Well, helpfully for the Tories, Labour is having a meltdown over their own lame duck leader and so (barring an uncanny and uncharacteristic lucky turn in fortunes) may be discounted as providing any serious drag on defining how the Article 50 process for leaving the EU might process.
There’s a deal of scepticism as to whether Brexit will ever happen. That’s partly to do with the way it was sold (with everyone offering their own maximal vision of what could be achieved with money that currently goes to Brussels), and partly to do with the enormity of the task.
Gideon Rachman in the FT says he doesn’t believe it will happen, and that what may happen instead is that some class of associate membership will replace the full membership the country currently enjoys.
However, Steve Moore’s argument on Medium lays out a number of realistic scenarios coming up, once the next Conservative leader has been chosen…
- Seek a mandate in a General Election either before triggering A50
- Trigger A50 and seek a mandate for their negotiating stance via a General Election
- Trigger A50 without a Parliamentary vote and negotiate through to near the end of this fixed term Parliament in 2018
- Call a Parliamentary vote on A50 and if they win take that as the mandate
- Call a Parliamentary vote on A50 and if they lose call what would be a bitter ugly General Election
He tips option 2. Politically, inaction on this by the government party which triggered this is not a realistic option. Moore notes:
The scale of anti-political feeling that fuelled Brexit is bad enough now. Imagine how it would escalate if there was attempt by what is perceived to the establishment to renege on the referendum result?
What drives the doubt of sceptics like Rachman is the divergence in what might satisfy the needs of those who voted the UK out? What is ‘out’? How much ‘out’ is needed? Would some class of associate membership allowing the UK to cap migrant numbers do it?
ADDS: Don’t get distracted by the October date set by Cameron, Tory culture works more quickly than Labour’s. New leader could be in place within six weeks. Hitting Labour with a general election whilst it’s counting angels on pinheads, won’t be pretty.