(Note: this article is overlong. I make no excuses because I am quoting at length from important articles which are behind paywalls and thus not accessible to most readers.)
Yesterday presented us voters with another HoC spectacle. This time it was to debate and vote on the Corbyn motion of No Confidence. I watched it so you didn’t have to, and compared to the day before, when Ms May was so soundly trounced in the HoC on her WA Deal, it was horrible. From the non-stop accusations levelled at May’s Government one got the impression that “The People” were suffering in direst poverty, and that only Labour were able to rescue “The People” while Ms May and her lot kept everybody in chains and rags, eating grass. So what had this blatant electioneering got to do with Brexit?
This: according to Labour, the Government must ensure that there will be no “No Deal Brexit”. Given the support from the SNP and some Tory Remainers, and given the volume of noise in the Chamber, it seemed that a “No Deal Brexit” would be the worst thing to happen, ever, and that both sides of the House will do all they can to stop it.
Ms May, in her speech after the vote, invited ‘all sides’ to ‘come together’, offering talks with opposition Party leaders, starting that evening. Corbyn refused to participate unless she were to guarantee that a “No Deal Brexit” will be off the table. (See here and here). She then said she’d present a plan to the House this coming Monday. Well, we now have an inkling of what this Plan will entail: some sort of delay if not a whole rescinding of Article 50.
Ms May has made many reassuring noises about ‘delivering Brexit’ for “The People” (see e.g. here) but as always: don’t listen to the speeches, watch what she does. If ‘nothing is ruled out’, let’s see what is ruled in: the blatant disregard for our vote to Leave by the crafty attempt to destroy the WTO deal, i.e. “No Deal” Brexit, even though this is what Parliament voted for when consenting to the triggering of Article 50.
Here’s how they, under the guidance of Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, are going to do it. Hammond prepared the ground by having a conference call with “Leaders of Industry” on Tuesday evening, after ”That Vote”. (See here and here). The DT – who has the leaked transcript of that call – reports:
“Philip Hammond told business leaders that the “threat” of a no-deal Brexit could be taken “off the table” within days and potentially lead to Article 50 “rescinded”, a leaked recording of a conference call reveals. […] He suggested that ministers may even back the plan when asked for an “assurance” by the head of Tesco that the Government would not oppose the motion. He claimed next week’s Bill, which could force the Government to extend Article 50, was likely to win support and act as the “ultimate backstop” against a no-deal Brexit, as a “large majority in the Commons is opposed to no deal under any circumstances”. (source)
Using a backbench amendment – and the Speaker has opened the doors to such deal last week – Brexit can be scuppered, coldly:
“A recording of the call, passed to The Daily Telegraph, recounts how the Chancellor, Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, and Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, spent nearly an hour talking to the leaders of 330 leading firms. They included the heads of Siemens, Amazon, Scottish Power, Tesco and BP, all of whom warned against no deal. The disclosure reveals the close nature of the relationship between the Treasury and some of Britain’s biggest businesses, and how they appear to be working in tandem to block a hard Brexit. […] Mr Hammond assured the business leaders that the Government would stop spending money on no-deal preparations “as soon as we know we are not going there” and give businesses “a resumption of normal service.”(source) (My bold)
Mr Hammond said:
“Could we extend the Article 50 deadline to give us more time? The simple answer is that the EU would not consider the request for the extension … unless or until we have a clear plan to go forward. The sequence has to be first to reach out to opinion across the Commons to establish the terms on which we can build a majority for a way forward. If necessary [we] go back to the EU to agree changes that are necessary to deliver that consensus. And at that time, if more time is going to be required, to negotiate that with the EU.” (source)
The Telegraph correctly points out in their editorial that The Hammond phone call shows Parliament could commit a great betrayal. The DT editors write:
“But the principal opponent of leaving without a deal, as he has been all along, is Philip Hammond, the Chancellor. As the transcript of his discussion with business leaders that we publish this evening makes clear, he is prepared to say what Mrs May so far has been unwilling to say – that a no-deal exit will be thwarted and a delay to the UK’s departure from the EU is likely. Indeed, given the Government’s woeful failure to prepare for no deal, an extension to Article 50 looks inevitable. Dozens of legislative measures would be needed which cannot get through Parliament in the time left.”(source)
“One reason there have been inadequate preparations is that the Treasury refused for months to countenance such an outcome and only pledged more money reluctantly and belatedly. […] (He) said the Government would not put up any “obstacles” to a plan championed by Nick Boles, a former minister, whereby the Commons liaison committee would oversee attempts to find a way out of the political morass. Mr Hammond said the Boles proposal was the ‘‘ultimate backstop’’ against no deal, indicating that the Treasury’s main objective is to assuage concerns of business rather than address the wishes of the general public.” (source) (my bold)
The conclusion of the DT editors is chilling:
“(Hammond) is reconciled to a strategy that effectively hands over control of the key domestic policy of modern times to MPs. […] After two and a half years, Plan B is to let Parliament take over. At least it is a plan; but is Parliament capable of delivering on the referendum result, or is this the start of a great betrayal of that vote?” (source)
And where is the EU in all this?
Ms Merkel tells Ms May to come up with a new plan (but … didn’t they say yesterday there won’t be any negotiations any longer?) while the Taoiseach is frit of a “No Deal” (see here). Then we have Mister EU, M Barnier, who
‘warned the EU had never been so worried about the prospect of a damaging “No Deal” but he added the door was still open for a closer relationship with the bloc. “If the UK chooses to shift its red lines in the future, and it makes that choice, a choice to be ambitious, and go beyond a simple free trade agreement, which would be quite something, then the European Union will be immediately ready to go hand in hand with that development and to give a favourable response,” said Mr Barnier.”(source).
Oh yes – we believe that nice, helpful Mr EU, of course we do! However, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (AEP), writing in the DT, relates the actual reason why Barnier, Merkel, Big Business, Hammond and the rest are so adamant in their opposition to our WTO Brexit:
“While Europe’s leaders have been distracted imposing their economic settlement on Britain, the world has been imposing its economic settlement on them. A crisis has crept up on the EU. Whether or not they fully understand the financial forces at work – and they did not in 2008 or 2011 – some must be wondering whether the eurozone can endure the shock of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit in these circumstances – at least of the kind that entails a rupture in trade flows, and if it entails no such rupture then Project Fear is shown to be an empty threat. […] For the first time since the Brexit saga began the EU side faces the consequences of its own maximalist strategy. It misread British democracy, thinking it enough to stitch up a weak Prime Minister. Few ever imagined that the Meaningful Vote would be turned against them.” (source) (my bold)
Just so! And AEP concludes:
“With the exception of the Dutch, perhaps, the EU is not remotely prepared for a cliff-edge divorce in 10 weeks. The Commission’s contingency plan for a no-deal scenario is mostly political theatre, an instrument of negotiation pressure. Brussels, Berlin, and Paris suddenly confront an economic threat that they never took seriously and could all too easily spin out of control.” (source)
I couldn’t agree more, as I’ve already pointed out yesterday: the EU is in a trap of their own making. Moreover, this is why Hammond is reassuring the same Big Business leaders who are famous for lobbying Brussels non-stop. This is how and why they want to betray Brexit.
As for all those who now think a GE is the best way forward, they better think again: Public respect for Parliament has plummeted following the Westminster paralysis over Brexit, a damning opinion poll has revealed.
Inform your MP that he or she will lose their cushy job should they fall for Hammond’s, Big Business and the EU’s ruse and deny us the WTO Brexit: they will not get reelected. They demanded ‘humility’ from Ms May in yesterday’s debate, that she must listen to them, the MPs. So tell them they must first show humility to us, who employ and pay them.
We however will never forget the contempt and disdain they all have show us, continuously, since we voted to Leave in 2016.