May goes down for the third time

[UPDATE: The EU has issued what seems like a pretty hardline statement in response to the vote, saying that the ball is entirely in the UK’s hands now to come up with something definite by the April 12 deadline but that a no-deal outcome seems most likely. The statement says that they are prepared for a no-deal exit and will not accept any half-baked proposals. They have scheduled a meeting of EU leaders on April 10 to evaluate whatever May comes up with, though given how things are going, parliament may still be voting up until the 12th.]

The British parliament voted just now to defeat Theresa May’s stripped down Brexit plan by a margin of 344 to 286, a smaller margin than the previous two votes but still a significant defeat. The deadline now shifts to April 12 by which time parliament will have to give the EU a definite plan that can consists of: revoking Article 50; requesting a very long delay of the order of years; or leaving with no deal. The first two options would involve the UK taking part in the EU elections later this year, something that the Brexiteers strenuously oppose.

On Monday, parliament will vote on a series of more indicative votes to explore the possibility of coming up with the fourth option, that consists of an actual plan for leaving that can pass parliament. Although this is a theoretical possibility, it is hard to imagine it being pulled off, especially with May at the helm.

A BBC reporter said he asked a member of Theresa May’s cabinet before the vote about the reasoning behind her bringing up the vote today when it was likely to go down and got an absolutely scorching response about how May operates, saying that the reason for this colossal debacle can be laid squarely at her feet due to a leadership style that leaves pretty much everyone around her in the dark about what she is planning to do.

Of course, we are now at the stage where everyone will try to wash their hands of any responsibility so this cabinet member’s comments have to be weighed accordingly. But it is consistent with what has been known for a long time about May’s maddeningly inscrutable style. Inscrutability is fine if you are a strategic and tactical genius biding your time for the correct moment to speak and act. But in May’s case, ones senses that there is no there there, that inscrutability seems to be a cover for not knowing even in her own mind what she wants to do, resulting in the Maybot taking over.

And the Maybot seems to be firmly in control, with her continuing to hold on to the party leadership and thinking that she can find a way out of this mess, even though pretty much everyone she has been talking with, from the EU leaders to even in her own cabinet, seem to think she is hopeless.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    I’m still not ruling out the “May is a machiavellian genius” hypothesis.

    Consider: you say there are now three options. No Brexit at all, years of delay, or no deal Brexit. Parliament has explicitly rejected a no deal Brexit, as well it should as even most Brexiteers accept leaving with no deal would be so damaging the economy might never recover and indeed it would probably be the end of the UK as a nation. There’s a hardcore of no-deal fans, but there’s a hardcore of Flat Earthers so don’t let that persuade you of anything.

    If May has indeed brought us to a point where the only options are leaving some years from now after sorting out a sensible, workable deal without a ticking clock in the background OR simply not leaving at all, I have to say that looks to me like a massive win. The longer Brexit is delayed, the less likely it is to ever happen. And if she successfully engineers a Remain outcome after a Leave victory in the referendum… I shall personally send her a bunch of flowers. In every other respect her time as an MP, especially her time as Home Secretary, has been a litany of evil and incompetence. But when her country needed her to step up and play both sides against the middle, infuriate every single person she interacted with, and tear the Leave movement into seventeen seperate pieces so they could fight each other while Remainers all agreed… there she was. They say all political careers end in failure. May could yet be the exception to that rule -- she could yet go out as the PM who prevented Brexit. And since I like to think the best of people, I’m going to pretend to myself that that was what she meant to do all along. It’s preferable to the alternative.

    It’s not over yet, but hey -- it’s Brexit day today, and we’re not leaving. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

  2. raven says

    …saying that the reason for this colossal debacle can be laid squarely at her feet due to a leadership style that leaves pretty much everyone around her in the dark about what she is planning to do.

    Most likely because May herself,has no idea what she is planning to do most of the time.
    To be fair, it doesn’t look like anyone else in the political power structure of the UK knows either.
    The clueless leading the clueless.

    Given how complicated this leaving process is, seems like the UK is out of time.
    They’ve had two years and have gotten…nowhere.
    Another two weeks isn’t going to help all that much.

  3. Ken Baker says

    I’ve been following the Brexit saga pretty closely but I still don’t understand, the British Parliament keeps saying ‘no!’ but are they suggesting any alternatives plans or just saying “try again and come back in two weeks”? If they just keep saying nope without contributing any other ideas, what the balls do they think will happen?

  4. Mano Singham says

    Ken Baker @#3,

    I was waiting for someone with better knowledge of parliamentary procedure to chime in but until then, here is what I think.

    In the British system, the party that forms the government has the majority and gets to control the legislative agenda. Party leaders usually ‘whip’ their members to follow the party line on most issues and this means that it is up to the government to come up with a plan that can get a majority vote. In the Brexit case, party discipline has pretty much broken down, especially in the Conservative party that forms the government, so they cannot get their deal passed. The indicative votes are a mechanism by which members of parliament have wrested control of the agenda from the government but they have not been able to agree on something that can pass either. Even if one plan does get a majority votes, the government does not have to accept it or propose binding legislation based on it.

    The ‘government’ is usually used to denote the subset of the ruling party that has taken on administrative roles such as ministers, junior ministers and the like. They are to be distinguished from the ‘backbenchers’ of the same party who attend parliament and debate and vote but have no other say in running the government.

    I am hoping that more knowledgeable people will chip in and correct any errors in my understanding.

  5. deepak shetty says

    I’m not sure what prevents the parliament from simply withdrawing the decision to leave the EU (and the EU courts have ruled that they can do that) and then applying for the withdrawal again -- Thereby getting upto 2 more years to sort it out?
    Other than no one would vote for the current set of clowns but I guess that is the feeling among the population anyway,
    I dont know about May’s inscrutableness. It looked like her party had put in her a place with no solution and her hope was that enough members on her own party would have to hold their nose and vote for her deal given the other options are stay with no end in sight, or no deal.

  6. Mano Singham says


    Nothing prevents the parliament from doing what you say and revoking Article 50 and starting over. What is stopping it is that this would further infuriate Leave voters who are already angry because they thought that today would be their last day as part of the EU. And, to add salt to their wounds, they would then also have to vote in European parliamentary elections on May 23.

    It is a political problem, not a legal one.

  7. file thirteen says

    And so two years of negotiating effort was all in vain. I wonder how much that cost taxpayers?

    Few MPs other than May herself remain under the delusion that her, now utterly dead, deal should put up against other options in a referendum; the other options being the most popular results from the indicative votes: customs union and remain, and also no deal, not because that has a ghost of a chance if voted on, but because including it will remove the idiot influence from the votes on any feasible deals (assuming any can be found, but in all seriousness, some must be).

    The indicative votes, although all voted down, may still have been the lifeline that was needed. Parliament is finally taking control, and if there comes a consensus on Monday for something that May cannot get behind, why then there will be an election to find someone who can.

  8. jrkrideau says

    Interesting speculations on May’s behaviour
    Moonie anyone?

    @ 5 deepak shetty
    Nothing stops Parliament from tossing the referendum results legally.

    I live in Canada but my impression is that the Tories were so terrified that Jeremy Corbyn would win the next election that they were willing to do almost anything to avoid going to the polls and that bunch of wankers cannot agree on anything anyway. It is not clear what Corbyn was thinking but he has been fighting off all sorts of vicious and false anti-Semite attacks which has confused the heck out of the Labour Party.

    Things have since descended into greater chaos.

  9. bmiller says

    Hey, Mano, speaking of insane politics:

    Would love to hear your inimitable update on the Sri Lanka craziness. Even in Trumpified America we have not gotten there yet! 🙂

  10. Mano Singham says

    bmiller @#9,

    I am not aware that there have been crazy things in Sri Lankan politics recently. Have I missed something?

    It would be very hard to top the craziness level of last year when there were zero or one or two prime ministers at the same time, depending on how you looked at it.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    The reason they won’t simply revoke A50 is they know who the people who voted Leave are.

    The people who voted Remain are the people who gathered last weekend in numbers over a million, and peacefully asked for another referendum. They’re the sort of people who, when they don’t get what they want, tut. In extremis, they may write to the Guardian.

    The people who voted Leave are people like Thomas Mair. A revocation of A50 holds the real prospect of murderous violence. And if you voted Leave and you’re going to come here to say you’re NOT a murderous Nazi, do please bear in mind that in the referendum, as in the second world war, there were just two sides, and one of them had actual Nazis on it, and you chose that side.

    Also, if A50 is revoked, it’s highly likely that would be the self-destruct button on the conservative party. And the entire thing, going back decades, has been about maintaining the fiction that Ken Clarke and Jacob Rees-Mogg represent the same set of views. (Ken Clarke is a moderate, Europhile Tory, while Jacob Rees-Mogg is a cartoon caricature of what a Tory looked like in about 1880, and he’s rabidly anti-Europe.)

    The whole thing has been about maintaining the structural integrity of the Conservative party, and we’re just unlucky that it all happened while a shameless opportunist like Jeremy Corbyn had taken the leadership of what was once the opposition. He has taken every opportunity to do precisely nothing to oppose this disastrous nonsense, and for that he deserves whatever he gets when they finally uncover his stash of Nazi memorabilia. (Joking: he’s not an anti-Semite. He just counts a LOT of them as friends and allies, so…)

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