The last 24 hours in the show called “Brexit” looked like a Hollywood thriller. With plots, uncertainties, last-minute twists, unexpected developments. What is even more interesting are the strategies of the parties under the surface of the current maneuvers, as well as the way in which such strategies will affect events in the coming period, and in particular the political future of the United Kingdom.
In yesterday’s vote in the British Parliament, a number of MPs from Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party went on to support a coalition of lawmakers opposed to leaving the EU without a deal, and their vote prevented their leader’s maneuver to force Brexit without a deal, to prevent the Parliament from blocking this plan, or calling for early elections. Such an upheaval is certainly a political blow to Johnson, but the consequences are more complicated than they seem.
First, what did they vote for on Wednesday and these past few days? Johnson wants a quick exit from the EU, with or without a deal. Lawmakers, however, want to give the deal another chance and force the prime minister (by law) to try to make a deal again, or demand a postponement on the exit deadline. Johnson, who represents the far-right wing of both the Tories and Britain, has sought to prevent Parliament from tying his hands and forcing him into new negotiations. The Queen first attempted (and succeeded) to suspend Parliament. The Parliament responded by passing legislation on Brexit before the suspension of Parliament could take effect. Johnson responded by calling for early elections, which was rejected by the Parliament. Johnson and his party then tried to block no-deal bill with filibuster (the endless amendment debate) until the Queen’s decision came into force, but that attempt failed late Friday night, when lawmakers announced that it was agreed that all readings of the law would be completed by Friday.
The legal solution in question would not, in fact, oblige Johnson to leave the EU without a deal. The law stipulates that this possibility is also open.
What is foreseen there is only that the Government will have to get the green light from the Parliament for every step of the process. So, they would outline the path the Prime Minister would have to follow, relatively precise and detailed. Now it is predicted that he must try to make a deal once again. If he fails, he must return to Parliament that then needs to decide whether they would continue without a deal or demand a postponement of deadline with a letter that is now part of the law. Basically, Parliament is preventing Johnson’s attempt to exclude MPs from the process, in a very aggressive way.
But alongside the parties’ law-making strategies, which draw a new map of political coalitions, are the strategies of the Conservatives and Labour for the next election.
For Labour representatives and Jeremy Corbyn, this is a political victory, but their situation is still complicated. Conservatives lead the polls. Corbyn rejected the proposal to go to early elections immediately, explaining that one must first wait for the outcome of new negotiations with the EU and the possibility of a deal. However, it may harm his political position, as too long postponement of the election may be interpreted as fleeing confrontation, for which he has already been attacked. In addition, this gambit would only be successful if Johnson failed to reach an agreement with the EU by the second half of October, the deadline for a new bid. Corbyn would then have a new chance for political play and election calculations. But given that early elections seem inevitable, if Johnson still returns with an EU deal, such a maneuver would almost guarantee that the Conservatives would win the elections.
For conservatives, this political defeat is not so dramatic. Although Johnson appears weak at the moment, his political strategy is based on rebranding the party by clearing “elitism” and turning to populist, national rhetoric. The MPs turning their backs on Tuesday complicates the political maneuvering scene, but at the same time gives it a better position for the elections, wherever they may be. Therefore, I am not sure that such an outcome goes completely to the detriment of the Tories.
I think Johnson’s strategy of suddenly clearing lawmakers and the wing of a party that is “Europhilic”, accusing them of elitism, could revitalize his party and position, allowing him a new narrative in the coming period.
Therefore, the overall outlook for the future of political discourse seems more uncertain than yesterday. The elections seem inevitable, and the option of leaving the EU without a deal has not yet been completely ruled out. What seemed certain was that the whole process would be complicated and delayed, and that divisions in Britain would not only remain but also deepen. At the same time, the economy shows signs of being wounded by this theater, which could lead to a new crisis. For the mockers in us accustomed to such developments, it may be refreshing to see that a much more developed and more democratic society than ours can also get stuck in political mud from time to time.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik