The Calm Between The Storms

By Thomas Sherlock

Today has been dramatic to say the least.

Two secretaries of state have resigned. Two junior ministers have resigned. Several MPs have publicly declared their letters to the 1922 Committee, calling for a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Theresa May. The necessary 48 letters have not been received (yet).

Studying politics often means deriving a strange sense of enjoyment out of tumultuous days such as this, and it’s easy to see why. Twists and turns at all corners, sudden character developments-it’s the same reason TV series such as House of Cards and Bodyguard entertain. However unlike those shows, today might have very, very real consequences.

Theresa May is not going quietly into that political good night. She has said she will stay the course with her deal, using a somewhat painful cricket analogy to drive home the point. The message could not have been clearer-if a vote of no confidence is triggered, she will fight. If she wins, or one does not occur she remains short a Brexit Secretary and Work and Pensions Secretary. Crucially, no matter how hard her rhetoric the draft withdrawal agreement will in all likelihood not pass Parliament in the present climate. If it does not pass Parliament, Brexit would effectively be back at square one-with mere months to go. Of course May could seek to find a way to break the parliamentary deadlock; a general election is a potential option there with a view to changing the parliamentary arithmetic. For now May has put a second referendum off the table, but it could enable her to effectively bypass Parliament and go straight to the people for confirmation of her deal (and going straight to the people seemed to be the emphasis of her press conference speech today). In short-if Theresa May does maintain her position, difficult times are ahead and bold choices may be necessary.

That is assuming either a no confidence vote does not happen or she wins one. Indications from Westminster journalists and their sources are always difficult to read with certainty, but there is the distinct possibility one could happen and that she loses. What then? A weeks-long leadership contest, Brexit effectively stalled in doing so. That is without even beginning to get into the question of who would win, and what their agenda on Brexit would be.

In my opinion (with the huge disclaimer that comes with all political predictions), the most likely consequence of either of these scenarios is simple. No deal at all. To some, no deal is a risk they are willing to take. To others, it is a catastrophe in waiting. I will leave it up to readers to decide where they stand on it.

Amongst all this drama about Brexit, it is also worth remembering there are plenty of other political issues. It is my fear that the last two years have seen an alarming tendency for Brexit developments to overshadow every other political debate. Brexit is of course important-but sometimes seemingly little else gets real discussion.

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