Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


Now what?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

There are no good options from now on, no cost-free ones, anyway. There never were. If this point had been made 2½ years ago – and indeed at any point thereafter – we might not be where we are now.  So now what?

Well, for those who want a No Deal Brexit doing nothing is the best option.  Just wait.  Tick. Tock. …… Until 11 pm on Friday 29th March 2019. Exciting, isn’t it? Like  small children waiting for Father Xmas to appear. As Jacob Rees-Mogg might put it: Fiat Brexit ruat caelum.

And what about the rest of us, those who view with rather more apprehension the prospect of doing something which has not been done by any advanced, sophisticated (no sniggering at the back, please) country in living memory?

Well, here are two options.

  1. Take Back Control

Yes really: do the one thing which thanks to the ECJ – Oh, the irony! – is unequivocally, unambiguously, within Britain’s control without any interference from Johnny Foreigner: revoke Article 50. But, but, but…… the will of the people, no Parliamentary majority, May won’t do it, a democratic outrage etc etc. Yes, yes: all true. All very good points. But if Parliament really doesn’t want a No Deal Brexit – despite having enacted legislation achieving exactly that a year ago – then, absent any other choice, this is one thing it can do.

If Parliament could strain at the gnat of the EU Withdrawal Act it should have no difficulty at swallowing the camel of revocation. It does at least preserve the status quo – not something to be sniffed at in these febrile times. It enables Parliament and the country to do what they have so signally and dismally failed to do in the last few years: work out what they want to do, how to get there and what sort of relationship Britain wants to have with the European Continent.

A strategy, in short. (I know, the very idea!).  And in detail – not in the sort of airy fairy generalised motherhood and apple pie language which has been used, the sorts of speeches known, somewhat sniffily by some civil lawyers, as jury speeches: all emotion and heartstrings, not much analysis or facts, the sorts of speeches which sound superficially plausible, get applause from the audience and fall apart moments later. Potemkin speeches – whether or not accompanied by Pinocchio-style dancing.

There are lots of objections to this choice, some of them serious and very well-grounded. Not doing what people voted for 3 years ago, having told them you would, is not a course of action a democracy should generally take, not without very good reason anyway. Still, it is not quite as unusual and outrageous as those objecting to it make out. It happens after every election, after all.  (Tuition fees, anyone?) And it was the Labour government which went to court to establish the legal principle that a manifesto promise – about a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (yet more irony!) – could not be relied on (R (Wheeler) v Office of the Prime Minister). Manifesto promises are worthless, the highest court in the land has ruled.

Still, those who voted Leave and those who think that a democratic vote should generally be honoured would have reason for complaint. In politics, if not legally.

So that takes us to –

  1. A Fresh Referendum

If the people voted on the concept of Leave in 2016, who not ask them now to vote on the reality? Why not ask them: Do you want to leave on the basis of this Withdrawal Agreement, with the future relationship still to be negotiated? Or, knowing what you now know, would you prefer to Remain? Of course, this would need the EU’s agreement to an extension of Article 50 but let’s assume they give it. And that the price (yes – there will be one) is not too high.

Divisive? Yes – but the country is divided anyway. Why the need to vote again?  Well, 3 reasons: we know what the terms of departure are, which were not known in June 2016, the world has changed in 3 years and a vote by the people again undercuts to some extent those who think that the people are not being listened to.

Would it be unkind to suggest that there is a touch of fear in those who argue so fervently in favour of implementing one vote and equally fervently against asking the people to confirm that decision? A fear that perhaps the people might not do this, might not have been impressed by how their representatives have behaved, a fear that the Brexiteers’ vision might be found wanting. It would certainly not be unkind to suggest that many of those most in favour of a People’s Vote now were much less keen on the People voting once the result of the first vote came out.

Or Parliament can continue with its furious displacement activity – VoNC, cross-party talks or perhaps not, muttering groups in corridors, demands that the EU renegotiate, amendable motions or even movable amendments, alternative plans, interviews on College Green etc.  Meanwhile tick tock.

As I said, there are no good options.



On Betfair a March 29th UK EU exit now just a 15% chance whilst the 2nd referendum betting moves more to NO

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Live Betfair exchange odds monitoring from


After the likely failure of today’s confidence vote then what?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

The winning margin will set the baseline for future challenges

The outcome of this afternoon’s confidence vote in HMG is not really in doubt following the assurances made last night by Moggsy and representatives of the DUP that they would be backing the government. The real interest will be the size of the winning margin because it will almost certainly represent the maximum for both those for and against and looks like being the baseline for future such votes in the House.

The numbers in the vote this afternoon will be a good guide to the DUP of the value of their confidence and supply support for Mrs May’s government. If they are the ones, as is likely, who are keeping the Conservatives (a majority below 20) afloat then that will surely lead to further demands and add to their leverage.

The outcome this afternoon will indicate whether Labour is be able to count on the votes of all 5 MPs who were elected at the general election and no longer take the party whip.

Looking forward if the actions of the courts result in there being a vacancy in Peterborough then a CON gain in the by-election could have a significant impact decreasing the CON majority deficit by two.

In the 1974-79 parliament by election losses by LAB played a big part in eroding its minute majority and forced in into a pact with the Liberals. It was only when that broke down that Callaghan’s government was defeated in a confidence vote.

A great strength of Theresa May’s position is that if there was a general election it would create the risk of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister – something that’s anathema to just about everybody within the Conservative Party. Even those Tory MPs most hostile to her are not going to want to be accused of letting him in.

There is no question that the pro second referendum SNP and Lib Dems are going to back Corbyn’s move this afternoon. But what about future confidence votes if the Labour leader is seen as the one who blocked another referendum? The current unity might not prevail in the future.

Mike Smithson


Punters now think it is even less likely that the UK will leave the EU on March 29th

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

To my mind the most significant thing to come out of the catastrophic defeat for the government on its Brexit deal was the statement by Theresa May that she’ll look to consulting with other parties.

I just wonder if that is paving the way for a second referendum. Clearly the other main parties, LAB after its likely confidence vote failure tomorrow, the SNP, the LDS, PC and the Green are all committed to a second vote.

    It would be politically easier if the the decision to go to the country again was a joint one. The move would also a less difficult time getting through the Commons.

One thing that TMay has been saying repeatedly which is surely right – rejecting the deal makes Brexit happening at all less likely.

It is hard to conclude otherwise that the ERG’s strategy has not been very smart.

Mike Smithson


On this day lets not forget the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the troubled province

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019


Let’s not forget either the DUP’s popularity within the province

One of the issues with the politics Northern Ireland is that the Republican party, Sinn Fein, refuses to take up its seven seats at Westminster. This means that of the 18 constituencies in the Province seven do not have active MPs. It also means that the only Westminster representation comes from a party that got just 36% of the vote there in June 2017.

This makes the parliamentary representation of opinion in the province rather distorted but there’s nothing that can be done about it because the Sinn Fein stance is central to its core politics.

Throughout the early part of my career the one massive story that dominated British politics was h troubles in Northern Ireland which lead to many deaths and much destruction. The ending of nearly a third of a century of difficulties as a result of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a major success that both Tony Blair and John Major can claim credit for.

The DUP, it should be noted, was opposed to the agreement and as can be seen the no side got 28.8% of the vote.

A huge problem is that this was all a long time ago and many current politicians have no real knowledge understanding of its significance.

Mike Smithson


Whatever you think of Bercow it is right that the executive has less control over proceedings of the elected House

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Like many I’ve often been irritated by John Bercow particularly at the lengthy interjections he likes to make at PMQs which can appear like grandstanding.

    It is said that his approach to the role is anti-Tory, a view I don’t hold. If he appears that way it is down to the fact that for the vast majority of his time in the job the Tories have been in power and inevitably the executive hates anything that impedes their actions.

Basically he is just sticking up for the elected members of the House against a government that gives the impression of being reluctant to recognise that it should be accountable to the elected members.

This has been more the case since TMay entered Number 10 as evidenced by the way she put back the Brexit deal vote last month until today. That move alone more than justifies Bercow’s approach and the way he uses his powers to select amendments and the like.

Sometimes, maybe, he oversteps the mark but I’d prefer that to a Speaker who simply kowtows to what Number 10 wants in many cases cutting out the views of elected MPs.

This is a big moment in Britain’s political history and we mustn’t forget that much of Mrs May’s predicament is self made. She, on the advice apparently of DDavis, called the last election three years early to shore up her small majority and ended up with no majority at all. That inevitably diminished her authority as well as creating an ongoing dilemma for the government when it comes to tight votes.

Arguably, as well, she made a huge mistake in triggering the rigid timetable of Article 50 process before the government had worked out precisely what it wanted and what it was going to do. That wasn’t Bercow’s fault but Number 10`s misjudgement.

Labour for all their protestations cannot moan on the Article 50 timing. Remember that on the day after the referendum in June 2016 Mr Corbyn called for the immediate invoking of Article 50.

Mike Smithson


On the eve of the big vote political punters now make it 79% that the UK won’t leave the EU by March 29th

Monday, January 14th, 2019

Chart from showing trend on what is currently the busiest political market on the Betfair Exchange.

The general view is that TMay is heading for a defeat tomorrow night when MPs are at last given a chance to vote on the deal. Assuming that happens she then has three days to come back to the house with another proposal.

Quite how that shapes up is hard to read but punters are gambling that the UK won’t be leaving on the due date.

This could be significant if true:

Mike Smithson


Rebels without a get-out clause. Why you shouldn’t expect many declared Leave opponents of the deal to back down

Monday, January 14th, 2019

(Constituencies coded A had a Leave vote of over 60%, those coded B had a Leave vote of over 50%, those coded C had a Leave vote over 40% and those coded D had a Leave vote of less than 40%. )

Everyone loves talking about the rebel MPs who have put Theresa May in double trouble.  There are numerous lists floating around.  Some list all the MPs who have expressed reservations about Chequers or the deal.  Some seek to look into the souls of the MPs and divine how they might change their minds before the meaningful vote.  

Quite a lot of these lists are badly out of date: many of them don’t seem to have been updated since the vote was pulled in December, which is strange because MPs haven’t stopped talking about their intentions.  Twitter was convulsed with excitement when it was reported that Mike Wood was going to resign as a PPS to oppose the deal – but he announced a month ago that he would not vote for it as it stood.  Andrew Murrison’s and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown’s support for the deal was proclaimed to be good news for the Prime Minister, but again this was already known.

As of this morning, I count 11 Conservative MPs who are calling for a new referendum and exactly 100 more Conservative MPs who are opposing the deal, essentially because it is insufficiently Brexity.  They may change their mind between now and the vote (some might have done so by the time this has been published), but that’s where I see the state of play right now.

For now I’m going to leave the 11 Remainer Conservatives to one side.  While there are routes to securing the meaningful deal that do not involve getting the acquiescence of the dissident Leavers, while they are so numerous it would seem almost certain to split the Conservative party from stem to stern.  So let’s concentrate on them.

Here’s my current list of the 100 Brexiteers (apologies in advance to any MPs whose views I have inadvertently misrepresented).  To explain the colour-coding, those listed first in bold resigned from government over the handling of Brexit negotiations.  Those in ochre are those additional MPs who publicly announced that they had put in a letter of no confidence in Theresa May.  I’d assume they’re all irreconcilable.  You can presumably add Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel, both of whom signed a letter this morning urging colleagues to vote down the deal.  That’s 43 votes against that look rock solid by any definition and we haven’t really got started.  

Theresa May urgently needs to get a lot of the rest on board.  That brings us to the map at the top of the page (you can zoom in and out with your mouse if you like).  This shows those 100 MPs’ constituencies mapped by Leave vote in the referendum.   As you can see, the overwhelming majority of these constituencies voted Leave.  

Now, put yourself in the position of one of the MPs who is unhappy but not one of the headbangers.  You have the whips cajoling you to get behind your Prime Minister.  You hear that call.  But you also hear the call of your constituency party and your electorate.

 If 65% of your constituency voted Leave and 40% of them see themselves as very strong Leavers, that’s up to a quarter of the electorate who might be infuriated if you backtrack now.  Worse, they were disproportionately likely to have voted for you in 2017.  The constituency party is probably stuffed with hardliners.  

There comes a point where you conclude, as Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin did, that I must follow them, for I am their leader.” It’s not a coincidence that Cornwall, Essex and Kent constituencies are so well represented on this map.

So these MPs may well feel at least as much pressure to stand firm as to support their Prime Minister.  It could get worse for her too.  There are 14 Conservative MPs who have still to disclose how they will vote.  Some of them, such as Jack Brereton, Eddie Hughes and Tom Pursglove, also represent heavily Leave-voting constituencies.  If they see the deal is going down heavily, some of them might well decide that the advantage lies with currying favour with their own hardliners.

What this suggests to me is that this rebellion is likely to remain firm.  As a result, if you are betting on seat bands, err on the side of pessimism from Theresa May’s perspective.

Alastair Meeks