Casino Brexit

There are speculations about next week’s votes in Parliament. Here is a text I found on a Facebook group.

Reported Developments

The Financial Times and other outlets are reporting:

(1) The vote on the Withdrawal Bill next Tuesday will almost certainly fail. Peston is writing that he has not met a single minister or MP who thinks it will succeed. Cox will probably bring nothing back from his negotiations in Brussels and even if he does, it will not be nearly enough to satisfy the DUP/ERG.

(2) The bill to be voted on next Wednesday to rule out a no deal Brexit will almost certainly pass. The government will allow a free vote. (It will be particularly interesting to see how May herself votes, as she has been preaching all along that no deal is better than a bad deal. As she has tried to change the WA, presumably because she thinks it is a bad deal, she has to lose credibility or propose no deal chaos. And yet she negotiated and agree with Europe the Withdrawal Agreement…

(3) The vote on Thursday to ask Europe for an extension, will almost certainly pass, or a vote for no deal, makes no sense. There will be amendments, proposing that the extension be from a couple of months to two years. Again May dare not whip her MP’s on this vote or she would be faced with at least 20 Cabinet ministers and others from her government.

(4) Losing the Withdrawal Bill will effectively mean May has lost control of the process, and Parliament will take over. With the breakdown in party discipline, we move into an area of uncertainty. The Spectator in an editorial today is warning MP’s to vote for May’s deal or risk a soft or no Brexit. The consensus is that anything that follows will either be a soft Brexit or less likely, no Brexit. There is absolutely no parliamentary majority for a hard Brexit.

(5) There is no present majority in Parliament for a second Referendum, or at least not enough of those who privately would like R2 have yet come out.

(6) Thee is growing support for Norway plus, especially in the Labour Party, and interestingly, among the leadership. Corbyn and others met Tory proponents of Norway plus yesterday in the Commons.

(7) (5) and (6) have to be seen in the context of a) the vast majority of MP’s voted Remain; b) the breakdown of party discipline leading to free votes (de facto, as if not free, the whip would be ignored); the probability that with the breakdown in Government policy, pro Remain Cabinet ministers and other Remain Tory MP’s would break cover and support Norway plus or possibly R2.

(8) My own view, as a passionate Remainer, is that we should be wary of falling into the trap which it looks like the ERG has fallen into: rejecting something which is good, in the hope of gaining something perfect, and in the process losing both.

I also believe that if we stayed in the Single Market and Customs Union, it would be far easier for a pro European government to negotiate our eventual re-joining.

I don’t know what to make of all this. Just a few ideas:

The MP’s will vote against no-deal, but not for blocking no-deal. So no-deal is still on the table and Theresa May can still try to use it to force through her deal – but May’s deal will be defeated. All that will be left will be no-deal or no Brexit. May can only go so far, because she would have the Cabinet against her.

A lot will depend on how long the EU will allow the Article 50 extension to go. May wants it short. The EU would make it long, and everyone would die of boredom over the next couple of years – during which anything could happen (General Election, implosion of the political system, etc.). So much harm has been done to the economy that all the squandered millions and billions would have to be paid from the taxpayer’s pocket. So taxes will go up, the pound down, pensions will be hit, the NHS as well. The Tories are really going to be hated! Labour is discredited and the Tories can’t last for long in these conditions. The new party formed of ex-Labour and Tory MP’s, or a swing to the hard-Right? Could May call a General Election the day Brexit is delayed? To what end? That seems doubtful.

We have to have a delay, otherwise it’s off the cliff-edge we go and without a parachute. Between the fear mongering and “It will all be OK”, there is something ominous and very nasty waiting for us all, even for those of us living in other countries. Perhaps she is really mad enough to want no-deal and make sure there is no alternative – Nero Decree and commit suicide? That would seem to be melodramatic and Mrs May is not Hitler!

There is no Parliamentary majority for a second referendum, and in any case, the result might be the same, either through propaganda or informed conviction based on certain reports of the Lisbon Treaty of 2009.

If May loses control, Parliament will take over, but that leaves uncertainty. There is the point that you can’t vote for no-deal, but rather for something to make no-deal unnecessary. That is precisely May’s position – my deal or no deal. But, there is no majority for May’s deal. We have agonised with that for months – years. It isn’t that the EU is being intransigent. The only way to get rid of the backstop is to colonise Ireland or let Ireland have Northern Ireland. Either way, Paddy from the IRA will be making bombs in his bicycle shed! Fun for the whole family…

The UK asks for an extension. The EU will truly get control and make Brexit quite impossible. There has to be an acceptable purpose for the extended time. No extension. No deal. No taste for Nero’s fires and bombs. Then all that’s left is revoking Article 50 – goodbye Brexit… Could May do that without Parliment agreeing to it? Perhaps, given the “extreme emergency” character of this situation, would a Prime Minister call Parliament when responding to a declaration of nuclear war? I doubt that it would be a physical red emergency stop button like on a machine. Would she just sign a piece of paper? If it does require Parliamentary approval, then the UK just has to face the inevitable and some demagogue with a moustache and jackboots to “sort everything out”… Bo-jo and Lord Snooty are still clean-shaven – for the time being. If it is no-deal and the things we fear come true, then the future is a coup d’état or a revolution, but, mind you, Brexit could be that revolution or coup d’état. No-Brexit could go on the table but only at the very last minute.

For everything to come to no-deal or no-Brexit, it would be an incredible gamble for the highest stakes, hence my title for this article and the photo out of a James Bond film. Winner take all. Survival of the fittest. Indeed the UK would be quite godless! The time is nearly up, and we should already have an idea next week, and certainly by the end of this month. The winner will be laughing his way to the bank and the country will be up for grabs by the highest bidder. Or not.

I would love to be wrong and be rebuked for my lack of faith in sunlit uplands and blue unicorns, or some glorious future that would materialise after we’re all dead. I have long been horrified by the shambles of this process, the wanton irresponsibility and inability to make decisions and stand by them. As I say, the Lent may be long and not merely forty days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. It is sometimes suggested that a little suffering is good for the soul – but I would take back such a thought immediately, because those who would pay the most would be the weakest and most vulnerable.

The European Union isn’t everything. Macron here in France is of the opinion that it does need reform and a better idea of its identity. There are many threats in the form of populism and a swing to the hard-Right in some countries, with a possibility of a Fascist resurgence. The identity the EU has tried to forge isn’t just money and oligarchy but also the fruits of suffering through the years from 1914 to 1945. That fruit must be a new Christian and spiritual humanism and a new world so ardently desired by the Romantics throughout the years of the Jacobins and the Napoleonic Wars. The UK risks becoming like France in the nineteenth century, unstable and unworthy of her vocation.

I fear that when Holy Week arrives, the Lamentations of Jeremiah will take on a whole new meaning.

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8 Responses to Casino Brexit

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    In the context of your observation that “The MP’s will vote against no-deal, but not for blocking no-deal. So no-deal is still on the table”, this looks interesting, but I probably should run it past a (near-)native German speaker, plodder that I am…:

    • Just a question of getting into the politician’s mind. Think about Jesuits! They might vote to the effect that they would prefer to avoid the UK leaving without a deal, but “no-deal” is the default that would happen automatically if nothing else is done. If the MP’s have voted against May’s deal, they can vote for an extension of Article 50 or do nothing so that “no-deal” happens without it appearing to be their fault. This is an analysis I find in many informed opinions of pundits and journalists. We should understand things a little better by next Wednesday, or wake up on 30th March and read the news to find out if Brexit has taken place!

      Looking at the content on your link – the English text:

      A hard Brexit would be much more expensive for the UK than for the EU. With a “hard but smart” strategy, on the other hand, the UK would unilaterally forgo all new barriers, i.e. completely do away with import tariffs. As a result, there would be no substantial difference between the percentage welfare loss of the UK and that of the Continent. This fundamentally changes the negotiating situation. The analysis suggests that the EU Commission should not stubbornly cling to the withdrawal agreement, which is unacceptable for London, but should draw up constructive alternatives.

      Perhaps the way ahead is a delay on Article 50 for at least two years, during which negotiations can be worked out towards a different agreement between the EU and the UK, possibly meaning the return of Northern Ireland to the Republic or Ireland and NI citizens being granted dual-nationality. The time would give an opportunity to revisit the issue of freedom of movement of EU and UK citizens whilst regulating immigration from third countries, especially of undocumented people who are not clearly refugees.

      Also, in my humble little opinion, the EU needs to give a higher profile to education and culture, since our life is not limited to money and “economic growth”. The Gilets Jaunes in France has shown the limits of green politics – we still need our cars until a viable alternative becomes available for those of us who live in the country and need to go to work. Unless we do educate people into critical and original thinking, teaching them to appreciate the Transcendentals of truth, beauty and goodness, democracy will become impossible and the future would only bring totalitarianism. Christianity can only survive in a favourable culture, and the other way round. I hardly see the nationalism and parochialism of Brexit as ways towards this end.

  2. Linus says:

    The whole thing makes me nauseous. The stalling, and lack of initiative and leadership in the Commons, and in the country in general, is a damning indictment of the political and administrative elites. They must be replaced.

    • Stephen K says:

      Dear Linus, I do not feel confident I have understood what you are trying to say. Let me simply state what I think. It is easy to say “they must be replaced”. Who is the “they” and “who” is to replace them? You can vote in whoever you like at the next general election.
      I think it better to focus on what I think is a more basic question: what will serve the material and civic interests of the greater number? Will a deal-Brexit, a no-deal-Brexit or a remain-in-EU, do it?

      It seems to me from my position afar that the protracted nature of the chaos is due principally to individual agendas of political gain and greed and ego overwhelming those of sensitivity to concepts of process (e.g. will of slender majority) and detail (e.g. what things – like peace in Ireland – are worth preserving). Two years ago, I’d have supported the Labour party unquestioningly. Now, I cannot see where true democratic integrity lies.

      That isn’t to say I have started considering whether people like Messrs Farage or Rees-Mogg have anything to say of truth or moral value on this issue. It is only to say that the only person in the Commons I have any respect for at the moment is the Speaker, John Bercow, who seems to be at least keeping the integrity of the Commons from being completely trashed.

      Personally I think the concept of the European Union and the mechanism it offers for peace in Europe and the world outweighs any of the jingoism or fears or exploitation that promoted Brexit. I say this notwithstanding that as an Australian I recognise that the UK discarded economic ties with Commonwealth countries when it suited it, and may have to come grovelling back to the Commonwealth if it leaves the EU without a deal. But I think the EU is a greater and better concept than the concept of British Empire in any case.

      The Brits will have to vote on the people presented to them at the next general election. They can do more activist things too. But I think the best solution would be for the current Parliamentary members to remember that they are in Parliament on behalf of the interests of the people and not of themselves….before 29 March.

      • I too have been trying to soak in what has been going on this last week, and it has taken a few articles written by intelligent people to begin to understand something of the Perfidious Albion. I was born and raised in that country, and I have to take stock of the extent to which I have become alienated and have embraced cosmopolitanism through a profound understanding of what we generically call “fascism”: the State over the human person, fear of the “other” and the characterising of that “other” as the enemy. I find it frightening how everything is related by average English people to World War II, and associations made between the EU institutions and Nazism. The Nazism is in ourselves, just under the surface, when we have sold our souls to money and power.

        There is a very nasty streak in the English spirit going back to the Reformation and the version of totalitarianism they had in those days. The Elizabethan era was no less cruel than the Terror under Robespierre, and a century later with the Puritans and Cromwell’s Roundheads. Counter Reformation Catholicism was no better, and the Inquisition also was torturing people to death. Is there anything left, or would it be better for the earth to be struck by a comet like the one that destroyed the dinosaurs? Like philosophers in the World War II era, like C.S. Lewis, I seek the transcendence of humanity and the spark of the divine in our souls. This is why I have been fascinated by Romanticism and analogous streams of thought and creativity that continue to bubble to the surface of humanity, restoring our faith in what Christ restored in us.

        For the Brexit problem, it now seems to be as follows: PM Theresa May is going to have another shot at her Brexit deal next week. If successful, she will ask the EU until the end of June to get the legal stuff sorted out (if that is possible). If not, the EU 27 will be asked for a longer extension, which they would grant only for a good reason. One such good reason would be to do the work that should have been done since 2016 and sort out a deal – but the obstacle is the ERG and the fanatical fundamentalists of the DUP. Another good reason is to bury Brexit and stop talking about it. After a very short time, most people would just get bored with it and move on. During that time, Article 50 is purely and simply rescinded without a second referendum. I find it difficult to imagine the EU refusing an extension because the UK would be henceforth a rogue country with neo-fascist forces driving it. If the EU wants to avoid a future war and a human calamity, then it would give the length of rope needed to hang the true enemy.

        In that second thesis, there will certainly be riots and the ERG demons will try a putsch to take over the country. Either they will succeed and the present political system will be replaced – Nazism 2.0. Or, the present system will recognise them for what they are and fight. I see a parallel in the whole of Europe between populism, evil people wanting to use populism for their disaster capitalism agendas and the disorientation of liberal democracy. Democracy is only possible where people have a humanist education, and we are far from that condition. We are at a watershed. Maybe Macron in France will show a new way forward, though he is a stinking rich banker. He seems to have prepared to learn something from the legitimate grievances of the Gilets Jaunes and be more socially aware. I hope so.

        Back to the UK, the Conservative Party has been destroyed by the UKIP / ERG faction. Corbyn is no better with his 1970’s dinosaur socialism. Were the Labour leader to be replaced and there were to be a complete rethinking of the notions of society, education, humanism, spiritual life, justice, peace, etc. – there would be a positive alternative. But that hasn’t happened, at least yet. Perhaps we need to replace political parties, and especially the whipping of MP’s in Parliament. We need men and women voted in as free MP’s by their constituencies on their real ideas and desires to improve conditions in human as well as ecological and economic terms. We need the freedom of conscience of individual persons and no longer the asinine stupidity of groupthink.

        I too am a fan of John Bercow – ORRRDEEEER! He is a just man and a true patriot. He may have some interesting cards up his sleeves next week, the last full week before the 29th.

        For me, the European Union, like anything human, is imperfect – but its essential intention is noble. It isn’t slash-and-burn capitalism or organised crime with a respectable appearance. It is about making sure that we never get another Hitler, concentration camps, bombed cities, millions of dead and ruined lives. That objective is shared with the UN. There is then a whole humanist programme and a notion of the common good. If the UK thinks for a moment that it will get its Empire back, it is deluded. The British Empire was built on cruelty and crime. India will not be deceived, any more than Africa and the Commonwealth countries.

        All I can pray for is that there will be no third attempt at May’s deal and that the EU will grant an extension of Article 50 for at least 2 years, during which the present status quo will continue. Of course the UK will have to fork out billions of pounds, but that will be no problem when tax havens are abolished and everyone pays his or her fair share. The EU is also paying grants for worthy educational and cultural initiatives, and that is all too often forgotten.

        If we avert the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit, then it will be civil war in the UK, just like World War II but within its own borders where the enemy is. The enemy is too small to bomb cities and put millions of innocent people in gas chambers, but things will depend on whether the secret services and the military are up to scratch and on the side of humanity and decency. If we turn to God, the right side will prevail. If not, darkness will descend until our Karma is paid.

      • Linus says:

        Stephen K.

        I do not think you appreciate the extent to which the discussion of substantive questions and the taking of concrete decisions is being paralysed by a lack of leadership and initiative both in Westminster and in Whitehall. Furthermore, it is hard to expect a Prime Minister who does not dispose of an overwhelming majority in Parliament, let alone in the parliamentary party to which she belongs, to conduct such business as lies before her and her cabinet colleagues with any degree of success.

        I am of a mind to think that the “May Deal”, or a pared down version of it, should have been passed by an order-in-council first, not requiring the vote of the Commons, and thus, initiated the transitory period. During the ensuing two years, Parliament would then have had the opportunity to fine tune the arrangements with the Commission. Diplomats and lawyers would have had time to work it all out in conjunction with politicians.

        The situation reveals the sheer incompetence and callousness of both the doctrinaire remainers and the no-deal fanatics in the Commons, and their determination to grind the processes of government to a halt. I think Bercow is keeping things together but he is not in a position to improve things or to lead to any resolution of this very concrete crisis.

        When elites do not do what is expected of them, they must be removed. And yes, I believe general elections must be called as soon as possible. The legitimacy of the current ministry is in tatters.

        For the substantive issues to be addressed, there must be a will to take concrete decisions. Parliament cannot allow itself to wallow in the luxury of endless debate in the face of such national uncertainty and anxiety.

      • The big problem is who is going to remove the politicians. Is the headmaster going to give himself a whacking or is the Pope going to excommunicate himself? Either there is a master plan behind all this, or it is just group stupidity. Another problem is the whipping system that prevents an MP from voting according to his or her conscience.

        The big problem, the elephant in the room, that Brexit is impossible without “solving the problem” of Northern Ireland. The backstop is needed because British politicians cannot be trusted. Why else would you lock your front door when you leave your house?

        We have the best chance now if the EU grants an extension of Article 50 for at least two years. I’m sure that within that time, Boris Johnson, Rees-Mogg and others could have tragic car accidents or contract mysterious infections from polonium contamination. Winston’s Department of Dirty Tricks could come up with something original, if it has the mind for it, and depending on who they’re working for. By the way, I love spy novels!

        The reason why the May deal has come up before the Commons is because it’s being opposed by those who want no-deal and also by remainers. May is fighting a Zweifrontenkrieg. She obviously hoped to use the whipping system to her advantage, and it failed. The only thing now is to rescind Article 50, cancel Brexit and clean the Aegean Stables. As no one is in charge, it will need to be something like the implosion of the Communist regime in 1989. Maybe the EU has a mechanism, or can devise one, for dealing with rogue countries. The Queen? I think that she and Prince Philip would be for a no-deal Brexit, and are less influential than Louis XVI in the weeks preceding his date with the guillotine. They are both in their 90’s. We have to be realistic.

        We will see whether Mr Bercow can do something, but his role is limited and he has to follow strict procedure. Sometimes a loophole comes up and he is an extremely shrewd man. He is not the authority that can clean everything up. Normally a good Labour party would do the job through a no-confidence vote and a general election, but not this time with Corbyn.

        Perhaps no-deal Brexit and a revolution are what the UK need. The problem is that the rich and powerful would become more so and the ordinary people would be the ones who would have to pay. We don’t have the moral right to wish for that, any more than for war. Independently of our will, something is going to happen when the standard of life goes down and there are food shortages.

        Where would the Armed Forces be in all this? Crusty Army officers would certainly be brexiteers, so maybe history has to take its course and we have to prepare for suffering and the humiliation of being “The Enemy” and not the Germans.

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