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    • Here's Charlie Stross with a recap of how things stand now, and what's possibly coming down the line.

      Fun. Unless you live in the UK. Or the EU. Or wouldn't like to see increased likelihood of global economic downturn. Come to think of it, not fun for anybody, except those very well versed in the practice of disaster capitalism.

    • It is an unholy mess, to be sure. As I write this, sitting on a comfy chair just outside London, I can't help wonder how we got to this point.

      The unpalatable truth - and this may make some people unhappy - is that the constant plotting of "Remainer" MP's has given the new PM very little choice but to prorogue parliament.

      Why do I say this?

      Well, it is clear that the plotting Remainers are not seeking to avoid a no-deal Brexit. They are seeking to avoid a Brexit of any kind. The problem with this is that it is directly counter to a result of a democratic referendum. A PM wishing to honour the referendum has little choice but to neutralise these elements, which is the objective of the suspension of parliament.

      This is neither a vote for or against leaving the EU on my part - it is a pragmatic assessment of why the PM has taken such drastic action.

      The behaviour of UK's members of parliament has, overall, been poor. But what do you expect from people who are initiated into politics to follow the party line over, above and often in direct confrontation with the communities that elected them? Given this, are we surprised that, when faced with a truly national issue, few can respond appropriately?

      What the PM is doing is not pretty, and he may pay a high professional price for taking this course. However, to break the deadlock between the UK and EU on the terms of withdrawal there has to be an open and meaningful negotiation. Having a cadre of malcontents muttering in the wings is neither helpful, nor honourable.

    • A PM wishing to honour the referendum has little choice but to neutralise these elements, which is the objective of the suspension of parliament.

      Dunno, but this sounds uncomfortably close to some Pentagon logic I recall from the Vietnam war: in order to save democracy it's necessary to destroy it.

    • Time for open and meaningful negotiation was during the past three years. Not now. And that negotiation has produced an agreement that all sides involved agreed to and signed on it. Is welshing on that agreement by the UK government helpful or honourable? I'd rather say that those trying to stop the government from backing out of its obligations to be acting in a honourable manner. Especially if that backing out is bound to result in a *massive* damage to the country (a fact that governments own reports confirm).

    • In all of this the British ruling class has come across as deeply unserious, living in a fairy land, far away from the harsh realities of what they were doing. An example from just today: Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union tweeted this thread today:

      This. After *three years* of negotiations, and mere weeks before the deadline (after a 6 month extension, mind you) he warns that the industry will be disrupted and so we need to start the talks. A Secretary whose one job was to do just that. I mean, really?

      For fun, check out the replies to his tweets.

    • For fun, check out the replies to his tweets.

      I'm surprised by how polite these replies are, considering the severity of the issue.

      If someone representing me suddenly came to life after three years and posted something that basically boils down to "I suck at my job. Sorry not sorry. KTHXBYE!", I probably would have harsher things to say than "thick as mince".

    • Have our elected representatives behaved poorly? Absolutely. The management of Brexit under the premiership of Theresa May was negligent, if not downright disingenuous. Three years of soft soap, culminating in a withdrawal agreement that was impossible to endorse. However, I have to correct your suggestion that, by not following the withdrawal agreement, the UK government is "welshing on that agreement". Theresa May negotiated the terms, but these were always subject to parliamentary consensus, which has failed on three occasions.

      It is rarely referred to - surprisingly - but Theresa May agreed the final withdrawal agreement terms without reference to her secretary of state for Brexit. He was blindsided completely. Sound like a stich up by a PM to hinder the process? It does to me.

      So, yes, our politicians have, over the past 3 years, behaved very poorly.

      However, the new PM seems to at least be seriously looking for a withdrawal deal that can be endorsed. Recent concessionary statements by Merkel and Macron indicate that the negotiating strategy to leave "no deal" open, could actually lead to "a deal".

      The problem with the plotting Remainers is that their fig leaves are dropping. They all claim to be willing to honour the referendum result to leave the EU, but will only countenance doing so with a deal. But - the only deal offered so far is the withdrawal terms negotiated by Theresa May, and parliament has already voted this down three times.

      By trying to remove the threat of "no deal", but with no consensus proposal as to what deal they would accept, the Remainer contingent are ensuring that the terms the EU offer on withdrawal will not improve. Since those terms are not supported by parliament, the only conclusion one can draw is that the actual Remainer intentions are not leaving with a deal, but not leaving at all.

      In this context, and noting that the current withdrawal agreement is not binding on parliament, the charge of undemocratic behaviour can only really be levelled at the Remainers.

      As regards proroguing of parliament, the anger here is "confected". In 1997 John Major used the valid constitutional tool of suspending parliament just before the general election in order to keep an investigation over government corruption (the "cash for questions" debacle) out of the public eye until after that election. There was no hysteria then, no confected anger, so there does not deserve to be any now.

      In short - three years of Theresa May were wholly ineffective, to the point of negligence. Whatever one might say of the current PM, he is at least looking to find a consensus withdrawal deal.

    • However, the new PM seems to at least be seriously looking for a withdrawal deal that can be endorsed. Recent concessionary statements by Merkel and Macron indicate that the negotiating strategy to leave "no deal" open, could actually lead to "a deal".

      Or it could just lead to "no deal", depending on how unattractive that option really is versus having to renegotiate everything and to deal with the political fallout on their side, for the rest of the EU.

      Prisoner's dilemma games like these are hard to do right.

    • Agreed. To call "Prisoner Dilemma" scenarios right you have to have a good understanding of the other side's (i.e. the EU) motivation and philosophy. As it stands, I am not as sure as I would like that they won't refuse to negotiate further and provoke a no-deal just out of stubborn political dogma.

    • So, current agreement was non-binding on parliament, and can be ignored? Well, remember what else was non-binding on parliament? Freaking Brexit referendum! For which there would surely not be support any more.

      But, then there's this:

      BTW, this Jacob guy (for US-ians watching in amusement) stands to gain a substantial amount of money if the UK crashes out of EU without a deal. He has a company that bet against the British pound. He's also a member of the UK government.

    • Well, the May Withdrawal Agreement was subject to parliament approval, so whichever way you look at it, there is no obligation to comply until it is ratified as such. May only agreed the terms she was prepared to lay before the house - it was not an agreement to be bound by the terms per se. It has been voted down three times, so it has to be concluded that it will not be ratified in its current form.

      As for Rees-Moggs's comments, I didn't hear the whole interview, so cannot tell whether there is any editing out of context. He is surely correct, though, to note that you cannot keep having referendum after referendum just because one side (whichever one) is unhappy with the result.

      Given this, he had no reason to add that he did want a second referendum "because people would vote to stop it". This was unnecessary and compromised his credibility. His first point was sufficient.

    • Thinking that the EU is refusing further negotiation out of stubborn political dogma (again, after three years of the UK just dragging its heels and basically refusing to engage) may be a grave miscalculation. It is in vital EU interest to play hardball with the UK, because if they prove to be pushover, tomorrow they might be in a similar situation with some other member state. So, yeah, the UK might be made an example of how it really is a bad idea to leave the EU.

    • Exactly. Over here in mainland Europe, there's very little public talk about how "we" should give in to UK's demands because that would be better for everyone, but instead statements along the lines of the UK already having the best deal they can get, and that it would be near impossible to re-open talks and come to some other result.

      In terms of the aforementioned Prisoner's Dilemma, as I see it we have the following cases:


      A - Cooperate/Cooperate: UK exits with the deal they already have.

      B - Cooperate/Defect: UK refuses current deal, EU gives in

      C - Defect/Cooperate: UK revokes article 50 and stays in the EU

      D - Defect/Defect: No deal

      Just as in the canonical Prisoner's Dilemma, the UK considers B to be better than A (B>A), while the EU obviously favors C over A (C>A). There doesn't seem to be much controversy about that, either.

      Apparently, though, the UK believes that they can use the threat of "no deal" as leverage, which means that they consider D>C (for themselves) but not D>B (for the EU) to be the case. Basically, it seems as if they don't see the situation as a PD scenario at all.

    • I think @jpop made a good point - the UK has, under Theresa May, spent 3 years kicking the can down the road. Whether they were waiting for a miracle to deliver them from the burden of having to actually do something, who knows. A more pro-active government 3 years ago would have seen issues ironed out over a (relatively) calm, longer period.

      The problem the UK has with the Prisoner Dilemma is that the "deal it already has" is not one they can accept. The fact that this deal may oblige the UK to stay in the customs union until the EU consents for it to leave, makes this so.

      In fact, if we go back to November 2018, when the withdrawal agreement terms were first released, Mr Macron publicly referred to how France would use the trap of a perpetual customs union to force the UK into an acceptable agreement on fishing rights.

      The real problem is that we have to seek a revised withdrawal agreement because we cannot accept being trapped in a customs union with no legal way to exit. I am not being funny here; the UK cannot "leave" the EU by agreeing to be tethered with no departure rights. It is a fundamental non-starter, as both our government under Theresa May and the EU fully realise.

      A "no deal" outcome is a bad one, yes, and I hope we can avoid it. But is it as bad as being chained to the EU customs union until they say we can leave? Probably not.

      Still, at least we can say Boris Johnson is a principled politician. By signalling he is prepared to call a snap election soon, and thus opening up the prospect of being the shortest-serving prime minister in the UK's history, he cannot be accused of introspection.

      Or can he??????

      I am sure the possible reactions are endless.

    • Wow, fascinating analysis from a mathematical mind.

      It blows all the circuits in my brain to try and understand the players and machinations behind Brexit. Sometimes I think it’s hopeless because I’m American, but I can’t seem to look away.

      It’s hard for me to understand how, now that the public is more fully informed, a second referendum is a bad idea.

    • Does this mean a second referendum is becoming likely?

      Not in the near term. The parliament will likely pass some sort of anti-no-deal law, which will be totally meaningless but might be sufficient to reset the deadline and allow for new elections. However if current polling data is accurate, Johnson may retake the majority and the rescind the anti-no-deal law and proceed to crash out anyway, which is clearly what he wants. I think there may be growing sentiment among the EU citizens that no more extensions should be given, but the elite is rightly concerned about the impact of no deal on the European economy. Italy and Germany are especially vulnerable at the moment.