Two weeks until a possible No Deal, and we’re all having to twiddle our thumbs for five days until Meaningful Vote 3 to see what fresh hell awaits us.
I switched on the radio at lunchtime on Tuesday and heard You and Yours talking to callers about stockpiling for Brexit. That’s where we are.
Even some who were clearly Leavers said they’re stockpiling, because they reckon that Brexit will be stolen by Remainer MPs and there will be riots. Some were talking up the positives of food shortages: we got through the War (“we”? They didn’t sound like they were over 90); rationing will mean that our overall diet and health improve. I didn’t see “Vote Leave to bring back rationing” on the side of that bus.
Remember all those Twitter jokes about how the new, improved Withdrawal Agreement would be the same as the old one but with a different font and margins? Not a joke.
An excellent summary of Wednesday’s events and their deeper meaning by Ian Dunt. This is going to go right down to the wire. Mind you, we’re getting to the point where “going down to the wire” and “proceeding with all possible haste” are indistinguishable, because there’s so little time left.
At the European Parliament on Thursday, Guy Verhofstadt talked about how Farage’s real purpose is to “try to destroy the European Union from within”, and Farage sat there nodding approvingly. This was never about the UK taking back control for him, or about getting out before the EU collapses. It’s about bringing about the collapse of one of Europe’s main means of achieving peace and prosperity.
This could now go many different ways.
1. May holds Meaningful Vote 3 next Wednesday, the ERG caves and it gets through. This still feels unlikely—the ERG can cling onto the thought that Article 50 will take effect by automatic operation of law if they can frustrate all other paths. The EU grants a short extension to pass the necessary UK legislation. The process of passing that legislation could still go wrong in myriad ways, landing us right back in crisis territory in May.
2. Meaningful Vote 3 doesn’t get through. May asks the European Council for a long extension, which is granted, and we face two more years of this pre-Brexit phase, with the EU elections in May 2019 becoming a battleground between Farage’s Brexit Party and a Remain camp in disarray. Getting out the Remain vote in those elections would be crucial.
3. Meaningful Vote 3 doesn’t go through. May asks the European Council for a long extension, which is denied. The final week before the 29th is an unbearable crisis, which ends with Parliament voting emergency legislation to withdraw Article 50, a People’s Vote now being impossible because there’s no extension possible. The EU elections in May 2019 are still a disaster. There’s a good chance of a vote of No Confidence in May’s government succeeding, which could mean a General Election in May or June. In this atmosphere, first-past-the-post would deliver chaotic results. We could end up with a Hard Brexit government that immediately retriggers Article 50.
4. Meaningful Vote 3 doesn’t go through. May asks the European Council for a long extension, which is denied. The final week before the 29th is an unbearable crisis, which ends with Parliament failing to vote through emergency legislation to withdraw Article 50. (Given the unpredictability of the votes this week, I wouldn’t be sanguine about this.) We crash out.
One might think that if Meaningful Vote 3 failed and the EU denied an extension that Theresa May should feel compelled to implement the logical implication of the votes against her deal and against No Deal and withdraw Article 50, but I don’t think she’d do that without an explicit direction from Parliament. Given her past form, there’s even a chance she would ignore such a direction.
Anyone acting as if No Deal on the 29th has been averted is being premature. Even if we dodge the bullet in March, we might face it again in May.