Sunday 20 October 2019

Boris will get his deal passed, one way or another

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Did Boris really expect his deal to pass the Commons yesterday?

He knew he would not get the ten DUP MPs on board but he was determined to force it through by hope, faith and, in the case of vacillating MPs, charity. It’s a question of what would have once been called manliness but, in an age where women are politicians too, can instead be called forcefulness and determination.

It looks like, had a vote on the motion on his deal taken place, the Government would just have won it after a good whipping operation. (One whip was reported assaying, “It’s a tricky operation because on one hand we are telling Labour MPs is a case of deal or no deal and on the other we’re telling Spartans it’s a case of deal or no Brexit". )

We cannot know because Boris decided not to have a vote after the Letwin amendment passed and the motion ceased to be a binding one, but merely an indicative vote (remember them?)

Boris wins in any case, as the man who did everything he could and was defeated by MPs who did not want to honour the referendum result that they promised to honour when they stood for election last time.

People say the DUP have been hung out to dry by Boris, after they conceded the principle of customs checks in the North Sea. 

Perhaps they were played but, but they have been very stupid. They have foregone a wonderful deal they could have made with the EU and Westminster for slowly being talked into assenting to the deal and, as it sands, the deal they rejected would help the Northern Irish economy much more than leaving with no deal would. 

It would favour Protestant farmers who vote DUP and make also the province a gateway between the UK and the EU.

Yesterday's deal is significantly different from Mrs May's. It gets rid of the backstop rather than renaming it and it enables the UK to make free trade agreements with the USA and other countries. 

A customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be something normal between two sovereign states but the EU have been convinced that it would breach the Belfast Agreement and lead to violence. 

It would never be possible to rid them of this idea. Mrs May had accepted that it would not happen shortly after she became Prime Minister, one of her many unforced mistakes. 

That being so, this is probably the best deal we could get. If we have a free trade agreement with the EU, as Boris hopes, the customs border between Northern Ireland and the British mainland will not happen, though some checks will be necessary.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard dislikes the deal but thinks we should settle for it and points out that if Boris wins the next election after the deal is agreed,

"the negotiating dynamic with Brussels will be different in 2020. The EU will not be able to play off Westminster tribes against each other so easily. The cliff edge for the UK will be less severe since the May/Johnson deal does resolve a string of technical issues such as nuclear ties under Euratom or landing rights for aircraft, etc.
"This makes a WTO walk-out more plausible, and therefore more menacing for the EU as it tries to preserve its £95bn trade surplus with the UK (while offering no reciprocal access for services, of course)."

Olly Robbins was overheard in a bar saying the backstop would be a bridge to a deal - a deal that would pretty much be like remaining in a customs union with the EU. 

Boris's aim is to have a free trade agreement with the EU without the EU's excessive regulation. I hope for Canada dry but doubt the EU will wear it - but we shall have the threat of no deal to help persuade them.

Johnson last night sought to comply with the letter of the Benn Act while subverting it to prevent an extension. His aides spin that this could conclude with some of them in goal. It’s very unlikely indeed.

What happens next?

When the withdrawal bill is presented this week the rebels will seek to amend it to add a confirmatory referendum. If they fail it is still by no means certain that the bill will pass.
Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski has held private talks with senior figures in the Polish and Hungarian governments in the last 48 hours to persuade them to veto any proposed extension. No 10 does not expect them to agree.

Instead, the EU will presumably either delay replying to Boris’s unsigned letter sent at 11 pm last night asking for an extension or agree one for two weeks. In either case this will bring back the threat of no deal that the Benn Act sought to defuse and help the British government take the country out of the EU.

It looks to me that Boris has the political momentum to pass his bill and take us out of the EU this month or next. A lot depends on what the public think, funnily enough.

But a two week extension is of huge importance because it makes an election before Christmas impossible (because of Christmas bazaars in church halls).

If so, Boris may also get his Queen’s Speech passed, then a Budget passed and have the first January election since 1910, which resulted in a hung parliament with the Irish members holding the balance of power. 

That was followed by another election in the same year that produced another hung parliament and three years later the UK was on the brink of civil war, from which only a gunshot in Sarajevo saved us.

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