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Ayes and Nays Both Win

At the Labour Party Conference, delegates voted on "composite 13", whether or not the Labour Party should officially back Remain.

In a confusing hand vote the ayes and nays both won.

It's impossible for the ayes and nays to both win, but that was the announcement, first in favor of backing Remain, then in favor of Neutrality.

The Guardian Live explains.

Some delegates are calling for a card vote. Wendy Nichols, the chair, seems to be resisting this. She says: “In my view it was carried.” Then she corrects herself. She says it was lost.

Just before she announced the vote, she said that she thought it went one way, but Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, thought it went another way.

A delegate says this is one of the most important decisions facing the party. There should be a card vote.

Nichols says the vote was lost. She wants the party to be right with itself.

Rigged Vote

That's a heavily edited set of paragraphs. The Guardian had a number of typos and confusing statements that I corrected to make it understandable.

The bottom line is that the vote was rigged. There should have been an actual ballot but Jeremy Corbyn would not allow one.

Guardian Snap Analysis

At Labour conference last year there were many delegates going around wearing T-shirts saying “Love Corbyn, Hate Brexit”. You don’t see those around any more.

Without a card vote, we don’t know what the exact voting figures were, and whether Corbyn would have won the votes without the support of the unions. The unions have 50% of the vote at conference and most of them were opposed to the “back remain now” composite 13. It was only going to pass if the vast majority of CLP delegates supported it. Last night that looked like a distinct possibility: of the 90 motions submitted by CLPs on Brexit, 81 of them were calling for Labour to back remain.

But the decision by Momentum this morning to advise its supporters to vote against composite 13 seems to have swayed the vote. About 70% of CLP delegates are said to be Momentum supporters. Forced to make a choice, a largish number of them – certainly enough to overturn expectations – lined up behind the leadership.

But there were also legitimate objections to composite 13 on policy grounds. Unite’s Howard Beckett put this argument as well as anyone, saying it would be a “car crash” if Labour was committed to obtaining a Brexit deal that it was already determined to campaign against.

Victory for Whom?

The Guardian called this a victory for Corbyn.

I suggest Corbyn's position is so convoluted that he was bound to lose no matter which way the vote went.

The two choices were "Remain" and "Negotiate a Deal then hold a Referendum on It".

Pick your poison, both are losing propositions.

Corbyn's Credibility Issue

Hand Vote Rigged

Labour Depends on Those Who Don't Care

No Position on Single Biggest Issue

Full Scale Revolt

Today we see the revolt was squashed, not by a real vote with ballots, but a rigged hand vote.

One Seriously Disgruntled Labour MP

"We are chanting, cult-like, the name of a leader who has a public approval rating of -65. We deserve everything coming to us."

EU Will Not Be Impressed

One thing is for certain: The EU will not be impressed by this set of events.

The EU's position on extension after extension for no apparent purpose other than more bickering was already hardening.

The Labour conference vote will seal the fate. The EU won't go along with Corbyn's proposal to negotiate a deal then hold a referendum on it.

Not only that, Corbyn will not even take a position on his own position. Let that sink in.

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Eurointelligence Comments

The Tories will have their conference next week, and appear relatively united after they ditched the 21 rebels. They traded unity for the numerical loss of a majority. The polls have the Tories firmly ahead to varying degrees.

The main pressure towards elections could come from the European Council and especially from France. We noted a report in FAZ this morning that Amélie de Montchalin, the French state secretary in charge of Brexit, is hardening the French line on an extension. She said an extension would only be granted if accompanied by either elections or a second referendum - adding that the European Council was united on this point.

But we think the most likely first stage in the coming Brexit showdown will be another attempt to forge a deal. We hear a lot of negative press commentary, quoting the usual unnamed EU sources. But we don’t think that this issue is going to be settled by those sources.

Our main scenario is that a deal could be agreed or an extension granted until after an election in November or December - or both. We are becoming increasingly doubtful that Johnson is still actively pursuing a no-deal Brexit as his primary goal, but he is still leaving it open as a threat in case parliament both fails to agree both a withdrawal deal and elections.

A second referendum is highly unlikely and it would take a year or so. Would France wait that long?

I don't think so.

What About Benn?

Recall that the emergency Benn legislation requires Johnson to send a letter to the EU requesting an extension until January 31, 2020.

Despite the fact the legislation gave Johnson the precise words to say in the letter, Benn is not airtight as I suggested all along.

I had been wondering if the UK could vote against its own extension request and today we have an answer.

Article 50 makes no mention of a formal letter. The British prime minister could [immediately] override his written letter with a verbal withdrawal and then state a different position. As a member of the European Council, he could force a formal vote and then cast a veto against his own written proposal. And even without such openly destructive behaviour, it is far from clear that the European Council would extend if the UK has not set a date for elections.

Most likely, the European Council will not formally veto an extension, but refuse to grant one until the conditions are met. It would thus ensure that the ball, and the blame, rests with the UK parliament. The Benn bill implicitly assumes the European Council to act as a binary automaton in a conspiracy with the UK parliament. We don’t think this is realistic.

Benn accomplished nothing.

There are only two ways to defeat No Deal.

  • Revoke Article 50
  • Agree to a Deal

There is no majority for revoking article 50. It is best to consider that option as dead.

Johnson is highly likely to come up with some sort of deal. It will not have a backstop.

Scenario 1: Accept the Deal or Leave

If Johnson does come up with a deal, this is what I expect.

  1. The EU will insist on "accept or leave".
  2. The EU will grant no further extensions except for the explicit purpose of UK Commons voting on the bill then getting it passed in the House of Lords followed by Queens Assent (becoming law).

Scenario 2: Johnson Does Not Come Up With A deal

If Johnson and the EU cannot agree on a deal, the setup is harder to predict.

I suspect the EU would do what Eurointelligence suggests, demand a vote in November or December.

That outcome would put huge pressure on Labour. It would also unite the Brexit Party with the Tories and even some Labour voters who strongly back Leave.

However, there is risk for Johnson, too.

Johnson's risk is that the Parliament Remainers vote Johnson out in a motion of No Confidence and request an extension.

That risk, however, is shrinking. Here's why.

  1. Today's Labour debacle confirms that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are hopelessly split.
  2. The Lib Dems and the SNP (Scottish National Party) are both staunch Remainers and would not likely back Corbyn in a motion of no confidence.
  3. Corbyn might insist he heads upo a caretaker government and it's likely he does not have those votes.
  4. Even if they agreed to a caretaker government, there is no guarantee the EU would agree to an extension until January 31. As noted above the EU is likely to demand an election.

Johnson's Choice

The above split firmly puts the clock back on Johnson's side.

The EU has to understand that. They can see the polls too.

If the EU really wants a deal, it can have one. But it will have to meet Johnson's minimal criteria, which at this point is unclear.

Otherwise, Johnson will roll the dice either believing the EU will demand elections or that Parliament will be so split they will not come up with a caretaker government.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock