Published On: Tue, Jan 15th, 2019

In perverse twist, the crisis to engineer tolerance of a bad Article 50 deal incorporates the vote on the deal

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In the previous FBEL article on this topic, it was said that the vote of no confidence in Theresa May back in December was “all about engineering support in the country for a bad Article 50 deal”, and as the dust settles on it, the exact same can be said about the Commons vote, held on 15th January, rejecting that very Article 50 deal. Back in December, we were expecting a crisis that would make a bad deal palatable to that portion of an electorate who otherwise would not expect their MP to vote for it (and, as it turned out, 118 Tory MPs did not). The crisis, or so it seemed at the time, did not come out of the Tory party’s lacklustre and late assault upon Theresa May’s leadership – and in retrospect, not completely. However, it may be argued that the incident did constitute the commencement of a number of psychological manipulations which will compound with each other to intensify into the desired major crisis. Today was the  actual rejection of the Article 50 deal in a vote in the Commons (with the dreaded second referendum proponents celebrating a victory), tomorrow will be the risk of Corbyn causing a fall of government, and endangering any prospect of Brexit entirely (as those all important Tory voters see things).

It was said, here at FBEL back in December, that we should “expect a vote on the Fake Brexit when the Government thinks that the people will accept it.” Well, the vote has now been had; the Tory executive lost it – and it went into the vote knowing it would lose. There’s no problem in these quarters in admitting that this outcome runs completely contrary to the expectation coming out of the analysis at FBEL, where it was reasoned that the British Government must have a Fake Brexit in order for the country to be governable: i.e. a situation where the majority who voted to leave in the referendum (amongst them the demographic that we termed “the tax revenue”) had become convinced that Britain had left the EU, although in reality, the country would still remain tied to it (and even more so). However, in the aftermath of what is supposed to have been a historic defeat, it becomes clear why the Tory executive has allowed such a sacrifice of image, and pushed its deal into a suicidal situation like a negligent parent leading with a pram to cross a busy road: because the bad deal has not gone away, and this vote is not the end of the story.

The Guardian live coverage following the events in the Commons reports that

Lord Mandelslon, the Labour pro-European, former cabinet minister and former European commission, has just told Sky News that he is now taking it for granted that article 50 will have to be extended.

What we might suppose is being implied here is that the supposed EU-exit date in March is to be quashed for a second referendum – although there might be less support for this where it is most significantly required; Corbyn’s position, which was on the record as early as September 2018 via the BBC, is that “the UK government would have to return to the EU negotiating table if Parliament rejects its Brexit deal”. Perhaps, then, the extension would be to create more time for the bad deal to be tweaked (and made saleable to that abovementioned crucial demographic). In any case, the talk in the Westminster bubble is certainly of Theresa May being awarded space, if not time, to manoeuvre – even from those who most vehemently opposed the deal:

The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said his party would be supporting Mrs May in Wednesday’s confidence vote.

He said: “We want to see the Conservative government continuing to deliver on Brexit.

“We never wanted a change of government, we wanted a change of policy back to what the prime minister promised in the manifesto she stood on, and the promises she made in subsequent speeches.”

Then there is the likes of the following, from the sorts who have been affecting opposition (in order, one must suspect, that the situation now arrived at would be sure to come along):

Former foreign secretary and leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson said it was a “bigger defeat than people have been expecting” – and it meant Mrs May’s deal was now “dead”.

But he said it gave the prime minister a “massive mandate to go back to Brussels” to negotiate a better deal, without the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.

With or without the “Northern Ireland backstop” (which may well turn out to have been a straw man all along), the Article 50 deal will be, by its nature, a bad one – but crucially, even those MPs who lately were notorious rebels will evidently sing the praises of some other, but no less dangerous arrangement. And the recipients of this music will be the constituents who must be kept subdued, stupefied and stultified by fakery.

That a bad deal is not dead, and not necessarily with the assistance of an extension to the Article 50 deadline, leaps out of the following reporting from the same BBC article quoted immediately (twice) above:

In her statement to MPs, Mrs May said she planned to return to the Commons next Monday with an alternative plan – if she survives the confidence vote.

She said she would explore any ideas from cross-party talks with the EU, but she remained committed to delivering on the result of the 2016 referendum.

And with the DUP backing her – as well as all of her biggest critics in the Tory party – it looks like May will survive the confidence vote tabled by Corbyn. The following is from the Guardian live reporting:

A source from the European Research Group, which is chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg and which represents Tory MPs pushing for a harder Brexit, says of course they will vote for Theresa May in the confidence motion – even though they were prominent in voting against the deal tonight.

The Guardian live thread ended its day’s coverage in this way:

The constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor thinks a no-deal Brexit is now more probable, and the DUP and Brexiters like Boris Johnson think the Commons decision will enable May to take a tougher line in talks with Brussels.

A no-deal Brexit is unthinkable for the British Government, because the UK must “leave” the EU with all of the strings attached (and bells and whistles too). However, any notion, coming out of this latest anxiety-building psychological manipulation, of a stronger negotiating hand, would be just the thing for deceiving a electorate desirous of relief from distress into believing that it is getting what it voted for.

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