Johnson Has the Votes, France Has the Key to Unlock Them




Boris Johnson has the votes to pass his Brexit deal, but Speaker Bercow won’t allow a vote. Johnson needs Macron’s help.

DUP Threatens to Unite With Labour

The latest Brexit irony is DUP Threatens to Unite with Labour to Back Customs Union Amendment.

Should MPs back an amendment for customs union this week, Mr Johnson could be forced to pull the legislation required to ensure the UK leaves the European Union on time.

On Sunday night a senior DUP figure told The Daily Telegraph there were “multiple scenarios with multiple options for us to resist Johnson’s anti-UK deal,” adding: “It will be parliamentary guerrilla warfare.”

The warning came after Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, invited the DUP to meet to discuss amendments to the withdrawal agreement bill, stating that the party’s “door is open”.

Revived From the Dead

This is Theresa May’s deal revived from the deal.

Had DUP been on board previously, her deal likely would have passed.

Whilst MPs have rejected a customs union five times this year during two rounds of so-called indicative votes, in April a plan put forward by Ken Clarke, the father of the House of Commons, came within three votes of passing.

Wrecking Amendments

Eurointelligence discusses “Wrecking Amendments” in this morning’s discussion.

Attempts by UK MPs to frustrate a legally binding Brexit majority are continuing this week, following on from the success of the Letwin amendment on Saturday. The parliament has no majority for a second referendum – that much is very clear now. But the wreckers are now resorting to another tactic. The most promising route for them is a customs union amendment – which they plan to attach to this week’s scheduled vote on the withdrawal agreement bill. That amendment may even attract the votes of the DUP as it would address their specific problem of a formal customs border along the Irish Sea.

Logical Nonsense

The purpose of this amendment, despite what it says, is not to produce a customs union. It is to frustrate Johnson’s Brexit deal. A customs union amendment could well command majority support. It might be supported by the group of Labour MPs around Stephen Kinnock, as well as some of the Tory MPs. We think it is even possible that Boris Johnson may get his wafer-thin majority in favour of his deal, and that MPs also support the amendment. Of course, this does not make sense logically: you cannot simultaneously have a customs union, and not a customs union. But logic does not come into this decision.

Another 2.5 Years?!

This could in theory go on for another two-and-a-half years. The government could decide to take a wrecking amendment on the chin and proceed with ratification on that basis. We have not established whether this amendment would allow the UK government to proceed with ratification of the withdrawal treaty, or whether ratification is state-contingent.

This important issue is not addressed in the media reports we have been monitoring. The withdrawal agreement does force a specific version of a future relationship. A customs union will still be possible without a customs union amendment. And a Canada-style free trade agreement will be possible with a customs union amendment. Any domestic legislation passed by this parliament can be overridden by the next.

Shape to Be Determined

The shape of the deal is yet to be determined.

If Johnson wins, which is likely, he would choose a Canada-Style free trade agreement. The UK and EU would then make a very low or even zero tariff deal.

Attempts to Block Sanity

A low-tariff or zero-tariff arrangement is best for the EU and the UK both.

But Remainers have shown they will do anything and everything to block sanity.

Important Shift

What may also intrude is a point made by Wolfgang Munchau in his FT column. He writes that the EU will do everything it can to avoid a no-deal Brexit. But there has been one important shift: The EU is no longer actively siding with the Remainers. We would not rule out the EU accepting an extension but only on condition of an election. While that is not the position of Donald Tusk or the Finnish EU presidency, it is still the official position of France.

As I have commented before, it is best to ignore listening to those who have no official say. Tusk wants the EU to stay, but he is not in charge. Michel Barnier negotiated a deal, and now the 27 member states have a say.

Why can’t the UK vote against its own extension request, if it ever comes to that point?

Way Forward

We will not know the European Council’s precise policies until Macron has spoken. Would it be really unthinkable for France to break ranks and say: we are happy to agree an extension but only if the UK parliament provides a way forward? We don’t think so.

The EU will discuss a formal extension request after the first vote on the withdrawal agreement bill which is scheduled for tomorrow. If the vote is positive, the EU may agree a short technical extension to make way for ratification. In that case, we see no controversy. If it is clear that the UK cannot ratify, the European Council would meet, and decide on its action.

Jumping to Conclusions

Eurointelligence cautioned against jumping to conclusions about what the EU or France might do.

Note the widespread belief that the EU would “never” renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement or the Political Statement. It did both.

Many of my readers felt the legal challenge against Johnson’s agreement was ironclad and the courts would strike down the deal based on Ireland having separate arrangements. Instead, the courts tossed the challenge without any debate.

With that, let’s return to the first link and a Telegraph discussion.

Customs Union Vote Totals

It’s not at all clear that a customs union vote would even pass. Indeed, it appears that it would have no chance unless, at a minimum, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson backed it.

But her position all along has been to block Brexit of any kind. Swinson does not want a referendum, and she has refused all along to back Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn as a caretaker PM. In turn Corbyn will not agree to anyone else as caretaker.

Delays Serve Johnson

Every delay serves Johnson.

Eurointelligence did not do the customs union math but there it is. Assume the amendment fails.

What then?

If Corbyn had the votes to become caretaker, he would have called a motion of no confidence long ago.

Will Bercow allow a vote on Johnson’s deal without amendment? If not, then what?

France Holds a Key

France can easily unlock the door by insisting on a way forward.

  1. Elections
  2. Scrapping Brexit
  3. Referendum
  4. Unhindered vote on Johnson’s bill

French Key Analysis

1: Labour does not want elections now. Corbyn might get slaughtered and that could even lead to no deal, which is what the EU fears.

2: There is no majority to scrap Brexit

3: There is no majority for a Referendum either, but even then, France might not want to wait. Everyone is sick of these delays except the pro-Remain crowd.

4: An unhindered vote on Johnson’s deal with an extension to allow the UK parliament to vote.

Block “No Deal” was a sham all along.

Delays Help Johnson

It is to Johnson’s advantage to delay a decision as long as he can.

I have heard nothing about legal challenges to Johnson’s Benn move today. Perhaps his double-letter, one unsigned was the legal way around or perhaps the case moves forward, with uncertain consequences.

Either way, delays help Johnson. Court actions take time.

There is a vote scheduled tomorrow, most likely with a customs union attachment. If it fails, and math suggests it will, Johnson would then seek a straight up vote on October 23.

At that point we will be just 8 days from No Deal. The genuine “No Deal” advocates will at that point be running scared.

France Can Help

France can easily make Benn moot by demanding a way forward. The best way would be to grant an extension for the sole purpose of approving Johnson’s deal.

Because delays suit Johnson, France should throw a lifeline as late as possible in the game.

Let’s return to a key comment made by Eurointelligence: The EU is no longer actively siding with the Remainers.


Because France does not want the UK blocking its agenda in the European Parliament. Thus, France and Donald Tusk have vastly different agenda.

Tusk’s opinion carries no weight. In contrast, France has a veto that it can use at any time.

Also recall that France gains seats in the European Parliament if the UK leaves. Germany doesn’t. For many reasons it makes sense for French President Emmanuel Macron to help Johnson.

Way Forward

In summation, the most likely thing is for France to demand a way forward. Macron can do so in a concrete fashion, demanding a vote or in an iffy fashion.

Meanwhile, Johnson can help his cause by rescinding his extension request and replacing it with an extension request for the sole purpose of passing the WA unhindered. The EU would surely grant that request.

Would Bercow then hold such a vote up? Actually, I think not, because conditions will have changed.

Assuming the bill passed unhindered, might not Johnson then prorogue UK Parliament until after the EU Parliament vote? If possible, that is what I would do in his shoes. It would stop all further Remain shenanigans.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s and Macron’s views seem are aligned towards a double binary solution.

Germany May be On Board as Well

Double Binary

  1. Get an unhindered vote “Johnson’s Deal or No Deal” in the UK Commons.
  2. Get an unhindered ratification of “Johnson’s Deal or No Deal” in the European Parliament

It would pass both by huge majorities.

Neither side wants to be the party that led to No Deal.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock


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