Remain parties must work together in the Brecon and Radnor to stop Johnson’s no-deal steamroller

Boris Johnson. Picture by Chatham House (CC BY 2.0)

Keith Darlington

The forthcoming by election in Brecon & Radnor is likely to be held in the next few months. The outcome of which is likely to be the most important ever for the future of Wales within or outside Europe – particularly with regard to business in Wales.

There is certain to be a strong combination of fanatical hard Brexiteer’s at work in the months ahead with the likelihood of Johnson as PM , his friends in the ERG, Farage, and a newspaper press – most of which is based in England and fervently pro-Brexit.

Their opinions will all be very prominent in the by-election.  Johnson, whatever he says about wanting a deal, knows his options, if he really believes what he says, are now restricted to a no-deal exit from the UK.

As I show in this article, the best way to counteract the momentum of Johnson and the rampant hard Brexit bandwagon is for the pro-second referendum parties to work together in this be-election and make sure that Johnson’s no-deal Brexit does not see the light of day.

Otherwise, Wales could suffer very badly in the years to come.

Furthermore, Labour’s continued Brexit ambivalence will be ineffective and could render their campaign irrelevant. Labour Remain supporters should therefore, do the same as many of them did in the Euro elections, and vote for the Remain party best placed to win:  in this case that party are the Liberal Democrats.

Ambivalence

Despite the chaotic and unpredictable forces likely to be unleashed by Johnson as PM, Corbyn, continues to prevaricate. Labour’s ambivalent Brexit posturing has gone on for the last three years and is unlikely to change any time soon.

In the past few years, Labour has tried to justify this stance by saying that they would respect the result of the referendum and try to get a soft Brexit (although Corbyn would never use these words). But many of Corbyn’s staunchest supporters now acknowledge that any chance of a soft Brexit is dead.

As Owen Jones points out in this article, the impatience of both Brexit and Remain supporters has been  stretched to the limit over the last three years to the point where  a showdown between no-deal or a second referendum is now inevitable. Yet, Corbyn still refuses to embrace clarity by making a clear choice.

For those who think that Drakeford and the Welsh Labour party will offer anything different: think again. Drakeford supported Corbyn’s ambivalent stance during the Euro elections only a few weeks ago.

He may now be showing signs of distancing himself from Corbyn – but his motives look very suspicious because he had also changed his mind on this earlier this year.

Labour finished third in the Euro elections having their worse vote share for over a century. So Drakeford knows that his ambivalence will mean Welsh Labour could be obliterated in the next Assembly elections.

However, Drakeford has echoed his leader’s line consistently since the referendum, even changing his mind when his leader appeared to change his before the Euro elections. Thus, there is a question mark over Drakeford’s commitment to his very recent conversion.

Prorogue

In the UK Parliament, opinions have hardened and MPs views are unlikely to change with a new PM. May’s deal was heavily defeated on three occasions, and every other option has been voted down. The EU has also flatly refused to consider any change to its Withdrawal Agreement.

As a consequence, the Parliamentary arithmetic rules out the possibility of any deal, including the no-deal option which has also been heavily rejected and has zero chance of approval.

However, the next PM, is very likely to be Johnson. Given his very poor relationship with EU negotiators, it seems he will have no choice other than to pursue a no-deal Brexit. However, he knows it will be rejected in Parliament.

So last week he hinted that he may try to prorogue Parliament to impose a no-deal Brexit on the country.  This sleight of hand, is a high risk venture which effectively means forcing through a no-deal Brexit without the consent of Parliament.

This could have tricky consequences for him because several Tory MPs have said that in such an event happening, they would precipitate a vote of no confidence in the government and force a general election.

If this were to happen, then it’s very likely that the government would lose this vote and the possibility of a very damaging no-deal Brexit would be averted because opinion polls currently show a very high likelihood of another hung Parliament.

What happens then becomes very hypothetical but the odds of the Johnson no-deal succeeding will almost certainly diminish.

Tactics

Whatever the case, every vote in Parliament now counts. That is why Remain parties must work together in this by-election to reduce the Tory numbers in Parliament.

The Liberal Democrats offer the best chance of unseating the Brexit supporting Tory in this by-election. They have won this seat many times in the past and have an effective party machine in this constituency.

I hope that the other Remain parties, including Plaid, the Greens, and  Change UK, will all stand aside for the Lib Dems to have a clear run to beat the hard Brexit supporting candidates, and help to diminish the likelihood of  a no-deal Brexit. They must work together even if that means not standing.

Furthermore, Labour Remain supporters in this constituency should consider voting tactically for the Liberal Democrats if they want to help avert a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson’s Brexit deadline of 31st October is fast approaching and there is little time left now for naval gazing. Remain supporters must do whatever it legally takes now to prevent this possible disaster from happening.

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