Brexit, Canada preview and elsewhere

The Letwin amendment delays approval of a deal Brexit, as Boris Johnson sends three letters to the EU. Also: minority government likely in Monday’s Canadian election. 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 October 17, Boris Johnson agreed a Brexit deal with the European Union. On October 19, the Letwin amendment passed the Commons by 322 votes to 306. All current Conservatives voted against this amendment, as did six Labour MPs. But the ten Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs voted in favour, as did many of the expelled Conservatives.

The Letwin amendment withholds approval for the deal until legislation to enact Brexit has passed parliament. If not for the amendment, the deal would likely have passed, as some who voted for the amendment indicated they would support the deal itself; they only voted for Letwin to ensure a no-deal Brexit on October 31 did not occur.

As approval of the deal was delayed, Johnson was required to request a Brexit extension. He sent three letters: an unsigned copy of the letter required by the Benn Act, an explanatory letter from the UK’s EU ambassador and a signed letter from Johnson explaining why he does not want an extension. I do not know what the EU, lawyers and courts will make of these contradictory letters.

No current Conservative MP has spoken against the deal. Unlike Theresa May’s deal, which applied a backstop to the whole UK, Johnson’s deal only applies to Northern Ireland, with the rest of the UK free to change trading arrangements. As commentator Stephen Bush wrote, this freedom appealed to hard Leavers far more than May’s deal.

Johnson reverted to the EU’s original offer, which May had rejected owing to her need for the DUP to form a government. Johnson wants an election, so he doesn’t care about the DUP causing trouble, and was happy to shaft them.

Whether legislation passes parliament, is rejected or unacceptably amended, an election is likely coming soon, as Jeremy Corbyn says he will support an election once a long extension is granted. If the deal is enacted, a transition period until December 2020 will mean no economic consequences until then. Polls suggest a favourable reaction to the Brexit deal has further boosted the Conservatives.

Labour’s best chance to win the next election is to attack the Brexit deal as a sell-out to the right. But one explanation for Labour’s surge before the June 2017 election was that inflation-adjusted wages were down 0.5% in the year to May 2017; they are up 2.0% in the year to August 2019.

Minority government likely in Monday’s Canadian election

The Canadian election will be held Monday, with polls closing Tuesday Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT). Canada uses first-past-the-post. According to the CBC Poll Tracker, voting intentions are 31.7% Liberals (centre-left), 31.4% Conservatives, 18.2% NDP (left-wing), 8.2% Greens and 7.0% Quebec Bloc (left-wing, separatist). Seat expectations are 139 of 338 Liberals, 121 Conservatives, 40 Bloc, 35 NDP and two Greens.

If, as is likely, no party wins a majority (170 seats), the party with the most seats could form a minority government. If the Conservatives won the most seats, they could be ousted by an agreement between the Liberals and other left-wing parties. However, this did not occur after either the 2006 or 2008 elections. Perhaps reform of the electoral system could be a bargain for support.

Canada uses staggered polling times, so that most polls close at the same time. However, the four eastern provinces’ polls close by 10:30am Tuesday AEDT, but they account for just 32 of the 338 seats. Most polls close at 12:30pm AEDT, with polls in British Columbia (42 seats) closing at 1pm. We should have a rough idea of the result by 1:30pm. Canadian media list seats as either “leading” (a candidate leads in the vote count) or “elected” (called for a candidate).

Election updates: Portugal and Argentina

  • With the four overseas Portuguese seats declared for the October 6 election, the Socialists won 108 of 230 seats (up 22) and the conservatives 84 (down 23). All other parties’ seats are as in my previous Portugal
  • There will be an October 27 Argentine presidential election. A candidate needs at least 45% to win without a runoff. In 2015, conservative Mauricio Macri won, ending 12 years of left-wing presidencies. Polls give left-wing candidate Alberto Fernández over 50% and about a 20-point lead over Macri.

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.

24 comments on “Brexit, Canada preview and elsewhere”

  1. So Letwin says deal cannot be approved until all the implementation legislation is passed? Is this law now, or an attachment to a deal vote that was ultimately yanked (thus disappeared into the ether)?

    Trying to understand this next “meaningful vote” proposed by the government on monday/tuesday…
    a) does a Letwin amendment have to passed again?
    b) imagine a whole bunch of other amendments will be tried in addition?
    c) could Bercow have a basis for disallowing a non-Letwin-based vote because it did pass on Sat?

    Confused – what a shock!

  2. My understanding is that Monday’s vote will be the same ‘yes/no’ meaningful vote the government tried to get on Saturday.

    Whether or not another Letwin ammendment is voted for and passed again will be up to parliament to decide during the debate. I’m assuming it will be – as I doubt anything has changed since parliament made their decision on Saturday. It also comes down to whether or not the speaker will allow the motion – as it was already debated on Saturday.

  3. I haven’t been following the Canada election, but I noted in passing an article that I didn’t fully read, that the progressive party (NDP??) were making great strides – as disillusioned progressive libs were abandoning Trudeau as his faux-progressive veneer slowly peels away.

  4. Adrian: “This Twitter thread from Sky correspondent Lewis Goodall explains why Bercow will likely reject a second meaningful vote on Monday. ”

    Trully one of the great hypocricies and slaps-in-the-face to the British public in this whole sorry debate must be the Tories (and others) lecturing people about how silly and undemocratic it is to simply go back and try another referendum if you don’t like the result – when both May and Johnson in Parliament simply bring their deal back again and again for the same vote – each time its voted down.

    It would be nice if Bercow pointed this glaring hypocricy out if and when he rejects another attempt at at a MV by Johnson.

  5. Is it hypocrisy or delusion? I’ll go for hypocrisy too. What we’re seeing is democratic “sausage making” in action, not democracy thwarted. It is blindingly obvious that the real reason a new “vote of the people” has to be resisted is that having “won” the prize they don’t want “the people” taking it back. What puzzles me is the absent rhetoric from the Remain side with wtte that the cowards are frightened of the people.

    Should it come to a 2nd referendum, my interest will turn to the SNP. I have to believe that the chances for an independent Scotland would be inversely related to the chances of Remain. Even now now, have the SNP come out with anything along the lines of “We want what NI are getting?”

  6. Big A Adrian says:
    Monday, October 21, 2019 at 10:43 am

    I haven’t been following the Canada election, but I noted in passing an article that I didn’t fully read, that the progressive party (NDP??) were making great strides – as disillusioned progressive libs were abandoning Trudeau as his faux-progressive veneer slowly peels away.

    You’re right. The NDP is the only major party to have made significant advances during the campaign.

    However, those”disillusioned progressive libs ” who switch to the NDP might have a big surprise Tuesday morning when they wake up to an extreme right-wing Conservative government led by Andrew Scheer.

    The race is so close that, given Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system, a vote for the NDP is in effect a vote for the Conservatives. Canada unfortunately does not have a preferential system. If it did, the combined Liberal, NDP and Greens primary and preferences would keep the Tories out forever.

    There will be a lot of strategic voting in the three and four-way contests. People who would ordinarily vote NDP or Green will recognize that the Liberals have the only realistic shot at preventing the Conservatives returning to power. They will hold their noses and vote Liberal.

    With a minority government situation looking likely, the NDP voters would have a better chance of using the balance of power and its influence, with a Liberal minority rather than a Conservative one.

    Look at it this way. The Conservatives have only around 32 per cent of the popular vote. The three progressive parties account for 60 per cent. However if the left vote, (32 per cent Liberal, 18 percent NDP and 10 per cent Green) splits, the Conservatives could run up the middle and win seats that they really shouldn’t.

    Stephen Harper won a majority government in 2011 with just 23 per cent of the people who were eligible to vote in that election.

    As for “faux progressive,” that was one of the Scheer campaign’s talking points. The center-left Trudeau team is at least as progressive as Australian Labor.

  7. CBC Poll Tracker updated with lots more polls.

    32.0% Lib, 31.6% Tories, 18.4% NDP, 7.5% Greens, 7.0% Quebec Bloc

    Seats: 137 Lib, 124 Tories, 39 Bloc, 35 NDP

    13% chance Libs win majority, 48% chance Libs win most seats but not majority, 37% chance Tories win most seats but not majority, 2% chance Tories win majority.

  8. Adrian Beaumont says:
    Monday, October 21, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    CBC Poll Tracker updated with lots more polls.

    Two of the most interesting of today’s polls were those from EKOS and Abacus which show perhaps the first sign that the Liberals might be breaking out of the deadheat with the Conservatives.

    I know the principals of both of these outfits. (We were all members of the same golf club!) They have been doing this sort of thing for around 30 years so I would place great stock in their work.

    The EKOS result, showing a four point spread, 34-30 for the Liberals is the most interesting because EKOS in the past has tended to produce results that showed the Conservatives ahead, and not because they are biased towards the Tories.

    In their campaign polling until now they have shown the Conservatives consistently ahead, albeit by small margins while most other pollsters had the Liberals leading from time to time. Unless this an outlier, it is a three point turnaround in favor of the Liberals. Last week EKOS had the Tories ahead 33 to 31.

    There haven’t been too many three point swings in this campaign. Anyhow I hope it is reflected in the voting when Canadians go to the polls in a few hours.

  9. Re Canada, the only way the conservatives can form a government is by doing a dup-style confidence + supply horsetrade with the Bloc, this assuming they can get to 170 ridings combined. A pretty unsavoury proposition.

    Lib + NDP + Green crossing 170 combined is far more likely… unsure if the NDP would be better governing in coalition or kingmaking legislation from the outside? Suggest after the LibDem experience that coalition tends to be v dangerous for the smaller partner.

    Back to UK, agree its on Bercow to refuse or else i guess Letwin gets tacked on again? I wonder if prior to that if Labor tried a 2nd referendum amendment and then voted in favour along with the SNP and LD and a few former tories… could a small number of current moderate tories possibly come on board? DUP? Need maybe 10 only.

    If only Letwined out again, i imagine an extension is given for the implementing legislation to be drafted? No election possible until Feb. I suspect if BoJo gets it all drafted then the whole thing should pass unless the detail spooks some spartans.

    Shd Labor opt for an election before or after such a vote? Hard to see many good arguments for before. Would be depending on a good Brexit party showing and would have to come to a non-compete deal with the Lib Dems across 80 seats to produce a hung parliament at best?

  10. Adrian thank you for that Lewis Goodall thread, it clarifies a lot of my process questions (the matter was voted on not yanked) and leaves me much encouraged…

    Didn’t think a customs union amendment would stand more chance of a win, gosh that would kill the whole thing for Boris wouldnt it!!

    Sorry it appears a Dec 12 election is possible still, but it just makes no sense to support it.

    I hope the EU give the UK a final 6 months … after which automatic no deal. Brings a referendum into play and, if not that, then a desperation no-confidence vote and a revoke!!

  11. If they are sensible, any new referendum will, if Remain wins, automatically cancel article 50. This will probably reduce the likelihood/severity of a Brexiteer boycott.


    Interesting insights into the internal machinery of the labour party under Corbyn, arguing that contrary to all the media hysteria about a) disunity and b) a Stalinist autocracy under Corbyn, labour has actually been surprisingly united and furthermore, taken a very conciliatory approach to the few ‘rebels’ in the party.

    Of course this has all been helped by Boris presenting such a terrible proposed deal for workers.

  13. Ballot Question 1 in New York City’s elections this year is for the introduction of preferential voting (“Instant Runoff Voting” as they call it) for all primaries and special elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president and members of the City Council, starting in 2021.

    If they adopt it, the NYT says it’ll be the largest jurisdiction in the US to do so.

  14. Confessions:

    “The proposed parliamentary sitting calendar for 2020. Is it just me, or is this a heavier schedule (such that it is) on this year or even last year?”

    It’s much heavier than at any time since Scumo became PM. Now with a workable majority and no election in the offing, there are lots of cuts to make, lots of stuff to privatise, lots of flying wedges to manufacture for Labor, lots of quid pro quos for supporters, a social safety net to dismantle, environment laws, workplace and consumer protections to wind back and class enemies to attack.

    2020 is the year Australians will get what they voted for.

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