No-deal brexit

Inside the no-deal reasonable worst case scenario

I’ve been passed the government’s ‘reasonable worst case scenario planning assumptions to support civil contingencies planning for the end of the transition period’. The 34-page document describes itself as a ‘challenging manifestation of the risk in question’ but ‘not an extreme or absolute worst case scenario’. A government source confirmed the official sensitive document, which was written in September, still underpins contingency planning. It is ‘not a forecast’ but a ‘reasonable’ assessment of what could happen to us if, in the next day or so, talks collapse on a free trade agreement with the European Union and the negotiations can’t be rescued. Also, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

A guide to the different sorts of chaos looming over Westminster

What is going to happen next week in parliament? Most anti-no-deal rebels see it as their last opportunity to block Britain leaving the European Union without a deal, but what they haven’t yet agreed on is how best to do it. There are a number of likely scenarios, some of which intertwine with one another, and to show how chaotic the next few days are likely to be, I’ve drawn up a flowchart of how things might pan out (you can click on the image to view a larger version of the chaos): The most likely parliamentary route is through an emergency debate under Standing Order 24, which the rebels

Might there be a Brexit deal after all?

Parliament has not yet returned from its summer break but we are already in a bitter constitutional battle, with the Prime Minister pitted against the Speaker of the House of Commons and the opposition parties. Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament is a deliberate attempt to raise the stakes. He wants to deny time to any effort by MPs to pass a law forcing him to request a Brexit extension. His message to them: bring me down or let me get on with Brexit. When parliament returns on Tuesday for a two-week session, MPs will have to decide how to respond to Johnson’s move. Opposition MPs had previously agreed to

Matthew Parris

History will soon judge this fraught time

Good stories have a dénouement. The Act III moment when all is revealed and the narrative comes in to land is critical to most plays and novels. And so we want it to be with Brexit. Who will turn out to have been right, and who wrong? Whose bluff will have been called, and to whom will go the secret pleasures of ‘I told you so’? Real life usually disappoints, however. No single event settles matters, and both sides of a dispute tend to find ways of maintaining that they were right all along, and if outcomes confound them then this was somebody else’s fault. Thus, in case it should

Johnson confirms he will prorogue parliament

Downing Street has just confirmed that the Prime Minister will be asking the Queen to prorogue parliament ahead of a new Queen’s Speech on 14 October. In a letter sent to MPs this morning, Boris Johnson claims that this is a move designed to put a fresh domestic programme before Parliament, writing: ‘I therefore intend to bring forward a new bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit. There will be a significant Brexit legislative programme to get through but that should be no excuse for a lack of ambition!’ The focus in the letter and in briefings from No.10 is on domestic policy,

Europe’s politicians should be terrified of a no-deal Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to use ‘all tactics available’ to block a no-deal Brexit. The Labour leader is meeting MPs today to try work out how to do just that. But with no deal back in the headlines, are we having the wrong discussion about what it would mean for Britain to leave the EU without an agreement? Most of the focus around a no-deal Brexit has been on the economic pain that will be suffered by various parties, but particularly the UK. Little thought has been given, however, to the political pain. To politicians seeking re-election (for either themselves or their party), small issues can become greatly magnified. Whenever

Boris’s nightmare is that the EU accepts his Brexit offer

As was to be expected, the EU’s reaction to Boris Johnson’s offer of revisiting the Withdrawal Agreement if the backstop is removed has been to reject it out of hand. But there are still 68 days to go before the UK is due to leave the EU and if the EU’s resolve wavers between now and then, Boris’s high-risk strategy could come back to haunt him. Reading Martin Howe’s evisceration of the Withdrawal Agreement, one is reminded of Jerome K Jerome’s visit to the doctor in Three Men in a Boat. Rather than explaining that he was suffering from the symptoms of pretty much every disease known to mankind, J

Stop thinking Merkel will save us, Dominic Cummings warns

Is Boris Johnson more likely to get a Brexit deal after his meetings with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron? The Prime Minister today tried to dampen hopes, saying that while the ‘mood music’ had been ‘very good’ during his meetings with the two leaders this week, it was still going to be hard to persuade the EU to give way. Speaking during a visit to Devon, Johnson said: ‘This is not going to be a cinch, this is not going to be easy. We will have to work very hard to get this thing done.’ Much of the week has been spent trying to work out what various comments and

To get a deal Boris needs to show (or fake) some humility

There were many Brexiteers who were urging Boris Johnson to travel to Washington before he went anywhere else, to underline that Britain’s most important relationship is with the United States. And if the EU felt nervous seeing the UK cosy up to America, so much the better. But the Prime Minister’s first visit was to Berlin, and then to Paris, to see if a Brexit deal can be negotiated and the needless disruption of a no-deal exit avoided. It seems, at present, a rather long shot. Theresa May famously said little in one-to-one meetings with European leaders. Boris Johnson can be a lot more forthright, and should speak with candour

Katy Balls

It’s time to talk about what no deal really means

The main reason Conservative MPs prefer Boris Johnson’s government to Theresa May’s is because of its clarity of message. The government now has direction and purpose. Briefings from Tory HQ, delivered even to those MPs who have managed to get away on holiday, have gone from intermittent and inconsistent to daily and succinct. The message is simple: Brexit will be delivered by 31 October, crime is being tackled and the NHS properly funded. We can expect to hear these messages, or variants thereof, for the next few months. But there is one area where the government seems less sure of itself: what will happen in the event of no deal?

Brace yourself for no deal

I AM up on the far north-west coast of Scotland, where the weather is changing every five minutes under vast skies and huge seascapes. Go to the beach and look left, and it’s a sparkling Mediterranean scene, bright white sand and opalescent turquoise water, what you might call Rossini weather. Swivel your gaze right, and vast dark clouds tower up, obliterating mountain ranges — Bruckner weather. Me? Like Isabel Hardman, of this parish, I just walk straight into the sea and swim. The choppy water is certainly cold but the whole experience is elating, and good for clearing the head. *** WHICH is, of course, what we need this summer. August

Why Britain, like Iceland, will thrive outside the EU

I have no doubt that Britain will thrive after leaving the EU, whether or not it leaves with a deal. I say this as a former prime minister of a country, Iceland, which left the EU before it had even joined — and which went on to prosper in a way which would have been impossible had its application for membership been carried through to conclusion. I think Britain can learn from Iceland’s experience and find a way to avoid any major disruption when 31 October comes round. In late 2008 Iceland suffered especially harshly from the international financial crisis. The country’s banking system experienced a near-total collapse. The value

France says no deal now the most likely Brexit outcome. But why now?

Why would French government officials brief that they think it most likely Britain will leave the European Union without a deal? Boris Johnson hasn’t even made it as far as his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, and is only just being welcomed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. So why brief that out now, before the leaders have even spoken? The comments appear to be part of the briefing war between European leaders and the British government, with neither side wanting to take the blame for any fallout from a no-deal Brexit. As I explained yesterday, the EU wants to paint Johnson as being set on taking Britain out without

No. 10 hits back in the backstop blame game

The stand-off between Downing Street and the European Union over Boris Johnson’s latest proposal for the backstop boils down to a disagreement over whether the British government really cares about getting a Brexit deal at all. When Donald Tusk rejected Johnson’s plan today, he all but accused him of being set on a no-deal exit, saying: ‘The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found. Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.’ A Downing Street spokesperson hit back at this, insisting that

Jeremy Corbyn’s no-deal plan is unusually smart politics

On the surface, Jeremy Corbyn’s pitch to become caretaker prime minister of a government of national unity after overthrowing Boris Johnson looks like a messy failure. The Liberal Democrats have said they won’t back him, two of the Tories who he wrote to have backed away too, and the Independent Group for Change (which he didn’t write to) have said this evening that they will ‘not support nor facilitate any government led by Jeremy Corbyn’. Instead, everyone is talking about the possibility of a government led by Ken Clarke. The former Tory chancellor today said he wouldn’t object to taking over if it was ‘the only way’ to stop a

Why Philip Hammond could just be making things easier for Boris Johnson

Is Philip Hammond’s intervention today really a problem for Boris Johnson? The former Chancellor comment piece in the Times declares that he’s kept quiet for all of three weeks, but that ‘now it is time’ to speak out and warn the new Prime Minister that he risks betraying the British people if he goes for a no-deal Brexit. There has been a sufficiently energetic response from Number 10 sources to suggest that they are rattled by Hammond. But those sources insist that everyone in Westminster had already priced in such a complaint, and that the public will see Hammond and his acolytes bickering over process and trying to stop Brexit,

Best of three

With Boris Johnson finally in No. 10 we now have a prime minister who says he is committed to Britain leaving the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal. According to popular wisdom, the only way of avoiding the latter is for the government to negotiate a modified version of Theresa May’s deal, perhaps with the removal of the hated Irish backstop, or at least with a more easily digestible version. But these are not the only two options. As Boris hinted during his leadership campaign, only to be unfairly cut down, there is a third way. May’s deal is based on a withdrawal agreement (WA) negotiated under Article

The Brexit headache is just beginning

Pretty much everyone I meet says they want all the Brexit uncertainty to end, one way or another. But that is now impossible: even agreement – which seems remote – on some version of the PM’s deal to take us out of the EU would only be a beginning of a sort, not an end, with so much left to decide on what kind of future relationship we need and deserve with the EU. And if there is no backing from MPs for the Withdrawal Agreement that is the divorce from the EU, then we are into a series of choices whose consequences would be to lead to various forms

Would the EU reject an Article 50 extension request?

Any extension to the Article 50 process would have to be unanimously agreed by the EU 27. This has led to some speculation that there might be a veto. But this strikes me as highly unlikely. One of the EU’s priorities in this negotiation has been to try and avoid blame, which explains Michel Barnier’s cack handed social media diplomacy. Rejecting a UK request to extend Article 50 would turn that approach on its head. It is also worth remembering that the EU is far from perfectly prepared for a no deal exit—what to do about the Irish border being the most glaring example of this—and if the EU forced

May offers MPs a vote to prevent no-deal Brexit

Faced with the prospect of defeat on an amendment to stop no deal, Theresa May has attempted to stave off that rebellion by promising MPs a vote to stop a no-deal Brexit. After a long and fiery Cabinet (James has the details here), the Prime Minister addressed the House to update MPs on her government’s progress in the negotiations. She said that Geoffrey Cox was working with Brussels to win changes to the backstop and reconfirmed her promise to hold a meaningful vote on her deal by 12 March. However, should her deal be rejected by the House for a second time, May promised to hold a vote by 13