May Rolls the Dice

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By Barney Brown, David Runciman, and Catherine Carr. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

David and Helen talk through the latest twist in the Brexit tale: Theresa May's offer to work with Labour to get some version of Brexit over the line. Can the two parties ever agree on what that version is? Could any agreement be made to stick? And if they can't agree, what happens next? Plus we talk about whether May's offer to stand down is still in effect and we ask what all this might mean for the ERG, the DUP, the SNP and the EU.

Talking Points:

On Tuesday night, Theresa May changed strategies: instead of courting Brexiteers and the DUP to get her withdrawal agreement through, she’s seeking Labour Party support.

  • But she can’t form an understanding with Corbyn about the future while also promising to step down as PM if the withdrawal agreement is passed.
  • Labour fears run deep: Since the late 80s, parts of the party have seen the EU as a constraint on the ultra-right wing side of the Conservative Party.

There are only two ways the Parliament can stop no deal: pass the withdrawal agreement or revoke Article 50.

  • The EU could still refuse another extension.
  • Whatever the calculations Macron or Merkel might make, the European Parliament elections are a short-term contingency, and Brexit has the potential to cause chaos.
  • The EU keep saying that they want clarity about what the UK is going to do—but British domestic politics cannot provide that right now.

The only way an agreement with Labour will work is if they believe that May’s government will continue through the end of the year. Is that possible?

  • What about the Labour leadership? When Corbyn seems to move toward accepting Brexit, he gets pulled back.
  • In the last general election, the most irreconcilable remainers voted for a Labour party that was committed to voting to leave the EU instead of the party that represented their views (the Lib Dems). A lot of difficulties followed from this.

What about the DUP?

  • They’re more worried about betrayal at the hands of the Conservatives than a Corbyn government.
  • Arlene Foster has admitted that the Union comes before Brexit.
  • There is no constitutional or institutional channel for English nationalism.
  • If Brexit is thwarted because of Northern Ireland, there will probably be some kind of backlash.

The basic fact of British political life is that there is no transmission mechanism from the legislative to the executive of an expression of will.

  • Parliament wants to say they have no confidence in the government to conduct these negotiations, but they aren’t willing to bring the government down.
  • Could the constitution assert itself? Could the government fall?
  • The easiest way out might be if the EU denies an extension, leading to a binary choice between the withdrawal agreement and no deal.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Further Learning:

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: acast.com/privacy

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