Chequers dead in Salzburg. How long to People’s Vote u-turn?

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes and Luke Lythgoe | 20.09.2018

Is Theresa May (queen of the Brexit u-turn) about to make another flip-flop? Last night she told EU leaders it was either her deal or no deal. Today Donald Tusk made clear her Chequers proposal “will not work” because it undermines the EU’s single market. Now May is saying she will  “bring forward proposals shortly” on the Irish border. It seems a u-turn is in the offing. How long before she flips on other red lines: no extension to Article 50, and no People’s Vote?

The FT and Independent reported this morning that May’s objections to the EU’s Irish “backstop” have been deliberately phrased to allow a plan for regulatory checks in the Irish Sea, keeping Northern Ireland in the single market for goods no matter what deal is struck. When asked this afternoon about a “regulatory border”, the prime minister told reporters: “You’ll see what our new proposal is when we come forward with it.”

If this is the plan, quite how May will square that with the DUP, who prop up her government in Parliament, is a mystery.

The pressure is on. Tusk wants the next EU summit, at the end of October, to be the “moment of truth” with “maximum progress and results”. The EU will only call an extra summit in November if they think it’s just to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on whatever can be agreed in October. That means May getting a workable proposal past her Cabinet and rebellious Tory MPs within a month, with the distraction of their party conference starting next Sunday.

Nor are EU leaders buying May’s bravado that, if it comes to it, the UK is prepared for crashing out with no deal. The Dutch prime minister made clear that the Netherlands were much better prepared for such a chaotic outcome.

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May reiterated that she will “not accept” a People’s Vote. But if May is preparing to make a u-turn over the Irish backstop, how long before she flip-flops on this too? Remember how she used to say there would be no new election – and then she called one? If she comes back with a miserable deal that MPs don’t like – or no deal at all – she may be forced to ask the people what they want.

Indeed, it’s increasingly clear Theresa May has a mountain to climb to persuade MPs to back any deal she produces. David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, has said the prime minister is a “bigger menace to British voters” than the EU and that her Chequers plan is “devoid of democracy altogether”. Mike Penning, who used to be a close ally of May, believes the Chequers plan is “dead as a dodo”, and the prime minister is “deluded” if she thinks she can “blackmail” her MPs into supporting it.

Meanwhile, treasury minister Mel Stride has let the cat out of the bag by suggesting that, if the House of Commons votes down the prime minister’s Chequers proposal, May might be forced to let the people decide between a catastrophic no deal Brexit and remaining within the EU.

Stride’s message, together with EU leaders’ rebuffs in Salzburg, gives lie to May’s statement that the only choices are her deal and no deal. It may soon seem that a People’s Vote is the only credible way out of this mess.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

7 Responses to “Chequers dead in Salzburg. How long to People’s Vote u-turn?”

  • The most important priority is to protect the EU, so that it is still in one piece if we succeed in remaining or re-join it later on.

    All talk of compromises is surely inappropriate, the mindless fanaticism of the Brexiteers can never be satisfied by compromise in any case, and it sets a wrong precedent for the EU to give in to unprovoked aggression.

    By weakening its stance, the EU would undermine the case of a people’s vote.

  • ‘Single market integrity”? Legalistic bullshit. Who did the dirty on May, urging the 27 to hold out in the hope of a second referendum? It could still go very wrong.

  • I agree. All this tripe from Brexiters wanting to see the demise of the EU is vitriol. Whether we stay in or not, the collapse of the EU would bring about a financial meltdown that would dwarf that of 2008.

  • Michael Haseltine, Mark Carney, Christine Lagarde, Vincent Cable and Chuka Umuna could not be all wrong about the bad prospects of No deal or leaving the EU. The problem is while businesses struggle, City companies pack their suitcases, there is almost no one in politics or in the media spelling loud and clear about the loss of jobs, the double increase in morgages and the new divisions between privately tutored students in state schools and the rest of them. I possess real life evidence on all above, but where is the media demand on that and not Vox Pops with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers by people who mostly did not have information on all above or the ability to reason on why their present and future outside the EU looks bleak. Without this narrative, People’s vote may not play its role, so political solutions to no plan of the future outside the EU is badly needed.

  • The hard core Brexiteers, such as JRM, do indeed want to see the demise of the EU; JRM has publicly described the EU as a failed state and clearly would like to see it disappear. A reason for this almost pathological allergy to the EU is that certain quarters ( investment bankers et al ) fear what they see as the ever encroaching and increasing regulatory activities of the EU threatening their financial freedom of movement.
    Publicly, of course the UK government says nothing about this and even went so far, in their first White Paper on Brexit following the Referendum vote, as to say that the success of the EU was in the national interests of the UK. But for the JRM’s of this world this was just window dressing and their deepest wish is for the EU to slowly unwind until there is nothing left.

  • I haven’t myself read any of his father’s stuff but ‘chilling’ would be the right word to describe the reaction of any social democrat to one of the titles he co-wrote, ‘The Sovereign Individual: How to Survive and Thrive during the Collapse of the Welfare State’, bringing a weird, hateful kind of motivation to mind, a la Ayn Rand or god know’s what. I don’t believe Smug has a creative or individual (or generous) bone in his body, and that he inherited his father’s odd way of speech along with all the other paraphernalia of this kind of mentality. So picking over the carcass of social democracy would be for him an equally luscious attraction of brexit equal to the freedom from regulatory oversight of the EU. Malevolent in the extreme.