state of play: 14 days to doomsday

So the third meaningful vote has failed. A bunch of Brexiteers caved and supported the deal for fear of the alternative, and a bunch more didn’t, and even though they only lost by 58, the government has now seen its Brexit plan go down to defeat for the third time in 2019 – and hopefully the last.

So now what? As our friend Rob Watson said, the branches of the decision tree are slowly being pruned away. None of the alternatives in the so-called “indicative votes” commanded a majority. The negotiated May agreement is in one MP’s words “deader than Monty Python’s parrot.” As it stands right now, we are on a glide path to a no-deal Brexit two weeks from today unless something can be formulated to give the Brits more time.

Here’s the problem now: someone is going to have to work across party lines to do a deal. I say this because Labour will never be able to claim a majority as long as Jeremy Corbyn is in charge, but the Tories will fall apart as soon as they split between hard Brexiteers and the rest of the party. The Conservatives, as in the US, have been riding the tiger so long that as soon as they try to climb off they will be eaten, and right now, they’re desperately trying to avoid that.

Which Theresa May could have avoided. She could have held off on Article 50, she could have reached out to Labour from the beginning, but she thought she could do it all in-house, and then called an election and got her ass kicked to the point where she could no longer do it in house. Once the DUP was the key to her majority, the choice became either a softer Brexit or the return of the Troubles. 

So what happens now? I still think it’s going to be a hard crash in two weeks with unforeseeable results. The alternative now is that the UK kicks the can way way way down the road, or else negotiates a cottony-soft Brexit with a custom union and soft border in Ireland. Which the UKIP types will howl “is no Brexit at all”, and then you probably wind up with Brexiteers deserting the Conservatives en masse for UKIP again, and then you have three parties (Labour, Tory, UKIP) and a couple of meaningful smaller ones (SNP and LibDem) and, very possibly, the beginnings of multiparty government on the order of Italy or Israel with similar consequences for stability and the future of British politics.

And more than ever, I suspect we wind up with Scotland going its own way and back into the EU, and with Ireland unified again in my lifetime – especially if remaining in the EU proves more lucrative than remaining tethered to a disintegrating UK in the wake of a hard Brexit. 

Meanwhile, this pretty much nails everything I’ve been saying all along.

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