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Will the no-deal opponents finally get their act together?

28 August 2019

1:07 PM

28 August 2019

1:07 PM

So what now for the opponents of no deal? Boris Johnson has dramatically called their bluff, and as Mr Steerpike reports, not all of them are taking this particularly well.

Both proponents and opponents of Britain leaving without a deal are engaged in a political wrestling match, with all the theatrics that entails. Both are working out which parliamentary mechanisms will suit them best. Both are also accusing the other of blocking democracy, pretending not to notice the similarities in their tactics. Neither will admit that the other side has a right to do what it has chosen to, instead preferring to call it a ‘constitutional outrage’.


The problem for those trying to stop no-deal is that their team isn’t working as well as Boris Johnson’s. The Prime Minister is enjoying the authority of a new leader who contrasts clearly with Theresa May. He has strong-willed and experienced advisers who are very loyal to him and able to inspire loyalty from the wider party apparatus.

There is no one leader of the anti-no-deal grouping. There isn’t even a grouping, more of a nebula spread loosely through the Commons. There are the Tory Gaukeward squad types, who don’t yet have a leader or indeed a proper name. There’s a split within those Conservative opponents of no deal between true Remainers, who just want Britain to stay in, and MPs who are only concerned with stopping a no-deal Brexit. Many of these Tory anti-no-dealers were originally part of the Stop Boris camp, which is not something you’d want on your CV when trying to claim you’re good at getting your way.

Then there’s the Labour party, which has a number of operators all trying to do slightly different things. Jeremy Corbyn yesterday appeared to have capitulated on his insistence that he should be the caretaker prime minister after ousting Johnson in a successful vote of no confidence. His party colleagues Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn have been trying to persuade the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair a ‘citizens’ assembly’ on Brexit. Meanwhile Stephen Doughty has teamed up with former Labour MP Luciana Berger to organise yesterday’s Church House Declaration (which is the anti-no-dealers’ equivalent of the Malthouse Compromise when it comes to silly names and bizarre alliances). The Liberal Democrats won’t install Corbyn as PM but have signed the Church House Declaration. The independents are all over the place.

In short, no deal opponents have no leader and no real strategy. They didn’t have much time anyway, but today’s announcement on prorogation means they have even less, and no cover at all. If they want to switch from a wrestling match where they pretend to fight by tweeting angrily, then they’ll need to get organised and united, and fast. It’s not currently clear that it is possible for them to do that.


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