Brexit, Austria and elsewhere

Polls conducted after Boris Johnson’s court defeat show the Conservatives maintaining the edge in Britain, as the centre-right recovers power in Austria. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

On September 24, the UK Supreme Court – the highest UK court – ruled the prorogation of parliament was illegal. The Commons resumed sitting the next day. Had parliament still been prorogued, the Commons would not have sat until October 14.

I previously thought Boris Johnson could defy parliament and refuse an extension, but this path seems increasingly difficult given hostility from both parliament and the courts.  On the other hand, the crux of Johnson’s public appeal is his promise to deliver Brexit by October 31 “come what may”.

If he fails, Leave voters are likely to be terribly disillusioned, and Conservative support will drop. ComRes polling shows this, and a Survation poll found no-deal favoured over a Brexit extension by 49% to 43% if a deal could not be reached. The five polls taken since the Supreme Court decision are between a tie and a 12-point Conservative lead.

The surest way for the Commons to prevent no-deal is to vote no-confidence in Johnson, then confidence in someone else. There are suggestions a vote could occur this week, but, as I wrote in August, this is unlikely to work. A Brexit deal appears unlikely, and would have to pass the Commons.  The European Union summit will be on October 17-18, and the legislation requires Johnson to extend Brexit by October 19 if no deal is reached.

I believe Labour’s policy of not explicitly backing Remain is correct, although it is complicated by Britain’s stupid first-past-the-post system, where votes lost on one flank do not return. In this September 26 Conversation article mainly about US politics, I theorised that the Brexit referendum result, Trump’s victory and the Australian Coalition’s triumph are partly explained by the perception that opponents were too close to “inner city elites”. By having a pro-Brexit position (contrary to elite opinion) at the June 2017 election, UK Labour performed far better than expected.

Right-wing parties win Austrian election, but can they work together?

Two weeks ago, I previewed the September 29 Austrian election and three other upcoming elections.  Austria uses proportional representation with a 4% threshold.  The conservative ÖVP won 73 of the 182 seats (up 11 since October 2017), the centre-left SPÖ 41  (down 11), the far-right FPÖ 32 (down 19), the Greens 23 (re-entering parliament after a disastrous split) and the liberal NEOS 14 (up four).  It was a record vote share for the Greens and NEOS, but worst for the SPÖ.  These figures do not include left-leaning declaration votes.

To form a majority, the ÖVP will need one of the FPÖ, SPÖ or Greens to join in a coalition.  A single-member system would have produced an ÖVP landslide.

Election updates: Israel, Portugal, Poland, Canada and the US

This section gives Israeli government (non)formation updates, and poll updates for the other four countries.  Information is current at Monday afternoon.

Final September 17 Israeli election results gave the left-leaning Blue & White (B&W) 33 of 120 Knesset seats, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud 32, the Arab Joint List 13, other right and religious parties 23, other left parties 11 and Yisrael Beiteinu 8.  Three from the Joint List did not support B&W leader Benny Gantz, so Netanyahu had a 55-54 lead, and was given the first chance to form government by the Israeli president on September 25.  With talks stalled, Netanyahu may return this mandate this week.

Right-wing parties have gained ground for the October 6 Portuguese election, but are still far behind the combined vote for left-wing parties.

The economically left-wing, but socially conservative and anti-immigrant Law and Justice party is still likely to win a second successive majority at the October 13 Polish election.

For the October 21 Canadian election, the CBC Poll Tracker gives the Conservatives a 34.0% to 33.6% lead over the Liberals, with 13.7% NDP, 10.4% Greens and 4.8% Quebec Bloc.  The Liberals lead on seats with 162 of 338, to 139 Conservative, 16 NDP, 16 Bloc and four Greens.  There was little impact from Justin Trudeau’s “brownface” scandal.

Trump’s net approval is -10.4% with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, a small drop from -9.9% in my Conversation article.  There have not been many polls taken since the Ukraine revelations.  Trump’s approval had increased due to the economy.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

101 comments on “Brexit, Austria and elsewhere”

  1. I think yesterday’s decision not to “play into Johnson’s hands” and attempt a no confidence motion was a missed opportunity for the opposition parties in the UK. The ball was in their court, they decided not to play it.

    Speaking to reporters outside parliament after cross-party talks, the Liberal Democrat leader said there would not be a vote of no confidence in the government this week as opposition parties continue to disagree about the best way forward.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/30/opposition-parties-to-start-planning-for-national-unity-government

    I think the key bit is “opposition parties continue to disagree”. It’s too hard for them. As a group they too don’t know how to solve the Brexit problem, which their country wants finished. If the opposition disagreement continues I think there’ll be a massive Tory victory at the election after a “Clean-Break Brexit”. The only question will be what will trigger the General Election? Perhaps the opposition parties are hanging on in the hope that fixed 5 year terms means the Tories will wear the pain of the “Clean Break”?

    EDIT: changed “the” to “of”

  2. That court decision to cancel the prorogation seems like a waste of time so far. I mean, the parliament’s back and sitting, but it doesn’t appear to be achieving a lot. But maybe I’m missing something.

    And for anyone who remembers my post where I scoffed at the idea of an English court’s decision being overturned in favour of a Scottish one… Yes, I was wrong. In fact, I was gobsmacked. But in a good way.

  3. Ante Meridian @ #3 Tuesday, October 1st, 2019 – 10:14 am

    That court decision to cancel the prorogation seems like a waste of time so far. I mean, the parliament’s back and sitting, but it doesn’t appear to be achieving a lot. But maybe I’m missing something.

    And for anyone who remembers my post where I scoffed at the idea of an English court’s decision being overturned in favour of a Scottish one… Yes, I was wrong. In fact, I was gobsmacked. But in a good way.

    Yeah. It makes you wonder why Johnson bothered in the first place, and then what all the subsequent hoo-hah was really about. But Nah. Probably not worth reading too much into it.

  4. Maybe I’m posting too much, but today being the first of the month makes it easy to count the days left to get stuff done.
    * EU Summit begins: 17th
    * Benn Bill: 19th
    * Brexit: 31st (11 pm, UK time)

  5. On the Israeli elections,

    Final September 17 Israeli election results gave the left-leaning Blue & White (B&W) 33 of 120 Knesset seats, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud 32, the Arab Joint List 13, other right and religious parties 23, other left parties 11 and Yisrael Beiteinu 8. Three from the Joint List did not support B&W leader Benny Gantz, so Netanyahu had a 55-54 lead, and was given the first chance to form government by the Israeli president on September 25. With talks stalled, Netanyahu may return this mandate this week.

    So if I understand right, does that mean Gantz may be given a chance to form a government and Yisrael Beiteinu are still the deciders? The alternatives would be another election, Netanyahu gets told to try again, or ..?

    October is going to be an interesting month. (I was going to toss US politics into this observation, but that’s been an unpredictable storm for a long time.)

  6. I’ll give it a rest soon, honest. But is using “economically left-wing, but socially conservative” to describe the Polish Law and Justice party another way of saying “authoritarian”?

  7. Late Risersays:
    Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at 10:19 am

    “Yeah. It makes you wonder why Johnson bothered in the first place, ”

    Because he won in the English and Irish courts before the Supreme Court overturned those rulings.

  8. Bucephalus @ #10 Tuesday, October 1st, 2019 – 12:29 pm

    Late Risersays:
    Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at 10:19 am

    “Yeah. It makes you wonder why Johnson bothered in the first place, ”

    Because he won in the English and Irish courts before the Supreme Court overturned those rulings.

    I’ve forgotten, but didn’t Johnson prorograte parliament and then was challenged in the courts? My question was why did he bother with the prorogation, not why did he bother fighting in the courts? Academic as it is.

  9. This is the Austrian result with most declaration votes included. I believe the final count will be late this week.

    Distribution of Seats
    % Votes Seats
    ÖVP 37.5% 71
    SPÖ 21.2% 40
    FPÖ 16.2% 31
    NEOS 8.1% 15
    GREEN 13.8% 26

    With 183 total seats, it takes 92 to reach a majority. The OVP can’t reach a majority with just NEOS; they need one of the SPO, FPO or Greens. They won’t want to go back into coalition with the FPO after the mess that led to this early election, and I think the FPO is reacting to the bad result by saying they’ll go into opposition. The only alternaitve is an alliance with one of the left parties.

    The OVP must wish Austria had a single-member system. With or without preferences, they’d have won a thumping majority, and there wouldn’t be argument about coalitions.

  10. “My question was why did he bother with the prorogation”

    I think he thought it would help his ‘anti-elitist cum anti-parliament’ image – of sticking it to the chattering classes who only want to sit around dilly dallying and thwarting the will of the people. He’s the Hulk remember? He’ll crash through all the scheming and obfuscation of the out-of-touch elites (epitomised by parliament of course) – and what better way to do that than unilaterally shutting them down?

    As well as that, Boris couldn’t be sure that, given enough time, a majority of parliamentarians wouldn’t come up with a replacement and unceremoniously dump him in a NCM. This is still on the cards BTW – but wouldn’t have been if parliament was still prorogued.

  11. It has been my view ever since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister that only a vote of no confidence could prevent a no deal Brexit. That is still my view. But right now there doesn’t seem any real prospect of all parties agreeing to a way forward on that. A big sticking point appears to be the Liberal Democrats taking a hard line position that they would veto any attempt to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister, in spite of other parties being prepared to agree to this. I am trying to get my head around what the Lib Dems are up to; perhaps they are concerned about losing support from right leaning voters if they agree to this? Perhaps they do not want Corbyn to get the credit for the UK avoiding a no deal Brexit? Either way, it would certainly be ironic given their hard line remain stance if their refusal to bend lead to a no deal Brexit.

  12. Matt31 says, “Perhaps they do not want Corbyn to get the credit”

    The LibDems are the question mark. Seems to me they’re gambling, just as Johnson is. Maybe they’ve already started their election campaign and think to vault past Labour to become the official opposition? Dunno…, but I think Johnson-Cummings are the better gamblers. It feels like no-deal still has the upper hand. Too many ‘tricks’ (Bridge analogy) have to go a certain way: NCM, 27 EU members agreeing to an extension, finding a way past the ‘backstop’, etc…

  13. Corbyn’s problem isn’t just the Lib Dems. He would need a large portion of the 21 expelled Tory MPs, given that some ex-Labour Inds would oppose him becoming PM. And the ex-Tories would hate voting for a socialist.

  14. Matt31

    The LibDems are at present a very minor party, fewer than half the number of MPs that the SNP has. A temporary alternative government has to have Corbyn as PM as he is leader of the official opposition.

    Nicola Sturgeon has hinted that the SNP would support Corbyn as PM if that stopped a no deal brexit.

    If the the Lib Dems are remotely serious about stopping Brexit they must accept a temporary Corbyn premiership.

    But having principles is not a LibDem strong point.

  15. ِAdrian: “Corbyn’s problem isn’t just the Lib Dems. He would need a large portion of the 21 expelled Tory MPs, given that some ex-Labour Inds would oppose him becoming PM. And the ex-Tories would hate voting for a socialist.”

    Its even worse than that. There’s a good possibility that many labour members wouldn’t even support him.

    That said, Swinson is still being a massive hypocrite. She has billed her party as the party who will do anything to stop Brexit – and especially a no-deal brexit. Getting rid of Boris and the extremist rump that props him up has to be the first priority in achieving that goal. A vote of no confidence is the most direct avenue to do that, and as leader of the biggest opposition party, Corbyn (for all his faults and divisiveness) has to be the first person to turn to to try and form an alternative government. Corbyn has promised to a) delay brexit and b) grant a referendum with revoking brexit as one of the choices. For those who trully want to either thwart no-deal or revoke it altogether, this has to be their best shot, and they should take it.

    And yes, I know the lib-dems themselves won’t get Corbyn over the line, and Swinson is certainly talking that up as a convenient excuse. But it is a cop-out. She should at least be backing him as the most viable option – and in the process perhaps even putting more pressure on the hold-outs to join her.

  16. I read avidly some of the British newspapers, occasionally watch the BBC and watch the Sky sunrise program.
    The impression I have taken away is simple: at days end, no one has a clue when or how or if the UK leaves Europe.
    It’s a shambles caused by Cameron, entrenched by May and Corbin and God knows what Boris has done.
    It’s the biggest and most consequential period in British history.
    I guess the citizens simply stay calm and carry on.

  17. The Liberal Democrats must be still hoping to somehow get an election prior to the 31st, in which they can campaign as the 100% Remain option.

    Because if they refuse to support a baton-change government and so contribute to a no-deal Brexit occurring, I can’t see their vote amounting to a hill of beans in a post-Brexit election.

  18. Any Labour MP who did not back Corbyn in a confidence vote would (I am certain) be out of Labour, with a new significantly more pro-Corbyn candidate at the next election, those willing to risk that probably have all already gone. Most to all of the anti-Corbyn MPs are Remainers, making it less likely they would rebel against an extensionist Corbyn government preventing Boris from forcing a No Deal.

    There are pro-Brexit Labour MPs, many pro-Corbyn, who would likely not back any non-Corbyn candidate. There could be enough of these to block a centrist-led Remainer unity government, a public announcement by such MPs of having the numbers to block a centrist lead Remainer unity government would likely blunt any future campaign against Labour for not agreeing to one.

    The LibDems` plan appears t be to force a centrist-led Remainer unity government or blame Labour for not agreeing to one and try and scoop up the Remain vote at the election.

    Labour`s plan appears to be to get a Corbyn-led extension government or blame the LibDems for it not succeeding, casting them as committed more to non-left-wing economic policies than Remaining. One tactic could be to accuse the LibDems of secretly wanting a No Deal Brexit, followed by what they imagine to be a majority LibDem Government (or near enough supported by some of all of the SNP, Plaid, Alliance and/or the SDLP), to get the UK to have to join the Eurozone (and possibly the Schengen Agreement borderless travel area) to re-enter the EU.

  19. “The Liberal Democrats must be still hoping to somehow get an election prior to the 31st, in which they can campaign as the 100% Remain option.

    Because if they refuse to support a baton-change government and so contribute to a no-deal Brexit occurring, I can’t see their vote amounting to a hill of beans in a post-Brexit election.”

    The speaker has already ruled out a pre October 31 election.

    The Lib-Dems are obviously banking on an extension being secured before the election.

    However if Labor can form government on the promise of holding a referendum first (the lib-dems would just look ridiculous not backing that)- and by lucky chance people vote stay in that referendum – then the Lib-Dems will be utterly nutered, as their entire purpose would become irrelevant. So too I suspect would Boris.

    My question would be, what sort of legislation and/parliamentary support is required to hold a referendum? Can a simple parliamentary majority simply say ‘let it be so’?

    edit: it just occurred to me – holding a referendum now would clash with Corbyn’s promise of securing an alternative deal with the EU first. Presumably he would have to put May’s deal vs remain to the people?

    edit2: well actually, I suppose there’s nothing stopping him thrashing out a deal before the referendum while he is supported by parliament as the interim PM, then holding a referendum.

  20. One journalist sees the end.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/01/boris-johnson-eu-prime-minister-brexit

    The other 27 sides of the negotiating table are exhausted.

    Most EU leaders would be glad if the UK ended up renewing its European vows in a second referendum, but none is trying to engineer that outcome. Only paranoid Brexiteers see foreign plots to keep plucky Albion in the bloc against its will. The salient question in Brussels is not how to revive the gangrenous member, but how to manage its safe amputation.

    Ireland is the unsolvable problem:

    Johnson wants to take the UK out of the EU customs union, which cannot be done without border inspections and infrastructure. In the context of Northern Ireland, that means a level of security intrusion that was banished by the Good Friday agreement, and which no one who cares about peace would want to see restored. … But a working customs border needs enforcement, which means stopping shipments that break the rules.

    The UK doesn’t “get” the EU.

    … misalignment of perspectives has plagued the Brexit process. Eurosceptics constantly underestimate EU states’ readiness to prize collective solidarity over relations with a splitter nation on its way out of the club. It never occurred to them, for example, that an Irish voice could carry further across the continent than an English one.

    And Johnson is an idiot.

    Johnson still has not grasped that shift in the balance of power. He is committed to the fiction that Britain stands equal in global stature to the EU, and wedded to an electoral strategy that treats cooperation as cowardice. … He still doesn’t understand that for the EU, this isn’t a game.

  21. In the entire EU, only the United Kingdom has a problem like the Irish border. So naturally of the entire EU it had to be the United Kingdom that decided to leave. I think the Poms call it Sod’s Law.

  22. Agree completely with Adrian. In the event that a majority could be pulled together for Corbyn to be a temporary Prime Minister, I don’t see any circumstance where that isn’t conditional on him getting a deal and going straight to a General Election. I think the referendum first idea is a non starter.

    @Victoria Corbyn isn’t going anywhere; Labour will not be getting a new leader, certainly not this side of a General Election anyway. This isn’t the time for Labour to be changing leaders; a Labour leadership contest would take months. In any case, I have little doubt that Corbyn would still have a significant majority of support within the Labour membership.

    On the Northern Ireland question, I do get a little tired of the constant repetition of the argument that a hard border is not compatible with the Good Friday Agreement, which implies that somehow a backstop is compatible with it. Of course, from a Republican/Nationalist perspective, the backstop is fine; it changes the status of Northern Ireland, pulling it closer to the Republic of Ireland and away from the UK. But from a Unionist perspective, the backstop is actually far from compatible with the Good Friday Agreement, because it makes changes in Northern Ireland that separate it from the UK without the consent of all communities. In reality, there is probably no Brexit solution that is compatible with the Good Friday Agreement.

  23. @Adrian Beaumont

    This doesn’t surprise me. I have felt all along that Boris Johnson has little to no interest in actually getting a deal and is doing no more than going through the motions, and in any case, the EU are locked in to the backstop because of the one country veto that Ireland would no doubt use on anything less.

  24. We live in times, where people drift to the extremes or the more radical options when it comes to political issues. Also events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in America, set a process of radicalization or more appropriately people flocking to the radical sides on issues in the electorate.

    For example; Britain the Labour Party’s support has massively decreased, due to Jeremy Corbyn being seen ‘sitting on the fence’ on the issue of Brexit. Therefore; those who voted for Labour in the 2017 General Election but are Remainers have moved over to the Liberal Democrats, to a lesser degree the Green Party and in Scotland the Scottish National Party who are Remain.

  25. @Boerwar

    Johnson, Farage and other Brexiter nuts are either idiots or lairs who want to profit or at least their corporate backers from a No Deal Brexit. However their strategies are working to shore up Conservative Party support. Because the Tories are seen now as the party of proper (Hard) Brexit. Especially given Brexiters have become in favor of a Hard Brexit and now a ‘No Deal’ Brexit.

    Anyway I am convinced now that Brexit was always going to be an impossible project. So a second referendum either on revoking article 50 or a “No Deal” Brexit, is the only way out, which I predict revoke article 50 would win.

  26. Assuming Johnson’s “deal” will be a non-starter, he will need to have his bags packed ready to vacate Number 10 by October 19. Either that or be prepared to go to gaol.

    I simply can’t see him doing the only alternative – abide by the Benn Act. He’s basically staked his entire political fortunes on not abiding by it.

  27. “A referendum would take at least a few months, and meanwhile Corbyn would be PM. I just can’t see ex-Tories enduring a few months of Corbyn using executive action to enforce socialism.”

    Can’t labour just wait it out until the Oct 19 deadline?

    Just keep the government sweating until they literally have no more cards to play. The extension request is now law, and from what I understand is pretty much ‘loophole proof’. We can be pretty confident that Johnson has no capacity to get a deal before Oct 19 – or even before Oct 30. So that leaves only one option left for the government – seek an extension, as the law requires. Assuming Johnsons has no way around this, he will either stay in office and trash all his credibility by ‘surrendering to the surrender act’, and thereby presumably leaving his electoral prospects in tatters – or he resigns. And if the latter, what happens then? Do the tories then go through the 2 month or whatever process of electing a new leader/PM – who has to make sure they have the confidence of parliament? Who is ‘option B’ for the tories? As far as I know, they don’t really have a credible option. But whoever it is, they would have the unenviable duty of abiding by the Benn Act, and presumably face the considerable ire of their conservative base. And then that new leader would almost certainly be forced into a fresh election, which the tories surely wouldn’t want a) without Boris’s charisma (by far their preferred electoral choice) and b) after having just surrendered to the surrender act.

    Long story short, it seems that the tories are now ‘locked in’ on a course to disaster – if only labour hold their nerve and wait it out.

  28. On the issue of the border, it isn’t Boris or the UK who will create a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. But in the event of a no deal Brexit, the EU will have no choice but to create one in order to preserve customs/trade rules etc. So when Boris says no border, yes he is being disingenuous because he knows full well that the EU will have to create one. Of course, he and other Brexiteers will then try to blame the EU for any problems this will cause.

    On Boris and the Benn Act, I don’t see any way he will go to the EU and ask for an extension. He has backed himself in to a corner where that would be political death for him, with the huge winners being the Brexit Party. This leaves the question of other options open to Johnson. I wonder, if he was to declare a National Emergency, as has been floated, where would this leave the Benn Act from a legal standpoint? Would an emergency declaration override it?

  29. Suppose Johnson were to resign on the 18th October. How long would it take for his replacement to be chosen and sworn in? Under normal circumstances – a government with a comfortable majority – it should only take a few days, maybe just one day. But the current situation isn’t normal. And if it takes a couple of weeks with no PM, what happens to the Benn Act then?

  30. https://brexitcentral.com/today/brexit-news-for-tuesday-1-october/

    Boris Johnson is asking the European Union to rule out a further extension to Article 50 as part of a new Brexit deal, The Times has learnt. The prime minister will publish a legal text spelling out his proposed alternative to the Irish backstop within days as negotiations with Brussels enter a crucial period. He has privately made clear that an agreement should include a commitment from the 27 other EU nations that they will not allow another Brexit delay. Mr Johnson’s intention is to confront MPs in parliament with a binary choice of agreeing the revised deal or ensuring that Britain falls out of the EU without agreement at the end of the month. If he succeeds, the prime minister will, in effect, nullify the Benn Act, which compels him to seek an extension to Article 50.

    Can anyone explain this to me? Is Johnson banking on the EU accepting a deal that simultaneously rejects a further extension as the mechanism to nullify the Benn Act?

  31. And thats the one curve-ball that no one seems to be considering: that the EU don’t have to grant an extension when one is asked for under the Benn Act.

  32. @Big A Adrian

    I’m not so sure that no one is considering that. In fact, it was reported a couple of weeks ago that Johnson may be in talks with EU countries-Hungary and Poland were specifically mentioned, to try to get them to block any article 50 extension. In any case, it still seems very unlikely to me that an agreement can be reached that will satisfy the EU, and Ireland in particular, about the border issue.

  33. I had the thought, back when Johnson started going rogue, that the folks to watch might be the ROI. They would want an extension in preference to No-Deal. They’re maybe the canary in the Brexit coal mine. (An analogy with litmus paper also works.) Are they talking to the Poles or Hungarians, or others, and how often? Hmm. Might be interesting to track down some ROI based news sources.

  34. We’re in London. City of remainers.

    Johnson bullshitting his way to a no deal. It’s been so long, people are innoculated and unshockable. One casual conversation went along the lines of – ‘so what do you think is going to happen ‘ — ‘oh, I don’t know, they haven’t told us yet’. Terribly English that.

    When I said to someone that we were going back to the continent, they giggled and looked askance. ‘Well, what do you say?’ ‘We call it Europe’

    We’re travelling with the ACO.

  35. Matt31:

    On the issue of the border, it isn’t Boris or the UK who will create a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. But in the event of a no deal Brexit, the EU will have no choice but to create one in order to preserve customs/trade rules etc.

    I don’t see why you say this. Yes, if Ireland (on behalf of the EU) wants to physically prevent movement of certain goods or people across the border into Ireland it will have to set up physical infrastructure for that – but similarly if the UK wants to physically prevent movement of certain goods or people across the border into NI it will likewise have to set up physical infrastructure. It cuts both ways.

    It seems that both sides could easily just decline to put in place such physical infrastructure and instead accept a bit of small scale leakage across the border (who cares if a resident of the Republic brings a few bags of British flour home across the border, really – it’s hardly going to drive EU farmers out of business) while relying on financial surveillance and other detective work to catch large scale smuggling operations.

  36. Ante Meridian:

    In the entire EU, only the United Kingdom has a problem like the Irish border. So naturally of the entire EU it had to be the United Kingdom that decided to leave. I think the Poms call it Sod’s Law.

    If Belgium and the Netherlands ever found themselves on either side of a customs border it would be quite impractical:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Nassau

  37. The EU needs to enforce the border, in the event of the UK leaving the customs union or they are open to WTO disputes for treating goods from different countries differently. They will force Ireland to do this if they have to, they don`t want open land borders for goods (the EU has several land borders, mostly in Eastern Europe).

    A Hard Border at the Ireland-Northern Irish border (under no deal) and a hard border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain (under the backstop) are equal in their messing with the Good Friday Agreement, not in contetion over which one messes with it. The Great Britain leaving the Customs Union without Ireland also leaving (which the Irish don`t want to do and are not in the process of doing) requires a hard border somewhere between the two.

    I doubt that Poland wants the UK to leave the EU, with all those Polish workers in the UK under the freedom of movement. The situation may be similar with Hungary as well.

  38. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/02/boris-johnsons-speech-of-coward-conservative-conference

    What I’ve been thinking all along: Boris and the Tories are depending on one of two things happening: a ‘come what may’ brexit on October 31 or a general election. The opposition parties can combine to stop both. After that Boris literally has nothing, and come November 1 and the UK is a) still in the EU and b) hasn’t gone to an election – and on that day Boris will be a spent force.

    The opposition just need to hold their nerve, and they will win this.

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