Saturday 19 October 2019

General Election Most Effective Remain Strategy

So, here we are, with the Letwin Amendment passed, 321 to 306, and people think it is some sort of victory for the remain camp. It isn't.

It was passed so that those who wanted to vote for the deal can do so without risk of crashing out with no deal. Otherwise they would have been forced to vote against the deal in a meaningful vote.

Had the meaningful vote been passed, the Benn Act would have fallen, and then the legislation defeated, by Brexiteer types and all others, leading to a no deal crash out. Given Dominic Cummings' position in this Government, this could be an intended outcome. Johnson on this was not to be trusted. (Indeed, his letters to the EU indicate that he has broken his word in the Scottish Court to send the letter of extension and do nothing to contradict this: the court assumed he was as good as his word and refused to assume otherwise. How wrong they were.)

The Government itself then pulled the meaningful vote. According to its submissions to the Scottish Court of Sessions, the Prime Minister must both write the letter requesting delay and not do anything to contradict that request for delay - it is two-pronged.

But when the Government brings back the meaningful vote, the likes of Letwin, Boles, etc. can vote for the agreement, and the mathematics suggests that the Government is likely to win.

Had the Democratic Unionist Party voted with Johnson, this would have gone through. Now, put under a bus by Johnson, they are even more likely to vote in favour of a second referendum as an amendment to legislation for the Withdrawal Bill, coming up next week. Beyond devilment for being dumped, this is because the democratic test in Northern Ireland is a simple majority in Stormont, rather than community based, and because for some Unionists it is better to remain in the EU than to have customs checks down the Irish Sea. (There is also a chance to add a Customs Union provision, but that would amount to renegotiating the agreement, which the EU does not want to do - a second referendum on the deal does not itself affect the deal.)

The fact is that those who wish to stay in the European Union are on the back foot. There aren't the votes for resistance, and may be not for a second referendum, even of the DUP added support. So the option shrinks to whether the Government wants a General Election, and it seems that is the most likely step that makes good with a delay and changes matters: the 'democratic test' that the EU needs to grant a longer extension. It is likely to happen leaving Boris Johnson in charge of the Government while Parliament dissolves.

The problem here is that four parties and First Past the Post means it's like chucking dice in the air to find out who wins. The outcome could be strange indeed.

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