My ambitious goal is to write something everyone can agree on, by offering analysis and not advocacy. You judge.
Things to Consider…
These go unremarked but should probably be shaping the argument.
- UK does not need a trading agreement to increase trade with any particular country. Trade is made by markets of buyers and sellers not regulations. UK has increased trade with America despite no trading agreement. Germany sells about 10 times what UK sells to China despite both Germany and UK being in the EU. Thus, a Brexiteer vision of a global trading Britain is deliverable with or without Brexit.
- Trade deals only really make sense with countries with similar standards and median income levels, otherwise jobs flow out or, in the EU model, people flow in; or both. So deals with America, Australia, Canada and Japan bring more obvious benefits than agreements with low wage economies like China and India. Arguably this undermines the Brixiteer argument that most global growth occurs outside Europe. This is true but the growth is concentrated in countries like China and India precisely because they are low wage economies. Ironically, a UK-China trade deal would take jobs away from the very communities that voted for Brexit, manufacturing, and give opportunity to Remain leaning activities like insurance and banking.
- Around 80% of Remainers and 80% of Leavers say they still think they made the right choice. There is very little evidence of a shift in either direction.
- 25 of the most Leave and 25 of the most Remain voting constituencies returned Labour MPs. The Labour party have managed this skilfully. The idea their fudge will come apart is wrong because as the opposition they never have to choose. They have been inventive at creating new reasons for voting against the governments Brexit offering.
- Tory voters do not like Chequers and it is likely further EU demands will make them like it even less. The data on this is clear.
The Health of Parties.
Both parties have problems and are in danger of ‘splitting’. The difference is that the Labour Party machine is vibrant, active and of course large. So Labour party rebels, whether individual or collective, are picking a fight with a powerful electoral asset. Furthermore, the Labour Party has a position, agreed by unions and the membership, on when and how MPs should vote on the Brexit deal. All these factors raise the price of rebellion for Labour MPs so there will be fewer of them.
The Tory party machine is a worthless shell. Few members, poor voter data, disillusioned party workers who were by passed in the last leadership election. The main danger for Tories in a General Election is that Tory voters will simply stay at home. Faced with this dismal electoral prospect Tory MPs are more inclined to take risks.
(Labour will likely get more of their voters to the polls whereas the Tories will struggle. Thus polls probably flatter the Tories.)
It remains the case there are more routes to a No Deal divorce than to a Deal based divorce.
The factors above suggest there are more Tory MPs prepared to keep voting down Brexit deals than there are Labour rebels MPs prepared to break ranks and vote for the relatively softer Brexit that PM seems to be offering.
A “never ending Brexit” in which Brexit will dominate the Election in 2022 will further swell Tory rebel ranks. Under no deal, some of them hope the pain which follows no deal, can be managed and by 2022 forgotten. They also hope some of their Brexit vision will have been delivered. They expect, Prime Minister May will be gone and served her purpose as the ‘bad bank’ on which all can be blamed. This maybe fanciful but underpins some of the thinking in the ERG.
The EU’s position has been remarkably consistent. There seems to be little chance they will offer either a fixed time period for a UK wide back stop, or as at one time hoped by UK, disregard Ireland in the interests of a deal. The best UK PM May can hope for is an ambiguous form of words she can sell to a sceptical party.
Thus, the middle way seems to have disappeared, if it was ever there. The two scenarios are a No Deal exit with eventually some mitigating deals covering the essentials, but only after a few months of visible pain for the UK; or a never ending Brexit that core Tory voters regard as no Brexit at all. The logic of this analysis suggests No Deal is a bit more probable than a never ending Brexit.
Somewhere, there may also be another referendum which would certainly undermine the political class as having failed but this would hurt the Tories much more than Labour.
The common thread behind all scenarios is significantly increased chance of a Corbyn Government. Disillusion at either a never ending Brexit or chaos from No Deal will hurt the Tories in a General Election.