The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is attempting to ram home hard Brexiteer policy by playing with the House of Commons rules, hoping for atomised and disorganised opposition to continue or, failing that, triggering a general election, suggests Eddie Hobbs.
Johnson's gambit is that, after all the fuss and cries of coups have dissipated across the neatly mowed lawns of middle England, the public will become more fearful of a Hard Left Corbyn Government than of Johnson’s duplicity.
If you think that’s harsh, remember many Republican voters, including millions of feminists, opted to put Trump in the White House despite evidence of psychopathy, narcissism, racism and dishonesty, preferring that toxic cocktail to Obama’s successor, Hilary Clinton. Johnson has an easier task.
Trump was deemed by many Americans as the least worst of the binary choice facing them in 2016. There is no reason to believe that the UK electorate won’t follow suit especially when the general election will be explicitly sold as a dog fight between free markets and socialism and implicitly framed, once again, as Sceptre Islanders versus Outlanders.
In truth, Johnson has a better story to tell and a more entertaining personality than Corbyn through which to sell it.
Brexiteer strategists reason that, faced with Johnson’s promise of tax cuts and conservative economics or Corbyn’s socialist vision of high taxes and re-nationalisation, the middle ground will hold its nose and throw its hat in with the Tory party.
These will gauge that the Liberal Democrats, in the first past the post system, will not gain sufficient numbers to counterbalance Labour, meanwhile Farage’s party will fade like an Autumn fog, it’s purpose no longer required.
Is it unreasonable to fear Corbyn if you’ve income and assets, after all would you vote in Corbynistas like Ruth Coppinger or Paul Murphy as Taoiseach to balloon the Irish State size, reach and taxes?
The bottom line is that in the inevitable UK General Election to come, moderate voters, both Leave and Remain will be faced with Johnson or Corbyn. The Tory Brexiteer gamble is that they’ll back Johnson especially if the October 31 deadline is pushed out to facilitate a general election because moderates will also hope that, with sufficient seats, a new Johnson-led government will soften his hard line, once no longer entirely reliant on the right wing of the Tories.
And they are terrified of Corbyn.
Boris Johnson is also banking on weariness, that moderates are close to throwing in the towel after three years of tuning into a droning, colourless and inept political class go around in circles. Johnson is gearing up to deploy his personality to frame the general election as the People vs the Political Establishment just as Trump promised to "Drain the Swamp".
But expect Johnson to take more leaves from Trump’s playbook. His strategists will plot to substitute US Trade Deficits, Bad Hombres and Crooked Clinton with Brussels Imperialism, Welfare Tourists and Comrade Corbyn. Messaging wins elections, not facts.
Facts have failed. In a crash-out the impact on the UK economy according to the Bank of England report to the UK Treasury Select Committee and as summarised by JP Morgan, would be for a -8% hit to GDP, a jump in unemployment up to 7.5%, inflation up to 6.5% and a fall in asset values including homes from the contraction in an economy faced with stagflation which is rising prices and falling incomes.
The next UK Government will need a sizable majority to weather the backlash created by declining prosperity, but until this happens the data is deemed to be fake news and labelled Operation Fear.
A crash out doesn’t erase the barriers to an EU Trade Agreement, it raises them and unless the UK can be towed to the mid Pacific, it is geopolitically and economically bound to Europe and will continue be a rule taker from its outsized neighbour. The EU has 40 trade deals covering 90 countries. A UK crash out to WTO membership does not reinstall sovereign independence because, in a globalised world, there is no such thing.
Trade deals by nature involve shedding sovereignty, opening up protected markets and agreeing to rules on goods and services many of which are decided by foreign Governments.
The WTO rules bans discriminatory behaviour as between its 164 members, so what is sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander. UK tariffs on products must be the same for all 164 members and the UK would face tariffs exporting to the EU.
The UK Financial Services sector would lose its passporting rights into the EU so cannot service its continental clients unless their regulator mimics EU rules by special agreement. Without these the damage to Great Britain would be incalculable if London lost its powerful financial services status.
UK product standards would cease to be automatically recognised in the EU, not without regulatory checks and let’s face it, in a crash out, there has to be a hard border, it is a given.
The current border question, whether it will be on land or in the Irish sea, will be influenced one way or the other by the UK General Election.
The answer will depend on the arithmetic of the next Parliament. Faced with an opportunity for a Brexit that leaves Northern Ireland in the Customs Union with an internal UK border in the Irish Sea, Tory Brexiteers would desert their principles along their DUP cousins if they no longer required them.
Say it softly, but the same tribe, in due course would also cheerily give up both Northern Ireland and Scotland for the real border in their minds.
- Eddie Hobbs is a writer and financial adviser