Six Highly Unlikely Brexit Outcomes – One of Which Must Happen This Week
As the clock keeps ticking, there's a hat-trick of Brexit votes in Parliament this week.
Photo: Jake Lewis
The sun will rise. The seasons will change. Netflix will air documentaries about Nazis. Some things in life are dead certs. For everything else, there's Brexit.
Brexit, insofar as science understands it, is a kind of quantum field that sucks in actions and spews out probabilities. Nothing is ever nailed-on. Things happen, sure, but nothing tangible ever happens.
We’re two years and nine months on, farther down the road than any of us could have imagined back then, yet we’re in a sci-fi moment where there are no visible outcomes that make sense, are realistic, or supported, or vaguely feasible. Time itself is the only axis that seems to remain constant – and as of today, we’ve got 13 working days till the end.
As of today, all the options anyone can think of look very unlikely. But so far as anyone can tell, they are all the options. So – if we assume that time itself doesn’t go into reverse – one of them is about to happen. Which one will it be?
MAY IS DEPOSED FOR A BREXITEER
Sub-plot emerging. A few whispers in the weekend press suggested that the Brexiteers have decided they will back May’s deal. But on one condition: that she goes immediately after it. The problem with the Backstop is that Brexiteers fear it will result in being locked permanently into the EU. If May – technically a Remainer – agrees to go, they can get a Brexiteer PM in. Boris? Dominic Raab?
Voting for May’s deal an imperfect solution, but many now consider this a sacrifice worth making. After all, this is just the divorce phase. After the 29th of March, we’d move on to the New Relationship.
May gets to salvage her historical legacy. The Tory party's hard-right European Research Group (ERG) get what they want. Except that this is all impossible pie-in-the-sky. You can’t assure you’d get a Leaver PM: you can’t rig the leadership election, and don’t forget that more than half of Tory MPs are Remainers too.
Odds: 12 - 1
THE EU SIMPLY CONCEDES
This week is all about three votes. The first is on Tuesday – when MPs will be asked to consider May’s Draft Agreement deal yet again. The past six weeks were meant to be about her going to Brussels to seek "more assurances" on the Backstop, which would then allow Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ERG to fall in line and pass her deal. But would you believe – nothing happened?
Could Michel Barnier just chuck Theresa some red meat? Well, he can’t offer a few fine words that aren’t in the Treaty, because they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on; the ERG won’t wear it. But he also can’t offer a guarantee the EU won’t use it in the Treaty, because that would be to say that the Backstop didn’t matter in the first place – and there’s a lot of pride at stake in saying it does. Finally, the EU simply have no incentive to offer May a fresh start: after the PM announced she’d hold a vote on extending Article 50, they no longer have to fear No Deal, and the longer this whole farrago lasts, the more likely they can soften or eliminate Brexit.
Odds: 42 - 1
THE VOTE IS DOWNGRADED TO MEANINGLESS
Get ready for more meaninglessness. Six weeks ago, no one outside of Parliament really knew the distinction between a "meaningful vote" and a not-meaningful one. But it turns out Parliament can hold purely advisory votes too – and that is what Theresa May has done on each occasion, deploying the old bait-and-switch in order to drag the process on. Since Christmas, three votes have been downgraded from meaningful to advisory, and Downing Street has already refused to rule out another downgrade on this week's votes.
What’s stopping it? Only the ironclad, unavoidable fact that she is legally required to hold a meaningful vote by the 29th of March. She has a duty in law, and if she doesn’t hold the vote this week then it may already be too late: she may have accidentally driven the country off an economic cliff.
Odds: 11 - 1
WE ROLL IT OVER
Compared to previous votes, this week is unique – it is the first time that Parliament will officially be given the chance to kick the can down the road. To extend Article 50.
Obviously, this is now extremely likely. But it’s also extremely unlikely.
Firstly – any extension on our part will need to be approved by the EU.
Secondly- the EU Parliament will have to ratify it. That takes time.
Thirdly – if we go for an extension, there is absolutely no guarantee that any of our problems will have changed in three or six months. We’ll be straight back to where we are now, except – and people always forget this – by EU law, we’re only allowed one extension. Once we’ve used up that credit, the can-kicking ends, and then we really are against the wall.
Fourthly – we will have to fight EU Parliamentary elections in June. Which will potentially spell the end of Labour and Tory, when The Brexit Party (already existing and already helmed by Farage) and some new Remainiac Party nab 80 percent of the vote, along the new post-left-right fault-lines of British politics. Whatever their manoeuvrings over Brexit, would the Big Two parties risk signing their own death warrants like that?
Fifthly – hundreds of MPs in Leave seats will now have to explain to their constituents why they signed up to The Abject Surrender, as all right-wing media will instantly dub it.
Can you see now why even this most mild and bureaucratic of courses is, in point of fact, set inside a flaming ring of fire, set inside a room made of knives, ringed by a moat of purest FUCK?
Odds: 28 - 1
The second of the three votes – on Wednesday – will be to decide whether Parliament should just go for No Deal. In the Commons, there are fewer than a hundred MPs who’d vote for No Deal.
Paradoxically, this outcome is also very likely. Firstly, it is what is legally mandated to happen if no one can decide on a deal. And we definitely can’t (see above).
Secondly, the alternative is that Parliament would have to draft a bill to reverse Article 50. That bill would then not only have to clear the Commons twice, it would have to make it through the Lords twice too. That’s a lot of legwork. A lot of speechifying. Parliament could speed it up, true, but what about Brexiteers trying to slow it down? If Christopher Chope can talk out a bill on FGM, why can’t Bill Cash and his pals take it in turns to bog this one down for a mere ten days?
Odds: Subtracting the odds of likeliness from unlikeliness, let’s say it balances around 25 - 1.
EVERYONE SIGNS UP FOR MAY’S DEAL
There are unlikely things, and then there is everyone signing up for May’s Draft Agreement. Nothing has changed: letter-for-letter, this is the same dog’s breakfast that went down to the worst government defeat in 300 years just weeks ago. However, the PM’s people would like point to the fact that as all other options are so hopelessly unlikely – see above – this will be the last thing left on the table.
Odds: 10000000000000 - 1. So, given the Infinite Improbability Field orbiting Planet Brexit, this is precisely what will happen.