UK Parliament Cannot Stop a Determined PM From Delivering a No-Deal Brexit
Number of Candidates Expands
On Monday, Sajid Javid declared his candidacy. He voted Remain in the referendum, thus cannot be trusted to deliver Brexit no matter what he says now.
Besides, he has no chance. Wishy-washy candidates in general have no chance.
Kit Malthouse has also thrown his hat into the ring.
He's the author of the Malthouse Compromise that was never given a vote in Parliament. “I’m the only candidate that has proven the ability to unify MPs around a Brexit plan which could deliver us out of this jam,” says Malthouse.
The Malthouse Compromise was a reasonable idea. It gave the UK and EU a framework for getting rid of the backstop. The EU called his idea a "unicorn".
Who Will Replace May?
On May 26, I asked Who Will Replace Theresa May? Eight Candidates in Crowded Race.
Four of those candidates, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey, Boris Johnson, and Andrea Leadsom, have stated a preference for no-deal.
Curiously, Boris Johnson voted for May's deal on the third go. He has not adequately explained that vote but now he claims to fully back a hard Brexit.
Commons Speaker John Bercow Promises MPs Will Get Chance to Block No Deal
The Guardian Live Blog has some interesting comments about blocking a No-Deal Brexit.
Speaking in New York, Bercow gave a clear sign that the speaker would make sure parliament has an opportunity to stop the UK leaving without a deal if MPs believe it should be halted.
“The idea that parliament is going to be evacuated for the centre stage of debate on Brexit is simply unimaginable...The idea the House won’t have its say is for the birds,” he said.
He highlighted the fact that while leaving the EU without a deal is the legal default: “There is a difference between a legal default position and what the interplay of different political forces in parliament will facilitate.”
Jeremy Hunt has warned that pushing for a no-deal Brexit would be political suicide for the Tories. The foreign secretary also pledged to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement with the help of the DUP and the ERG, but not Nigel Farage.
Can No Deal Be Stopped?
Yes, but not by a determined PM. The only guaranteed way to stop no-deal would be to elect a prime minister who will not allow one.
Eurointelligence - May 24
These comments by Eurointelligence last week caught my eye because it disagrees with the notion that a determined PM cannot be stopped.
The danger of a no-deal Brexit remain significant. The only tools the UK parliament has at its disposal to prevent it are passing of the withdrawal bill, unilateral revocation of Brexit, or a successful no-confidence vote. We see no majority for any of these.
Our main scenario is that Johnson will become PM and that he will try, and fail, to re-negotiate the withdrawal treaty. At this point he will confront the House of Commons with a straight choice between deal or no-deal. If May had done this, the Commons would have passed her bill, and she would remain prime minister.
My main scenario is that a determined PM will not be thwarted short of losing a vote of no-confidence.
If the next PM is indeed determined, he or she will not give Parliament the chance to vote on it.
The biggest chance is by an election, not by a choice that Johnson or any other determined PM gives Parliament.
Eurointelligence changes its tune today.
Eurointelligence - May 27
It is very clear that another failure to deliver Brexit could threaten the Conservative Party to the core. Nigel Farage's Brexit Party last night won in 9 out of the 10 regions declared so far, with an average vote share of 32% as of this morning.
We also expect that Labour's very poor result could lead to renewed discussions about the party's Brexit strategy. Jeremy Corbyn indicated that he is now ready to support a second referendum, after having come third in the elections to the pro-Remain LibDems. As the Tories move further towards a no-deal Brexit, we expect Labour to shift, but the party will remain split. Our main take-away from these elections is that the Leave vote is galvanised and the Remain vote remains split.
Over the weekend there have been discussions on whether Johnson's strategy to deliver a no-deal Brexit, if needed, could be frustrated. MPs are beginning to realise that they don't have many options. The only effective one would be the nuclear option - a no-confidence vote triggering new elections - but it is far from clear that such a strategy can succeed. The eleven MPs from Change UK, a party that failed to attract much support in the European elections, are unlikely to support a no-confidence vote as the ensuing elections would result in all of them losing their seats. We are also sceptical of the threats from Tory MPs to leave the party and vote against their own government in a no-confidence vote. That may be true for at most a handful MPs, who would be ready to end their political careers.
If Johnson or another hard-Brexiter like Dominic Raab were elected Tory leader, say in July, parliament would have to place a vote of no-confidence in September in order to have an election before the October deadline. If parliament misses that deadline a prime minister hell-bent on Brexit would have the power to deliver it without a deal.
The best-informed comment we have read on this subject is from Maddy Thimont Jack of the Institute of Government, who has argued that MPs have no powers to stop a prime minister intent on no-deal.The new PM could simply delay the next Queens' Speech until after October, which would deprive MPs of any opportunity to attach amendments. A backbench motion is possible but has no legal force. An emergency debate under standing order 24 is also possible, but has no legal force either. The only effective means is a vote of no-confidence, which faces the problems we discussed. Without the new PM's active co-operation, the UK crashes out on October 31.
- The next MP can delay the Queen's speech thereby preventing Speaker Bercow from doing what he says he will do.
- Parliament can immediately vote for no-confidence, but many MPs will be outed by the Brexit Party which is united while Labour is fragmented.
- MPs tend not to take actions that would immediately take them out of parliament.
- It is not even clear that Labour would be united in delivering the votes. A substantial number of Labour MPs are in favor of Brexit.
- Even if there were elections, and held in time, the Brexit Party could win outright. All that would take is for labour and the Liberal Democrats to split the Remain vote, a distinct possibility if not an outright likelihood.
Most Realistic Way of Stopping No-Deal
The most realistic way of stopping no-deal is to elect a Prime Minister who will not allow that to happen.
The two leading candidates are Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, both in favor of no-deal.
If that is the final match-up, or if either of them wins against someone else, expect a no-deal Brexit.
The way the process works is the candidate with the least backing is eliminated until there are only two candidates left. At that point, all the Tories vote in a postal ballot.
Final 4-Way Choice
The final 4-way choice could be interesting. Assume it's Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, and Jeremy Hunt.
Either Gove or Hunt could then drop out making it a 3-way chance. Either could do that on purpose to split the dedicated Leave vote.
Final 3-Way Choice
In a final 3-Way choice as presented above, all of the Remainers plus all of the deal advocates would unite behind either Gove or Hunt.
Final 2-Way Choice
If the above 4-way and 3-way events happened, we could see it come down to Gove (Hunt) vs. Johnson. Alternatively we could see or Gove (Hunt) vs Raab.
The Brexit outcome would be uncertain in such a matchup until the votes were cast.
If it does come down to Johnson vs Raab, it's all over. As a final matchup, Raab has fewer political enemies than Johnson.
Raab could easily become UK's next Prime minister winning out over Johnson.
Meanwhile, the current huffing and puffing by Bercow and Hunt is meaningless fodder.
No Deal looks increasingly likely. Call it 80% or so.
That was my projection just ahead of the European parliament elections, and it hasn't changed.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock