Some Brexiteers in the media and on the internet have been pretty confident that, assuming May’s deal is rejected by Parliament, a No Deal exit from the EU is going to happen, which is bringing them much cheer.
But I have bad news. If you think the government, and Whitehall, and the many Remainer MPs, and most of the media, and the various frothing-at-the-mouth Remain campaign groups are going to let a No Deal WTO exit just happen by default, think again. They’ll fight it tooth and nail. They’ll fight it to their last breath. They’ll do whatever they possibly can to destroy to do it, whether that be party, Parliament, or country.
Do you think that people who have dedicated their last few years of their life to stopping Brexit are just going to say, ‘Oh well, No Deal is happening, not to worry, let’s get on and do something useful with our lives?’ Do you think that people who live and breathe non-democratic, elitist statism will be happy that we’ve thrown off one of the bulwarks of non-democratic, elist statism and returned to sovereign rule?
One of the main rules of progressives is that you can bide your time with the changes that marked down for the future, but you must never, ever, let any past progressive victories be overturned. So for them the EU must not under any circumstances lose its grip. The EU is a key plank in the drive to transferring power from nations to unaccountable global institutions.
Lee Rotherham has written an excellent article at The Telegraph that points out the difficulties the Remainers and May-ites will have in preventing a No Deal exit. But while there is no doubt that it won’t be easy to stop it, that doesn’t mean that they won’t try. Nor does it mean that they can’t succeed if they put their combined minds to the task of doing so. There are always tricks that can be tried. They may not succeed, but every possible subterfuge will be tried. There is no guarantee that none of them will work.
Nor should it be assumed that no Theresa May-negotiated deal will ever get through Parliament. What’s we’ve seen so far of Project Fear will be small beer compared to what is going to be unleashed should her deal fail to get through Parliament. It was always obvious to anyone paying attention that Theresa May and her cronies, despite what they said, had not the slightest intention of ever pursuing a No Deal Brexit. (The EU knew that too.) It’s obvious now even to Michael Schumacher that she is terrified of it, and would rather nuke the country than let us leave the EU without a deal that locks us into the EU. Nor has the government or Whitehall prepared for a No Deal Brexit. (If they have they’re keeping very quiet about it.)
So in the event of her deal being voted down then apocalyptic predictions will be unleashed that will dwarf anything ever thrown at the public before. That will create intense pressure for there to be a second Parliamentary vote on a ‘revised’ deal. There’ll be a public outcry at the self-indulgent ‘rebels’ bringing the country to the brink of financial ruin, helpfully stoked by friendly-media, in particular the Daily Mail which has recently been taken over by a new Machiavellian Remain-supporting editor. Here’s an early taster from the Economist:
What to expect from a no-deal Brexit
The terrifying consequences if nothing is sorted
In that scenario you can expect a lot of cowardly Conservative MPs to change their mind and vote for the deal. They won’t be able to handle being one of the MPs responsible for the ‘destruction’ of the country. Expect a lot of Labour MPs to break ranks in that scenario too. In fact, there’s a fair possibility that Labour’s official policy will change, and they’ll support May’s ‘revised’ deal. In that scenario it gets through Parliament, and the sovereignty of the country dies.
What must be done to counter this is for Brexiteers to go on the counter-attack and talk up the advantages of a ‘Managed No Deal’ (as Fraser Nelson calls it), with a continued focus on the disaster that is May’s deal. You can’t just expect No Deal to happen — the argument needs to be won. The hysteria about No Deal will need to be tackled, and the public, or enough of the public, sold on the prospect. After all, it’s not like there won’t be a lot of problems if a No Deal Brexit happens in March, because of the inadequate preparation by the government. But the hyperbole and distortions will need to be neutralised. A transition period should ideally be agreed, but we have to prepare for the possibility that it may not.
The one thing it is not the time for is a lot of complacent Brexiteers to sit around smiling smugly saying, ‘We’re heading for a No Deal Brexit, let’s sit back and relax’. Because what’s coming is a tsunami of propaganda that’s going to sweep away anyone caught napping, because the other side is just getting started.
Update: I note that Dominic Raab explicitly avoided saying that he would vote against May’s deal when asked about it on BBC radio — he had the chance to say he supported a Managed No Deal, which is the only realistic alternative to May’s deal at this stage, but he decided to play Mr. Vague:
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme what he would do if he had to choose between May’s deal or no Brexit at all, Raab said: “Well, I don’t have to choose that. I’m sorry, I’m not going to give way to hypothetical scenarios. I’ll keep fighting for the best, most successful Brexit.” …
Asked about reports cabinet ministers were considering a negotiated no deal, asking the EU to give the country another year of transition and paying some money in return, Raab said: “I would certainly be up for making a best final offer and then considering no-deal deals like that but I think, in fairness, that’s not the course the prime minister has taken. I respect all of my cabinet colleagues, from those that campaigned remain to leave, and those in between.
“But the reality is the deal we’ve got on the table is … I think inevitably we will see parliament vote this deal down and then I think some of those other alternatives will need to come into play.”
Melanie Phillips also has similar thoughts to me:
And while the Brexiteers have been marching themselves up the hill and down again over Mrs May, they have allowed the view that no-deal would be a disaster to go unchallenged.
In fact, the only realistic way in which the UK will be able to leave the EU is through no-deal. Yet the majority in parliament – and possibly in the country – are so thoroughly spooked by no-deal they oppose it. But there are good, cogent, evidence-based arguments why no-deal would not be a disaster but would be entirely manageable.
The tariff hit from leaving the EU on WTO rules would not only be liveable-with but would in time become nugatory given the economic advantages to Britain of being able to make free-trade deals. Moreover, it is very much in the interests of the EU’s member states to do bilateral “side” deals with British organisations and institutions to minimise disruption when Brexit actually happens; indeed, such deals are being discussed even now to safeguard the City of London, for example.
The relative silence about this while Brexiteers fixate upon Mrs May is intolerable. That silence has itself become a powerful threat to Brexit. It is a matter of the utmost urgency that the public case for no-deal should now be made, and as loudly and thoroughly as possible.
And here’s a good defence of a No Deal Brexit from Julian Jessop, Chief Economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs:
Nonetheless, fears that ‘no deal’ would result in substantial disruption at ports (or Eurotunnel) are exaggerated. The key point is that they assume a significant proportion of lorries crossing the Channel would be subject straightaway to the same checks as those from non-EU countries. This is very unlikely, for three reasons.