Ex No 10 insider: Remainer coup may not be enough to stop no deal

Events in southern Europe around the end of October could thwart Remainer MPs' plans to force an extension.

by The Secret Brexiter
Last Updated: 06 Sep 2019
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Food for thought

Intrigue is abroad as our news channels are filled with stories of bold plots to bring down the government. Tory rebels, we hear, will side with Labour and its frenemies to bring about a Remainer unity government - a counter revolution, if you will, the intelligentsia strikes back. But the issue may no longer be in Parliament’s hands.

Even if Remainers were able to form a government before Brexit day – which is far from guaranteed, given both the complete inability of Corbyn and centrist anti-no-dealers to agree on who would be in charge, and the novel constitutional fragilities this bizarre situation has exposed – there is no certainty that the EU would play ball.

It may sound obvious, but for a no deal to be averted, the EU needs to be complicit by offering an extension, which is critical for two of the three options a new government would have to keep the UK in Europe: calling and winning a second referendum, and calling a general election where a clear majority is returned for parties campaigning to revoke Article 50.

The only other option left is to revoke Article 50 unilaterally, in the national interest, but it is not at all clear that an absolute majority exists in Parliament for this extreme option, as we found out during the indicative votes on Brexit options during the later months of May’s premiership.

But Europe isn’t just sitting there waiting for the Brits to see sense, and there’s precious little appetite for another extension without a very good reason, especially in France, which is assuming a bigger leadership role in the EU as Macron’s star waxes and Merkel’s wanes.

In southern Europe, moreover, there are more pressing concerns which could override any self-interested desire to prevent a no-deal scenario.

In July Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez failed for a second time to pass a confidence vote on a new coalition government. Sanchez had previously grown his vote share but failed to gain a majority.  He must now piece together a coalition with separatists by the end of September or face a fresh election - on November 10.  

Meanwhile the government in Italy, a tenuous coalition between the separatist League and the Five Star Movement, is under extreme stress. League leader Salvini sought a no confidence motion in order to push for an election, which he lost. If a new government cannot be found from the rubble, a new election will occur in, you guessed it, October.

There is a good chance then that two of the largest economies in Europe will be in elections or trying to piece together fragile multi-party coalitions with non-traditional parties at the very time a request for extension is sought of all 27 remaining EU member states.

To complicate matters further, the European Commission will not yet be in situ, and besides, economic difficulties caused by macroeconomic factors linked to the power play between the US and China will be top of the agenda.

Yes, damage to the Irish economy will be a consideration, but other approaches might be considered to soften the blow, and the wider integrity of EU27 will likely take precedent over keeping Perfidious Albion in the club.

Throw electioneering into the mix with Gibraltar (a populist cause in Spain if ever there was one), UK trade policy seeking alignment with the US and a tub-thumping Boris Johnson, and it’s possible to see how no deal could still happen on October 31, even if the UK government were actually trying to stop it.

Image credit: Freestocks.org/Pexels

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