Why political crisis could be well on the way – UK



Westminster might be deep in recess, but the Brexit wars that defined the last political term are firing up once more.

The Remain and Leave camps are dusting down their campaign books and tour buses as they prepare for an autumn of rallies, stump speeches and events.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is teaming up with the Leave Means Leave team to campaign against what he describes as Theresa May’s “fraudulent” Brexit plans.

And on the other side, Remainers are mobilising under the People’s Vote banner to campaign for a second referendum on the final Brexit deal.

For both sides, the stakes are high: Leavers scent betrayal, dismayed by Mrs May’s Chequers plan which aims to keep single market for goods and close to the customs union, while ending freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, Remainers believe that, while they lost in 2016, momentum is with them now as the sunny uplands promised by the Brexiteers during the referendum campaign descend into gloom.

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Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest with flags outside the Houses of Common on February 26, 2018 in London, England


This is what would happen in the event of a no deal Brexit

As the two campaigns ready for battle, Mrs May and her team are preparing for battle too – in Brussels and at home.

On Tuesday, her Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will travel to Brussels for a round of talks with chief negotiator Michel Barnier as the UK looks to pick up the “intensity and pace” of Brexit negotiations.

There is activity on the home front too as the government prepares to publish the first tranche of 84 technical papers to help inform the public and businesses what to do in the event of a no deal.

They span huge areas of concern to businesses such as financial services and customs and borders arrangements.

But they will also help inform the public about what happens to pet passports, student exchange schemes and using driving licences in the event of a no deal.

There is no doubt a practical need for these documents, argues Joe Owen of the Institute for Government.

“We are seven months away from a potential no deal Brexit and the government needs to make sure that all of the businesses, organisations and individuals who are affected are ready in case that outcome comes about.”

But there is plenty of political calculation in all of this too.

Mrs May promised those cabinet Brexiteers who signed off her Chequers plan that she would step up the preparedness of a no deal Brexit in order to reassure them she was ready to walk – and to strengthen her hand in negotiations with Brussels.

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But the prime minister, already at war with many in her party over her Chequers plan, might also be quietly hoping that publishing these notices might concentrate the public’s mind on what a no deal” Brexit would really entail, and in turn garner more support in the country and in parliament for her unloved Chequers plan.

Whatever the papers actually contain, there is little doubt that both sides will weaponise them for their own political ends.

Watch for accusations that the government is peddling Project Fear 2.0 to scare people into a soft Brexit as Remainers seize on the documents as hard evidence that the government should look again.

For her part, Mrs May will hope that these documents might put some pressure on the EU to compromise on Brexit and cut her a deal.

Time is not on her side.

There are just two months left before the scheduled completion of divorce talks and just seven months before Britain officially leaves the EU.

If she does manage to get Brussels onside, she’ll then have to sell it to her party and parliament.

How it plays out is extremely hard to predict.

But all sides in this fraught debate can agree on one thing: there’s no clear path to an orderly Brexit and political crisis could well be on the way.



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