We must stop ‘no deal’. Here’s how

by Hugo Dixon | 16.01.2019

Business is crying out for reassurance that we are not going to crash out of the EU. The government is failing miserably to provide it.

Philip Hammond tried to reassure business leaders last night that there was nothing to worry about. But he was immediately undercut by the Brexit secretary, who said taking “no deal” off the table would weaken the government’s negotiating hand with the EU.

This is not the time to play with fire.

Since the government is unwilling to take “no deal” off the table, Parliament should pass its own resolution saying it does not want us to crash out. A motion on “no deal” would almost certainly show that even fewer MPs want that option than the 202 parliamentarians who backed the government’s miserable deal last night.

While such a resolution would be a powerful display of Parliament’s will, it would not guarantee that we don’t crash out. MPs will also have to decide on some alternative course of action – and much the most promising route is to ask the people whether they want to leave with the government’s deal or stay in the EU.

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That, though, wasn’t what the chancellor was telling business leaders on their conference call. Instead, he pointed to draft legislation promoted by Nick Boles, the Tory backbench MP. The snag is that this may not stop us crashing out, despite its promoter suggesting that it will.

Hammond said Boles’ plan would require the government to “rescind” the Article 50 notice that sets the deadline for our departure from the EU at March 29 – and added that Boles has legal opinion that we can do this unilaterally.

But we cannot revoke Article 50 unilaterally merely to buy extra time. While the European Court of Justice did say in December that we could cancel the notice if we change our mind, our decision has to be “unequivocal” – and that condition would self-evidently not be met if we were still thinking of leaving. It’s a shame that the chancellor contributed to spreading misinformation on this critical issue.

What’s more, Boles’ draft legislation doesn’t even call for Article 50 to be revoked unilaterally – although some of the earlier briefing suggested it would. It merely says the government would be required to ask the other countries for a nine-month delay if Parliament can’t make up its mind what to do.

That’s not much reassurance for business, as all the other 27 countries would need to approve the extra time. There’s little chance they would agree a nine-month extension when we can’t figure out what we want.

By contrast, they will give us extra time if we want to hold a new referendum with the option to stay in the EU. As Donald Tusk, the European Council president, tweeted last night: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” That’s a clear green light that we’ll get the time we need for a People’s Vote.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

11 Responses to “We must stop ‘no deal’. Here’s how”

  • Clearly, Hugo, the next step must be to obtain from parliament the People’s vote and winning it will require a massive effort covering a multitude of aspects but I wonder what would be the alternative option on the ballot paper to remaining in the EU ? Surely not Mrs.May’ deal which has been decisively rejected by Parliament ? Logically should it not be ” no deal ” the catastrophic consequences of which would be easy to demonstrate ?
    This brings me back to the conclusion of Brendan Donnelly of the Federal Trust , that the problem of Brexit is not Mrs.May but Brexit itself. If you want the benefits of the ” Club ” you have to be a full member. Unless you opt for just membership of the Single Market and Customs Union but then you accept ” vassal status “

  • What a lot of complete and utter Remoaner nonsense.

    1. Article 50 can (as you say) only be revoked unequivocally – and the Govt won’t go for that.
    2. Article 50 can be extended, but only for a distinct purpose such as renegotiation, with a tangible alternative plan on hand. That doesn’t look likely.
    3. The EU Withdrawal Act defines the date on which we leave as 29 March 2019, and although a minister can alter it by motion, he/she could ONLY in order to make it match, the date referenced in a UK-EU agreement draft. The only one that exists, also says 29 March 2019.
    4. Article 50 in any case states that, in the absence of an agreement made within the 2 years, the EU treaties cease to have force at 23:00 BST on 29 March 2019.
    5. Corbyn is a complete waste of space in all important respects, and so is irrelevant.

    So – UNLESS the Govt ACTIVELY develops, defines or negotiates something new, or agrees to enact new legislation to repeal or amend the EU Withdrawal Act, for which it would need a commons majority it doesn’t have, then the law as it stands will prevail. And we will leave – as we should – on 29th March 2019. Saving a chunky thirty-nine, thousand billion pounds, a fund quite large enough to soothe farmers and business and assist with any problems arising as we migrate into safe WTO trading terms.

    Meanwhile the EU’s budget cycle upcoming will be formally insolvent, and the begging-bowl will be out again in front of Germany. And they will face undesirable tariffs on sales to the UK, unless they ring us up and suggest that 0% / 0% Free Trade agreement they offered several times before: we might even pay them a little money, if they behave well.

  • Well waffled, Mike. Where did you get ‘ 39 thousand billion pounds from?
    Let’s cut through the mire. It needs the PM and her advisers to admit this is such a hole the Tory party has got us into that the only way out as to take up Mr Barnier’s suggestion and revoke A50. It is the most straightforward option such is the mess. However, she hasn’t the courage or the sense and so people are having to find other ways to rescue the country from absolute disaster.

  • Mike. What a load of complete and utter brexitraitor nonsense.

    Kindly provide evidence that within the law breaking duplicitous leave campaigns, a no deal brexit was ever meaningfully proposed discussed or contemplated as the result of a leave vote. It formed no part of the otherwise ambiguous leave manifesto and has no mandate.

  • I was with you on the legal structure, including how we end up with the hard Brexit unless action is taken very soon .. up until you quote the amount we ‘save’ by such a horrible outcome. It is not 39,000 billion; it is 39 billion – and of that we already owe 16 billion for commitments for the current parliamentary session of the EU. If we want to try to argue about some or all of the 22 billion, I can see lots of problem, not last as we will be dealing with Selmayr not Juncker.
    The problem is that it appears its not just the government, i.e . TM is her solitude, but much of the ‘opposition’ in the House seems to be assuming the 27 MS are just waiting for us to say we want more time , for them to unanimously agree to it.

  • It is now clear that the major EU leaders are moving towards agreeing a request to delay Article 50 even without a decision by the UK to hold an election or referendum. It is unlikely that any of the 27 will stand against this. By the way advocates of a “no deal” exit should read the article in today’s Times by its chief leader writer Simon Nixon. It is absolute baloney to suggest this can be done without catastrophe for business.


  • The first urgent priority now is to do something, almost anything, to stop us crashing out on 29 March. All the expert bodies , and indeed the Government itself, can see this is going to be a disaster. The economy taking a 8.75% hit is the national average, but of course some peple will suffer more than others. Worst hit will be those in old industrial areas and with the smallest purses. The hit the EU takes will be much less because they can spread it around themselves.
    Besides businesses, ordinary travellers will be caught up with delays and extra paperwork, because all extra bureaucracy leads to 2 things; more delays and bureaucratic errors.
    Discussing a Peoples Vote or other options such as Norway can only take place if we first avert the disaster approaching very fast on 29 March.
    The tragedy is that we have 2 very unpragmatic leaders in May and Corbyn for whom ‘compromise’ is a dirty word. Yet if they don’t, they will be guilty of allowing the disaster about to unfold. Will they care? Maybe, it will be someone else who has to pick up the pieces.

  • At least in Scotland we have the silver lining that Brexit, and in particular a No Deal Brexit, will lead to the end of the UK and Great Britain. Hopefully, for the rest of you that will bring England and separately Wales to its sentences. In that eventuality, a united Ireland is a foregone conclusion. Ironic that what will make Britain great will almost certainly end up creating in fact a diminished state of Englandshire.

  • If Scotland leaves the UK we will have to change our name in the UN and that means that our place on the Security Council is in jeopardy. The Security Council has to vote for us to stay in and just one veto can scupper it…we voted to let Russia stay in after the change from the USSR, but will Putin be nice to us? I doubt it. He is doing all he can to stop us from acting in the world. You know, not all that the UK does is detrimental in the world.We are helping countries towards democracy and away from dictatorship (excluding certain ‘friends’ in Arabia.)
    The world will be a crazier place without the UK on the Sec.Council as a steadying voice.
    Scotland should be very wary of what it does in the future.