Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

The Cliff Edge

Today the House of Commons is expected to roll-over and let the Government have a free rein over Brexit. The House of Lords is expected to “follow convention” and not oppose the Government a second time.

Theresa May is believed to be likely to trigger Article 50 as early as this week. This means that we start on an irrevocable journey out of the EU. The mood music from Davis and Fox is that that this will be a Hard Brexit, and Theresa May has confirmed that we will be leaving the single market (No “Norway” type relationship).

Looking over the cliff edge:

The EU Cliff

There is a growing realisation that in two years we will probably face exiting with a “tough” isolationist deal (seen as “good” by the likes of Liam Fox, but probably as rather different to what many Leave supporters anticipated when they voted to Leave), or exiting with “no deal” (which in practice probably means WTO terms – if the WTO plays ball).

This is like choosing to leave a still viable (if unexciting and slightly troubled) ship by either:

  • Clambering into a dodgy lifeboat, or
  • Swimming for it

Triggering Article 50 is a gamble in terms of what deal we will get. The option of exploring an exit deal and then saying “no thanks, can we stay” is not available.

But the gamble is wider.

The Irish Cliff

Northern Ireland voted against Brexit and has very legitimate concerns about ongoing relations with the Republic and the undesirability of a customs border between RoI/NI.

There is a mechanism for a “border poll” – effectively a vote for a United Ireland (within the EU). The Unionist majority is not assured and if they find that the price of a soft border with the Republic is a hard border with Great Britain, sufficient may decide that their future will be better in a United Ireland.

The Scottish Cliff

Scotland also voted against Brexit and Nicola Sturgeon has today announced that in the absence of any signs of the Westminster Government being willing to take the wishes of Scotland in to account, she is preparing the ground for a second Independence Referendum.

This is on the basis that there has been a “material change” since the Scots were persuaded last time to stay in the UK – partly because voting to leave the UK would mean leaving the EU!

Other changes that may be pressing on the minds of the Scottish electorate include the change in constituency boundaries which make a Conservative Government in the UK even more likely and the apparent collapse of the “official” opposition (The Labour Party). Being an adjunct of a near permanently Tory England in a post Brexit UK lacks a certain attraction to many who doubt the benefits of Westminster rule.

So today or tomorrow, The House of Commons is going to give the Prime Minister power to gamble not just on our future relations with the EU (and the rest of the world given that our current economic relations are determined though the EU), but also on the future of the UK.

It is a potentially horrifying abdication of responsibility.

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