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10:03am on Monday, 17th June, 2019:

No Debate


I caught some of yesterday's debate between those Conservative candidates hoping to come second to Boris Johnson in the leadership campaign.

There are basically three options for Brexit and two meta-options.

The three options are:
Leave the EU with no deal.
Leave the EU with the deal Theresa May struck.
Don't leave the EU.

The two meta-options are:
Hold another referendum.
Hold a general election.

Parliament doesn't support any of these five options. Whatever the leaderships candidates say, they're not going to get parliament to agree to any of them. Neither are they going to be able to change any of them, despite their collective belief that they have red-hot negotiating skills.

The short-term default option is the first: if nothing changes, we'll leave with no deal. Whether we do or not depends on whether the EU decides to put us out of our misery by refusing an extension beyond October. If it were to do so, this would impose a hard border between the UK and Eire. The EU doesn't want a hard border between the UK and Eire, which is why it won't renegotiate the Irish backstop. The EU will therefore be predisposed to allow us to prolong our agony, although domestic concerns could override this (France has regional elections in 2020, for example) .

The medium-term default option is a UK general election. We have to have one in 2022 regardless, so the EU may simply kick the can down the road until eventually we get a new parliament with new MPs and new mandates. This new parliament could well be able to pass one or more of the other four options (not necessarily one of which the EU approves). Then again, the new parliament could be paralysed just like the current one.

The long-term default option is that the wheels fall off the EU. Its problem is the euro, which is unstable because all the countries in the eurozone have different taxation policies. To stabilise the currency, control over tax rates would need to be ceded by individual countries to some kind of fiscal union. That in turn would be unstable without a political union. As political union requires actual reform, rather than just waiting it out, the do-nothing course of events here basically leads to half a dozen more Greece situations come the next global financial crisis.

The two further Conservative leadership debates to come are therefore likely to be equally as pointless as yesterday's.

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Copyright © 2019 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).