Brexit Fictional Politics: What's Really on Macron's Mind?
I have been proposing for days that that French President Emmanuel Macron may not offer the January 31 extension that the Benn Act requests.
Today, I stick with that assessment.
The only other site with a similar view that I am aware of is Eurointelligence.
Here is the Eurointelligence take from this morning.
In Brussels, people seem to have finally noticed that Emmanuel Macron does not agree with Donald Tusk on Brexit. We have been warning readers for some time not to take the French position for granted. Brussels correspondents of UK media and other commentators have a tendency to misread the French position, especially at times when that position shifts.
He has no interest in a no-deal Brexit, but is more keen than other EU leaders to leave Brexit behind. He may not get his way on a mid-November end date. But we would expect him eventually to prevail with the argument that the EU cannot extend Brexit forever. The time will come when the EU will have to pull the plug.
He might even go along with a January extension, in exchange for a binding end date. What we need to look out for in the EU discussion right now is the extent to which Macron's arguments are winning support among other leaders. When Charles Michel takes over from Tusk at the end of the week, Macron will have an important ally as president of the European Council. Of all the top level appointments made during the summer, Michel's might have been the most important.
Eurointelligence Sees Three Possibilities
- The EU extends until end-November. The UK would have just enough time to conclude the Brexit process. There is a caucus in the UK parliament working behind the scene towards a new programme motion - that would extend the discussions on the Brexit legislation to a few more weeks. Of the likely amendments, only a second referendum would be damaging. If that were to pass, Johnson would pull the legislation. But a second referendum is still around 40 seats short of a majority. The probability of a customs union amendment is higher, but ultimately less destructive. The next parliament is only bound by the withdrawal agreement, but is free to determine the framework for the future relationship.
- The EU extends until end-January, with flexible break-dates. In theory, the same could happen as above, but we think a long extension would have the effect to frustrate the discussions in the UK parliament. A parliamentary majority for an election emerges - possibly a coalition between the Tories and the SNP.
- The final scenario is that the impasse goes beyond January. In theory, it could last until 2022 because the majorities will not. This would be the scenario where the binding end-date discussion becomes important. Tusk took the view that extension would help the Remain cause. which is why he keeps supporting it. We think the premise is wrong. The longer this goes on, the stronger the pro-Brexit forces in the UK will become. Labour has no incentives to support an election now. If they continue to trail in the polls, they might continue to oppose elections. It does not matter what Jeremy Corbyn might have said at some point. When John McDonnell was asked about elections last night, he said that sure, he was in favour, but first he wanted to unite the country. In other words: no. So, yes, the situation could continue until 2022.
Eurointelligence says those are in "no particular order".
I commented earlier this morning on amendments. Here is a Tweet to reconsider.
I commented "That is pure nonsense. The trapdoor cannot be removed by the UK. Say an amendment passes requiring the next PM to not go for a WTO Brexit. The next government can easily pass new legislation allowing it." Eurointelligence said the same thing in point one above regarding the "future relationship".
In regards to a referendum. There won't be one. Even the Liberal Democrats agree.
EU Extends To January With Flexible End Dates
This came up today in several places including the BBC and Guardian Live.
Sorry, that makes no sense and cannot legitimately solve any French demand as is. It provides no incentive for the UK Remainers to do anything but wait until January 31. I doubt France would fall for that straight up, but it is possible.
I reviewed the options yesterday in EU Postpones Brexit Extension Request. Let's go over them again.
- Very Short: 10 days or less
- Short: 11 days to 3 weeks
- Intermediate: longer than 3 weeks but no longer than Jan 31.
- Long: Anything beyond Jan 31. That's what Tusk wants.
- Flexible: Makes no sense UK will not do anything but delay. But I do not rule it out.
- Conditional: France demands a way forward such as elections.
Options 1-4 are mutually exclusive.
Options 5 applies to options 1-4.
Option 6 applies to options 1-3. A way forward rules out a long extension and perhaps even an intermediate extension.
Increased Chance of No Deal
I believe, as does the Eurointelligence, and likely France as well January Brexit Extension Increases Chance of No Deal.
Eurointelligence did not discuss point 6, a conditional extension.
I believed all along that is where we are headed and odds of that just rose.
This just in from Guardian Live on the position of Amélie de Montchalin, France’s Europe minister. She told RTL radio that giving more time would solve nothing unless there was concrete action in place in the UK.
"Our position is that simply giving more time – without political change, without ratification, without an election - would be useless.
The French position is to give more time if it is justified, if we understand why more time is needed. That could be more time to ratify, because there’s a deal on the table. Or it could be because they say want to hold elections. Then we’ll look at that.
But it’s one thing to say we’d like to maybe have elections and another thing to say elections have been organised.
We’re partners. We live 50km from each other. We’ll stay strong partners and neighbours, we’ll have a future relationship. So this is not about an ultimatum, it’s about getting clarity.
We need clarity ... so our work is not about giving ultimatums, nor confrontation. But we do need to know why we would be giving more time. Simply giving more time alone leads to getting stuck in a rut.
If there’s a clear scenario that will change things, for example a ratification or elections – not just suggested but organised – then we can take decisions. But we ask Britain for facts – we’re not in fictional politics, we need facts to make decisions.
Decisions will be taken in the next hours and days in terms of what the UK parliament says and what has really been actioned [in the UK]."
No Long Extension Without Conditions
Montchalin denied France wanted to give Britain an ultimatum. Label it how you like, but it's a reasonable demand that stops perpetual delays.
If accurate, and I believe it is. There will not be an unconditional extension until January 31.
I suspect the "flex" extension most expected will not be what they expect. Rather, it will be a simple choice.
UK's No "Fictional Politics" Choice
- Accept the Withdrawal Agreement with an extension no longer than three weeks (and possibly much shorter).
- Commit to elections before mid-January (and possibly mid-December or early-January).
This morning Johnson proposed December 12. The EU may accept that date as reasonable.
Something along these lines is now my most likely case.
Remainer's Nasty Choice
If accurate, Remainers will have a nasty choice, not "fictional politics" as France’s Europe minister aptly phrases things.
This will be discussed Monday. The UK will have 3 days to decide between an election, ratification, referendum, No Deal.
And Eurointelligence scenario 3: "The situation could continue until 2022" vanishes into dust.
Way Forward - Addendum
Assuming the EU does demand a way forward, expect elections.
Reuters reported this afternoon "Scotland's Sturgeon asks Labour's Corbyn to back snap general election".
This makes perfect sense, actually. I have commented on this idea before.
SNP and Even Lib Democrats want elections far more than Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
I am almost surprised Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems are not on board too. Why? Guess what happens to the Lib Dem Remain platform if there is a deal before an election?
Thus, don't be surprised to see Swinson back an election if the offer from the EU is conditional. Swinson won't back an election in a losing cause but if SNP is on board, there is a good chance.
Finally, Swinson cannot stand Corbyn. She has an alternate agenda and that is to get rid of Corbyn.
Labour will get smashed in the next election by running on a wishy-washy referendum idea while Swinson runs on a Remain platform.
As for Sturgeon, she has a legitimate case to demand another Referendum because conditions have changed. She will lose, heavily, but she might get her referendum.
How will Labour vote if presented the choice I gave above?
Mike "Mish" Shedlock