Andrew Rawnsley is one of the more insightful political commenters out there but this doesn’t stop him from making the same mistake as a lot of the UK media in that he tends to look at Brexit for an entirely British point of view. Thus, we have this article suggesting that Boris Johnson will call an early election in order to crash the UK out of the EU.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that Johnson doesn’t actually have to do anything if he wants a no-deal Brexit.
It’s all well and good saying that Parliament won’t allow a no-deal Brexit but the only ways of avoiding this, ultimately, are to ratify the existing withdrawal agreement or to revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU.
Parliament can try to force Johnson to request another extension, but there is no guarantee that the EU will agree to grant one. Given the way in which the UK has wasted the time since April and the low esteem in which Johnson is held, it looks increasingly likely, to me, that the EU heads of government will decide that it’s better to get Brexit over with than to drag it on any longer.
So, if Parliament remains unable to decide whether to ratify the withdrawal agreement or revoke Article 50, then Britain crashes out of the EU on the 31st October, at which point Johnson will claim to have “delivered Brexit”, thus rendering Farage’s Brexit Party irrelevant.
So Johnson doesn’t need to call a general election in order to achieve a no-deal Brexit. On the other hand, if he calls an election in November, after the UK has crashed out of the EU but before the consequences start to bite, then the collapse of the Brexit party would be probably enough for him to hoover up the Leave vote and win a majority.
Johnson is blatantly gearing up for an election, but I don’t think it will happen until after Britain’s disorderly exit from the EU. The only way to stop him is for Parliament to call a no-confidence vote and bring down the government before the end of October.
Parliament returns on 3rd September. MPs will need to get their act together — and quickly — if they want to call a halt to this madness before it’s too late.