Unfortunately, I've stopped writing these weekly previews. I just find it difficult to balance my full-time job and writing on a Monday morning. However, I felt I had to write a preview here this week as my last update, back in November in the run up to the initial but delayed Meaningful Vote, laid out the options available to Theresa May. They are still as relevant today as they were then.
It was already clear that she would lose any vote based on her deal. I was already trying to look ahead to where she could pivot to and I suggested she had to move towards a softer Brexit that would help procure her Labour votes;
“It will be almost impossible to convince the DUP MPs to vote for it with the current plan. She will therefore probably try and squeeze the less fervent Brexiteer and Remainer MPs who will worry about losing the support of their local committees and the Conservative Party.
I think a better approach would be to go for the softest possible Brexit that has a Single Market and Customs Union element. It could get the DUP back onside as it may be possible to avoid a backstop as well as pulling in support from a number of Labour MPs and potentially even the wider Labour Party.”
I made one major miscalculation in the above analysis. I incorrectly assumed the Conservative membership and local organizations would row in behind May and put pressure on her own MPs to back her. However, analysis from ConservativeHome and YouGov, as well as Tweets and editorials from Conservative MPs.
This wasn’t the case when the vote finally came and there were over 100 rebel MPs. The majority of these could be labelled Brexiteers, though she also had a few “soft Brexit” or “No Brexit” rebels.
The big question now is does Theresa May believe she can survive a No Deal Brexit? The answer to this has a major impact on where I believe the next week and few months will go.
In the immediate aftermath of her crushing defeat last week, Theresa My indicated that she would open cross party talks to find the best way forward. However, once she refused Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-requisite of taking No Deal off the table, they were bound to fail. While members of her team have met with a few influential Labour MPs like Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn, Corbyn’s blanket ban on meeting with here has mostly succeeded.
As of Monday morning, the latest reports indicate there May still believes she can get some minor concessions from Europe and then use the clock to chip away at her own Conservative rebels.
There have been several ministers privately brief journalists that they would quit in the event of a No Deal Brexit outcome but as of today, only Business Minister Richard Harrington has stated clearly, he would quit if this were to unfold. Furthermore, a Sky poll over the weekend suggested that No Deal Brexit is the public’s favoured option of 8 possible choices. Theresa May must still ultimately believe that her MPs won’t break away or vote against her in any further future Vote of No Confidence. The roaring support she got in the No Confidence vote last week actually suggests this is true for a few more weeks at the very least.
I believe there are still ways to get a Brexit deal through parliament, though I am less confident that this can happen before March 29th. Nick Boles’ Norway Option could be the most likely option, as it would be very difficult for Labour MPs to vote against the party whip IF Jeremy Corbyn supported it (of the 71 MPs publicly calling for a People’s Vote, I think up to half could be convinced).
The SNP MPs could also get behind it to inflict damage on the government while still publicly calling for a second independence referendum as it isn’t quite as good (in its view) as EU membership.
If May wants to survive a while longer and avoid a No Deal Brexit, she needs to be seen to be listening to her membership by trying to push harder on more concessions and hope that, “against her will”, power is taken away from her and that parliament force through a soft Brexit deal that obliterates at least one of her previous red lines.
I just don’t know if this is possible at this late juncture in proceedings. It is also a very precarious plan that requires numerous players to act exactly as she has assumed they will.
However, she could still surprise us all this afternoon and declare she is moving towards a Customs Union and is ruling out a No Deal Brexit. It would enrage her Brexiteer MPs and possibly destroy the confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP. It would totally blindside Labour and leave their frontbench with very little option but to support it, potentially alienating up to two thirds of their voters.
However, executing such a plan would require humility, flexibility and diplomacy, as well as a lot of personal charisma to get the public and her fellow MPs back on her side. Unfortunately for Theresa May, I do not believe she possesses any of the four qualities listed above.
Therefore, I now believe a No Deal Brexit has become the most likely outcome unless Jeremy Corbyn publicly backs the Norway Plus option and really sells it to his MPs. Even then, it is not clear he can quell enough of his People’s Vote MPs.
Finally, I have never observed a political scenario where so many actors believe they are working towards a goal, only to be impeding the chances of that outcome actually happening. With that in mind, and for now at least, no one truly knows where Britain will be on March 30th…
If the reports are correct, Theresa May has two weeks to convince a majority of British MPs to vote for her deal in the Meaningful Vote on Brexit on the 10th of December.
It looks highly unlikely right now that she will be able to win that vote as there are appropriately 70 Conservative MPs who have said they will vote against it, the 10 DUP MPs are also opposed to it and it seems improbable that there will be rebel Labour MPs to make up for this.
What I am interested in is where she will try and pick up votes from. It will be almost impossible to convince the DUP MPs to vote for it with the current plan. She will therefore probably try and squeeze the less fervent Brexiteer and Remainer MPs who will worry about losing support of their local committees and the Conservative Party.
I think a better approach would be to go for the softest possible Brexit that has a Single Market and Customs Union element. It could get the DUP back onside as it may be possible to avoid a backstop as well as pulling in support from a number of Labour MPs and potentially even the wider Labour Party.
As I've said before, making Brexit predictions is a mug's game so I'll continue to sit back and watch without pretending I have any more of an idea than the vast majority of the wider British and Irish public...
The fuel tax increase riots are looking quite dangerous for Emmanuel Macron. Reports suggest that 100,000 people protested over the weekend and unfortunately 2 people were killed and 100 injured.
With so much focus on the Brexit, many are not giving these protests the attention they could deserve. If they continue to escalate, the golden boy of European centre-right politics could be in severe trouble, just halfway through his first term...
A dangerous escalation in the continuing Crimea crisis this weekend as the Russian Navy seized three ships off Crimea in the Straits of Kerch (which connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea).
It remains to be seen whether this is a once off or it will lead further retaliatory actions by Ukraine against Russia.
With Brexit talks dragging on and internal Tory fighting continuing, the Chancellor Philip Hammond will deliver the budget today. It seems that tax receipts are set to be 13 billion pounds higher than anticipated so this does give him some (as we Irish love to call it) “fiscal space”.
A few weeks ago, at the Tory Conference, Theresa May said “austerity is over”. It was a bold claim that was met with plenty of skepticism and even some ridicule.
It’s hard to see how Philip Hammond can deliver on a budget that legitimately lives up to May’s statement, especially as there is so much uncertainty over Brexit.
I can honestly only see downside form this budget for the Conservatives. At the best case, the budget is approved, the government get some more breathing room, but any political goodwill dissipates when the Brexit squabbling and floundering commences again later this next or next
In the last full week before the United States goes to the polls for the midterms, it looks like the Democrats are set to take the House while the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate.
This would be a major setback for President Trump but it is common for incumbent presidents to lose control of the House.
I’ll write a more detailed preview on Friday as I have predicted that the Democrats would take House back for quite some time but it still isn’t a foregone conclusion…
On Friday, the Irish public go to the polls to elect their next President. So far it has been a very uninspiring campaign that has generated very little interest at home or abroad compared to a general election campaign.
Firstly, this is due to the fact that the role is mainly ceremonial. However, the fact that the incumbent, Michael D Higgins, has a 50+ percentage point lead over his closest rivals; Independent Sean Gallagher and Sinn Fein’s Liadh Ni Riada doesn’t help.
Unless something major happens between now and Thursday eve, I won’t be re-visiting this foregone conclusion…
This week is dominated by Brexit. It will be almost impossible to avoid it. Sunday was just a taste of what is to come with the reports of a deal on the withdrawal agreement being reached, before this was quickly killed by sources on both sides.
I haven’t really written about Brexit in quite some time. This has been part of my general lack of articles due to professional constraints but more because I am suffering from Brexit fatigue and I have found it’s easier to just keep updated than try and make sense of it and come up with theories etc as almost no one has accurately predicted the path the negotiations have taken.
I will follow closely this week though as it seems that there is no longer any room for fudging and delaying. However, I thought this was the case in December, March and July already.
As I wrote previously, there is a still a build up of tension and latent energy and when there is finally a “release”, political heads will roll or governments will collapse. At the moment, Theresa May and Arlene Foster look most at risk but it isn’t beyond the imagination that the Irish or British governments could also collapse based on the final outcome…
As conference season starts in Britain, Brexit will be a key talking point for all parties.
There was a slight summer lull, after the Chequers agreement was reached among the Conservatives and Boris Johnson and David Davis resigned.
When there was no heave against Theresa May, Brexit talks died down slightly but now it is back in full swing.
I haven’t written as much on Brexit because there are a thousand different views and writers out there, while I still believe no one truly knows where Brexit is heading.
It will be interested to see whether Theresa May can finally unite her party on Chequers at the Conservative’s conference and equally whether Labour ends up backing a second referendum aka a “People’s Vote”.
Chequers versus a People’s Vote would at least add clarity to the situation but unfortunately it looks like neither would have the backing of parliament.
For now, I will simply monitor and try and understand what the ultimate intentions of all the stakeholders are and how their red lines have changed since I wrote this…
The week be a week of negotiations, compromises and debate in Sweden after their General Election yesterday. The path to the next government is very murky right now.
With over 99% of the votes counted in Sweden, the Social Democrats have once again taken the most seats with the largest vote share.
In fact, they slightly outperformed their recent polls and gain 28.4% of the vote, where they have been polling around 24-26%. It is still their worst ever performance in a Swedish General election though only slightly down on its 31.1% in 2014.
Overall, the left coalition look set to take 144 seats (Social Democrats 101, Left Party 28 and Greens 15) while the right coalition will get 143 (Moderates 70, Centre Party 31, Christian Democrats 23 and Liberals 19) and the Sweden Democrats will get 62.
It does seem tricky now for Stefan Lofven to remain in power. The process is now that the former Prime Minister has to present a Govt and for him to fall it needs to be voted against by a majority of the Riksdag.
Unless there are extensive talks and political fallouts with the right coalition, Stefen Lofven can expect to receive a majority opposing his premiership when the vote is called.
However, the right coalition can also expect to receive a majority against any bid they make for government unless they request the assistance of the Sweden Democrats, something which so far has been anathema to all other parties.
If Ulf Kristersson and the Moderates do decide that power trumps this principled of keeping them out, he can expect a backlash that may cause one or more parties in the right coalition to back Stefan Lofven and the Social Democrats.
I will write a broader and more comprehensive review of the election once the dust has settled and it is clear who the new Prime Minister and government composition will be.
For now, it will be important to analyse the content and tone of all the leaders’ speeches and updates, as we try and analyze the appetite for power and change versus maintaining the status quo…
From next Monday, I'll be changing to writing a Weekly Preview first thing on a Monday morning. Over the last few months, I've enjoyed writing a weekly review and it helped ensure I consistently wrote at least something on a weekly basis.
However, I often felt like I was simply reporting on events that were already obsolete. I expect the final four months of 2018 to be incredibly exciting and dynamic. A weekly preview will allow me to focus my attention and prepare for the week ahead. Hopefully it will also be beneficial to any readers I'm fortunate enough to have...
On Friday, the Irish electorate go to the polls to vote for Ireland's next president. The polls are all showing a massive lead for the incumbent Michael D Higgins. It's been a very boring campaign and unless something massive happens between now and Friday, I won't be writing a preview as it's a foregone conclusion. Most recent polls have given him a gargantuan 50% point lead over his closest rivals, Independent Sean Gallagher and Sinn Fein's Liadh Ni Riada...
It's been a slow summer in terms of my output. Holidays, pressing professional obligations and the general political summer lull.
However, from here on I will be writing more both here in the Weekly Review as well as more articles like before.
I am very excited politically for the rest of the year. There is a lot happening and I'll do my best to cover as much as I believe I can add value to...