Sifting the Brexit chaos

Submitted by AWL on 3 April, 2019 - 11:29 Author: Matt Cooper
DUP and May

It still conceivable that May’s deal will pass, perhaps with changes to the accompanying political statement. If the EU leaders summit on 10 April refuses a further extension, this might push the deal over the line. Up to 20 Labour MPs might support the deal (in addition to the five who already have) if they believed their votes would be decisive.

But such an outcome would require ten hard-line Brexiteer Tory MPs to switch to supporting May. There is no hint of that; nor of the DUP swinging behind the deal. In the indicative votes the DUP would back only “no deal”. Despite the strength of the referendum option in the indicative votes, the Conservatives, desperate not to be “the party that betrayed Brexit”, are solid in resisting it. Even if the Labour leadership backs a new public vote more strongly, it will be an uphill struggle. 25 Labour MPs will not vote for it, and it has only slight Conservative support.

It is also difficult to see a pathway to an early general election. While a Conservative PM could win the required two-thirds majority in the Commons, it would solve none of their problems. The Conservatives fear a new Farage Brexit Party and being punished for the division and incompetence. An election could follow a no-confidence vote. Even with Nick Boles quitting, it is difficult to see where the other six Conservative defections needed will come from, unless the Brexit hardliners carry out their threat to bring the government down, and why should they?

The DUP is unlikely to give up its grip on the throat of the Government by bringing it down. If an early election happens, a Farage Brexit party is likely to offer pro-Brexit Conservatives a clear run, but will take more votes off the Conservatives than Labour. TIG/Change UK cannot win many seats. Possibly it will go for a spoiling tactic, targeting Corbyn-supporting Labour candidates. Nonetheless, Labour could do well in an election caused by the collapse of the Conservatives. How well a subsequent Labour government would fare, with its leaders so evasive about Brexit, is another matter. An early Conservative leadership contest seems inevitable.

Conservative MPs will select two candidates, and one of them will be a hardliner whom the party members will probably elect. That could pave the way to an election, with the new leader seeking a hard Brexit mandate. If there is an early election, and Labour doesn’t win, there will be a renewed pressure on Corbyn from the parliamentary party. There is likely to be pressure under other scenarios too. If May wins her deal, or there is a no-deal Brexit, Corbyn will be blamed. If Britain takes part in the European Elections in late May in competition with a Farage Brexit party and TIG, Labour could do badly. The local government elections earlier in May will be important too.

The main threat to Corbyn may not be from the Labour right, but from the soft left: a new Neil Kinnock figure may raise a “left” banner to march the party to the right. A no deal Brexit and the revocation of Article 50 are both possible. This is a chaotic system where small changes could lead to radically different outcomes. Socialists must maintain the pressure on the Labour leaders to take a principled anti-Brexit stand and stop throwing scraps to the beast of insular nationalism.

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