Brexit: A Hostage to Fortune

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

“Insanity,” according to conventional wisdom, “is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome.” Britain’s prime minister is coming dangerously close to fulfilling this charge. The Times of London reports “contingency planning for a snap election” this autumn, to save Theresa May’s job and her Brexit proposal after being effectively snubbed by Brussels.

Mrs. May continues to extol the benefits of Chequers, her party’s program for future relations with the European Union once Britain exits. She’s persisting even though both Leavers and Remainers trashed its half-in/half-out provisions. Only when her EU counterparts reiterated that its provisions were unacceptable, has she contemplated — perhaps — a Chequers redo.

Rumors are swirling around Downing Street that, in the face of factions at home and recalcitrance abroad, the Prime Minister will appeal to voters to strengthen her mandate. It would be a “Hail Mary pass” to unite Tories behind her Brexit strategy and convince Brussels that Britain means business.

Haven’t we seen this brainstorm before?

Mrs. May squandered a Parliamentary majority, and broad popular support, when she decided to call an election for June 2017 to buttress the Government’s Brexit momentum. She miscalculated badly. A manifesto emphasizing the Conservatives’ commitment to social programs, at the expense of rallying behind Brexit, was a damp squib.

Instead, Tories lost seats and were reduced to minority status, kept in power by the support of right-wing Northern Irish MPs. The opposition Labor party was the sole beneficiary, heretofore dismissed as unelectable under its Marxist-inspired leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Wasn’t it Marx who opined that history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce?

Whatever electoral exigencies tempted the Tories into an election last year are, in any event, utterly lacking in 2018. Under the heading “Election folly,” the London Sun editorializes it would “give the impression of a Government in chaos” and “cost Britain valuable negotiating time.”

Meanwhile the grassroots organization Conservative Home surmises it is only a ploy to force recalcitrant “soft-Brexit” Tories into line. In this iteration, Mrs. May will go to the party conference next week, Chequers wrapped in the Union Jack, give a “Rule Britannia defence of it,” to be “followed by its rapid junking afterwards.”

Brexiteers — who adhere to the axiom that “no deal is better than a bad deal” — have plans aplenty, putting the lie to the charge that they criticize Chequers without an alternative way forward.

The Institute of Economic Affairs this week published one such option, which is understood to enjoy support from Boris Johnson and David Davis, two ex-Cabinet ministers who resigned in protest over Chequers. The IEA blueprint “recommends a Canada-style deal,” the Times reports, “using technology, trusted trader schemes and a separate Anglo-Irish trade treaty on goods to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the republic.”

“Canada +++,” as this Brexit-in-embryo is known — based on Canada’s trade agreement with the EU, with several specific modifications adapted for the U.K. — is widely believed to be the Prime Minister’s second choice after Chequers.

Mrs. May’s Europhile MPs are not enamored with it but they will likely bow to the inevitable, given the election threat hanging over their heads and the all-too-real possibility of Mr. Corbyn’s “reds” in No.10. Labor’s leadership is already promising to renationalize utilities and tax revenue-rich companies for “social” investment. Company bosses may determine to take their chances with any sort of deal Conservatives broker over heavy-handed Labor economic intervention.

Didn’t I mention repetitions and farce? Labor has come out in favor of another referendum to give “the people” final word on whatever the Government is able to stitch-up: Chequers, Canada Plus, “deal-yet-to-be-agreed,” or no deal.

Parliament is set to vote on the final package anyway — no doubt in response to the Supreme Court ruling about its prerogatives following the first referendum. Now there is the possibility of yet an additional hurdle for Brexit (on top of approval from Brussels and member countries). It has become a hostage to fortune.

The New York Sun

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