Autumn of Chaos

Boris Johnson is off to see the Queen to become her 14th (!) Prime Minister, but where might he be taking the country this autumn?  We try to work through the various Brexit scenarios, from a renegotiated Withdrawal Agreement to a crash no-deal exit. Can the backstop be changed? What is a 'standstill' arrangement? Will Macron force the issue? Plus we explore whether an early election or a second referendum can really provide a way out of the mess. Something's got to give - what will it be? With Helen Thompson, Catherine Barnard and Chris Bickerton.


Talking Points: 


Can you change the backstop?

  • Deep changes seem unlikely, though maybe some changes around the edges would make it more sellable.
  • If the DUP won’t swallow it, will Johnson have to essentially sacrifice Northern Ireland to get a deal?
  • But cutting out the DUP presents a problem for parliamentary arithmetics. 
  • The things that Johnson wants to discuss are in the withdrawal agreement. Europe is not open to talking about these things. 


What is GATT Article 24 5b?

  • This is the idea that you could have a “quick and dirty” free trade agreement ready to go on the 31 Oct. 
  • The trouble is that the law gets in the way: the EU has to agree with it.
  • From the EU perspective, any agreement will require that the UK addresses citizens rights, money, and the backstop.
  • The idea that there’s some kind of standstill option is a unicorn.


There’s a change of leadership in the EU as well. Does it make any difference?

  • The instability in German politics deserves more attention.
  • The Franco-German relationship is in a worse place than it was in March.
  • If the German position is weakened, this could strengthen Macron and the harder line.


When will the moment of truth come?

  • The sequencing here is incredibly complex.
  • At some point, Johnson’s government will have to make a choice. Will it be over an election? Over no deal?
  • A confidence vote isn’t a last resort for Tory remainers, but it’s very close to it.
  • We also need to think more about the legal realities of a no deal Brexit. 


Mentioned in this Episode:


Further Learning:


And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

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