Political paralysis

There is a sense that we’ve been here already. Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit has differed significantly to that of the predecessor to his title; however, the outcome seems like it might be the same. Ahead of Tuesday’s vote on who should control the parliamentary timetable, pro-EU MP Phillip Lee had already crossed the floor to the Lib Dems, depriving Boris of his already thin majority. In the end, 21 other Conservatives voted against the government (and subsequently had their whip removed), paving the way for Parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit (or at least compelling the PM to request a further deferral from Brussels). This path continued yesterday, as the draft law passed through both Commons and Lords. Bookmakers’ odds of a no-deal have since halved, and sterling has rallied. The prospect of leaving without a withdrawal agreement now sits at 15/1. On the other side of the coin, having been a 3/1 prospect just months ago, a second referendum now carries odds of 14/1. A middle of the road option based on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement therefore becomes more likely. Johnson’s immediate response was to call for a general election; however, that would have required a two-thirds majority which he did not possess. Labour wouldn’t back such action until no-deal is off the table; albeit this could now happen in October. In the meantime, the Tories are stuck in power in what is now clearly a minority government. And so, here we are again, with the clock ticking down towards another false summit, still with no parliamentary majority for any form of deal, nor as yet a mechanism to unlock it. Meanwhile the political landscape and support continues to evolve around both party leaders.