Sunday 15 September 2019

David Chance: 'It's boiled down to a poker game between two forms of Brexit that very few people want'

'It is not a very sophisticated game of poker, but it is all May has.' Photo: PA
'It is not a very sophisticated game of poker, but it is all May has.' Photo: PA

David Chance

The European Commission's package of 14 contingency proposals in the event of a cliff-edge Brexit will keep planes flying and trucks on the road in the short term, but little more.

With just 100 days to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, Brussels effectively called time on London and said most of Britain's banks and financial firms would be cut off in the event of a no-deal.

At the same time, Theresa May's government has started spelling out the costs of a no-deal Brexit, in part to scare some Conservative Brexiteers and Labour Remainers into buying into her deal.

May's argument is that at least under her deal Brexiteers can be sure of leaving and her message to Remainers is take this or risk something even worse.

"We are trapped in a poker game between the two forms of Brexit few people want. The Brexiteers are happy to continue to oppose May's deal, because they know we leave with no deal by default in March 2019," Simon Wren-Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Merton College, Oxford, wrote on his blog yesterday.

Saying the government will put troops on standby to deal with a no-deal exit is the kind of thing that makes headlines and puts pressure on MPs.

But far from representing the end for the political process in Westminster, this is the start of the endgame in which the UK government will try to bring as much pressure as it can in the months that remain.

That pressure will be felt in Dublin too, as the prospect of the nation's beef sector being wiped out looms. Beef is the most exposed of all export sectors to high tariffs if the UK leaves without a deal and the livelihoods of some 100,000 family farms and 20,000 workers in associated industries are on the line.

For the moment, Brussels has no incentive to offer more, and certainly no desire to make a no-deal Brexit more attractive.

It is not a very sophisticated game of poker, but it is all May has. The problem for the Conservatives is there is now a real case of "leaver's remorse" that has been thrown into sharp relief by the EU's decision to make the Border backstop part of the deal as part of a customs union.

That, according to Wren-Lewis, made the agreement in part about trade and threw the economic costs of exiting into sharp relief for voters.

The most recent YouGov poll for the People's Vote campaign for a second referendum shows that, given a choice of staying in the EU and leaving on May's terms, staying enjoys an 18-point lead with 59pc versus 41pc.

"If either she or the Brexiteers win their poker game, we will embark on a form of Brexit most people do not want, achieved by means no one could call democratic," Wren-Lewis wrote.

As the contingency planning from Brussels was made public, the pound took another hammering and dropped 1pc against the euro. A euro was worth 90.16 pence at the close of European business yesterday, down from 89.89 the day before.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss