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No Deal would be the best option for Theresa May

I agree with Ross Clark of the Spectator who says, “John Bercow is right to block a third vote on May’s deal”. I have no idea why the Speaker has suddenly decided he cares about Erskine May after all. I doubt the reason for his change of heart is a good one, but he is right to say that repeatedly bringing the same question to the House after it has been rejected violates the letter and spirit of the rules. The EU’s fondness for playing the same trick when it came to referendums was one of the things that first turned me against it.

(By the way, the Wikipedia entry for Erskine May the person rather than the book is currently rather amusing:

Thomas Erskine May, 1st Baron Farnborough, KCB, PC (8 February 1815 – 17 May 1886) was a British constitutional theorist. This derived from his career at the House of Commons.

Erskine May much like Lord Voldermort (Tom Riddle) concealed part of his soul into a book this was later found by the current Speaker of The House Commons John Bercow who upon opening the book was taken back to the past to observe both Theresa Mays twice failing ‘Meaningful Votes’ Bercow received the message and realised it was Theresa May all along who opened The Chamber of Lies, though this time it wasn’t follow the spiders, it was follow democracy.

Not done by me, but I like the style of this unknown Wikipedia editor.)

It seems that the effect of this decision by the Speaker is to make it harder for May to kick the can down the road. Deprived of the option for more back and forth over the ill-named Meaningful Votes her remaining options are: to ask the EU for an extension of the withdrawal period (which would only be granted if something significant like a general election or another referendum were put in place), to revoke Article 50, to do some blatant procedural trick like proroguing Parliament and immediately recalling it – basically pressing the “restart” button on the House of Commons – or to throw up her hands, say “**** it, I tried”, and to go for No Deal.

As far as I can see the best option for her personally, never mind the country, is No Deal.

Whatever she does will make many people angry. The question is which set of people’s anger would it be the best strategy for her to avoid?

If she revokes Article 50 the fact of doing it will delight Remainers. But the sort of people for whom that matters most now are also the sort of people who are committed anti-Tories. They won’t be delighted with her – nor with her party. They will judiciously register their opinion that at least the sorry cow did the right thing in the end and then vote Labour or Lib Dem or for the Independent Group if it stands.

The same goes in diluted form if she goes for more extensions and delaying tactics. They may frustrate Brexit in the end, or result in Brexit in name only, but the sort of people who will be happy about that won’t thank Theresa May or switch to voting Tory. But the sort of people who will be utterly infuriated by either the revocation of Article 50 or the death of Brexit by a thousand cuts very much will blame Theresa May and very much will switch from voting Tory. A substantial majority of Conservative voters are pro-Leave. Members of local Conservative Parties are overwhelmingly pro-Leave. Potential Labour-to-Conservative swing voters are also very much pro-Leave and are swing voters because of that very issue.

I do not know if May has any last scraps of ambition to continue as an MP. I would guess that all that matters to her now is her legacy. But whether she sticks around for the voters of Maidenhead or not, if she fails to deliver Brexit her legacy will be the destruction of the Conservative party. Its most committed supporters are exactly the group who care about Brexit most. If she does deliver it these people will still not think much of her but they will judiciously register their opinion that at least the sorry cow did the right thing in the end and then continue to vote Conservative.

I have not so far discussed how the predicted awful effects of No Deal would affect Theresa May’s calculations of her own interests. I have said here that failure to deliver Brexit would destroy the Conservative Party. Many of the comments I read on the internet take a completely different view. They say that the economic harm inflicted by No Deal would be the thing that destroys the Tories for a generation. This prospect is seen as the silver lining to the dark cloud of No Deal by many Remainers. But would it? I mean, even if we accept for purposes of argument that the effect of No Deal would be to mess up the economy, a thing I very much doubt, would the economic mess destroy the Tories? I do not see that as likely. When Labour mess up the economy the usual effect is to make people vote Conservative to repair the damage. In any case no one can accuse Theresa May personally of having wanted a No Deal. Like most Conservative MPs (as opposed to party members), she has possibly gone beyond the call of duty in avoiding one.

31 comments to No Deal would be the best option for Theresa May

  • Lee Moore

    She’s none too bright and every single one of her advisers is a committed Remainer. So there’s no plan to actually Leave. (Her “deal” is just Remaining without UK Council of Ministers votes, minus 39 billion, and minus the right to leave, ever.)

    Whatever happens it won’t be a deliberate No Deal. If No Deal happens it’ll be an accident. Fortunately, May might even be incompetent enough to achieve that.

  • Paul Marks

    Prime Minister Theresa May has never and does not support the independence of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

    The policy of Mrs May is to give the ILLUSION of independence (via her “Brexit” – no one voted for “Brexit”) whilst keeping the British people under the rule of the European Union.

    Having understood this – it is clear that “no deal” (i.e. INDEPENDENCE) is NOT the “best option for Theresa May” as it is exactly what she has spent years trying to PREVENT.

    One might as well suggest ways of National Socialist Germany winning World War II (such as taking Gibraltar in 1940) to Admiral Canaris (the head of German military intelligence) – a man who did NOT want National Socialist Germany to win World War II.

    Or suggest ways for the West to win World War II to “Kim” Philby – a man who did NOT want the West to win World War II.

    Prime Minister Theresa May is a supporter (a “friend”) of the European Union – under a false mask of patriotism, Mrs May wants Britain to LOSE this conflict with the European Union.

    It really is that horribly simple.

  • Natalie, thanks for catching the Erskine May / Voldemort quote before wikipedia’s editors made the entry resemble May’s barony – “the second-shortest-lived peerage in British history”. (That said, I have slightly more sympathy with their deleting it than I usually do when they delete stuff.)

    With great caution, I will venture the opinion that it is on the whole good news that Theresa May now seems boxed in.

    I doubt the reason for his change of heart is a good one

    Having seen Bercow cheat repeatedly on this subject, I share your scepticism, though I likewise agree the ruling is in itself right.

    I will offer a guess as to his motive FWIW: Bercow can see no-deal approaching because of the very short remaining time-frame, and can see that the longer Theresa continues attempting to get her deal through, the closer we would get before any alternative way of halting Brexit could be tried. Days could elapse in ‘negotiations’ before before May presented a fudge of words on the Backstop which would again be ruled no legal change whatever. By blocking a third vote, Bercow hopes to create the time to effect alternative ways of blocking Brexit (they already only have 12 days).

    I agree that for the Tories, Brexitting and trusting that the ERG have the economics of it right is the only safe course politically, but believing that requires much sacrifice of ego from May and her hardcore supporters.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Paul Marks, you may be right as to her motivations – although I find it more likely that in her rather confused mind she sees herself as sincerely trying to deliver Brexit of a sort in obedience to the referendum vote.

    But even if she is deliberately scheming to remain in the EU, does she have a comparable devotion to her cause to that shown by Canaris and Philby to their causes?

  • Whether intentionally or not, Bercow has in theory given May the option to use the strategy of the weak negotiating position – “You must make a substantive change or I cannot even put it to the vote, cher Barnier.” Having a low opinion of May’s negotiating skill and (if possible) a still lower one of the EU’s good faith, agenda and, especially, ability to decide anything in 12 days, I doubt that will matter.

  • Fraser Orr

    If they are seriously thinking of giving the EU 40 billion quid, they could fix the “the economy will go to hell” by instead just putting that money in a fund so that anyone who lost their job with their employer filing a form saying “redundant because of Brexit” in the next two years can get 10,000 quid as a “Brexit offset bonus”, or maybe a bit less because everyone would quit their job if it was that much. Or maybe just give it back as a refund to everyone, which is probably 2,500 quid per family. I think nearly everyone would shut up about the whole thing if they got their money back.

    40 billion quid fixes a lot of problems, and I am always in favor of the government giving people their money back.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Let me add my support for Natalie’s argument that May’s motivations do not really matter. (As opposed to Paul’s Jesuitic concern about motivations.)

    My support comes from Hayekian principle: very few political leaders have enough brainpower to achieve even half of their goals, and Theresa May is not one of them.

    I would not even trust myself to achieve my goals if i were to become a political leader, even in a country much smaller than the UK; and if i do not trust myself, why should i trust anybody else??
    (I do trust people who have a solid record of executive achievement, of course. That is why Scott Walker was my favorite candidate in 2016.)

  • Mr Ecks

    Treason May is the EU’s Globo-“elite” creature–don’t doubt it.

    Bercow has done this because the silly mental case cow would waste time the scum need for their vile extension. That is all. The poisonous little bastard is also the EU’s creature. However–time is running out on them. The will try a Statutory Instrument. If it can be stopped or delayed –good. If Orban –the most likely too–vetoes any extension then God Bless Hungary. But otherwise bringing the govt down and letting us voters get at the bastards and Corbyn’s treasonous crew of garbage is the best chance for a real Brexit.

    Vote UKIP –even if only this one time. We will get a real Brexit and the coup plotters foreign and domestic -will get stuffed. As for the rest –well you can always vote them out next time. UKIP are democrats. Corbyn’s Marxists brazenly are contemptuous of voters as are–increasingly–BluLabour.

  • Eric

    No Deal may be the best for her politically, but she seems personally invested in scuppering Brexit. If I had to put money down today on what will happen I’d put it all on extensions and delays and foot dragging for as long as possible, with an eye to revoking article 50 upon finding the right lever to change public opinion. Another round of Project Fear? An EU threat to take away vacations in Spain? There must be something.

  • Itellyounothing

    No matter how it works out, one traitor following the rules to scupper another traitor is satisfying to see.

    Now if only we could get some actual freedom loving mildly patriotic folk into power…..

  • I would love to see her announce the cessation of negotiations and her expectation that No Deal will occur on March 29th absent a move by the EU. They would then presumably offer some kind of exit mechanism from the backstop, perhaps after some unconscionably long delay, and May would go down in history as a hero, or else No Deal will happen anyway and likewise (albeit for a smaller group of fans).

  • Mr Ecks

    I don’t think they have the balls for revoking A50. They may have 1- a veto put on any extension by EU members 2–EU conditions that are unacceptable put on–2/4 years 2nd votes etc. Biggest danger is DUP/ERG accepting a few months delay–which gives the EU bastards more plotting time.

    Otherwise –if can’t be talked out to No deal then EG/DUP bring her down and a GE –giving us a chance to get at the remainiac MP bastards.

  • Kevin B

    Here is the result of the General Election Vote for the constituency of Maidenhead.

    Mr. T. Robinson (UKIP) 30,000 votes
    Mr. N. Farage (BREXIT Party) 20,000 votes
    Mr. A. Nother (Leave means Leave Party) 10,000 votes
    Mr. Ecks (Leave means F**king Leave you treasonous C*NT Party 5,000 votes
    Mr. R. Loony (Raving Loony) 3,000 votes
    Ms. F. Bitch (Labour) 1,000 votes
    Ms. T. May (Conservative) Her old man and the dog votes.

    Ok, it’s absolute loony fantasy, but if things keep going the way they are with our Honourable members, something like this is one possibility. And most of the other possibilities don’t bear thinking about.

  • Paul Marks

    Good point Natalie.

    Admiral Canaris was willing to accept the danger of torture and death – for the goal of defeating National Socialist Germany (which he regarded as an enemy of the true spirit of Germany).

    You may well be right Natalie – in thinking that Mrs May is NOT willing to risk much to deliver for her masters in the European Union. We shall have to see.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Seriously, is there actually any credible evidence that “no deal” would “wreck” the economy?

    At the moment, as involved as I am in the financial sector, the main threat is “no decision”, once investors know the score then things will pick up again.

    I don’t see “no deal” as being any worse, not from an investment perspective.

  • Lloyd Martin Hendaye

    “Sorry old cows” aside, cross-puddle observers find it odd that Brexiteers accept flatulent Statists’ self-dealing consensus to effect that flipping off Brussels would crash Britain’s global economy for a generation.

    This recalls distraught Rat losers’ take the morning of November 9, 2016. Asked “when markets might recover” from Trump’s illegal, immoral, and fattening win, carousel commentator Paul Krugman sighed, “A first pass is– never.” Subsequent bull moves lasted 14 months through January 2018, with trend-neutral interim fluctuations since.

    So– buck up, old chaps! Once rid of Draghi’s central banking kleptarchs, Merrie England can take up alot of slack. In that regard, resetting compasses to north from Mecca would be apropos.

  • Pat

    Firstly all the prophesies of doom made during the referendum campaign have proved false.
    But why did remain not being up the seized up ports, the running out of drinking water and all the other plagues that have been forecast since?
    Do we think that Cameron, Osborne and the Civil Service weren’t looking for ways to encourage us to vote remain?
    Or do we think the later forecasts were invented like the first ones?
    As to May she’s a front for whoever is advising her. Give her senior Civil Servants who favour Brexit (some hope) and she’d do much better. She has always depended on advisors, doesn’t appear to have an idea of her own.
    She’s not nasty. She’s weak and unstable.

  • Paul Marks

    Runcie Balspone – there is only one reason that “no deal” would damage the economy, the SABOTAGE that the Civil Service and certain “Remainer” Big Business groups would deliberatly engage in – in order to try and discredit independence.

    Other than the above, no longer having the financial burden of the E.U. and no longer being subjected to their endless regulations would be a GOOD thing for the economy.

    As for trade – the European Union has a trade SURPLUS of some 90 Billion Pounds a year with the United Kingdom. Not something they would wish to lose.

  • Paul Marks

    “It would not be deliberate sabotage – it would just be the government taking steps that would harm the economy without them intending to harm it”.

    The effect is the same – the Civil Service will suggest X, Y, Z damaging actions (and so will the CBI and so on), whether they intend damage, is a moot point.

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    From the west side of the pond, it seems that the shortest route to a Brexit would be for the ERG to move a non-confidence motion in the government. The Cons party cannot, by its rules have a re-run of the 1922 Committee affair (although methinks the outcome would be different today. But a non-confidence vote directed at Treasonous May, would prorogue the House, automatically. And there would be nothing to stop the Cons party from offering up a new-formed group to be the government on April 2nd.

    (What? You think that ANY group professing to want to govern would step forward on April the first?? Even the Grauniad could think of a joke out of that!)

    There does not HAVE to be an election following a non-confidence vote. The results of the ‘Meaningful Votes’ make it clear that the House does NOT have any confidence in the results of Oily Robbins (non-) efforts at negotiation. And it would create the result that the people voted for, 2 years ago.

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    Forgot to note that a successful non-confidence vote would pretty effectively stop any attempts at an extension by way of a Statutory Instrument, and of course, any attempts at tabling a revised ‘Agreement’.

  • Lee Moore

    the shortest route to a Brexit would be for the ERG to move a non-confidence motion in the government

    Bercow wouldn’t call it. Only the official Opposition has a right to insist on a No Confidence motion being called, and even then I’m not sure Bercow couldnt pull the same “we’ve already had a vote on this, so sorry” trick.

    There are only two ways to stop the extension, neither of which are going to happem. A House of Lords filibuster of the SI, or a kindly Polish or Italian PM saying “we’re not playing.”

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    I was not aware that a non-confidence motion “has to” come from the Opposition. My (flakey) memory seems to recall instances where that was not the case, but I could be very wrong about that. And I may be thinking of Canadian or Australian instances (where things are very different).

    It also occurs to me that the Cons members are not legally bound by the party conventions respecting the defenestration of a Prime Minister (the 1922 Committee route). In law, the members of the party together *are* the government, acting through *their* representative, the PM. Surely they have the power to change that.

    Cromwell’s ‘Ye have sat too long for any good that you have been doing lately’ comes to mind.

    Hhhmm. You raise an interesting point that Corbyn does not want to bring a non-confidence motion at this point in time.
    Probably you are correct about that!

    However, there are surely other ways: an amendment to a Motion, of any sort, which expressed non-confidence might trap Bercow. He cannot deny the members of the House the right to present amendments, and his powers to deny any particular amendment are circumscribed, and themselves open to over-rule *by the House*.
    Like May, Bercow is not covering himself with glory in this affair.

  • Lee Moore

    I was not aware that a non-confidence motion “has to” come from the Opposition

    It doesn’t. It can come from anybody. But the Speaker is only obliged to call it for a vote if it comes from the Opposition. Otherwise it’s at his discretion. (Though with Bercow, he could ditch any convention if it amused him to do so.)

    In law, the members of the party together *are* the government, acting through *their* representative, the PM.

    No, MPs are just MPs. In law, it’s the Queen’s government and the Prime Minister is the Queen’s first minister and it is the Queen who hires or dismisses the PM. Of course, by convention, the Queen hires a PM if her advisers advise her that the prospective PM can command a majority in the House of Commons. The PM doesn’t even have to be in the HoC – though it’s over a century since one wasn’t.

    Though if it’s not clear who can command a majority, the Queen might appoint someone to find out. So..

    Surely they have the power to change that.

    …the mechanism is to vote a motion of no confidence in the government in the House of Commons. Typically that means the PM will advise the Queen either to (a) appoint somebody else or (b) dissolve Parliament and have a new election.

    In this situation, since the 1922 Committee has shot its bolt until next Christmas, May can only be removed by losing a vote of confidence in the HoC, and then either resigning or being dismissed by the Queen. Ths is why, if she actually wanted to deliver Brexit on 29 March 2019 she has total power, absent an early demise, to ensure that it happens. There’s literally nothing anyone could do about it. Even if she lost a vote of confidence, it would take at least a month before there was a new PM after an election.

  • Tusk has spoken. It would seem that the EU will only offer May’s requested extension if parliament agrees the deal next week.

    Has Bercow shot the remoaners in the foot? He has ruled that parliament cannot even vote on, let alone agree, the deal – unless there is substantive change, which is what May wants the extra time to negotiate.

    Bercow, never mind the others, is so evidently willing to bend rules that I fear we would be rash to rely on this, but it has its comic side – and I have not yet despaired of my poem being prescient. 🙂

  • Mr Ed

    There’s literally nothing anyone could do about it. Even if she lost a vote of confidence, it would take at least a month before there was a new PM after an election.

    No so, there is one last card, massively unlikely*, impeachment, removing Mrs May as Prime Minister, which would take as long as the Commons and Lords would wish, were they so minded.

    * we’re talking ‘as likely as the FFC winning round Mr Ecks and myself to her side, on everything.’.

  • Lee Moore

    She could avoid impeachment (in the short term, which is good enough) by advising the Queen to prorogue Parliament until, oh say, 30 March.

    If Brexit doesn’t happen, she’ll never be able to put the blame on anyone but herself.

  • Mr Ecks

    If Jizz supports Treason May in her deal he announces the following–

    1–He is double fucking his millions of Brexit voters.
    2-He is swallowing all he said about her shite BRINO and is happy to appear in the “We killed Brexit” photo next to Treason May.
    3-He is happy to keep the Tories in until 2022
    4-All the bad news from the EU kicking us under Treason’s BRINO has his signature on it as well.

    He can call for a vote of no confidence and if the ERG/DUP support it May is fucked.

    Either way –voting down May’s turd or calling No Conf –he saves Brexit and gets back–possibly–millions of votes.He destroys May and ensures a GE–which he might win. His one and only chance.

    On balance he would–I think –call a vote.

  • Eric

    So I have a question about the queen’s role in all of this. For example, Theresa May is PM because she’s been chosen by the queen as first minister, but by convention this happens if she (May) commands a majority in parliament and whatnot. Everybody assumes the queen is going to follow convention so they just mentally skip that part and go right to “Theresa May is PM because she commands the majority”.

    How bad would things have to get before the queen decided to go against one of these conventions and get involved in a non-ceremonial way? Is that even possible as a practical matter?

  • Mr Ed


    The Queen is about as much use as President Kallinin in the USSR, who, at Stalin’s ‘request’, signed his own wife’s arrest warrant to send her to the camps, ‘weeping with grief and powerlessness‘ as one writer put it.

    The most recent precedent is from Australia and the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in the 1970s. The Govenor-General being the Queen of Australia’s ‘lieutenant’. That was at root over money raising by the Federal government and the inability of the government to pass Bills.

    I doubt that the Queen would do anything, she was a young girl during the Abdication crisis and has seen her uncle driven from the throne by politicians.

    Here there is no alternative figure to offer the PM’s office to, there was in Australia. Oddly enough the IG have not grown to a 320-strong group of MPs, which could pass a no confodence motion in May’s government. The Queen’s only reserve power is to make people feel embarrassed.