Theresa May puts forth an agreement that allows Britain to leave the European Union on March 29th. Given it has a transition period attached, there will be no disruption to trade. However, there is a “backstop” clause in the agreement, one that says that if the UK and the EU do not come to a new trade deal before the end of the transition period, either the transition will need to be lengthened or, in a worse case scenario, this backstop comes into force.
A huge number of Tory backbenchers don’t like the backstop. The EU makes it very clear that any deal of any kind has to have a backstop attached; further, that they are not interested in reopening the negotiations on the basic framework. It’s either this or nothing.
This results in May’s deal losing by a mind-blowing 230 votes when it is presented to parliament. What then do Tory backbenchers do then? Of course, they demand May goes back to the EU to “renegotiate”. May seems to agree to do this.
Apologies for the lengthy recap of events so recent all of you will have known every beat still. I felt I needed to lay it all out in one go, so incredible is the whole tale. The amount of dishonesty in UK politics is absolutely staggering at present. The idea that Number 10 would agree to hold what will in the end be a fake set of talks with the EU about reopening discussions about the framework is deeply embarrassing for the country. The notion that ERG members actually think that this “strengthens the prime minister’s hand” is childishly awful, taken to still further absurd heights by the machinations around the Brady amendment. Which, let’s pause for a moment to recap that mad tangent: Graham Brady proposes to lay down an amendment to the deal which will compel the prime minister to have a time limit put down on the backstop. May caves and says she’ll whip the party to support it in order to win round ERG members. The ERG, who has recent dubbed the amendment the “freedom clause”, then do an about face and say they won’t back it themselves.
It’s obvious that May is pushing everything as close to the edge in hopes that parliament folds and votes for her deal. History suggests that when she runs out of road, she’ll fold completely – I wouldn’t even rule out her just revoking Article 50 and figuring out what happens next later. She might even do so and attempt to carry on as prime minister. Or she might do the stupidest thing anyone has ever done in the history of western civilisation and take us out of the EU with no deal (she will then take the lion’s share of the blame for whatever goes wrong and cement her place as the worst PM in the history of the UK). We’re into that level of crazy now.
Faced with the failure of their project, most Brexiters (there are some noble exceptions) have decided to double down on the Brexit bubble and go full on mad. The EU hasn’t fallen apart because of Brexit, and in fact, the unity of the EU27 has stayed firm. This just doesn’t compute for them, so they still need to feel like that unity will break apart, any moment now, and look for any micro signs for this happening and blowing out of proportion in comedic fashion. We keep hearing about how the EU27 are terrified of a no deal, when in fact they are far more prepared for it than we are.
There are so many basic issues here, it is hard to know where to stop. If May’s deal, beyond just the backstop, is so terrible and no deal will be just fine, why even push May into trying to renegotiate with the EU? Why did the Labour Party announce they were abstaining on the Immigration Bill Second Reading last night and then do a lame, last-second attempt at a 180? I’ve never seen this level of unfathomable behaviour in Westminster before. In fact, it’s never been previously close to what we’re seeing at present.