“You have delighted us long enough,” said Mr. Bennet, speaking for all of us on the exhausted subject of Theresa May. We had hoped for closure before Christmas, since a Meaningful Vote on May’s Withdrawal Agreement had been promised and this was surely destined for a massive defeat. But the Prime Minister pulled the vote, and the discontented MPs went off for their seasonal delights to the strains of “Sheep may safely graze.” The grazing season over, MPs were given their vote, which resulted in a 230-vote defeat for May’s project. Was this a final blow? No, for May brought back the same deal with trifling changes of wording and the plan to discuss the Irish backstop further with the EU. The EU has no plans to discuss anything, seeing—rightly—that discussions with May are a waste of time, since her strategy is always to heap time upon time. She will remain in Downing Street and Chequers while the Commons advances its pet schemes. These include but are not confined to a second referendum, Norway/Canada options, a general election, a further vote of No Confidence, assorted amendments none of which is likely to reach fruition but which serve to advertise the talents of the movers. The oracles are dumb, or differ clamorously. What does the future hold?
We need guidance and get it from William Hague. His Tuesday column in the Daily Telegraph is always a clear marker to the future: his predictions never come to pass. Today his headline is “A second referendum would be a disaster, but it’s where we are heading.” That’s one we can cross off our list of threats to the realm. There will be no second referendum.
The growing expectation is that Britain is heading for No Deal. This is advocated by the longest head in the Conservative Party, John Redwood, whose Diary blog is required reading for those seriously interested in UK politics. He was lately knighted, having had to wait 23 years after he had the temerity to challenge John Major for the leadership of the party in 1995. The Establishment does not like challenges and quells them with its ultimate punishment, the withholding of a bauble. Redwood has now received the acknowledgment he has long deserved and is eloquent on the advantages of No Deal. The herd, at home and abroad (such as the IMF) insists that No Deal would be bad to disastrous. This is not believed by people generally, who reckon that No Deal is close to the Leave that they voted for. No Deal is likely: Macron thinks so. “The French, advised by good intelligence” (as they have been ever since Henry V) are spending large sums on getting the cross-Channel arrangements in order. I’ll put my money on Redwood and Macron.
[Image via HM Government [OGL 3 (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3)], via Wikimedia Commons]
Ralph Berry writes from England.