Friday, 9 June 2017

An initial reaction

At one level, not a lot has changed; it is clear that we will still have a Tory Government, which will be able to rely on the members of the DUP for support on most issues, even without a formal agreement or coalition.  Yet at another level a great deal has changed; a Prime Minister who chose to make the election all about how strong she was and how she needed to strengthen her hand has become a Prime Minister who has demonstrated how weak she is and has weakened her own hand.  It was a spectacular miscalculation.
In terms of the immediate problem in hand, it does not change the fact of the Brexit vote; there is still no majority in parliament for revisiting the decision or allowing a second vote when the details are clear.  What has changed is that there is no longer a majority in the House of Commons for a form of Brexit which involves leaving both the single market and the Customs Union.  Even the DUP, as I understand their position, prefer continued membership of both whilst being outside the EU itself; and there are some members on the Tory benches – even some strong Brexiteers - who would also prefer that scenario, for a period at least, and who are rather less committed to the hard-line anti-immigrant rhetoric of people like May.
However, a preference for that outcome isn’t the same as a willingness to support the concessions which will be necessary to achieve it.  Whilst membership of the European Economic Area can offer many of the economic benefits of membership of the EU, it would come at a price, in terms of acceptance of EU rules, acceptance of the authority of the ECJ, annual payments into the EU, and a willingness to accept freedom of movement.  Without compromise on at least some of those, it’s hard to see how the parliamentary majority can be translated into a deal.
I find it hard to see how even May, with her recently well-demonstrated ability to stand on her head whilst arguing that she hasn’t moved, can make any of the necessary compromises – replacing her is probably the first prerequisite for a change in the UK’s position to a more pragmatic stance.  The good news is that her party will probably see to that, even if not immediately.  The second prerequisite is probably for the Labour Party to drop its insistence on an end to free movement and be a bit more open to compromise.  At the moment, I’m not sure how likely that is; they seem to have hooked themselves on an anti-immigration peg in the belief that it was electorally necessary.
Thinking around the alternative futures for Wales, I remain convinced that reversing Brexit is the best option, and I remain disappointed that so few are making that case.  But continued membership of the single market and Customs Union through the EEA would at least offer a fast-track return to the EU at some future date – either for the UK as a whole or for an independent Wales (and Scotland).  I can at least see a route forward for an independent Wales in that context, which I could not see in the context of the type of Brexit being pursued by May.  However, yesterday’s result was not enough to make me feel optimistic about such an outcome – just a little less pessimistic.


Anonymous said...

As regards the DUP, just how will this new arrangement work in terms of the EVEL legislation brought in last year ?

The Northern Ireland Assembly, when reconvened, will have full legislative powers in the following areas - health and social services, education, employment and skills, agriculture, social security, pensions and child support, housing, economic development, local government, environmental issues, including planning, transport, culture and sport, the Northern Ireland Civil Service, equal opportunities, justice and policing.

So - how will the DUP MPs be able to support the government at Westminster when these matters are being discussed ? These are all devolved issues and the Speaker will therefore exclude the DUP from interfering in these matters.

Has the PM thought this one through?

John Dixon said...

What you say is true, of course. But don't forget that EVEL will also exclude all Scottish and Welsh MPs. England - once again - elected a Tory government, by a majority of around 60. There's a slight complication because of the assymetric nature of devolution but basically on devolved issues under EVEL she has a very clear majority.

Spirit of BME said...

EVEL has not been thought through by the media and she has the ability to govern in England on some important issues.
England in terms of the economy is the important engine for growth and prosperity for the UK and Wales, so there is a scenario that she could further “Corbyn proof” England by putting through a blockbuster devolution Bill giving Plaid and SNP all they have asked for and perhaps even more and then calling on them to support it. This would be difficult for the current leadership of Plaid, as it will call for them to put Wales first and do damage to the Labour Party.