Animal Farm, 2019

As predicted, May’s Pig is still resolutely a pig: all that’s changed is that it’s become even stickier from the frantic application of multiple layers of lipstick. Having been unceremoniously tipped out of its poke, the true horror of its oxymoronic insanity is evident to all, no matter which part of the midden they occupy in the Brexit Civil War.

So, in the absence a dereliction of common sense that’s exceptional, even by current standards (which is to say, it’s possible), May’s deal is going down – and by the full bacon sandwich. Update: it did, by 149 votes. Next…

So then…

It is possible that Corbyn and his sheep of the Fourth International, shorn of many moderates, will play silly buggers again with another no confidence vote, which would only slow things down a bit, and wouldn’t have a different outcome to last time. Here of course, the Gadarene swine of the ERG have already shot their bolt, they don’t get another shot at Farmer May for a year.

Which brings us to the stuff that matters: firstly, ruling out a No-deal Brexit, whether on 29 March, or at any other time. On being put forward, that will get carried, and handsomely, despite much squealing from the piggery.

By now, we’re into the niceties of games theory, as played out by all the occupants of the farmyard. The Gaderene will still agitate for the hardest possible separation: by this stage though, they are on a hiding to nothing and are probably due an early exit, either via the edge of the cliff or the abbatoir (where, of course, welfare standards are set by the EU).

Whatever happens next though simply cannot happen between now and 29 March. So Brexit will get kicked down the road, by any of several routes, as the carthorses of reason wake up, realise that serious stuff is going down, and start throwing their weight around, rather than just neighing plaintively from the stable.

The most likely immediate outcome is a request to the EU for a short delay in the process. But, given that Britain has failed to turn its homework in after nearly three years, the EU 27 won’t be keen to offer say, a three month extension: it would be entirely sensible for it to look for something around two years, conditional on a British commitment to substantive change in its approach, possibly with the farm under new management. And the only thing that Britain can really offer is to put May’s Pig out of its misery as humanely as possible and look to either:

  • A completely new deal, one that retains a full customs union with the EU (cue much more squealing from those Gadarene who haven’t yet thrown themselves off the cliff);
  • A second referendum.

If either of those is tabled, then the EU is likely to give a slightly grudging extension to the idea of a new deal, or a much more welcoming agreement to a second referendum.

There however, the idea of a new deal is pretty fatuous, given recent history – it just gives Britain time to cluck loudly for another couple of years and achieve sod all, except to strew feathers, fur and excrement around the yard: there is just too much division between the different political species for a coherent outcome to be achieved. There could be a general election along the way, which would, for the same reasons, make effectively no difference whatsoever.

With a second referendum on the table though, we’d immediately be into a full-on battle of information, disinformation, dark money and Russian trolling, in a campaign that will make anything we’ve yet seen look like a Sunday tea party. So be it: at least if Britain were to vote Leave after all the facts that have come to light, it would richly deserve its fate, and the rest of us could get on with legging it over the farm gate.

However…

The really sensible thing for the EU to do though, to create the greatest benefit to both sides (it’s not, and never has been, a win-win, but more of a lose-a-bit/lose-a-lot outcome) would be to refuse an extension that was intended to create a new agreement, because:

  • a no-deal exit has been ruled out;
  • there isn’t time to negotiate anything else;
  • nothing would change anyway.

At that point, the only thing that Britain can do is to unilaterally withdraw Article 50. Which leaves us as full EU members, internalising the conflict to England, but without the ticking clock of Article 50.

Europe can then lay in the popcorn, sit back and see what happens in the UK, as it goes through any and all combinations of a second referendum, one or more general elections and the potential break-up of the Union. Whatever else, there’s a degree of damage limitation, with the most likely outcome then being Britain remaining a full member of the EU.

In any case however, Britain takes part in the EU elections in May, which would happen before a second referendum could happen, where the voting patterns will likely be strongly indicative of the national moods right across the EU, but in Britain particularly. And that will heavily determine the nature of the factionalisation of British politics, something that’s only just beginning, and which will take time to work through: that’s our problem, not the EU’s.

But my money is now on the carthorses.

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