Who’s got most to fear from a Halloween Brexit delay? Paris Gourtsoyannis casts his eye over the fallout from Brussels.
EU unity has started to fracture
There was real anger, particularly in Germany, at Emmanuel Macron’s stand against a long Brexit delay – but more countries could join him in October if we end up back in Brussels without any progress.
This isn’t the last delay
Other EU leaders were keen to send the signal that the end date isn’t important – avoiding no-deal is. Some, including Angela Merkel, are prepared to offer even more time.
Sturgeon’s conference job is tougher
The First Minister must now keep her focus on a second EU referendum or revoking Article 50, which isn’t what SNP activists gathering in Edinburgh in two weeks will want to hear.
Party conferences will be a frightfest
Now the UK’s new exit date is Halloween, party conferences will be a horror show. One will be a free-for-all of Tory leadership contenders, while the other will be a reckoning with party members if Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t deliver a second EU referendum.
Labour could then face a floor fight over a new Brexit policy: back a compromise deal or revoke Article 50?
Tory Brexiteers will be desperate
Tory Brexiteers know by now that Theresa May doesn’t believe “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
To leave on WTO terms, they need a new leader. Every day of this new extension will add to the regret at their attempt to oust her – an October extension is too soon for a new coup attempt.
Brexiteers in the 1922 Committee and in Cabinet will need to exert more extreme pressure on the Prime Minister to go.
Brexit could spoil legacies in Brussels
In November, the EU gets new presidents of the Council and Commission, and new Commissioners.
If Brexit isn’t resolved, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk will hand over a toxic portfolio, losing control of the outcome and spoiling their legacies. Another unhappy figure will be Michel Barnier, rumoured to want the Commission presidency – he argued for a short extension.
There may time for a People’s Vote
A six-month delay is less than Remainers hoped for, but there is just enough time to hold a second EU referendum. Experts suggest it could be done in 24 weeks; there are 29 left. The Government may come to see it as the only way to get its deal through the Commons. And if MPs authorise a People’s Vote, the EU could offer more time.
There is time for an election
It’s a risky way of unblocking the political drain, but an election is the only tool that could work. The Government isn’t keen, but Brexiteers could force one by backing a motion of no confidence, or the DUP could vote against the Queen’s Speech expected this summer.
Cross-party talks in the deep freeze
The pressure is off Labour to reach a compromise in order to avoid an immediate no-deal. Instead, the party’s focus will turn to getting a general election, so dragging talks out is more important than a breakthrough.