Friday, 20 September 2019

Not dead yet

Apologies to anybody who still reads my stuff (and I include the Labour councillors who I am sure still check up on me) for the gap in posting since Sunday. What happened was that a cold that I thought I had got over was replaced on Monday by a ferocious member of the breed which practically incapacitated me. All the usual symptoms were telescoped into 24 hours and it just so happened that the asthma inhalers were near the end of their life so that I had difficulty managing the congestion when I did start to recover. I did manage a few Facebook postings, but those required less mental effort than a piece for the blog. However, normal service will shortly be resumed.

The Liberal Democrat federal conference in Bournemouth, as relayed in full by the BBC (hurrah!) offered some relief. It has also provoked a backlash by Johnson, Corbyn and Foster who clearly see burying their differences over the Barnier withdrawal proposals as more palatable than entering a general election in which all their parties will lose seats. Expect some coded messages from Labour's conference that Boris Johnson has made concessions to Jeremy Corbyn over the withdrawal terms, and complementary indications from Manchester - always assuming that the prorogation remains lawful and that Speaker Bercow does not recall parliament first.

Sterling has already risen a few points against most other currencies on the basis of rumours that a deal has come closer. An orderly withdrawal may be almost as bad as a clean break for the British in the long term, but it would provide certainty and markets do not like uncertainty.

The big winner could be Boris Johnson. He will be seen to have succeeded where others have failed. If Parliament approves the deal, the immediate pain of withdrawal will be deferred by a transition period which could last as long as three years. He will no doubt bring back into the fold Conservatives who went Independent of their own accord or were expelled. It may not restore technically his majority, but it will suffice for all practical purposes. It will take off the pressure for an immediate general election.

That parliamentary approval is his biggest hurdle. It is unlikely that the Commons would throw out the deal on principle (much as most Remainers would like MPs to do so) but it is virtually certain that they would insist on a confirmatory referendum.

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