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Friday, January 04, 2019

Why the no-deal scenario suits Theresa May

Quietly, slowly, almost imperceptibly, the possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal has crept up on us as a real possibility. It is a perception encouraged by the Government's own publicity, as it releases detail after detail of their contingency measures, including pledging £13 million to a Ferry company that has no ferries and whose terms and conditions have allegedly been borrowed from a fast food chain.

The idea that this disastrous outcome may actually happen is further encouraged as institutions react to the narrative with their own scare stories. Today, we have higher education leaders writing to MPs to say it is "no exaggeration" to warn that a 'no-deal' exit is "one of the biggest threats" the institutions have ever faced and that it would take universities "decades to recover". They say it would undermine scientific research and threaten universities' £21bn contribution to the UK economy.

Then there is the story in today's Guardian that 1,000 police officers from England and Scotland are to begin training for deployment in Northern Ireland in case of disorder from a no-deal Brexit. As if we have any police officers to spare.

And rather than trying to calm everybody down, Government Ministers continue to stoke the fear, because they know that escalating panic is the best way to get their defective exit package through Parliament. They are hoping to scare MPs into voting for it, whilst at the same time influencing public opinion into thinking that they have dodged a bullet, when in fact leaving, even on Theresa May's terms, would also be disastrous for the UK economy. It just wouldn't be as bad as a no deal.

But voting down May's deal does not make crashing out of the EU inevitable. The Government have options, one of which is to extend the period we have to sort things out before we leave. They could then try to renegotiate (unlikely), reconsider Brexit altogether, or go to the country in a referendum and ask us to decide between their deal and staying in the EU.

If Theresa May does nothing after Parliament votes down her deal, then yes we will crash out of the EU and all the bad stuff will happen. But this scaremongering is starting to look like a ploy so that Ministers can get their own way. Don't we deserve better? How about trusting the people for once, and letting us decide?
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