Another day and yet more confusion about the Brexit process. I have no inside track but I always thought that either the PMs agreement would get through or we’d reschedule the leaving date. It appears we are now entering either a short or long extension.  The bad news is that I think the number of possible/likely options has expanded again.

We now face four possibilities:

  • A deal is done with the other parties and we move towards some form of customs union approach, agreed with Labour. Frankly I see zero chance of this happening. The hard left frankly want the Conservatives to completely own Brexit and take us into a hard Brexit so they can ‘sweep up the pieces’ while the soft left and many centrist Labour MPs want another “Peoples” vote, which they won’t get. So these negotiations will get nowhere – if they had started a year ago, it might have been a different story but they are too late.
  • We postpone for much longer, perhaps upto a year. This is possible but I have my severe doubts. I think it’s a hard sell to the Conservative mainstream. My hunch is that a lengthy extension will make those already festering debates turn really very ugly. It also assumes that the EU will play ball, which I think is getting more and more of an ask by the day.
  • The Prime Minister might (fingers crossed) somehow manages to convince enough Labour MPs to break the line and back her. Clearly this is unlikely at the moment but if strategy 1 fails I think there is a reasonable chance it might force some Labour MPs to accept bitter reality. I still think there is a better than 30% chance this might get through.
  • A hard Brexit. I had thought this was most unlikely and it certainly doesn’t have the votes in Parliament. But I think there are more EU top tier types who think it might just be easier. I also think we might accidentally crash into a hard Brexit. Until last week I had put the chances of this at under 20% whereas I know think its closer to 30 or even 40%. Now I think a No Deal Brexit is still a bad idea largely because it won’t be quite the clean break the Hardliners think it will be. As even Kristian Niemitiz on the CapX website points out (HERE) we’ll still have to do a deal with the EU and negotiate new terms for trade moving forward. We’ll be back to square one. Groan. By the way Kristian’s new book “Socialism, the failed idea” is excellent. And if you don’t believe me read the even more excellent James Bloodworths review of the book HERE.
  • What everyone is dancing around is the reality that Labour is standing in the way of a deal – along with those hard liners on the Conservative Right. I personally think that all the other options including Labour’s supposed plan are just wish fulfilment. We either take the deal May has negotiated with Brussels or we crash out. All the other plans are just too complicated for this late stage in the negotiations. I happen to be a centre left(ish) Remainiac but I think that the current deal (based as it is on the PMs red lines) is not that far from what most sensible pragmatic centrist/centre-left Remainers think is possible. Christ its not even that far from what Labour wants. This opens up the real possibility that May could crowbar a real division in the Labour Party. She has been trying her hardest to no avail but I have a sense that the divisions might widen as the days turns to weeks and the very real possibility of a No deal creeps up on us..

Sticking with the dreaded B word, DWS have an interesting chart out this week. They’ve looked at investment spending and compared the numbers with our peers across the channel. Adjusted for inflation, British investments in machinery and equipment have been shrinking by a 5.4% annualized rate since the referendum, down from a growth rate of 7% before. Other European countries in the meanwhile keep accelerating, in the case of Italy catching up for the drop during the crisis. As today’s investments help determine tomorrow’s jobs, production potential and labour income that does not bode well for the UK in the years to come.” If I were a smart, empathetic, intuitive Brexit hardliner (know any) I’d say ” Look what’s killing us is the uncertainty. If we have a Hard Brexit it will be painful, yes. But we’ll get past the chronic uncertainty and we can start planning for the future. Pain now, gain later.”

One last parting observation on the dreaded Brexit subject. There is a growing – horrible – possibility that we might have to fight the Euro Elections. I think this would be an utter disaster of epic proportions and would simply polarise the debate even more. But of course all the parties are gearing up for the possibility of a contest.

So, I’ve started receiving emails about the elections from various parties in my neck of the woods, as they try and work out who might stand. Groan.

Much the most amusing/terrifying was from the South east region of the Liberal Democrats who have clearly nailed their colours to the identity politics mast. There’s been a string of emails from potential candidates but they all have to take place within the confines of the diversity rulings. The details of which are below.

I leave it to your own conclusions as to how obsessed we are becoming about diversity and inclusion. I make no comment beyond the observation that Anthony Hook looks quite a good bet,

“ To help achieve this representation in our MEPs, the Party agreed to take positive action in this ballot. The information was published with the application forms, so all applicants were aware of the diversity adjustments before they applied. The adjustments for the South East Euro region are listed below. …..

  1. Gender balance in the top two positions in the list, with a woman in position
  2. At least two candidates in positions 3-8 are women.
  3. At least 2 candidates in positions 1-6 are BAME
  4. At least 1 candidate in positions 1-5 is LGBT+
  5. At least 1 candidate in positions 1-4 is disabled”