Unprecedented Waters

Well, here I am again and may I reiterate (although that would be too easy) – all my previous comments about how we are in unprecedented waters such as;

  • A government losing a crucial vote by a greater margin than any government in nearly a hundred years, the result of which impacts dramatically upon every individual in the country,
  • The same government winning a vote of no confidence, without apparently losing any members of its party or its supporting allies, the DUP,
  • This being the same government that had one third of their own party deciding only a few weeks ago that they had a leader that wasn’t fit to lead,
  • This same ruling party, steering a government onwards through decisions that will affect us for decades to come but without actually having the support and authority to put any legislation in to place.
  • An opposition that appears so ineffectual that it can’t even persuade a single government MP to cross the floor to vote with them in a situation whereby perhaps the most fundamental issues of our time are being discussed and the biggest rebellion against its own leader has occurred.

What is interesting to me however, is what is really going on behind the scenes?  Everyone appeared confident that last week was going to be disastrous for Theresa the Bruce but I am not sure, even given her defeat, that was the outcome. Theresa the Bruce obviously knew she was going to lose the vote last week on her deal, in fact when she pulled it in December.  She must have known that she would lose it, but she went ahead with it anyway.  She must, therefore, have been planning for the moment she would lose it on 15th.  What has she been doing therefore since mid-December?  The answer logically has to be planning what to do next.  Many of you might think that she should run off to a Scottish cave like her namesake and watch spiders, but she is showing no signs of doing so (for the pedants, thanks to Neil Oliver’s informative programmes on Scottish history I now understand this to be a fairy story and more likely the original Bruce spent the cold Scottish winter nights begetting offspring with the local clan aisle Chieftain’ess).  The fact that she isn’t running away suggests to me that she has a carefully planned way forward.  The suggestion of going back to Europe to renegotiate or discussing with all the other parties sounds like a rather thin smoke screen.  The question is surely what is her real agenda?

Additionally, the position of Comrade One is also interesting.  He must have gone into last week rubbing his heavily calloused ‘worker’s’ red hands in anticipation of the defeat of his enemy at the mouths of the many baying wolves.  Unfortunately it appears that he was the one bitten, perhaps from a cornered wolf, traditionally considered the most dangerous.  Comrade One appears to have finished the week looking weak and behind the pace, incredible considering what happened during the week.  The Bruce however looks on the up, with some opinion polls rising in her favour and totally out manoeuvring Comrade One by telling him herself, a bit like a headmistress, to call for a vote of no confidence and get it out of the way.

In other areas though the pace towards a ‘No Deal’ appears to have stepped up a gear;

  • Brittany Ferries has cancelled 10,000 bookings, rearranging their timetable to address concerns related to travelling after Brexit. 
  • Felixstowe has completed an agreement with DFDS to boost its Roll on Roll Off facilities to accommodate 40% more activity after Brexit.
  • The EU now, as well as our own government has basically told everyone to prepare for a ‘No Deal’.

The Bruce, has since called for honesty and commented that we are in danger of damaging ‘social cohesion’ if we move to a second referendum.  Comrade One has claimed that The Bruce’s plan has been “exposed as a PR sham”.  I can’t help thinking that it is a little late in the day for such honourable claims and perhaps these should have been prevalent at an earlier stage.

As we stand at present however, The Bruce is claiming her plan will come back to parliament for a further vote, but there appears to be little appetite to allow for renegotiations or flexibility even though there has been a stampede of MP’s bordering on biblical proportions attempting to make amendments to the bill.

With an acceptance that the shortening timescale makes it nearly impossible to have a general election or referendum prior to 29th March, there is no majority to replace the government or the Prime Minister, as well as there being virtually no support for the proposed deal (linked with the additional complexities of EU elections in May), the only clear option appears to be a ‘No Deal’.  Nearly everyone accepts that this would be bad, but the concept of a ‘Managed No Deal’ is starting to gain momentum and this could potentially represent a realistic option through the dilemma. 

To explain a ‘Managed No Deal’, basically, there is a go ahead with a ‘No Deal’ but there are side deals or informal agreements in place, which are bilaterally agreed on in principle.  Then these agreements are gradually formalised over a period of time.  This would reduce the massive associated risks of a sudden ‘No Deal’ effect.  In practice this would provide a transitional period in order to introduce the new requirements and legislation.  Furthermore, it would allow for the more thorny issues such as the Irish border to be discussed in more detail. 

This feels like a pragmatic approach and as a pragmatist, it, therefore, feels like a likely approach to me.  Who however would put their money on a pragmatic approach in this mad, mad, mad world!

Justin

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