Sunday, March 17, 2019

More Brexit

Stoat has called for another Brexit comment. I actually don't have a whole lot to add to what I said last time. It is clearly a mug's game to try to predict the day to day rollercoaster - it has been amusing to listen to podcasts which are hopelessly out of date within 24h as some previously unimaginable option is proposed or the Govt reneges on yet another promise. It has on occasion been headline news when the Govt merely reaffirms something it has already announced. And the Parliament channel has probably never before had such a large audience.

The basic reason for the short-term unpredictability is that there are 650 MPs and any number of SPADs etc forming their own alliances and opinions and making tactical decisions based on what they think may is voting on the direct basis of a rational preference ordering but maybe on the basis of what they think may increase the ultimate chances of the outcome they prefer, or perhaps just what will curry favour with their pals. And in some cases this may have more to do with seeing May win/lose than in anything to do with Brexit itself. Brexiters aren't even trying to be honest any more, whether in media interviews or even the House of Commons - perhaps the most impressive example (at time of writing!) of which was Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay closing Thursday's debate by imploring the House to vote for the Govt motion "in the national interest" before walking straight into the Noes lobby to vote against it. So trying to predict the short-term tactics, when motions are being won and lost by as few as 2 votes, and amendments are tricksily worded and edited and withdrawn on backroom discussions, is a bit futile.

There are lots of analogies with climate change which can be useful - we can't predict the detailed weather (though we can for about a week which is rather longer than parliament right now) but we can predict that summer will be warmer than winter and the 2050s will be hotter than the current decade. There are also lots of lying liars in the climate change debate, and most of them are on the brexit side too, which could be helpful if it wasn't obvious enough already. But there are also underlying truths that are not affected by what people say. We are warming the climate, and it still remains the case that there is no brexit that has majority support, in fact quite probably none of the brexit options would even have substantial minority support if all the potential brexits were to be considered in a multi-way vote. Debatably, remaining in the EU just about has majority support overall, it's certainly the most popular single option and quite likely more popular than any other single choice in a head-to-head vote. It seems quite plausible that we will be testing that proposition in the future. 

Parliament revoking A50 immediately is of course the best action, but on that basis it's unlikely to happen any time soon. Of the options under regular discussion, a long delay would be my pref as it gives more time for people to come round to #nobrexitatall which remains the only sensible final state of the Galton board we are currently rattling our way down. That said, another lesson to be drawn from climate change is that few people ever change their minds due to evidence. While I'm not a fan of another ref ratifying May's deal I do think it's a plausible compromise and while I've already said it's a bit pointless to predict what will happen, it does seem (today!) to be a reasonably likely pathway. I'm not very confident about which way a referendum would go - I'm sure that many people will think that May's withdrawal agreement is "getting it over with" rather than in reality just starting an indefinite period of negotiation over a future trade deal, all the while being subject to EU rules while losing all influence over them. On the other hand, so many have sworn to oppose May's deal, for all sorts of reasons, that it would be the mother of all u-turns for them to vote for it.

One advantage a referendum does have is that it would force the "I voted brexit but not for this brexit" crowd to take ownership of their decision. Also the "oh of course I voted remain but think we should leave" group would no longer be able to hide behind someone else's decision. You brexit, you own it. We'll get to see how many people actually want to leave the EU, rather than just live off the betrayal narrative. 

One of the highlights of recent days has been the abject failure of Farage's Gammonball Run aka "March to Leave".
It's truly remarkable that anyone with Farage's supposed politics skills could come up with such a guaranteed stinker of a plan. Whoever thought there would be mass support for trudging down the east coast of England for 10-20 miles per day in March, paying 50 quid for the dubious privilege of watching Farage say a few words before driving away in his bus, needs their head examined. If you want a short-term prediction from my blog, it is that this march is called off for some hastily-made-up and implausible reason before it gets to London. The optics of a small rabble of shouty old men yelling abuse at everyone they encounter, versus the good-humoured million person march of all types who will be in London next Saturday, could prove more than a little damaging to their image. Quite why the media is still in thrall to this rump of angry ignorant bigots remains a mystery to me. The BBC actually sent a reporter and cameraman for the start of the march, and put it on national TV. Perhaps they were doing auditions for the Question Time audience next week.

If May's withdrawal agreement does get through at the 3rd or 4th time of asking (because hey, MPs are allowed to change their minds on a daily basis, but the common people should know their place even if they were too young to vote back in 2016) then we will of course have a longer-term future of internecine warring within the Tories as they bicker firstly over their new leader and then in subsequent years (as the "transition" gets extended over and over again) over what sort of relationship we should have with the EU. That should take us up to, oooh, about 2030 or thereabouts, by which time most of those still around will be wondering what on earth this was all about and hopefully by then (maybe sooner with luck) we'll be ready to apply for proper EU membership, as a poorer and smaller nation, and under substantially worse conditions.

And all those who voted for this shitshow will blame someone else.


William Connolley said...

> amendments are tricksily worded

As a (n ex-) tricksy remainer I presume you intend that as a compliment ;-?

As to referenda, I did wonder if we had a long extension, requiring us to vote in the EU elections (which other sources say the EU fear, in case we return a pile of gammons), might be good, as a sort of proxy referendum on the EU. Though that would require parties to put up pro-EU candidates to vote for.

jules said...

But it might be a Pinball Machine rather than a Galton Board!

James Annan said...

Yes I think there's been quite a lot of ingenuity in designing motions and amendments that are claimed to present existing policy while actually undermining it. On both (all!) sides.

James Annan said...

Pinball machine kind of implies a player....not sure I like the implication of that :-)

Unknown said...

I think the EU should deny the extension. It would be a mercy killing.

crandles said...

So what do you think of odds on
Extension 1.17 = implied probability 85.5%
Revoke 4.6 = implied probability 21.7%

Is there really that much chance of both extension and revocation before 30/3 ? or should both be shorted?

Some of these hedges get a bit tricky e.g.
When will House of Commons pass Brexit vote (before 30/3/19)? hmm. might pass vote but still need extension for other legislation.


EU require long extension - is that a good excuse for revoke A50, hold referendum, if referendum says so, reinvoke A50 and shorten 2 year period. Might get it done in a year rather than 21 month extension.

James Annan said...

There are still lots of twists and turns but I don't think we'll get both an extension and revocation before the end of the month :-) The former seems pretty much nailed-on unless the EU decides to teach us a lesson and they have shown unlimited patience so far. Revoke before 29th seems to require a fairly implausible set of outcomes, but....

One thing that really bugs me about some podcasts (ok one in particular) is the way they say...W is unlikely, X is unlikely, Y is unlikely...we have eliminated all alternatives therefore as Sherlock Holmes would say, Z must happen! Actually, a similar level of analysis would suggest Z is also unlikely, it's just their choice of leaving it last as an untested option means they don't see that (at least, don't discuss it). Also, they don't consider "something we haven't thought of that is outside the strict definitions of W - Z we have used here" such as a delay or a fudged definition of Y or....

It is a reliable source of entertainment to listen a few days later to see how wrong they all were.

As a Bayesian, I still say that if we were going to ultimately stay in the EU, I'd expect to see a chaotic shitshow while parliament gradually comes round to the idea. On that basis, I see little evidence to change my mind :-)

David B Benson said...

I have been attempting to understand how a neutron star becomes a black hole via obesity.

This strikes me as as relevant as all the above to brexitedness... say that out loud very fast.

EliRabett said...

Some lovely flow charts out there

Paul Skeoch said...

Is there a flow chart demonstrating exactly how Bercow just arranged the positioning of a cat relative to some pigeons?

James Annan said...

As expected the blog is looking dated within 24h of publication :-)

Though actually not that much has changed in the bigger picture.

David B Benson said...

Some UK gambling site puts the odds of Abandon A50 at 5/2. However, I don't know enough to know what 5/2 means.

crandles said...

Betfair has digital odds of 3.75 to 3.8 for A50 revoke which means implied odds between 1/3.8 and 1/3.75 so implied odds of 26.3% to 26.67% depending which way you want to bet.


I am heavily laying May exiting as PM before April and getting some at digital odds as low as 6.2. Time is when she is officially replaced as PM.

Normal hand over of power on resignation would have a timetable meeting setting a deadline in about a weeks time and if only one MP put their name forward then the contest could be over at the end of that week. So not quite sure how people betting on May to go expect the handover of power to be achieved. An instant stand down an appointment of "emergency PM"?

crandles said...

The other amusing one is digital odds of 1.02 on A50 deadline being extended.

If Govt revoked A50 or something so that we didn't use extension then I would say the A50 deadline was extended even if not used. There is even a press release saying it has formally been extended. Can get £1090 on that.