Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections (and THAT referendum)

Who is afraid of No Deal?

We are getting a lot of coverage of the prospects of No Deal in the UK’s Brexit negotiations. This could be because as we approach the cliff edge we are beginning to wonder what No Deal really looks like. But there could be other reasons.

Reluctant Leavers (like many MPs) are probably highlighting it to concentrate minds on achieving something like the Chequers Deal. However insecure Leavers – those who fear a reversal of the “Will of The People” (circa 23 June 2016) – may be actively promoting No Deal to scare the be-Jesus out of Remainers so that if in the end we avoid the worst of No Deals, Remainers will breathe an accepting resigned sigh of relief.

There is a fallacy that if something (The Chequers Deal +/-) is not as bad as something else (No Deal), it is therefore good. This could be one of the Leavers’ strategies. If Remainers fall for this strategy, they are fools.

The Chequers Deal, with or without any of the trimming that will be necessary to get the ERG and the EU27 to accept it (which looks unlikely at the time of writing – but leave that aside) is still Brexit. It may be the least worst Brexit achievable – but No Brexit looks better.

So how do we interpret Boris Johnson’s promotion of No Deal as better than a Chequers Deal? He says of Chequers:

we are heading full throttle for the ditch with a total write-off of Brexit
The Scotsman, 17 September 2018, Theresa May: It’s my Brexit deal or no deal at all

It seems the fight in the Tory Party is now between the Prime Minister’s proposals (which Brussels has said do not met its red-lines) and No Deal which only meets the requirements of the rabid Brexiteers (which do not make up a majority of the UK electorate). It seems that Johnson has decided to throw his lot in with the more rabid wing of the Conservative Party. (Remember just before the referendum campaign started he felt undecided and had to write two articles – one for, one against – to make up his mind.)

If I had to choose between the ditch and the cliff-edge, I think I prefer the ditch – but that is falling for the fallacy noted above. But that is the choice that nearly everyone seems to be offering!

Will no one (preferably in Parliament) stand up and say, “The Emperor has no clothes, there is no workable Brexit option that will be of net benefit to the UK. In the national interest we must abandon this hopeless government project.”?

The Government (or Tory Party – I am not sure which is the tail and which is the dog) has said there will be a meaningful vote. With their determination to execute the June 2016 “Will of the People” (no matter how ill-informed or misled), that vote looks likely to be, “Do you agree to Leave the EU on the negotiated terms (Boris’s ditch), or do we leave with no deal (the cliff edge)?”.

But this assumes that the Will of the People is immutable. If that were so we would have elected a Conservative Government in perpetuity in 2017 and Trump would be US President for Life. The Will of the People can and does change due to new experiences, new information, new sentiment or new voters.

The Government’s best attempt at achieving the 2016 Will of the People will be what-ever the Prime Minister manages to negotiate. We have to assume that that is the best deal that can be achieved. But that is not necessarily the best solution to the current political problem. The meaningful question then is not “Deal or No Deal?”, but “if the negotiated deal is the current definition of ‘Leave’, is that still preferred to ‘Remain’?”.

That meaningful question needs to be asked of Parliament and potentially of the people.

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