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Brexit Late Extra: Avoiding ‘No Deal’

, March 15, 2019, 0 Comments

After four stunning Brexit votes so far this week in Parliament ‘No Deal’ is now definitely ruled out. This is not yet legally the case, but the Government dare not initiate or accept new legislation to make it so. So, what next?brexit-no-deal

It is some time since Bloomberg Graphics published their chart on membership of various European organisations, but it seems especially helpful now. Both Mrs May and Mr Corbyn want to be outside the blue line (cake) but economically-speaking inside (eating it). Mrs May’s motivation is to unite the Tory Party while limiting the economic damage, thereby securing her place in history.

In contrast, Mr Corbyn is not concerned about economic damage or party unity, but the chance to build a Marxist state free from interfering European ‘ordoliberals’. Mr Corbyn has at least accepted that the UK should be inside the red line (Customs Union) while Mrs May’s deal would keep it outside on a basis yet to be resolved. Nearly 3 years on from the Referendum, neither of them seem to have much idea on the most important aspect of Brexit: what will happen after the transition period. This is also the most difficult aspect and it seems both leaders are out of their depth and yet also unwilling to listen to those who are versed in the legal, commercial and logistical near-impossibility of abruptly disentangling the UK from the EU after 46 years of membership. No wonder all the business organisations are so outraged: it is a matter of life and death for many of their member firms!brexit-no-deal

Unlike Mrs May and Mr Corbyn, other EU leaders are very clear where they want the UK to be: inside both the red (Customs Union) and grey (EEA) lines and contributing fully for the privilege. This has the virtues of realism and practicality. Some leaders, especially in Northern Europe, may also hope that the UK stays inside the blue line too, while others may deem that more trouble than it is worth. The frenetic debates currently underway in the House of Commons are finally close to confronting which of these lines, the UK should be inside or outside of. These debates should surely have taken place immediately after the shock Referendum result or, even better, during the campaign. If logic were to prevail, the next logical step would be to withdraw the Article 50 Notice and for Parliament to agree either to accept Mrs May’s deal after all, or a ‘softer’ version and put it up against Remain in a new referendum. In fact, Mrs May must be tempted to pre-empt further delay and put her deal to a popular vote, which if passed would indeed pave the way for negotiations to limit the economic damage. That would make her even less popular in her own Party but it would certainly put Mr Corbyn on the spot.

More likely is that Mrs May will try yet again to bludgeon her deal through next week in the hope that the European Research Group (ERG who are a group but are not European and do not carry out research) and the DUP will clutch at this straw. However, the genie of Party indiscipline is out of the bottle and although the DUP and most of the ERG will back her, some diehards will not and Tory Remainers must be feeling emboldened. At the time of writing, there is talk of holding a series of indicative votes on cumulatively softer options: the Customs Union, the Single Market, the EEA or Common Market 2.0 (aka Norway plus). There is a good chance all could get through, albeit quite narrowly by the end. The Tories would be badly split but Labour under the healing influence of Deputy Leader Watson should hang together with very few rebels.

The rest of the EU leaders, despite having ruled out any further negotiations, would surely be very receptive to any proposal that is softer than Mrs May’s deal and grant an extension to Article 50. Moreover, it would avoid the need for a new referendum. Philip Hammond has been quietly canvassing this approach for some time and the cross-party Letwin-Cooper combo are planning to bring the idea to the vote. It seems Mr Corbyn is now jumping on the bandwagon. A final attraction could be that it would avoid the tricky matter of holding European Parliamentary elections in the UK.

Accordingly, the ‘worst’ or hardest case is looking to be Mrs May’s deal with extra time agreed with the EU to introduce the enabling legislation. The most likely outcome is something close to Common Market 2.0 including important add-ons of associate membership of various EU agencies. There is even the possibility that MPs will get so carried away in reaching consensus that the UK remains in the EU with or without a new referendum. This will all come as a relief to businesses large and small, domestic and multinational. They may take time to have the confidence to invest and hire but they will surely do so in due course.

As expected, the pound has been quick to rise in response, but traders were content over the last few days to take profits at levels much above $1.32. More evidence will be required over the next few days. A stronger pound currently means that the FTSE weakens, but that should change if Parliament can put an end to the increasingly damaging uncertainty of the last three years.

At what seems like a pivotal moment it is important to remember Yogi Berra’s immortal ‘’ it ain’t over till it’s over’ or, indeed, the more ‘cultured’ operatic reference “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”. Mrs May is the opposite of fat but as the FT’s George Parker wrote today following her latest humiliations: ‘’Is May losing her way to victory?”. Perhaps Peter Brookes may have been premature in his savage satirical comparison  with Manchester United’s improbable win in Paris.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of MarketExpress – India’s first Global Analysis & Sharing Platform or the organization(s) that the author represents in his personal capacity.

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