state of play: 9 days to doomsday

So apparently the EU has had enough to know they have had enough. They will not countenance a delay that goes past May 29; any longer than that and Britain must elect European Parliament members and then you have the spectacle of Britain as a participating member while still negotiating their exit, a circumstance which opens the door for all kinds of shenanigans.

My old mate Rob Watson (who interviewed me on a street corner in Georgetown 17 years ago when we both had hair) has said that there are three options for Parliament: 1) pass the May Deal, which has been rejected twice and cannot be brought up again in this parliament without material changes, 2) revoke Article 50 and call the whole thing off, or 3) crash out on the 29th with no deal. He also cheekily mentions option 4: “try to think of alternative to 1-3”. Which mode of wishful thinking has really been at the heart of Brexit all along: the idea that somehow Britain can build a wall and the EU will pay for it and pay more to go through it.

Because no one knew what Brexit meant. Formulations like “Brexit means Brexit” only show the caliber of glib indifference that has driven this whole process. A majority of MPs knows this is a bad idea with worse consequences, and they are paid to know better, but Theresa May cannot stand up to the know-nothings in her own party. Neither could David Cameron, who scheduled the referendum for fear of defections to UKIP. The Tories made the same mistake the GOP made in the US: they countenanced ignorance as a pillar of support and are now paying the price. The honorable thing to do would be to do a deal cross-party, call it off with Article 50 altogether, and call an election with the notion that the parties will seek a mandate for what is to be done. Or at the very least, to arrange the simpler steps of a Norway-esque membership of the EEA and customs union and pass it with Labour votes and then fall on the sword.

Not that Jeremy Corbin has covered himself in glory. He could probably get the general election he wants by doing that Norway-Lite deal with his own MPs and waiting for the implosion across the aisle, but the general election is the priority and is a good example why the Democrats need to steer well clear of Bernie Sanders this time out. No one in the Cabinet, government or shadow, has been willing to de-prioritize the political requirements long enough to save the country, and it is for this reason that I am more convinced than ever that a no-deal Brexit on March 29 will be the final outcome. 

Theresa May doesn’t have a plan beyond finding a way to have Parliament keep voting on her deal over and over and over until it passes. There weren’t enough votes, so she pulled it, then she put it through anyway and got clobbered, and then she made some facile changes to the deal and got clobbered again, and now in all likelihood intended to use the alternative of no deal at all to blackmail Parliament into passing the deal at the eleventh hour – until John Bercow stood up for Parliament and refused her a second (or third, or arguably fourth) bite at the same apple. 

The votes are there for a soft Brexit. They were there a year ago. This could have been a piece of piss, but Theresa May had to do this all within her own party and thought she could bring her nutters around rather than stand up to them. Which just goes to show she didn’t look across the Atlantic at all.

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