ABHI Brexit Update: Silly Season is Upon us
I am not sure when the “Silly Season” is exactly. Various Headmasters from my school days would have it that it existed towards the end of each term, when the relief of pressure saw a rise in high jinks. For the media, it might be the summer, when slow news day follows slower news day and "Freddie Starr ate my hamster". It might be Christmas and all that office party malarkey. What I am certain of, is that for politics it is now, and otherwise known as the Conference season.
The bull and bluster I reported on last week was the start of it. The PM was keen to flex her muscles ahead of going to Birmingham and facing the wrath of her hard-line backbenchers. As I have said before, they do have a point, in that Chequers does not really represent Brexit as they imagined it. Boris Johnson, using the front page platform afforded to him by the Daily Telegraph, and others have been busy coming up with new plans, some of which are actually almost new, if not exactly workable. But despite all the media hyperbole, Her Majesty’s Government has a plan, it is known as the Chequers agreement and it is what is being debated with the EU27. And, as I said last week, contrary to what you are reading in the papers, it is not dead in the water. Certainly in Philadelphia this week at the AdvaMed conference, our Minister in DHSC, Lord O'Shaughnessy, with whom we spent a significant amount of time, was upbeat about the prospects of a deal being done.
None of this will, of course, prevent a frenzy of speculation as the Tories arrive in Birmingham at the weekend. It might be best to look the other way for a bit. Besides, the consequences of what may happen next week will not be apparent for some time yet, and the Conservative Party will not force a General Election in which there is a risk it might lose. The Fixed Term Parliament Act is useful when it suits.
That would have been be on the Conservative Party’s mind as they glanced North West this past week, where Labour met in Liverpool. Indeed a number of Tory MPs appeared to cast admiring glances at what appears to be more unity under the Red Flag than has been apparent recently. Labour did ask for that General Election (see above), but assuming it is not forthcoming, it may make the prospect of a second referendum on Brexit more likely. The Party has indicated it will not support any deal done by the Government, and the Parliamentary arithmetic remains unclear, as does what Parliament will actually get to vote on. But it is possible to foresee a situation when, either the refusal of Parliament to ratify a deal, or the outcome of negotiations being no deal, produces a crisis needing a resolution, and that resolution being another Referendum.
Away from the speculation, perhaps an even more foolish endevour than it has ever been, ABHI Chairman, Phil Kennedy, wrote to you this week outlining our activity on things we might be able to control.
We continue to press the DHSC for more information to be communicated to companies directly, and, as Phil indicated in his note, our positions and suggested responses to the prospect of no deal remain consistent.