The coordination in the Commons has given Remainers cheer but the strategy could backfire more easily than you thinkby Tom Clark / September 6, 2019 / Leave a comment
The opposition parties have just agreed to vote down Boris Johnson’s next request for a general election on Monday. The ramifications depend on whether the request is now put in a different form: things could get especially complicated if Johnson attempts to no-confidence himself. But, as things stand, it looks likely that the allied opposition forces plus (ex)-Tory rebels will thwart Johnson’s hopes of a 15th October election.
For most on the anti-Brexit centre-left this is unalloyed good news—both for the country and for the prospects of Jeremy Corbyn. One Prospect favourite, Jonathan Lis, has put the case for cheer with panache. In the face of a premier who is suspending parliament, sacking MPs and manoeuvring to take the country out of Europe with a ruinous no-deal, he judges that “the moral imperative is to thwart no deal, and the political imperative is to thwart the prime minister,” both halves of which are best accomplished by denying him the October date he seeks with the voters, forcing him to demand an extension and miss his “do or die” Halloween Brexit deadline.
It is a powerful argument, and one most of the Labour Party has bought. So why do I still harbour doubts? On the national interest front, I’m not sure that the new law against no deal is as watertight as it seems—even if parliament refuses to allow an election until after the European Council at which it is assumed an extension will be granted.
We’re amid a border-straddling diplomatic crisis, but our politics remain solipsistic. It is ultimately a matter of European rather than British law as to whether the UK remains a member after 31st October, and any member state could veto an extension. Now, the clear expectation is that with an election pending, this will be granted without difficulty. But very little is absolutely certain just now. The Sunday Times last weekend floated the idea that a London government set on its deadline could comply with the law by requesting an extension, but then—through back-channels—call on an unsavoury ally, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, to veto that request. That might feel a bit far-fetched, but what about other countries making their own decision to veto? In particular, one would need to know much more about French politics than…