The chatter is building, but don’t get carried away—at least not until you’ve got your head round each of the dominoes that would have to tumble in sequenceby Alex Dean, Tom Clark / October 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
Read more of Prospect’s Brexit coverage here
A total breakdown in talks with Europe—once dismissed as a vanishingly remote possibility—can be dismissed no longer. Theresa May and Jean Claude-Juncker can agree to “accelerate” their efforts at negotiation, but it is now at least conceivable that Britain could tumble over the Brexit cliff edge without any deal whatsoever.
In recent days, attention has turned to the political ramifications. Unlikely alliances have emerged: witness the delicate choreography between between Labour’s staunchly socialist Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, and the Tory veteran Ken Clarke, who respectively took to the airwaves last Sunday and Monday to let it be known that they were ready to work together to pull Britain back from the no-deal brink.
Excited scribblers were soon suggesting that a “no deal” crisis could even put the whiskered one from Islington in No. 10. Sky’s Political Correspondent Lewis Goodall is just one of the prominent journalists who indulged in this speculation, arguing that the political ruin of a bad Brexit could feasibly lead to “a period of Jeremy Corbyn in government.”
But he like many others has failed to think through the many practical steps that would have to be involved. So we thought we’d have a go—stress testing every one, to get a sense of whether there is a plausible path from the Brexit talks breaking down to a Corbyn administration.
Warning: there are a lot of “ifs” along the way.
Step 1: the talks must crash
A “no-deal” outcome would seriously disrupt cross-Channel trade and investment flows, and impose substantial costs on both sides. It would be unambiguously beneficial to both sides to, at the least, do the sort of deal the EU has done with Canada, which could allow commerce to continue without tariffs or other unnecessary disruption.
If cooler heads can prevail in London and Brussels they will, in the end, find a way to co-ordinate that. But there is the possibility that negotiations are beginning to run out of control—in a manner that gives the whip hand to the hot-heads.
There are murmurs on the continent that the way to hold the remaining Union together might be to administer a good kicking to the UK.