secretive, unclubbable, isolated and suspicious. She confides in no-one except her husband and a very few, very close advisers, whose names I do not know. 

She has been captured by the civil service, because she needs someone to tell her what to do and because she does not give them a clear line.  She is out of her depth, but embarrassingly reluctant to leave the stage. 

How far we are from Stanley Baldwin, who chatted up elderly Tory backbenchers in the House of Commons Tea Room and who knew the party (the advice Theresa May gave George Osborne when she told him he wouldn't have a job). How far we are from Margaret Thatcher, who knew what she wanted to do.

Whatever politicians say, this is the British deep state and the EU equivalents in charge. They hope that a long delay means there will be no Brexit.

However, the deep state does not know the Tory party or the British public. Two important things are about to happen in the UK that will let non-politicians have a say: the replacement of Theresa May, who will be chosen by Tory party members from a shortlist of two provided by MPs, and elections to local councils and the European parliament. This will be a timely reminder that Brexit would not be an issue were it not for the public voting for it, in spite of the advice they were given by their rulers.

What next? 

Will the House of Commons back Labour's policy of a permanent customs union in a free vote? Possibly. 

Will they vote to hold a second referendum, which many or most Labour MPs would also like? No. 

Or rather not this month. With a long delay, a second referendum will happen, unless the House of Commons can agree on how to leave.

How long can Theresa May hang around, obstructing traffic? 

The Telegraph’s Christopher Hope thinks the 1922 Committee, the trade union of Conservative backbench MPs, may ask the Prime Minister to resign as party leader by May 23, but remain as Prime Minister during the leadership contest, in which her record will inevitably be vilified. 

It is a lucky thing for her that she has no pride or self-respect.


  1. Local elections don't offer much choice, and Brexit is not an issue there. And with the Conservative party it is quite likely they'll do again what they did in 2016 and present us with someone like Amber Rudd as a fait acompli.

    1. Local eelctions should not be fought by the parties but they are and inevitably reflect national issues. Miss Rudd whom I absolutely loathe has no chance of being selected by Tory party members. I did not think in theory or for practical reasons that the members should have the final say, but I am extremely grateful now that they do. Sir Oliver Letwin told Simon Heffer years ago that 80% of the members ought to be ditched.

  2. I am grateful to Juncker, Verhofstadt and others for saving us from ourselves. 4 million people losing part of their liberties without a say (including you as UK resident of EU) is not good. When people say "you don't know the British bulldog", my eyes just roll. Real Farage talk, except that he never mentions when his daughters will hand back their German passports.

    1. This is hilarious.