Brits are being bombarded with competing and conflicting messages about Brexit, but there is one dubious campaign many seem prepared to back.
Bookies are taking bets on what basic items the government will have to ration first in 2019. The depressing market gives punters a stack of options to choose from – from fuel and bread, to wine and champagne.
Fuel was being offered at the shortest odds at 4/1, with chicken at the other end of the scale at 66/1. Mars bars have odds of 150/1 – the popular chocolate has been often used as an example of what could be lost from British supermarket shelves if a no-deal Brexit interrupts products supply chains.
What will or won’t be available has been something the British public have been considering for some time. Pro-Brexit supporters accuse Remainers of carrying out a fear campaign, while those who want to stay in the European Union – or at least want to maintain close ties with it – insist Leavers have played down the implications of a no-deal departure.
“The concept of rationing is something most UK residents are lucky enough to have only read about in history lessons, but the past may well become the present if a favourable Brexit deal isn’t reached in the coming weeks,” Oddschecker spokesman George Elek said.
— Charles Croucher (@ccroucher9) January 22, 2019
“Maybe (pro-Brexit MP) Jacob Rees-Mogg would change his stance if he found out he won’t be able to dip his Focaccia into some Extra Virgin Olive Oil as he pleases should the country continue down this path.”
Last week, a treasury minister was photographed leaving a high-level government meeting holding a note bearing the words “no food”.
Mel Stride, the MP photographed holding the worrying note, insisted the list was “entirely accidental” and were simply things recently raised in the media.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May appears determined to get a tweaked version of her rejected Brexit plan through parliament. But the British MPs who so savagely rejected it have some plans of their own.
Mrs May’s Conservative government is headed for a showdown with parliament next week, when MPs get to vote on the prime minister’s latest proposal, and can try to amend it to send her in another direction.
THE WEEK AHEAD: MAY’S PLAN B
After the divorce agreement struck between the UK government and the bloc was resoundingly rejected by parliament last week, Mrs May held talks with government and opposition politicians and came up with a “Plan B” – one that looked very similar to her Plan A.
Mrs May told the House of Commons on Monday she was aiming to win backing for her deal after securing changes from the EU to a contentious Irish border measure.
The bloc insists that it won’t renegotiate the withdrawal agreement. And opposition MPs say the scale of Mrs May’s defeat last week – 432 votes to 202 – shows she must radically alter her deal if it is to have any hope of approval.
But parliament is deeply divided about what changes to make. Pro-Brexit MPs want to remove the hated Irish “backstop”, an insurance policy that would constrain British trade policy, but allow frictionless trade, in order to ensure there are no customs checks between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
Pro-EU legislators want Mrs May to lift her insistence that Brexit means quitting the EU’s single market and customs union.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, with or without a divorce deal. The political impasse over Brexit is fuelling concerns that the country may crash out of the bloc without an agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at ports and shortages of essential supplies.
Mrs May says the only way to avert a no-deal Brexit is to back her deal, but politicians are trying to pause the clock.
Groups of “soft Brexit”-backing politicians, who want to keep close economic ties to the EU, are planning to use amendments during a Jan. 29 debate on Mrs May’s plan to try to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit, delay Britain’s departure and put alternative plans on the table.
Half a dozen amendments had been filed by Tuesday, most aiming to allow time for parliament to hammer out alternatives to Mrs May’s rejected deal. One of the most prominent, with support from both opposition and Conservative politicians, would give Mrs May until February 26 to pass a deal, or see Brexit delayed as parliament took charge.
It will be up to Commons Speaker John Bercow to decide which amendments are put to a vote. Any that are approved would not be legally binding, but as an expression of the will of parliament would be hard for the government to ignore.
Mrs May says she plans to go back to Brussels after Jan 29 to seek changes to the deal from EU leaders – ideally after getting parliament to pass a vote calling for a time limit on the border backstop.
The bloc insists that the legally binding, 585-page withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened, and says the backstop is essential to keeping the Irish border open.
EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Tuesday that in “a no-deal scenario in Ireland, I think it’s pretty obvious, you will have a hard border.”
The EU is more flexible about a non-binding political declaration laying out the framework of future relations between Britain and the bloc. But EU leaders say they won’t consider any changes until Britain figures out what kind of Brexit it wants.
– with Associated Press