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Hard right has 3 ways to get their kamikaze Brexit

by Hugo Dixon | 22.07.2018

The hard right Brexiters are desperate. They have seen Theresa May propose a castration Brexit which would involve signing up to many of the EU’s rules without a vote on them. And they know the prime minister will make many more humiliating concessions if she is to get the EU to agree a deal.

But desperate men – and Jacob Rees-Mogg and his gang are mainly men – resort to desperate measures. They are determined to do whatever it takes to secure their kamikaze Brexit. They will have been emboldened by today’s Sunday Times poll which shows that voters oppose May’s plan by 4-to-1 – while twice as many think Boris Johnson would do a good job of handling Brexit as the prime minister.

They have three schemes to get their way.

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Plan A: use May as a puppet

Look first at plan A. This was articulated most clearly by Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph last week. He said the hardliners were starting to see the upside from May’s “Chequers” proposals.

He writes: “If the EU demands still more concessions – as is highly likely – the prime minister would be stuck. If she gives anything more away, her party will depose her. If the EU over-reaches then her only viable option may be to declare that she’s withdrawing from talks and pursuing a clean Brexit – the one she originally promised to voters.”

This is a desperate plan because it assumes May will be willing to go down in history as the person who crashed out of the EU with no deal. It also assumes that the House of Commons would let her.

Plan B: kick her out

Plan B is best explained by Tim Shipman in today’s Sunday Times. He says six Tory MPs were prepared to vote with Jeremy Corbyn last week in a vote of no confidence against the government if May hadn’t acceded to their demands.

Shipman says one prominent Eurosceptic told him: “If at any stage an anti-Brexit thing gets through the Commons, not only will a no confidence vote follow, the initial one will 100% definitely be lost. Das ist die Drohung.” The German words mean: “That is the threat.”

In this scenario, the hard right plans to avoid a general election by installing a Brexiter as prime minister and win a fresh confidence vote. The alternative of kicking May out by holding a Tory leadership election seems to be on the backburner because the hard right doesn’t have enough MPs to pull off that trick, whereas a handful of them could bring down the government.

This too is a desperate plan. The putative hard right prime minister might easily fail to win a confidence vote, if pro-European Tories deserted. The Brexiters might end up with a general election won by Corbyn or even a national unity government.

Plan C: rip up the deal post-Brexit

Plan C seems to be the one being followed by Michael Gove and hardline Brexiters who have decided to stay in government. The theory is that they have to get out of the EU whatever the costs – even if it involves making more concessions. Once we’re out, they would kick May out, rip up the deal and start again with a hard Brexit.

This, again, is desperate. It won’t be easy to tear up our withdrawal agreement – which will contain promises to keep the Irish border open, pay £39 billion and guarantee the rights of 3 million EU citizens living here. If we did, the EU would go ballistic, as I explained here.

Johnson lambasted this idea in his resignation speech last week, saying: “We will not have another chance to get this right. It is absolute nonsense to imagine – as I fear some of my colleagues do – that we can somehow afford to make a botched Treaty now, and then break and reset the bone later on.”

As things stand, none of the hardliners’ schemes seems viable. But the political situation is so volatile that almost anything could happen. And the hard right has one card it will play for all it is worth: blaming the EU for bullying us.

It may seem ridiculous that Rees-Mogg et al could hope to get away with blaming others for chaos which they have created. But they are devious, determined and ruthless. Pro-Europeans mustn’t be complacent. We must fight them all the way.

7 Responses to “Hard right has 3 ways to get their kamikaze Brexit”

  • It beggers belief that the EU is bullying us meme still has any traction. Let’s be clear: it’s the EU27 who are running the show, not “the EU”. The EU27 agreed guidelines for the negotiations, published them openly on the internet for everyone to see and then told the EU negotiating team to go and talk with the UK. The EU negotiating team has no room to deviate from the guidelines, because if it does then the EU27 could reject the final deal. So the obvious question is why did the UK spend all this time making ridiculous suggestions that it knew would never be accepted?

  • They’ve had two years – TWO YEARS !! to come up with a viable exit strategy. Wasted months on an unnecessary election and generally faffing about. Oh, and don’t forget the parliamentary recess when they all go on holiday for a couple of months (EVEN NOW !!) We pay these politicians’ wages and if they were working in any business with this kind of record, they wouldn’t last five minutes.

    I wish I lived somewhere where sensible, even wise, people were in charge. Maybe Mars.

  • Ho Ho Fraser Nelson terms crashing out of the EU a ‘clean” Brexit?

    I’m not sure why we focus exclusively on politicians. Perhaps we should also look at the role played by the fourth estate in the Brexit farrago?

  • It is always a mistake to believe that senior politicians are stupid. Cabinet government ensures a large degree of collective incompetence as the intetedts of the many (or more often the poor) are sacrificed to compromises. But this is not to say that the individuals that agree to compromise are stupid. Since Labour was dismisded from power we have been governed by a small group of people looking after their own money and their prospects for accumulating more. The majority have a vested interest in staying as close to Europe ad possible. The rest are roughly divided into two groups: those who knoe how to make a bob or two whatever happens, and those with their eyes on the big boodle to be made outside the constraints imposed by the EU. Trying to get these to pull together guarantees a mess and that its what we have. We desperately need a government of National Unity. To get that the lie must be given to the whole Brexit idea. That means demonstrating to those who supported the Leave campaign that they were taken for a ride for the benefit of a bunch of speculators who have no interest in the well being of those who backed them. It is about exposure of false arguments and promises by stating clear FACTS.

  • And Michel Barnier does not have the same flexibility as the UK. May can change her strategy from one day to the next (and often does), but Barnier cannot just decide that the UK can have access to the single market but ignore the four freedoms. Such a decision would need to go to all the other EU countries for approval and take months (or years).
    The fact that the EU is a democratic organisation and the UK a state where the ruling party has most of the power and parliament very little makes the negotiations very tricky.

  • Assuredly you are correct, but this is the only time I have seen a similar statement in writing, nor have I heard it on the news. I have heard and seen the “bullying Britain” trope many, many times in the newspapers and on TV. That’s why it still has legs. Moreover, bullies like to imagine they are wrongly done to; it helps to rationalise their behaviour.

  • I think we should give Rees-Mogg the opportunity to fully expound his brave new world with us embracing WTO tariffs and all of the other pet theories of Patrick Minford he subscribes to. He likes to talk in vague terms that are never scrutinized by the average interviewer. I am sure if he was forced out into the open, many people would agree that he is not offering the Brexit they were mislead into voting for.