The chances that MPs will prevent a no-deal Brexit don’t look good and, while there are hopeful signs in the level of public opposition, Remainers should steel themselves for a long fight, writes Ayesha Hazarika.
It’s been a tough ten days if you’re a leftie, a liberal, a progressive, or even someone who just likes your politics competent and not clinically insane.
But despite people like me (and I don’t even like quinoa) feeling pretty grim about things, Team Johnson has got off to a flying start, apart from being booed in Scotland and Wales. It reminded me of that scene in Blackadder where the prince is convinced his public adore him “Listen – they’re saying we hail Prince George...” Blackadder replies, “No, your highness, they’re saying we hate you...”
Johnson has ruthlessly Marie Kondo’ed his Cabinet and Downing Street of any pesky Remainers apart from Chancellor Sajid Javid who, of course, now hearts Brexit so hard, it’s painful – nothing like the zeal of the convert – and is splashing cash which, could go to hospitals and schools, on imaginary border police and leaflets on how to forage for food and fight bears in November. Because right now, there is only one show in town for Team Boris and that’s a crashing out on Halloween with no deal. That is their political and moral mission. Do or die – let’s hope the insulin supplies can make it through folks.
Their strategy has been simple but effective. Our information channels are saturated with the words “no deal”. We learned at the weekend about a no-deal war cabinet (with no girls allowed). Michael Gove said that the Government was working on the assumption of a no-deal.
It feels like no deal is inevitable. And it feels it’s game over for Remainers. The law says that we are crashing out at 11pm on 31 October unless the Prime Minister can get a deal and parliament approves it (unlikely); he asks for an extension (even more unlikely); or he revokes Article 50 (are you on drugs?). Parliament is on recess and only sits for one week in September. If we are to avert a no-deal, it would mean trying to amend legislation to force Johnson to ask for an extension which I’m sure cross-party MPs will attempt to do as they did with Theresa May, but it could be difficult. And even if they did, Johnson has hinted that he would be prepared to suspend Parliament to make sure no deal isn’t blocked. Then there’s a prospect of a vote of no confidence, but would enough Tory MPs really vote with Labour and be prepared to go down in history as helping Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street? There is also the nuclear option of Cummings and Johnson calling a general election in the middle of summer while Labour MPs are abroad topping up their tans or spending quality time in their allotments. They could make it a simple Boris-for-Brexit/do-or-die election, gambling they would kill off the Brexit party, win the votes of Labour Leavers in the Northern heartlands and rely on a divided Remain vote split between the other parties, although what Labour decides to put in its manifesto will be crucial, as will a Remain alliance which could be a force to be reckoned with in around 100 seats.
Remainers have little reason to be cheerful although their resolve remains undented. There have been big events over the last few weeks with a “No to Boris, Yes to Europe” march in London which drew impressive crowds and a People’s Vote rally in Birmingham last Tuesday attracted more than a thousand people.
Just because parliamentary options are running out, that doesn’t mean public opposition is. But we have to honest about the future. Unless Gina Miller can work her magic and use the courts to block no-deal, we will need to steel ourselves for the long-haul and take a leaf out the Brexiteers’ books. This fight will be here for a long time.