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The Voiceless and Powerless Prime Minister

 
Theresa May / shutterstock.com

As she lost control of both Parliament and her government, Prime Minister Theresa May also lost her voice. Unable to speak in the debate to take ‘no deal’ off the table — Michael Gove deputised for her — Mrs May was forced to watch as the House of Commons reduced her to the Parliamentary equivalent of Henry VI. That unfortunate monarch had squandered the gains of his predecessor before being reduced to a marionette, passed around from faction to faction during the Wars of the Roses.

Earlier she had had to watch as her very own Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, effectively announced his own Brexit policy from the government’s despatch box. By the time the divisions came, she had Cabinet Ministers defying the whip and abstaining while more junior Ministers even voted against her. That none will be asked to resign only serves to underline the Prime Minister’s lack of authority. As per the old cliché, she is in office but not in power.

Yet it did not have to be this way, despite the seeming inevitability of events. Mrs May failing voice might be put down to her having shouted at everyone on Monday. As predicted, the 11th-hour trip to Strasbourg — rather than Brussels — led to the ‘legally binding changes’ her backbenchers and DUP allies had demanded. The only problem was that, as ever, nothing had in fact changed. With the European Union saying it was a final offer and the choreography already well underway at home, Mrs May could only walk or play along. Facing not only the prospect of her own Attorney General marking her homework, after he had failed to win said changed the previous week, but also the legal minds of her sceptical MPs’ ‘star chamber’, she decided to brazen it out and bounce her MPs into coming with her.

They come in threes. Britain now joins Israel and Canada as countries where the Prime Minister is at risk due to the actions of the Attorney General. Tuesday morning saw the folding of the Tory Eurosceptics in full swing with even former Brexit Secretary David Davis, who had resigned to oppose the deal, indicating he would support Mrs May in the ‘Meaningful Vote’ if the Attorney General would give it his seal of approval. Speculation about a most remarkable political turnaround was rife. Immense pressure was being applied on Leave MPs and the dominoes were trembling, ready to fall. Yet the Attorney refused to play along and Mrs May’s gambit was revealed for what it was — a final call for party unity under her leadership. The Speaker of the House obliged by not calling any of the tabled amendments and the choice before reluctant Leave MPs was to back Mrs May’s Brexit or risk the Remainer-dominated Parliament seizing control. They refused to blink, seventy-five Tories voted with the opposition; some were Europhiles but the bulk were Eurosceptics.

Why did they do it? With many of their strongest supporters in the media urging them to not make the perfect the enemy of the good, to emulate President Reagan and take half a loaf; with their Remain colleagues threatening the whirlwind to come and the prospect of being the generation of Conservative Eurosceptics who voted against Brexit, they joined the Remainers, the Reversers and the Wreckers in the opposition lobby. The simple answer is of course that Mrs May’s ‘deal’ is nothing of the kind and certainly not the trade deal Brexiteers were arguing for. It is an international treaty that obliges the UK to follow laws legislated without any UK representation while paying for the privilege. It also denies the Thatcherite Leave MPs any of the free trade opportunities while barring any free market reforms. Why would they vote for it?

Beyond the legal text of the treaty, which does allow for the hint of a possibility of potentially leaving in the future, voting for Mrs May’s Agreement would have been voting for her to continue as leader for probably the rest of this Parliament, such would have been her triumph. Yet the Brexiteers doubt her intentions are to ever leave. The Spectator’s website published a piece during the day that sketched out the strategy: Keep the UK tied to the legal framework of the EU for two and a half years, or indeed much longer, while the federalising project accelerates. Obliged to follow all the EU’s laws, the UK would be forced “down that road, whether it likes it or not.” This chimes with the warnings from anti-dealers such as Martin Howe QC and the Brexiteers’ own fears.

Meanwhile, the UK will be stuck, left frustrated by the never-ending Brexit process. Politicians in Britain will seethe again and again over their powerlessness as it has to nod through EU legislation that comes its way. The UK will discover the hard way that unilateral interpretations of treaties are meaningless and that leaving out ‘how long is too long’ has real legal consequences.

The big bet of the EU is that this will culminate in Britain applying again to rejoin even before it actually properly leaves the EU legal framework. If so, the UK – with its tail between its legs – will prove less of a troublemaker then before as it will be more integrated in the EU legal framework than is currently the case. Moreover the UK is likely to lose all its current special rebates and opt-outs with the EU. It’s no wonder that the EU is desperate for MPs to back the deal – and no wonder, too, why those same MPs are nervous about doing just that.

That Mrs May’s own motivations have been suspect for many Brexiteers is nothing new, but a recent piece by James Delingpole referencing a mysteriously removed memo reveals their worst fears, that Mrs May has been planning this with Angela Merkel all along. Whatever their darkest suspicions, Mrs May’s last appeal was never likely to succeed after she had promised delayed gratification and delivered procrastinated submission.

So, what next? Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement was defeated again but it could still come back for a third go next week. After voting against ‘no deal’ yesterday, today, Thursday, MPs will most likely vote to extend Article 50. Both votes are motions, not law, but the chase is on for the Remain MPs as they seek to forge an even softer Brexit or cancel it altogether. Amendments could cause further divisions on the government benches and deepen Tory splits beyond repair. After today the government will seek an extension at next week’s EU summit but Mrs May will probably try and bring her Agreement back before then.

However, the Speaker could rule that out of order. The role of the Speaker here is crucial. His office bears little resemblance to that in the US, he simply chairs the House. A strong government would usually have little to fear from a hostile Speaker, but with a hung Parliament and the House attempting to wrestle control from the Executive, his decisions take on immense importance. The current Speaker, John Bercow, was a Eurosceptic as he climbed ‘the greasy pole’ but nowadays is a confirmed Remainer. Nor is he a friend of the government. The Speaker’s ultimate aim will be to allow a motion or amendment for revocation of Article 50 at the most opportune moment.

Even if the Agreement did come back a third time it will not pass without a significant number of Labour MPs, a hardcore of those seventy-five Tories (both Leave and Remain) will never switch. Nor is it likely that the ground will not have shifted even more next week and Mrs May might be in no position to bring it back. Plans for cross-party groups could yield a ‘softer Brexit’ in the form of membership of the Custom Union and Single Market, hence removing both the need for the problematic ‘Irish backstop’ and any of the potential gains from Brexit.

In all this, Mrs May will be forced to look on. She cannot dissolve Parliament on her own, the Prime Minister’s usual safety valve, as David Cameron’s coalition government passed a Fixed Terms Parliament Act to stabilise their administration. Consequently, two-thirds of the House of Commons must vote for a dissolution and why would they when they have taken control? It is simpler than wasting time with a vote of No Confidence.

The Prime Minister will turn up at next week’s EU summit with no leverage. She will have to accept whatever is offered and relay it to Parliament. Assuming one of Nigel Farage’s Eurosceptic friends in Italy or Hungary do not veto it, the terms are likely to be harsh. At this point expect the calls for the revocation of Article 50 to grow loudest, under the guise of cancel and start again. Although the EU’s preferred outcome is the purgatory of Mrs May’s Agreement, they would probably allow the cancellation on the condition that it could not be started again.

So, have the Leave MPs blown it? Not yet. The legal default has not been changed and is harder to do than MPs think. The opponents of Brexit can easily overplay their hand and public opinion will have a part to play, with support for a ‘clean break’ rising. MPs have to go to their constituencies and most Conservatives have their AGMs in the next two weeks, where they could be deselected.

Nor is Mrs May a complete cipher. She can take back control herself should she so chose by proroguing Parliament. However, to do so would be a gamble that makes a clean break almost unavoidable. She would also have to face the same MPs within a few weeks anyway and if she genuinely believes ‘no deal’ would be bad she would expect to be voted out as soon as she recalls them, stamped indelibly in history as the Prime Minister who drove off the cliff. Then again, does she want her legacy to be the non-delivery of Brexit and the end of the Conservative Party?

No-one expects her to resign. But then no-one expected Mr Cameron to do so either. Until he did, when it then became blindingly obvious that he had to. The Ides of March come tomorrow….

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There are 34 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Contributor

    @exjon, this should be promoted!

    • #1
    • March 14, 2019 at 8:01 am
    • 2 likes
  2. Contributor

    Excellent. Thank you.

    What a remarkable, unpredictable, slow-motion train wreck this is — train wreck, that is, unless a no-strings/few-strings exit actually occurs. No deal is better than no exit; I’ll keep hoping for the exit, and soon.

    • #2
    • March 14, 2019 at 8:07 am
    • 5 likes
  3. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    @exjon, this should be promoted!

    Very kind of you Titus, thanks.

    • #3
    • March 14, 2019 at 8:19 am
    • 3 likes
  4. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Excellent. Thank you.

    What a remarkable, unpredictable, slow-motion train wreck this is — train wreck, that is, unless a no-strings/few-strings exit actually occurs. No deal is better than no exit; I’ll keep hoping for the exit, and soon.

    ‘Slimy? Mud-hole? My home this is…’

    Other than that you are spot on.

    • #4
    • March 14, 2019 at 8:21 am
    • Like
  5. Member

    Afternoon Nick,

    Do you think that it has been May’s strategy to make leaving almost impossible by negotiating in such a way that the horrible parts of belonging to the EU would be magnified in the treaty to leave? I do.

    • #5
    • March 14, 2019 at 8:40 am
    • 4 likes
  6. Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Excellent. Thank you.

    What a remarkable, unpredictable, slow-motion train wreck this is — train wreck, that is, unless a no-strings/few-strings exit actually occurs. No deal is better than no exit; I’ll keep hoping for the exit, and soon.

    Don’t you think it was predictable? The City wants to stay or as close as makes no mind, as do apparently many British people. They were always going to make it difficult to leave. 

    • #6
    • March 14, 2019 at 8:44 am
    • 2 likes
  7. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    Afternoon Nick,

    Do you think that it has been May’s strategy to make leaving almost impossible by negotiating in such a way that the horrible parts of belonging to the EU would be magnified in the treaty to leave? I do.

    Sorry Jim, I just can’t read her. Even now. 

    To speculate, she is either the most hopelessly over-promoted local councillor in history or Agent May, the deep cover operative, planning from her youth to destroy the Conservative Party from within, using her Frida Kahlo bracelet to send messages to her handlers….

    … Though I could only speculate so wildly working back from the outcomes of her actions.

    Joking aside, I ‘met’ her once, when she was Home Secretary, and my immediate impression was that she was a rabbit in the headlights, though to be fair who knows if she had just heard something disturbing and classified.

    One theme of her premiership seems to be destroying the Eurosceptics in her party. Seems daft when up to eighty per cent of the membership is inclined that way.

    • #7
    • March 14, 2019 at 9:18 am
    • 4 likes
  8. Thatcher

    Tyrant elites working to subvert the will of the people. 

    • #8
    • March 14, 2019 at 9:24 am
    • 7 likes
  9. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Excellent. Thank you.

    What a remarkable, unpredictable, slow-motion train wreck this is — train wreck, that is, unless a no-strings/few-strings exit actually occurs. No deal is better than no exit; I’ll keep hoping for the exit, and soon.

    Don’t you think it was predictable? The City wants to stay or as close as makes no mind, as do apparently many British people. They were always going to make it difficult to leave.

    It’s commonly assumed that The City wants to stay. The Financial Times certainly wants you to think that but look up the editor’s progressive bona fides, he’d fit right in at the New York Times.

    The truth is perhaps more nuanced. London competes with New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, not Paris and Frankfurt, and are not keen on being regulated from Brussels. Many hope we will repeal MIFID 2 once we leave. See Money Week for a more Leave friendly outlook, City AM  is pretty balanced too.

    Apparently, the City have largely done their ‘no deal’ planning and few jobs have left. 

    However, they proably know something I don’t. Or think they do. All these Parliamentary games means if we do leave on the 29th we can expect a repeat of June 24th as the markets frantically adjust.

    • #9
    • March 14, 2019 at 9:37 am
    • 2 likes
  10. Thatcher

    Nicky,

    Yes, May now resembles a female version of Captain Ahab. She won’t let go of her fantasy compromise deal (killing the white whale of a real Brexit) and she will be dragged under hanging on to her fantasy. The Brexiteers can’t use her deal. Corbyn won’t allow it. Most of all the EU will screw her no matter what because that’s just the way the EU is.

    You suggest as I have that the one way out is going with a Clean Brexit. The EU can’t stop her. She only needs to move 3 votes over to Clean Brexit and considering how well her gang counts votes that can’t be too hard.

    Brexit Rises!

    May is dead but she beckons!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #10
    • March 14, 2019 at 9:38 am
    • 4 likes
  11. Thatcher
    She

    Mr Nick: Unable to speak in the debate to take ‘no deal’ off the table – Michael Gove deputised for her – Mrs May was forced to watch as the House of Commons reduced her to the Parliamentary equivalent of Henry VI. That unfortunate monarch had squandered the gains of his predecessor before being reduced to a marionette, passed around from faction to faction during the Wars of the Roses.

    What are the odds? (Shameless self-promotion alert.) Henry 6 makes an appearance in my post today, too!

    Great post, @mrnick.

    • #11
    • March 14, 2019 at 9:40 am
    • 1 like
  12. Member

    Mr Nick: The opponents of Brexit can easily overplay their hand and public opinion will have a part to play, with support for a ‘clean break’ rising.

    The polling data I saw was 45 clean break, 30 no clean break and 25 don’t know. That was in the Telegraph a few days ago. What I could not gather was that countrywide or within the Conservative Party. And how the 25% broke would be crucial, of course.

    The other thing I don’t understand about the Tories is that they could be the only Brexit Party if they chose to be while the Remainers would be scattered all over the place with Corbyn at the helm of Labour. Since a majority voted for Brexit, why they do not do the sensible thing and declare firmly for Brexit, kick out the Remainers, and call another general election.

    • #12
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:00 am
    • 2 likes
  13. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    She (View Comment):

    Mr Nick: Unable to speak in the debate to take ‘no deal’ off the table – Michael Gove deputised for her – Mrs May was forced to watch as the House of Commons reduced her to the Parliamentary equivalent of Henry VI. That unfortunate monarch had squandered the gains of his predecessor before being reduced to a marionette, passed around from faction to faction during the Wars of the Roses.

    What are the odds? (Shameless self-promotion alert.) Henry 6 makes an appearance in my post today, too!

    Great post, @mrnick.

    Thank you @She.

    I won’t insult you by saying ‘great minds…’

    • #13
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:14 am
    • Like
  14. Contributor

    Mr Nick (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Excellent. Thank you.

    What a remarkable, unpredictable, slow-motion train wreck this is — train wreck, that is, unless a no-strings/few-strings exit actually occurs. No deal is better than no exit; I’ll keep hoping for the exit, and soon.

    ‘Slimy? Mud-hole? My home this is…’

    Other than that you are spot on.

    Heh heh. Absolutely, couldn’t agree more!

    [ Disclaimer: Actually, I don’t have a clue what your comment meant. I often miss things. Is that a reference from The Hobbit? ;) ]

    • #14
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:23 am
    • Like
  15. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Mr Nick: The opponents of Brexit can easily overplay their hand and public opinion will have a part to play, with support for a ‘clean break’ rising.

    The polling data I saw was 45 clean break, 30 no clean break and 25 don’t know. That was in the Telegraph a few days ago. What I could not gather was that countrywide or within the Conservative Party. And how the 25% broke would be crucial, of course.

    Polling on this is always complicated by the question asked and the number of alternatives offered, not to mention who commissions it. I’ve seen lots of conflicting data and, not to be a conspiracy theorist, once you realise the head of YouGov is married to Baroness Ashton, former EU Foreign Affairs Chief, you begin to get suspicious. However, Prof. Matthew Goodwin is very good on polling. He is a liberal academic (Chatham House fellow etc) who didn’t lose his head but decided to investigate the ‘real’ causes of Brexit.

    The other thing I don’t understand about the Tories is that they could be the only Brexit Party if they chose to be while the Remainers would be scattered all over the place with Corbyn at the helm of Labour.

    EU membership has always been a project of the governing class. Monnet conceived it with a British civil servant in the 1920’s (puts Von Mises’ comments in Liberalism into context). Churchill’s son-in-law was instrumental in its birth and the political class always felt they missed the boat. Take into account the loss of confidence in the late 1950s and ’60s and it has been central to British foreign policy ever since we finally got in.

    They might have lied about it to enter but you can’t just let some advisory vote by the plebs change all that old boy….

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Since a majority voted for Brexit, why they do not do the sensible thing and declare firmly for Brexit, kick out the Remainers, and call another general election.

    Would be a sensible move but Mrs May seems to be trying the opposite approach.

    • #15
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:31 am
    • 3 likes
  16. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Mr Nick (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Excellent. Thank you.

    What a remarkable, unpredictable, slow-motion train wreck this is — train wreck, that is, unless a no-strings/few-strings exit actually occurs. No deal is better than no exit; I’ll keep hoping for the exit, and soon.

    ‘Slimy? Mud-hole? My home this is…’

    Other than that you are spot on.

    Heh heh. Absolutely, couldn’t agree more!

    [ Disclaimer: Actually, I don’t have a clue what your comment meant. I often miss things. Is that a reference from The Hobbit? ;) ]

    Yoda! You seek Yoda…

    • #16
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:33 am
    • 1 like
  17. Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Slimy? Mud-hole? My home this is…’

    Link

    • #17
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:33 am
    • Like
  18. Contributor

    Mr Nick (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Mr Nick (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Excellent. Thank you.

    What a remarkable, unpredictable, slow-motion train wreck this is — train wreck, that is, unless a no-strings/few-strings exit actually occurs. No deal is better than no exit; I’ll keep hoping for the exit, and soon.

    ‘Slimy? Mud-hole? My home this is…’

    Other than that you are spot on.

    Heh heh. Absolutely, couldn’t agree more!

    [ Disclaimer: Actually, I don’t have a clue what your comment meant. I often miss things. Is that a reference from The Hobbit? ;) ]

    Yoda! You seek Yoda…

    LOLing out loud. Yes, see I do. Thank you.

    • #18
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:35 am
    • 1 like
  19. Member

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Tyrant elites working to subvert the will of the people.

    Well only if the will of the people is our own. If it is not, then they are a noble minority fighting the madness of the mob. 

    I just don’t see how any politician would risk blundering their way into no deal Brexit and assuming all that responsibility and risk. The Conservatives had a chance to select such a leader when they issued the no confidence vote against May. It failed now they are stuck with her. Why did it fail if they are really committed to No Deal is best option between Remain, and May Deal? Frankly I would be curious now how Parliament would vote on thequestion of Remaining (have they done that?) They have rejected May’s deal and No Deal Brexit. Does that mean that they would accept Remain? If they reject all three options what does that mean (other than that they are unserious people, because I don’t see what the fourth option really is?). 

     

    Again I think given the impasse public should be forced to solve the deadlock of political incompetence and hedging. Hold a referendum on the three options, and then elect a new Parliament that will carry it out. At the least you need to get a new government in there because May has lost all control. 

    Shambles. 

    • #19
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:53 am
    • 1 like
  20. Member

    Hang On (View Comment):
    The other thing I don’t understand about the Tories is that they could be the only Brexit Party if they chose to be while the Remainers would be scattered all over the place with Corbyn at the helm of Labour. Since a majority voted for Brexit, why they do not do the sensible thing and declare firmly for Brexit, kick out the Remainers, and call another general election.

    But without the Remainer Tories they would have even less of a Majority. Don’t forget May inherited a majority then called for elections and lost it, having to bring in the DUP to get over the hump. Maybe there are labor districts that are open to exit, but that doesn’t guarantee you can pick them up. If you have a general election you don’t get to control the topics. How popular are the Tories now given this whole mess? 

    You would probably need a single issue Brexit Party, which I guess you had in UKIP, but they have gone the way of the Dodo, if I recall. Even when they were active they never really caught on very much. 

    • #20
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:59 am
    • 1 like
  21. Member

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    But without the Remainer Tories they would have even less of a Majority. Don’t forget May inherited a majority then called for elections and lost it, having to bring in the DUP to get over the hump. Maybe there are labor districts that are open to exit, but that doesn’t guarantee you can pick them up. If you have a general election you don’t get to control the topics. How popular are the Tories now given this whole mess?

    The Remainer Tory MPs are a 150 people or so. They are the ones who would receive the boot. No doubt, some voters would follow. However, there are lots of Leave districts represented by Tory Remainer MPs.

    You then have 3.5 million UKIP votes that could be harvested. No small harvest.

    British politics, like American politics, is realigning. You have to be willing to cast some off to attract others.

    There are basic problems with how Conservatives are organized – it is top down organization. Party Central in London picks who will be the candidate. The MP can be deselected by local party members, but they may get another Remainer to represent them as musical chairs are played with deselected Remainer Tory MPs.

    Then there is the basic constitutional problem of requiring 2/3s of Parliament to agree to its dissolution and another general election. The last thing MPs want to do is face voters. They would be slaughtered. Jobs gone, mortgages to pay, oh my. MPs don’t have K Street to fall back on.

    • #21
    • March 14, 2019 at 11:58 am
    • 6 likes
  22. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    While it might not be looking good for Mrs May, Thursday’s votes were actually quite heartening from a pure Brexiteer point of view.

    I know it sounds odd after Brexit was effectively delayed but the motion was to seek an extension, not necessarily accept. Moreover, the ‘attempted coup‘ was defeated by two votes. So while it remains a threat, time is of the essence for that motley lot and it will not reappear for another week.

    Better still was actually the ‘rebellion’ – it was a free vote – on the government’s sort-of-motion-under-duress-to-extend. 202 votes against including a majority of the Conservative Party. They are the governing party after all and the centre of gravity in the Parliamentary Conservative Party has now shifted towards their members and voters. This after a remarkable recovery by the whips office from Wednesday’s carnage.

    To put it in context, this time yesterday in the media coverage they were sneering that it would be lucky to reach three figures. I myself thought the best they could hope for was no greater than 150, well under half of the PCP. However, the 188 Tory MPs who voted against extension (190 including tellers) is almost as large as Mrs May’s majority in the recent leadership-confidence vote (200 odd from memory). You can add to that Brexiteers like Gove and Davis who voted with the PM. Not quite tectonic plates shifting in the manner required, but an indication of the organic pressure from the grassroots inexorably grinding away below the surface.

     

    • #22
    • March 14, 2019 at 3:30 pm
    • 3 likes
  23. Thatcher

    Mr Nick (View Comment):

    While it might not be looking good for Mrs May, Thursday’s votes were actually quite heartening from a pure Brexiteer point of view.

    I know it sounds odd after Brexit was effectively delayed but the motion was to seek an extension, not necessarily accept. Moreover, the ‘attempted coup‘ was defeated by two votes. So while it remains a threat, time is of the essence for that motley lot and it will not reappear for another week.

    Better still was actually the ‘rebellion’ – it was a free vote – on the government’s sort-of-motion-under-duress-to-extend. 202 votes against including a majority of the Conservative Party. They are the governing party after all and the centre of gravity in the Parliamentary Conservative Party has now shifted towards their members and voters. This after a remarkable recovery by the whips office from Wednesday’s carnage.

    To put it in context, this time yesterday in the media coverage they were sneering that it would be lucky to reach three figures. I myself thought the best they could hope for was no greater than 150, well under half of the PCP. However, the 188 Tory MPs who voted against extension (190 including tellers) is almost as large as Mrs May’s majority in the recent leadership-confidence vote (200 odd from memory). You can add to that Brexiteers like Gove and Davis who voted with the PM. Not quite tectonic plates shifting in the manner required, but an indication of the organic pressure from the grassroots inexorably grinding away below the surface.

    Nicky,

    The twists and turns of a Parliamentary system don’t come easy for me. However, I gather because it now takes 2/3 vote to call for new elections is the only reason that new elections haven’t already been called for. Please explain this a little more deeply. If it were to happen does the 188 Tory MPs suggest that a real Brexit supporter would be the choice of the Party in a new election? Would Corbyn join with 188 Tory MPs in calling for a new election to take it past the 2/3 mark?

    Regards,

    Jim

     

    • #23
    • March 14, 2019 at 8:08 pm
    • Like
  24. Member

    This is the clearest explanation of the recent Brexit drama I have read yet. But it is still short on basic facts:

    1. What is article 50?
    2. What is the content of May’s defeated motion?
    3. Apparently there are 650 MPs, including 314 Conservatives and 10 DUP.
    • #24
    • March 15, 2019 at 12:00 am
    • Like
  25. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    This is the clearest explanation of the recent Brexit drama I have read yet. But it is still short on basic facts:

    1. What is article 50?
    2. What is the content of May’s defeated motion?
    3. Apparently there are 650 MPs, including 314 Conservatives and 10 DUP.

    Sorry Pete, it does require some prior knowledge. Some of it is explained in my previous post, but to (try) and briefly give you the answers:

    1. Article 50 of the Treaty of the EU (its constitution in all but name), sometimes referred to as the Lisbon Treaty, is the mechanism for exiting the EU (Brexit = Britain’s Exit). Once the EU is notified under Article 50, two years are allowed for both sides to set their houses in order and come to an arrangement. Britain did this just under two years ago now and was set to leave on March 29th. 
    2. Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement was the ‘deal’ required under Article 50 to leave, otherwise the two year countdown would run out and we would leave with ‘no deal’. So on Tuesday May’s WA was rejected for the second time. On Wednesday she was forced to pass a fairly neutral motion saying the House did not want to leave without a deal, it was amended so she ended up opposing it. That caused the chaos I described in the opening paragraphs. On Thursday she was forced to move a motion to seek an extension to the two year Article 50 process (allowed under the treaty if all the other member states agree).
    3. There are 650 constituencies. One is currently not represented as the MP recently died (rip). The seven Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take their seats in a British Parliament while the Speaker and his four deputies do not vote. So on paper 326 is a majority but really it in 320 (319 with the one constituency currently holding a by-election). The vote counts are always two down on each side as there are also four tellers, two from each side, who do not vote. Not all MPs are present for every vote and some abstain. Currently there are 314 Conservatives and 10 DUP. There were 317, but three defected to join 8 Labour MPs in a new group.
    • #25
    • March 15, 2019 at 4:17 am
    • 6 likes
  26. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Mr Nick (View Comment):

    While it might not be looking good for Mrs May, Thursday’s votes were actually quite heartening from a pure Brexiteer point of view.

    I know it sounds odd after Brexit was effectively delayed but the motion was to seek an extension, not necessarily accept. Moreover, the ‘attempted coup‘ was defeated by two votes. So while it remains a threat, time is of the essence for that motley lot and it will not reappear for another week.

    Better still was actually the ‘rebellion’ – it was a free vote – on the government’s sort-of-motion-under-duress-to-extend. 202 votes against including a majority of the Conservative Party. They are the governing party after all and the centre of gravity in the Parliamentary Conservative Party has now shifted towards their members and voters. This after a remarkable recovery by the whips office from Wednesday’s carnage.

    To put it in context, this time yesterday in the media coverage they were sneering that it would be lucky to reach three figures. I myself thought the best they could hope for was no greater than 150, well under half of the PCP. However, the 188 Tory MPs who voted against extension (190 including tellers) is almost as large as Mrs May’s majority in the recent leadership-confidence vote (200 odd from memory). You can add to that Brexiteers like Gove and Davis who voted with the PM. Not quite tectonic plates shifting in the manner required, but an indication of the organic pressure from the grassroots inexorably grinding away below the surface.

    Nicky,

    The twists and turns of a Parliamentary system don’t come easy for me. However, I gather because it now takes 2/3 vote to call for new elections is the only reason that new elections haven’t already been called for. Please explain this a little more deeply. If it were to happen does the 188 Tory MPs suggest that a real Brexit supporter would be the choice of the Party in a new election? Would Corbyn join with 188 Tory MPs in calling for a new election to take it past the 2/3 mark?

    Regards,

    Jim

     

    I’ll have a crack old thing but it is complicated. Funnily enough The Speccie has a piece on it this week.

    The law gives two ways that it can happen: Either 2/3 of them have to vote for a motion to call one, or if the government loses a No Confidence vote there are two weeks for a new government to form that can command a majority in the House of Commons, if one can’t be formed then an election has to happen.

    So we can pretty much count out the 2/3 of them. Tories don’t want to fight under Mrs May again, Labour have Corbyn’s anti-Semitism problem and are just as split on Brexit. The Liberal Democrats have been way down in polls and their leader has just announced his resignation. The Scots Nats have an inter-party split and the new ‘The Independent Group’ (TIG for short, hence they are Tiggers to our Eeyores) are not even a registered party yet and would be wiped out.

    Who would vote for any of them in any event, when they have so fundamentally failed to honour their manifestos from last time? So even if they do want an election, and some (usually in safe seats) certainly think it is needed, they will not want to call one explicitly. Especially as public anger could propel Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party to take enough vote to swing marginals or even capture a host of seats on a Macron-like surge. The Conservatives are especially vulnerable as Mrs May’s Red-Toryism has left vast amounts of territory on the centre right.

    A No Confidence vote can actually help unify the party, it certainly did a few months back. There is a rumour that one Tory Brexiteer would vote with Labour but it is party lore that a vote against the government would mean immediate expulsion. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, such are the times, but fear of Corbyn getting in is one of the few things keeping the party together as it is.

     

     

    • #26
    • March 15, 2019 at 7:25 am
    • Like
  27. Member

    @mrnick:

    What I don’t understand about all the talk of having indicative votes and figuring out what specific plans may command a parliamentary majority is why so little is said about a Canada-plus option. Not that I’m all that immersed in Brexit news, but I’ve only ever heard it alluded to by Jacob Rees-Mogg (and perhaps Daniel Hannan).

    I’ve read the Benn and Powell amendments during the March 14th votes explained as paving the way for Norway-plus (Brexit-in-name-only). Why isn’t Canada-plus on the table?

    • #27
    • March 15, 2019 at 8:45 pm
    • Like
  28. Member
    Mr Nick Post author

    Snirtler (View Comment):

    @mrnick:

    What I don’t understand about all the talk of having indicative votes and figuring out what specific plans may command a parliamentary majority is why so little is said about a Canada-plus option. Not that I’m all that immersed in Brexit news, but I’ve only ever heard it alluded to by Jacob Rees-Mogg (and perhaps Daniel Hannan).

    I’ve read the Benn and Powell amendments during the March 14th votes explained as paving the way for Norway-plus (Brexit-in-name-only). Why isn’t Canada-plus on the table?

    The short answer is that the vast majority of MPs do not want to leave. Canada-plus is leaving (a free trade deal), Norway-plus isn’t (membership of both the customs union and single market). However, they think they can con everyone into thinking it is.

     

     

    • #28
    • March 16, 2019 at 1:51 am
    • 2 likes
  29. Member

    I wonder why Cameron changed Parliament to a fixed term. The ability to call for new elections has been a powerful weapon in the hands of the Prime Minister. It’s as if a President lobbied Congress and the states for a constitutional amendment eliminating the veto power.

    Maybe a better analogy is eliminating the filibuster of judges below the Supreme Court. “I’m going to give up this power in pursuit of a short term gain. Regardless of the long term consequences.”

     

    • #29
    • March 17, 2019 at 10:38 am
    • 1 like
  30. Member

    Mr Nick (View Comment):

    Snirtler (View Comment):

    <snip> Why isn’t Canada-plus on the table?

    The short answer is that the vast majority of MPs do not want to leave. Canada-plus is leaving (a free trade deal), Norway-plus isn’t (membership of both the customs union and single market). However, they think they can con everyone into thinking it is.

    Thanks, Mr Nick. Whatever the good sense of the ERG in wanting out, they’re outnumbered and out-maneuvered.

    • #30
    • March 17, 2019 at 11:49 pm
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