Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Last Brexit Before the Poll?

 

ac_theresamay_compFrom the start of her tenure as Prime Minister, Theresa May ruled out the prospect of an early general election, and recently ruled it out again. She holds that the Conservative party won a mandate in May 2015, and that she has inherited it. This is a traditional view, and it’s a sensible one in light of an obvious need to calm the markets, give the electorate a respite from drama, and project an image of stability abroad.

It’s true that an election at this point is unnecessary: The Tories have a majority although not a massive one, and Labour, having re-elected the lunatic (and severely unpopular) Jeremy Corbyn to its leadership, could only lose more seats. What’s more, it’s not even clear she could call a new election. A new law, the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act, takes away the prime minister’s power to call a general election on his or her own initiative. To comply with the law, May would need the support of two-thirds of the parliament. So even if all 330 Conservatives agreed, she would still need Labour votes. Labour MPs have no incentive to support her because they’re sure to lose even more of the few seats they have. (Here’s a good explainer about the new law and what it means for May.)

This hasn’t stilled the speculation, though, nor has it quieted the tabloids who are calling for her to earn her own mandate at the polls. A number of Tory backbenchers also think it would be to their advantage to hold an election sooner; after all, an opponent as weak as Jeremy Corbyn comes around but rarely. That’s too tempting an opportunity to pass up. Polls show that May could quadruple her majority if an election were held today. Many fear that by 2020, when she is obliged to go to the polls, the effects of Brexit will have soured voters on the party

Jake Berry, the Tory MP for Rossendale and Darwen, told The Telegraph an early election would help her pass policy changes more easily and avoid any backlash from Brexit negotiations.

“An election in 2020 would effectively be an election on the Brexit deal, which could potentially open the door to Labour if the public are not happy,” he said.

“If we had an election next year it would push the next vote over to 2022, where we will have had more of an opportunity to see if Brexit succeeded or failed.”

An early election would strengthen May’s hand in the Brexit negotiations. If she were elected with a convincing mandate — which she would be — opponents of Brexit wouldn’t be able to say that May doesn’t have enough democratic legitimacy to do something as momentous as trigger Article 50. That isn’t the only tricky issue she confronts without the full legitimacy of a vote behind her: She’s vowed, for example, to usher in massive reforms to the educational system, but her plans weren’t in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, and a number of influential Tory backbenchers oppose her.

There’s every indication the Brexit negotiations will be brutal, and that it will be a very long time before the economic benefits, if any, become obvious to voters. France and Germany are facing restless electorates. Both Hollande and Merkel are focused above all on keeping their economies above water. The French are now eagerly and openly fantasizing about the benefits to them should a flood of highly-skilled bankers be deprived of the ability to work from London and forced to move to Paris. Merkel is going to protect Germany’s export market at all costs. (Or, to be precise, at a high cost. I shouldn’t exaggerate. There really was once a Germany that protected its export markets at all costs; but for now the Furor Teutonicus has passed.)

For those of you who’d like to dig deeper into Brexit, here are two unusually good articles I’ve read recently: The first is a profile of Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European parliament for southeast England and one of Brexit’s key intellectual architects — the intellectual architect, if journalist Sam Knight is correct. I heard Hannan speak to the Mont Pelerin Society in Istanbul once. Knight’s evocation of him is really successful; he captures Hannan’s personality perfectly.

Next, by Nick Herbert: Hard Brexit Ideologues Threaten Britain’s Future: While he doesn’t explicitly refer to Hannan, it seems to me that’s exactly who he had in mind when he wrote, “Dreams of quick trade deals with far-flung nations are staggeringly naive. Britain’s continuing success depends on the terms we reach with Europe.”

Yesterday, @aaronmiller started an interesting discussion about political legitimacy. In light of that discussion, and of the unusual circumstances of Brexit, do you think May would be well or poorly-advised to hold the election sooner? If so, why? If not, why not?

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In December, I’ll be hitting the road and going to London — thanks to your support — to speak to politicians and ordinary people about Brexit, Theresa May, and how Britain is changing. I’ll also be there for Vladimir Bukovsky’s trial (and I’ll be one of the very few journalists covering that story). I’d be hugely grateful for any help you can give me to defray the expenses of that trip.

Soon I’ll be unveiling a new Brave Old World website where you’ll be able to get regular book updates, keep track of my interview schedule, and find photos, videos, and audio recordings. There will be some special surprises for those of you who’ve contributed so far. So please stay tuned …

There are 11 comments.

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  1. genferei Member
    genfereiJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Did you mean to link to the article mentioned in this post?

    • #1
    • October 7, 2016, at 3:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    genferei:Did you mean to link to the article mentioned in this post?

    I did! Thank you! And I meant to recommend your post as well.

    • #2
    • October 7, 2016, at 3:56 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This was all just a plot to get me to read the Grauniad before morning coffee.

    It was a good profile, despite the snark. It also made clear that Sam Knight needs some yutz in Brussels to tell him what brand of toaster he’s allowed to buy with his own money.

    • #3
    • October 7, 2016, at 4:49 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Old Bathos Moderator

    It would not make economic sense for anyone to muck up trade between the UK and EU countries. The Brexit architects are conservatives who think that (barring protracted applied error) the universe tends toward economic rationality and that rational trade deals will be effected accordingly.

    However, the politics of the EU, or more precisely, the self-interest and survival of the European technocratic ruling class requires that the UK be punished severely as an object lesson to other dissident populations. The issue is reducible to how much of reciprocal hit will Germany and France permit their lead export industries to take in order to rub the Brits nose in it.

    I wonder how much impact it will have on the British economy to be relieved of micro-management from Brussels and whether any such gains will fuel an appetite for further trade retribution from the embattled elites.

    • #4
    • October 7, 2016, at 5:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Marion Evans Inactive

    Juncker hasn’t gotten the memo yet that it is the UK that has the upper hand in this negotiation.

    • #5
    • October 7, 2016, at 6:36 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire,

    Knight

    Hannan’s signature case against EU membership is an upbeat argument of direct democracy and free-market capitalism. He sidesteps questions about the inevitable trade-offs of leaving by insisting there will be none.

    Herbert

    The question is not whether we leave the EU but on what terms. Conservatives must beware Brexit fundamentalism, or giving themselves up to a romanticised 1950s vision of Britain, a country of imperialist chauvinism. We should be talking about financial passporting and the need to prevent a haemorrhage of banking jobs from the City, not fixating on the colour of our passports. We should be discussing how to strike the best deal with our biggest trading partner, not how to relaunch a royal yacht.

    I think Hannan’s thinking is exactly on the mark. The issue of immigration just exacerbated the fundamental underlying issue of sovereignty and democracy. If you look at the three Brexiteers, I don’t see a single ideologue amoung them. Theresa May is far from an extremist herself. Yes, Britian should capitalize on a keeping good relations with EU, as far as it can be accomplished. However, this is not the point. There comes a time to make a change and take a risk. This the time to be bold. Britain is bold.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
    • October 7, 2016, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire,

    To Britain you must go.

    https://youtu.be/nIhYxshDPLg

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
    • October 7, 2016, at 7:24 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Tennessee Patriot Member
    Tennessee PatriotJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think the UK will be fine. You can have plenty of trade without complicated treaties, and the EU can’t punish the UK too much as the UK is a huge market for Germany. I would like to see a simple open trade agreement among the English- speaking peoples which would benefit us all.

    • #8
    • October 7, 2016, at 7:35 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. The Reticulator Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:For those of you who’d like to dig deeper into Brexit, here are two unusually good articles I’ve read recently: The first is a profile of Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European parliament for southeast England and one of Brexit’s key intellectual architects — the intellectual architect, if journalist Sam Knight is correct. I heard Hannan speak to the Mont Pelerin Society in Istanbul once. Knight’s evocation of him is really successful; he captures Hannan’s personality perfectly.

    Next, by Nick Herbert: Hard Brexit Ideologues Threaten Britain’s Future: While he doesn’t explicitly refer to Hannan, it seems to me that’s exactly who he had in mind when he wrote, “Dreams of quick trade deals with far-flung nations are staggeringly naive. Britain’s continuing success depends on the terms we reach with Europe.”

    Both are good articles. Thanks for letting us know about them.

    I had some time back learned to be suspicious of the “business craves certainty” arguments. I wonder if we wouldn’t have a more stable economic system if it was based more on uncertainty. I don’t mean the uncertainty of arbitrary, cronyistic government regulation and subsidy, but there are some other uncertainties that might be better for our social and economic systems. Not all uncertainty is created equal.

    • #9
    • October 7, 2016, at 7:35 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. Laura Koch Inactive

    I think PM May’s time would be better spent getting her backbenchers on board with grammar schools expansion and further fleshing out her brexit plans than negociating with the Opposition to give her Government a shot at expanding their majority. She may as well use the majority she has to build up a list of measurable accomplishments before the next election. She might want to call an early election if the polls still look good but not this early perhaps. That particular fixed election legislation sounds tedious to work with in a Parliamemtary system. If they want to keep some flexibility in the future they might want to set an early precedent by triggering an election on their own terms or as close to it as possible.

    • #10
    • October 7, 2016, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor

    It seems from what you’ve written, Claire, that there are a couple of reasons not to call for an early election. The first is how difficult it would likely be to get enough votes to do it, with probably a lot of time and energy wasted. Second, we get a lot of “experts” predicting what will happen in four to six years; we forget sometimes that they are simply projections in an increasingly uncertain future. We all need forecasters, but sometimes conditions call for people to predict the near-term needs. I think focusing on the upcoming Brexit negotiations and on the issues at hand with perhaps some credibility-building results might be of greater benefit.

    • #11
    • October 7, 2016, at 9:58 AM PDT
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