Dominic Raab heads to Brussels for a chat with Barnier – but nothing is agreed regarding the backstop. A feeling of drama grips the bubble, while calm continues in the rest of the UK, and indeed, in Brussels itself. Where does “hell week” leave us then? There are only really four ways I think Brexit goes from here.
- The cabinet swallow the backstop, whatever it ends up being (and it will result in a very soft Brexit, at least for the time being). Then, May gets the deal, including the backstop, through parliament. If this happens, the Tories will then try and depose May (starting with trying to get her to walk off into the sunset voluntarily first) and move Brexit into the background under a new leader. This would probably (mostly) work, or at least shift the Brexit battle to be fought amongst the left primarily. An attempt to cry foul by the Brexity right would mostly be an embarrassing damp squib, which is the main reason I’m sort of cheering for this one to happen.
- The deal is not going to get through parliament and May is left with only one option that avoids her having to fall on her own sword immediately: she agrees to a second referendum as an amendment in order to get enough opposition votes to get it through. Tory civil war could be the result, but perversely, this is the scenario under which Theresa May probably remains PM the longest. She would prefer to go general election than do this, but I can’t see how she has the votes in parliament for another GE.
- No deal actually happens. The deal doesn’t get through parliament and May says she’s walking away. There will be no vote on the deal in parliament because there is no deal to vote on. A lot of people are talking this possibility up since all it requires to happen is inertia – if everyone just stopped doing everything Brexit related this second, this would unfold.
- No deal beckons – and parliament halts it. This is far and away the most drastic option here. I’m not really sure how this would happen, but here’s one possibility: Remainers of all parties form a plan to halt no deal Brexit. A vote of no confidence in the government is called and is voted through on enough Tory votes. Then, all the Remainer MPs get together and their leader, whomever that is, goes to the Queen to say that he or she has a majority in parliament. A sort of “government of national interest” takes over and halts Brexit, at least for the moment, causing a total rupture in British politics. Of course, this would also lead conveniently to a narrative of “the elite would do anything to stop Brexit and so they formed a coup” that would lead to a rise in the far right, which is one of the many reasons why it probably won’t happen. Much more likely under this bracket is that there is free vote and Article 50 is extended, which would have its own fallout.