It’s been reported that four of the “Spartans”, the European Research Group (ERG) members who are committed to a clean Brexit and are at the core of the resistance to the Remainer coup against the people, are now succumbing to the terrible pressure of Britain’s unprecedented political crisis.
If Boris Johnson does a deal with the EU, they say they’ll have no choice but to accept it. From The Times:
“A prominent figure in the ERG said: ‘The political risks are now so profound that the vast majority of us are prepared to reluctantly concede that if he brings a deal back that is at least tolerable, we will look at it.'”
They need to be reminded of a couple of things.
Unless the EU totally caves, which is to say the least unlikely, any terms it agrees with Boris Johnson will be a variation on the Theresa May Brexit-in-name-only-Remain-by-stealth (BRINO) deal.
That’s because the most Johnson can expect – because it’s all he’s asked for – is some alternation to the Irish backstop. Yet even if denuded of the backstop altogether, the May deal would still trap Britain in some kind of economic relationship with the EU and the continuing jurisdiction of the ECJ. That’s why MPs decided the May deal was the worst of all possible worlds and totally unacceptable, and rejected it three times. Even without the backstop, this would be May mark 4.
Yet the ERG fainthearts say that they have no choice because otherwise they fear Brexit would be lost: the Commons may vote to revoke Article 50, thus openly negating the 2016 referendum decision, or Boris Johnson may have to resign.
Here’s the thing. May mark 4 would mean Brexit would be lost. It’s not just that no-deal is better than a bad deal. No Brexit is better than a bad deal. Why?
Because if a bad deal was done it would complicate the issue and make it more difficult to galvanise the public. Psychologically, some at least of the air would have gone out of the Brexit balloon — even though the public would still likely inflict a terrible revenge on the whole political class at the next general election.
However, if parliament really were to go for the nuclear option and revoke Article 50, thus openly negating the referendum vote and sticking its finger straight into the eye of the people, the fury of the public would be such that Remainer MPs would be pulverised at the election and a Tory government would be elected (with or without Brexit party assistance) committed to leaving with no deal.
A similar reaction would follow a second referendum.
Of course, Johnson may not get a deal with the EU. Their intransigence might mean that any concessions they might make would be so booby-trapped that even Johnson couldn’t present them to parliament.
As before, we still don’t know whether Johnson’s own personal goal is the deal he is apparently ever- more confident of obtaining, or leaving with no deal. Today’s pantomime in Luxembourg leaves us none the wiser.
But as I have warned from the start, Johnson says he wants a deal – which by definition would be a BRINO deal.
If that should come about and Johnson were to leave the UK dangling both in and out of the EU simultaneously, he will have destroyed the Tory party, and probably public trust in British democracy altogether, for the indefinite future.
That in fact is the “so profound” political risk that these now-trembling Spartans are taking by flirting with surrender.