Hotting Up

  1. The Advocate General, an advisor to the ECJ, has opined that Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked, with the ECJ ruling expected to follow suit in the weeks ahead
    • For Remainers: this means the mechanism for No Brexit is easier but the process still requires a crisis, otherwise, the public says, “We voted to Leave, now you’re stopping it, WTF?”
    • For Brexiteers: this means they are galvanised to ensure Brexit still takes place
    • For TM and her deal: No Brexit and No Deal are still the other options if it’s voted down, but a+b means both outcomes just became more likely, entrenching positions rather than mitigating them
    • Add these together and a crisis is slowly becoming more likely…
  2. The government’s failure to produce the full legal advice on the backstop to Parliament now leaves it facing a contempt of Parliament charge.
    • This debate could go on until the middle of the night and will give full airtime to those who want to portray the government as blundering on regardless.
    • The public doesn’t have good memories of proceeding on the basis of legal advice, ever since Blair’s “dodgy dossier” for the Iraq War
  3. More ominously for the government, the Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson was able to claim that the contempt charge has been brought by “six opposition parties”, including the DUP
  4. Even those voting for TM’s Deal are admitting they don’t like the backstop.
    • The man who negotiated it, Oliver Robbins, described it yesterday as “a slightly uncomfortable necessity
    • Arlene Foster’s 24th Nov interview: “All we have ever said to her [the PM] is ‘Please do not cause any divergence between NI and GB’. That’s the most disappointing thing for us and it’s pretty bad”.
      • If your father had been shot and your school bus blown up because of violence over the status of your country, do you think a civil servant describing the potential for that country to be carved up as “a slightly uncomfortable necessity” would make you think that’s alright then? Would you feel reassured the government is working in your favour? Would you trust that they are worthy of your support?
    • Any Conservative leader who might want DUP support needs to realise the backstop cannot stand. And parliamentary arithmetic means any Conservative leader needs their support. If they don’t realise this, events will force them to realise it.
  5. Yesterday the BlondeMoney team attended the Intelligence Squared Brexit debate, with Nicky Morgan advancing the case for voting for Theresa’s deal; Dan Hannan advocating the need to renegotiate or walk away; and Andrew Adonis arguing volubly for a second referendum. You can guess the arguments, as well as guessing that the majority of the London-dwelling liberal elite in the room voted for the Adonis view. More notable was the final question of what they expected would happen next (rather than what they wanted):
    • Nicky Morgan believes the vote will fail but we will end up with some kind of Norway
    • This now looks to be a Gove Plot that’s gaining ground:
      •  By voting for the deal, these MPs are not wreckers
      • They can ideologically appeal to pragmatic Brexiteers and soft Remainers
      • They judge that Second Referendum Jo Johnson types and No Deal ERG types won’t muster enough numbers against them
      • Thus providing a broad base for Gove’s inevitable leadership bid as The Man Who Saved the Govt And Brexit
    • This works unless:
      • The deal fails so badly that 48 letters go in and mechanism starts against TM. Then Gove could find those backing his plan will go up against him in a leadership contest
      • The DUP threaten to vote against the govt in a vote of No Confidence. Then the PM must change and/or renegotiation to remove the backstop must happen unless Tories and Labour are prepared to work together (Gove to lead a Govt of National Unity)?

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