Friday, November 22, 2019
Home Brexit Watch Boris will get his deal passed, one way or another

Boris will get his deal passed, one way or another

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I ALWAYS thought Boris could pull off a deal against all the odds, despite inheriting a terrible bargaining position from his grossly incompetent predecessor, and in the face of the serried ranks of a Remain Parliament and civil service, a partisan Remainer Speaker, the Benn Act and Lady Hale.

Does the deal still look a good one four days later?

Yes. I do back it, definitely. Leaving with no deal might well be better or it might be much worse, but it has no chance of passing the House of Commons whose approval, thanks to Gina Miller, is necessary.

I cannot imagine any Parliament voting for No Deal, not even a new one where the Tories have a working majority and significantly fewer anti-Brexit Tory MPs.

Nor can I imagine Boris asking the House to agree to leaving with no deal.

Such acute analysts as Charles Moore said they simply did not know whether Boris wanted a deal. The EU leaders and Tory MPs were also unclear, yet it was always obvious that Boris wanted a deal.

He wants to win an election and a good deal is his best chance. Leaving with no deal is better for him than not leaving but, though it would snooker the Brexit Party, it would set him up for election defeat and let the country be governed by Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon.

But no deal will not go away. It will remain an option after the UK leaves the EU on Boris’s terms. As John Baron, a Brexiteer Tory MP, said on TV on Friday, ‘If trade talks are not successful, we could leave on No Deal terms’.

Jeremy Corbyn used that as an argument against the deal on Saturday.

Did Oliver Letwin really think that had the House of Commons agreed Boris’s deal on Saturday, Boris might have performed a card sharp’s trick and taken the country out with no deal at all, setting aside his own deal?

The idea is so absurd that only a man as clever as Sir Oliver could believe it. But most of the MPs who voted for his foolish wrecking amendment had no such ideas. They simply wanted to prevent Brexit from happening. The Green MP, my bête noire Caroline Lucas, said as much on Twitter.

Boris said a deal could be made in the last days and it has. He said the Irish would negotiate unilaterally and they did, that the EU would reopen the deal and they did. Shame on all the people, including Rory Stewart and innumerable writers in the Independent and Guardian who said, with Olympian disdain, that these things were not possible.

Shame on Hilary Benn and his Benn Act that made Boris walk naked into the negotiating chamber without the threat of no deal. Shame on Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson, who intended from the moment the referendum did not go their way to prevent it being implemented (something that seemed impossible even in mid-2017); more shame on people who claim to accept the result of the referendum but vote to prevent the UK leaving with any deal or with no deal.

Congratulations to Boris for showing Angela Merkel that he wanted a deal by finding one from a policy paper written for the May government, for guessing by Wednesday that the DUP would not agree to it and having the courage to continue without them. ‘They thought we would chase around after them like May’s lot did,’ one of Johnson’s aides told the Sunday Times’s Tim Shipman. No one from Downing Street told the DUP that the deal was going ahead. The news was released on Twitter.

How very different Boris is from our last woefully overpromoted and inept PM. This is his Falklands War.

Did Boris really expect his deal to pass the Commons on Saturday?

He knew he would not get the ten DUP MPs on board but he was determined to force it through by hope, faith and, in the case of vacillating MPs, charity. It’s a question of what would have once been called manliness but, in an age where women are politicians too, can instead be called forcefulness and determination.

It looks as if, had a vote on the motion on his deal taken place, the Government would just have won it after a good whipping operation. (One whip was reported as saying, ‘It’s a tricky operation because on one hand we are telling Labour MPs is a case of deal or no deal and on the other we’re telling Spartans it’s a case of deal or no Brexit.’ )

We cannot know because Boris decided not to have a vote after the Letwin amendment passed and the motion ceased to be a binding one, but merely an indicative vote (remember them?)

Boris wins in any case, as the man who did everything he could and was defeated by MPs who did not want to honour the referendum result as they promised when they stood for election last time.

People say the DUP have been hung out to dry by Boris, after they conceded the principle of customs checks in the North Sea.

Perhaps they were played, but they have been very stupid. They have forgone a wonderful deal they could have made with the EU and Westminster for slowly being talked into assenting to the deal and, as it stands, the deal they rejected would help the Northern Irish economy much more than leaving with no deal would. It would favour Protestant farmers who vote DUP and also make the province a gateway between the UK and the EU.

The new deal is significantly different from Mrs May’s. It gets rid of the backstop rather than renaming it and it enables the UK to make free trade agreements with the USA and other countries.

A customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be something normal between two sovereign states but the EU have been convinced that it would breach the Belfast Agreement and lead to violence. It would never be possible to rid them of this idea. Mrs May had accepted that it would not happen shortly after she became Prime Minister, one of her many unforced mistakes.

That being so, this is probably the best deal we could get. If we have a free trade agreement with the EU, as Boris hopes, the customs border between Northern Ireland and the British mainland will not happen, though some checks will be necessary.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard dislikes the deal but thinks we should settle for it and points out that if Boris wins the next election after the deal is agreed, ‘the negotiating dynamic with Brussels will be different in 2020. The EU will not be able to play off Westminster tribes against each other so easily. The cliff edge for the UK will be less severe since the May/Johnson deal does resolve a string of technical issues such as nuclear ties under Euratom or landing rights for aircraft, etc.

‘This makes a WTO walk-out more plausible, and therefore more menacing for the EU as it tries to preserve its £95billion trade surplus with the UK (while offering no reciprocal access for services, of course).’

Olly Robbins was overheard in a bar saying the backstop would be a bridge to a deal – a deal that would pretty much be like remaining in a customs union with the EU.

Boris’s aim is to have a free trade agreement with the EU without the EU’s excessive regulation. I hope for Canada dry but doubt the EU will wear it – but we shall have the threat of no deal to help persuade them.

What happens next?

When the Withdrawal Bill is presented this week the rebels will seek to amend it to add a confirmatory referendum. If they fail it is still by no means certain that the Bill will pass.

Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski has held private talks with senior figures in the Polish and Hungarian governments in the last 72 hours to persuade them to veto any proposed extension. No 10 does not expect them to agree.

Instead, the EU will presumably either delay replying to Boris’s unsigned letter sent at 11pm on Saturday asking for an extension or agree one for two weeks. In either case this will bring back the threat of no deal that the Benn Act sought to defuse and help the British government take the country out of the EU.

It looks to me as if Boris probably has the political momentum to pass his Bill and take us out of the EU this month or next. A lot depends on what the public think, funnily enough.

A two-week extension is of huge importance because it makes an election before Christmas impossible (because of Christmas bazaars in church halls).

If so, Boris may also get his Queen’s Speech passed, then a Budget passed and have the first January election since 1910, which resulted in a hung parliament with the Irish members holding the balance of power. That was followed by another election in the same year that produced another hung parliament and three years later the UK was on the brink of civil war, from which only a gunshot in Sarajevo saved us.

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Paul Wood
Paul Wood
Writer.

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