Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What happens now?

This morning the UK parliament voted on Theresa may's Brexit deal - and as expected voted it down in the biggest defeat for a UK government in the democratic era. So what happens now? The problem is that no-one can tell. The UK has passed into political singularity, and no-one knows what might come out the other side.

There will be a formal confidence vote tomorrow, which it seems likely May will win - no-one wants her shit Brexit deal, but her supporters don't want an election either. But MPs are known to lie, and its not inconceivable that a few backbenchers grumpy about the outcome will decide to roll her. Meanwhile, May says her plan is to consult her party and its DUP (fanatic Northern Irish protestant) supporters and take their views back to parliament, but this goes straight back to her core problem: her own party doesn't know what it wants. Or rather, it is divided into two increasingly hostile factions who want incompatible things: a full-on hard Brexit to show Britain's greatness and superiority to Johnny Foreigner (complete with soundtrack of "Rule Britannia" as the clown car hurtles off the White Cliffs of Dover and into the sea), versus cancelling the whole thing and trying to go back to the status quo ante. But she's legally required to come up with something for parliament to vote on, within three days.

Whatever may comes up with, Parliament gets to vote on it, and amend it. But its unclear whether there's a majority there for anything either. It seems there's a majority against hard Brexit, but the UK parliament voting against that doesn't mean its not going to happen: its the default option, and the only way to prevent it is to agree something else with the EU. Who, having painstakingly reached consensus on the deal parliament just voted down, are unlikely to agree anything more generous. Ideas that there is a "better deal" if the UK just Speaks Slowly in A Very Loud Voice (or more likely, whines piteously enough) are simply fantasies. Likewise, the idea that they can join Norway or Lichtenstein in the EFA or Efta are fantasies, because the existing parties to those deals won't agree to it.

As for a "people's vote", that would require someone to decide what the options actually are. So, the same problem, on a different stage. Plus they'd probably fuck it up again by not making the decision legally binding (or as legally binding as they could, given that its a referendum on international relations).

What happens now? Nobody knows. But what has been exposed by this is the utter dysfunction of its political system, and the utter cowardliness of its major political parties in refusing to take a formal position for which they can be held electorally accountable on the most salient political issue in a century. Whatever happens, UK voters should do something about that. sadly, the UK's unfair electoral system is likely to prevent them from doing anything of the sort, and so these dysfunctional political inbreds will remain in power.