Brexit extension to end of June — What now?
The government has finally published the letter and it does indeed only ask for an extension to the end of June. I actually like Junker's comment that there are limits even to God's patience. Clearly this is because the Cabinet is split. We are getting very close to the point now where a split is unavoidable and it's only a matter of which set of people leave. It seems the Government, when it finally gets round to it, is going to ask for a short extension only (three months). Interestingly, that appears to be what the Labour party is going to support as well. The point is, that kind of short extension is not compatible with having a second referendum (because of the time it would take to set one up). However it is compatible with either passing May's deal or agreeing an off the shelf deal with the EU (which means a Norway type deal).
The question now is will the EU agree to a short extension. I think they might well not. They will certainly reemphasise that they will only agree to one if there's something substantially new, either the existing deal agreed or a Referendum or General Election or a major shift in position. The question then is what will both the government and Parliament do, faced with that? I suspect very strongly that we are going to see a split, most dramatically in the Tory Party, but also in the Labour Party to a lesser extent.
Normally you would be looking at a General Election now. I think two reasons why that is still very unlikely. The first is that it simply wouldn't settle anything. If the Conservatives ran on a platform of supporting Brexit and May's deal, could the ERG MPs credibly run on that? On the other side, if Labour run on Corbyn's position of 'vote us in and we will negotiate a different deal' how long would that hold up? Secondly there's the matter of Corbyn being Leader. If any other Labour figure was Leader some Tories might actually think they could do with a spell in opposition to sort themselves out. But they won't risk that with him as leader. The polls currently show a slight Conservative lead but it's too close to be risking that - the most likely result would be another hung Parliament and more chaos.
So I think this will be sorted out in the next week or two. It's going to be seriously interesting!