Theresa May has told the House of Commons that she will now bring forward three votes:
- March 12th vote on her new revised deal
- March 13th if that doesn’t pass a vote for No Deal
- March 14th if that doesn’t pass a vote to extend Article 50
The pound has risen to its highest levels for nearly two years on the news, to over €1.16 and $1.32 respectively.
However, the news has also triggered the usual cacophony of over-the-top commentary. Here is a brief myth-busting guide.
Myth one – No Deal is “off the table”
While No Deal is clearly much less likely, it is still open to the House of Commons to vote for it and, in any case, a request to extend Article 50 will have to be approved unanimously by the 27 members of the EU Council. The EU might choose to hold our feet to the fire. Furthermore, a short extension may just move the cliff-edge.
Myth two – Mrs May’s deal is off
Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, is in Brussels negotiating some revisions to the Backstop. I don’t know him personally, but my legal friends all have supreme confidence in him. If he does come back with something, it may pass in the House of Commons. (I am glad I got 100:1 on him being next Prime Minister just before Christmas.)
Myth three – this is all a ruse to stop Brexit
Such is the level of mistrust, numerous people no longer believe each other. However, it is my firm conviction that there is a majority in the House of Commons for what one might describe as “a soft Brexit” of some kind, but with an exitable Irish Backstop.
Myth four – the EU want to trap us into staying in
Not true. If the UK is still in the EU by July, we will have to run candidates in the European Parliament elections, or the Parliament will be inquorate. This, in turn, would upturn the selection for the next President of the EU Commission. The EU does not want that to happen. It does not want British candidates in the Parliament, joining the populist mob. They would probably like to keep us in a customs union though.
Myth five – one more heave and we can be like Singapore
The European Research Group is not unanimous. Some have been hoping that by pushing the UK into a No Deal scenario, it could become a free trading entrepot, just like Singapore. Singapore is a wonderful, admirable place but there has never been a majority in this country, still less among Brexit voters (many of whom are Labour supporters), for such a low-tax, low-regulation move. Others wanted to go for a Canada Plus deal, which is more attractive but does not answer the question of what to do on March 29th.
Myth six – we are on the way to a second referendum
There is no majority in Parliament for a second referendum. Open Europe estimates that the majority against one is 46. Labour has a real problem in that many of its safe seats are for a second referendum; but the top 45 marginals it is targeting in England and Wales are 78% Leave voting; and the top 25 it is defending are 72% Leave voting.
Myth seven – Norway is dead
Some will know that I published a short book called Norway then Canada last year, arguing that, as a plan B, we should fall back on our existing membership of the European Economic Area (the separate single market treaty) as a first step when we leave the EU. This gained some traction for a few weeks but then fell victim to a barrage from the Brexiteers and Remainers who ran a “kill Norway strategy”.
However, a blog just published on the UK Constitutional Law site reminds us that the Government has not only failed to put the legislation before Parliament to pull us out of the EEA, even if it did it probably would not pass. If all else fails, we can still fall back on it.
Labour is close to supporting EEA membership, but for some reason it wants to stay in a customs union, which is a red rag to Brexiteers.
Sooner or later the politicians will burn themselves out and when they do they will have two options: vote for Mrs May’s deal as adapted by Geoffrey Cox, or go for an EEA-based option.