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er... What just happened? UK Gov survives a no-confidence vote

Author: 
Editorial Staff

More or less breaking news is that Theresa May is the ultimate cat lady. Not that she has cats but she does have nine lives and, amazingly, even though she occasionally loses one, like buses, there's another one along in a minute. One day she's getting a kicking like no other Prime Minster has ever had and the next she's laughing in the face of the Opposition as Corbyn's motion to unseat the government and force a general election came unstuck. It might all seem very random but there is a pattern emerging.

Yesterday we asked Deal or no deal or not this deal? That is the question. Previously, we considered the Conservative Party's vote of no confidence in May as leader (see Theresa May: safe in the party, not in Parliament.

There is a very good reason why the Parliamentary vote of no confidence failed: it presumed that the government has only one job. Of course, that's nonsense. Government is, absolutely not, a one-dimensional activity, even if some of its participants are disturbingly like cartoon characters. While the UK's withdrawal from the EU is the biggest fish in the pond, it's not only the only fish, it's not even close to being the only species.

It would be easy, from the coverage of government in the media, particularly in the UK, to assume that everyone turns up, shouts about "Brexit" and goes for a late supper. But no, in fact, the business of the House has been continuing as usual with the addition of preparing the ground for departure, in whatever form it takes.

A vote of no confidence in the government would mean establishing that everything the government does is fundamentally rubbish. The problem for Corbyn, et al, is that each of them is largely a one-trick pony and their tricks are different. While that might make for a good circus, it doesn't make for good opposition because it relies on everyone coming together with a common purpose, that of "sacking" the government. In the event, around half of those who had rejected the exit deal supported the government in its wider efforts.

The question now is what May does next and next next. Will she continue to blunder about, giving Junker even more ammunition to say that the UK doesn't know what it wants or can't express it? She says that the confidence vote is support for her argument against a no-deal "Brexit." That is almost certainly true. But surely she can't have already forgotten the drubbing she got because her deal isn't acceptable to so many people for so many reasons.

If May, or anyone else in the British parliament, imagines that the events of the past two days will have any significant effect on the EU's negotiators, that's highly probably pie in the sky. If, for example, the EU wants to make sure that other countries decide that the process of parting is too complicated, painful or expensive so they don't bother, then it need do absolutely nothing - which is exactly what it's done for the past two months, or so.

So, after the drama of the past two days, has anything changed?

No, May is still PM, she still has the deal that she says is the best the UK will get (although we now know that a large part of the agreement is in fact an agreement to enter further negotiations in good faith, whatever that means and there are still many alternative views of what the UK political and commercial relationship with the EU and the rest of the world look like that no one can honestly say that, even if the deal were signed and the UK left as planned, the future is clear.

If we had to guess, the most likely outcome is either postponement of exit day with the consent of EU members or that the UK aborts the process to buy another two years.

This latter course will upset many because the EU has a very full legislative programme planned and many in the UK would not want to see all of that passed into UK law with uncertainty (as there is under the current deal) as to what laws can, in the short to medium term, be repealed.

So, what's the pattern that's emerging? It's not a pretty pattern at all. May can't get the deal done in the UK and the EU won't improve it. One has to wonder how the EU was led to believe that there was a deal when it was nothing more than a draft that had to be subject to ratification, to put it in terms even the EU should be able to understand. May is running around trying to save face but she's got nothing to say except that what's on the table is the best that's going to be on the table. To summarise the position she is in, it's "if you want to get out, you're only exit route is on terms the EU say you can have."

It sounds awfully like the way some bad husbands treat battered wives; I'll let you leave me but only if I get one more of those things I like .. or maybe two or...

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