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Brexit ‘Surrender’ Strategy: Winning Ugly

Summary:
Boris Johnson and his political strategist Dominic Cummings have labeled the efforts by Parliament a “Surrender” act. Surrender Act Boris Johnson labels the acts of Parliament to stop No Deal a “Surrender Act”.This is correct, of course.If you take away the EU’s incentives to negotiate, they are less likely to do so.It’s not a complete white flag as Johnson has other, albeit undisclosed options, in which he proclaims two seemingly contradictory ideas. He will abide by the Benn legislation seeking an extension He will not ask for an extension Incite Violence As noted by the Guardian Live blog, Amber Rudd says Boris Johnson’s language ‘Does Incite Violence’ The claim is preposterous. The Labour MP Jess Phillips says she has

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Boris Johnson and his political strategist Dominic Cummings have labeled the efforts by Parliament a “Surrender” act.

Surrender Act

Boris Johnson labels the acts of Parliament to stop No Deal a “Surrender Act”.This is correct, of course.If you take away the EU’s incentives to negotiate, they are less likely to do so.It’s not a complete white flag as Johnson has other, albeit undisclosed options, in which he proclaims two seemingly contradictory ideas.

  1. He will abide by the Benn legislation seeking an extension
  2. He will not ask for an extension

Incite Violence

As noted by the Guardian Live blog, Amber Rudd says Boris Johnson’s language ‘Does Incite Violence’

The claim is preposterous.

The Labour MP Jess Phillips says she has received more threats after an incident outside her constituency office on Thursday when a man allegedly tried to smash her windows. She showed Sky News a message that said: “Unless you change your attitude, be afraid, be very afraid.”

The Labour MP David Lammy has criticised the columnist Brendan O’Neill after he said on BBC Politics Live that the delay to Brexit should have sparked riots. It came after the Times quoted an unnamed senior cabinet minister today who warned the country risked a “violent, popular uprising” if a second referendum overturned the result of the first.

Why Violence Picked Up

Violence has picked up, but “surrender” has little to do with it.

Rather, it’s the very nature of this heated campaign, fueled mostly by Remainers, commentators, and even official Labour Party policy that had led to violence.

Scrap Controls on Immigration

Please note Labour to Scrap Controls on Immigration and Hand Foreign Nationals the Right to Vote

Jeremy Corbyn will scrap controls on immigration and hand foreign nationals the right to vote in future elections and referendums if Labour wins power.

The Labour leader will head into the next election promising to extend freedom of movement to migrants around the world, along with abolishing detention centres, under plans approved on Wednesday.

Despite Mr Corbyn’s team being privately opposed to the plan, delegates at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton unanimously backed a motion which commits the party to “free movement, equality and rights for migrants”. The motion commits Labour to oppose any future immigration system which includes caps on numbers or targets, and which assesses a migrant’s suitability based on their income or usefulness to businesses.

And it requires Labour to commit to the proposals in its next election manifesto – meaning a complete reversal of its 2017 pledge to end free movement after Brexit.

No Immigration Controls and Voting Rights for Foreigners!

Might not that idea lead to violence?

Which Party Incites Violence?

Surrender vs Decapitate

Which side, if you had to pick one, is inciting violence?

This isn’t close. Let’s move on to Eurointelligence, emphasis mine.

Eurointelligence Comments

  • Boris Johnson’s aggression and his use of the term surrender act are deliberate strategic choices, based on intensive polls;
  • The latest polls show him widening the lead over Labour and managing to fend off the Brexit Party;
  • We argue that the strategy is ugly, but it is working;

What is widely underestimated is the sheer unpopularity of the Brexit extensions. We recalled a Tory MP telling us in June that they had underestimated the electoral effect of the April extension, which resulted in the victory of the Brexit Party at the European elections.

Experience has taught not to predict elections, and certainly not elections that have not even been scheduled. But one micro prediction we are happy to make is that the person who extends will not be elected in a general election. That person might well be Jeremy Corbyn. If there ever were a government of national unity, it would be under his leadership. We don’t want to discount that possibility completely, but we don’t think that Labour would do itself any favours by forcing a Brexit extension followed immediately by an election. Just as we don’t think the Tories would do themselves any favours with a no-deal Brexit followed immediately by an election.

Boris Johnson’s bulldozing strategy is not pretty, but it is working. His repeated use of the term surrender bill strikes a cord not only with core Tory voters, but with many people in the country. Steven Swinford of the Times tells us that the Tories have done a lot of polling on this specific term, and they have come to the conclusion that it damages the Labour Party. We are reminded of the late 1980s, when it was Labour Party that used the damaging term of a poll tax to describe what was officially known as the community charge. It was the poll tax that sank Margaret Thatcher’s government – not her position on Europe.
The YouGov poll, with polling done on Sep 25, shows the Conservatives at 33% and LibDems and Labour both at 22%. This would translate into 348 seats for the Tories which is an absolute majority of 30, 163 for Labour and 77 for the LibDems. The Brexit Party scores 14% but does not get a single seat.

What one needs to understand about this and other polls is the interplay of two conflicting dynamics. On the pro-Brexit side the Tories are competing with the Brexit Party. The pro-Remain vote is split between Labour and the LibDems. Johnson is managing to squeeze out the Brexit Party more than Labour is managing to squeeze out the LibDems.

It is best to understand the relation between percentage votes and seats in the UK in terms of thresholds. For the LibDems to get more seats than Labour, they would need to poll a lot more than 22%. At 14%, the Brexit Party’s potential to deprive the Tories of seats is limited only to a few marginals. But, once they get above 20%, they would become as dangerous to the Tories as the LibDems are to Labour.

Next week, the Tories will hold their party conference in Manchester despite the vote in the Commons against a customary recess. We expect another rabble-rousing performance by Johnson. Since he became leader, the party’s fundraising has skyrocketed. September was their best month ever. There is a lot of support for him from business.

Neither Careless Nor Casual

Similarly the Guardian reports PM’s divisive ‘surrender bill’ phrase is neither careless nor casual.

Part of the fury among MPs about Boris Johnson’s inflammatory rhetoric is that it appears to be a deliberate, election-driven strategy.

But the situation is made worse by the suspicion that it is neither careless nor casual – but rather a concerted effort to whip up anger in the country against MPs in order to motivate pro-Brexit voters to back him at the polls.

Johnson’s language about a “surrender bill” is calculated to cast his opponents as people colluding with foreign powers to block Brexit. It was not a flippant, one-off comment, as the prime minister has used the words at least eight times in the House of Commons. He also told Conservative MPs that he was determined to continue using those words.

This is the hallmark of Dominic Cummings, the former Vote Leave architect who is now Johnson’s most senior adviser. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has also highlighted its similarities with the language of rightwing populist demagogues such as Donald Trump. “He is whipping up division with language that’s indistinguishable from the far right,” the Labour leader said in his conference speech this week.

Accurate Assessment

Indeed the language is neither careless, nor casual.

Rather, the language is an accurate assessment of the matter.

If you remove the strongest negotiation tactic someone has, the other side is less likely to negotiate.

Period.

There is no rebuttal. Surrender is the correct word.

Which is of course why the Remainers at the Guardian do not like it.

Order of the Privy Council

Sir John Major says he believes he knows how Johnson circumvent the Benn legislation.

Major cites yet another arcane procedure called the “Order of the Privy Council.

There is a difference between “Orders in Council” and “Orders of Council”. It’s not worth the time it would take to understand the difference.

The key point is Orders of the Privy Council are normally unimportant procedural things about which there is no genuine debate.

I do not believe Johnson would ever attempt to use such a process as it would immediately be challenged and reversed in court.

Even sillier is the process Major proposes to circumvent an Order of the Privy council, send a letter to the EU from UK civil servants.

With background information out of the way, let’s return to Eurointelligence.

BBC Newsnight last night reported that the European Council was plotting to accept a Brexit extension letter from a civil servant formally before the summit Oct 17. The idea is to avoid a situation where it is confronted by conflicting information at the council meeting itself – for example if Johnson were to distance himself from the [Benn] letter in the meeting itself.

We think this information is probably correct in the sense that it reflects either the position of Donald Tusk or that of some other pro-Remain politicians. We do not believe that the European Council as a whole has formed a view on this issue. It would be a big deal for the European Council to act in this manner. We don’t exclude the possibility, but this is not to be done lightly.

We think it is quite plausible that this strategy [an Order of the Privy Council] may have been discussed at some point, but we doubt this is the main strategy. We noted one official denial describing the idea as too-clever-by-half, an expression we would agree with. It is likely to fail for the same reason that prorogation did. If the Supreme Court were to decide that this order was given for political reasons – to frustrate another bill – it too might be judged to be null and void. But we cannot rule out that it might be attempted, if only to demonstrate to the public that Johnson is really trying everything in his power to deliver Brexit. Each court case strengthens the people-vs-establishment narrative.

And Johnson may also prorogue parliament again, for a period of five to six days only to make way for a Queen’s speech. We don’t think that any combination of these various ruses would get him over the line to deliver a no-deal Brexit. But as we wrote before, we should be focusing on the politics more than on procedure. It would be a grave misjudgement for the European Council to be seen as part of a plot with Remainers in the UK parliament. Such a plot would drive a lot of moderate Remainers and fence-sitters into the Brexit camp. If Johnson were elected with an absolute majority, he would no doubt come back with a do-or-die commitment for January 31.

Winning Ugly

Johnson would likely appeal any letter by civil servants to the EU as being illegal. He would also appeal to the UK supreme court.

He only needs to win one of them. I believe he would easily win both.

This is yet another amusing sidelight in which we get to discuss arcane rules and procedures of UK law.

The key overall point is whether or not the “Surrender” campaign is working. I believe it is.

Let’s return to a key idea that was easy to miss: “Tory fundraising has skyrocketed. September was their best month ever. There is a lot of support for him from business.”

Brexit may be ugly, but Corbyn is even uglier.

One of Corbyn’s proposals is to require businesses to give 10% of their shares to workers. Corbyn also wants to renationalize rail, water, energy and Royal Mail, increase corporation tax and the minimum wage, and extend workers’ rights.

For details, please see Forced Distribution: Labour Proposes Workers to Get 10% of Shares

Businesses may not want a hard Brexit, but they want Corbyn even less!

Reprinted with permission from Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis.

Mike Mish Shedlock
Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction.

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