Another Brexit day comes and goes – Hallowe’en 2019

31st October 2019

Witches’ Sabbath, Hans Baldung Grein, 1510


Today the United Kingdom will not be leaving the European Union by automatic operation of law.

The next date on which the UK’s departure is set to happen will now be 31st January 2020, the fourth such departure date.

So familiar are we now with Brexit days coming and going there may perhaps be a blithe expectation that the UK will stay in the EU again after the next supposed departure date.

This expectation may be complacent.

There is a form of ratchet effect with the successive exit dates.

The UK parliament has now agreed the current withdrawal agreement in principle.

And the EU will, it seems, be glad to be rid of the Brexit problem, if not rid of the UK.

With one more heave, so to speak, the UK may well be departing the EU in January.

Nobody should assume the UK will stay in the EU after 31st January 2020.



The UK government has now twice loudly declared that Brexit would happen on specific dates – 29th March and 31st October.

There is endless footage of successive prime ministers insisting that successive departure dates are absolute and will be kept. 

It is difficult to see how anyone will take the government seriously if it now insists loudly that Brexit will definitely happen on 31st January 2020.

The UK government has already lost trust in its dealings on Brexit, and it is now losing its credibility with its threats.

(Of course, some wags will say that the UK government never had credibility in the first place; but it was entirely credible that, but for the Benn Act and the defeat on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill programme motion, the UK would be leaving the EU this evening.)


Hallowe’en is nowadays a festival where once scary things are treated as not at all scary.

And so it is perhaps fitting that today is when the UK government’s scary (and irresponsible) approach to Brexit, of demanding that an exit date be kept in all circumstances, is shown to have not worked.

This does not make the prospect of an actual departure, either with a deal or without a deal, on 31st January less of a prospect.

That remains a real possibility, and it is now the default position.

What has been removed, however, is the ability of a government under the current or other prime minister to use a departure date as a rhetorical device to frighten others into compliance.

Nobody will believe them.

The current prime minister famously said that he would rather “die in a ditch” than for the UK not to leave the EU today.

And now such ditches and ditchcraft seem as unthreatening as depictions of witches and witchcraft at a children’s Hallowe’en party.


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17 thoughts on “Another Brexit day comes and goes – Hallowe’en 2019”

  1. Quite.

    I understand that a ‘Boris Johnson’ costume and mask is now amongst the top 10 sellers for children’s Halloween parties.

    I wonder what that tells us?

    Keep it up, please.

  2. You say:

    “The UK parliament has now agreed the current withdrawal agreement in principle.”

    But this present parliament is about to be dissolved, to be replaced by another after the election on 12 December. No parliament can bind its successor, so your statement above will no longer be valid.

  3. I am rather looking forward to THREE Un-Brexit days a year from now on. Just wondering, will they be movable feasts, like Easter (and will that prompt a schism between traditionalists and heretics)? Or will they become fixed national holidays?

    The first two Un-Brexit days were a bit too bunched up – it would be good to spread them out more evenly across the year. March 29 ‘clearly’ has to be the most notable. But I’m not sure if anyone would mind April 12th being reallocated to mid-summer. Perhaps it could mark the night of the long knives when Cummings seized power in his #ClassicDom palace coup.

    On a slightly more serious note, while an accidental ‘no deal’ Brexit remains a possibility, I agree there is no chance of any future (sane) UK government using it as a threat or negotiating ploy again.

    Not only has #NoDealBrexit never been a convincing threat against the EU (it would always hurt us more than it hurt them), but it will also no longer convince the British public or the business community. Companies have wasted millions on stockpiling twice in the past year – they won’t make the same mistake again (they can’t afford to). The UK was never particularly well prepared (mentally or physically) for the consequences of no deal – but we will never be as prepared as we were this year.

    That applies whether or not this Withdrawal Agreement passes. The UK will beg for an extension to negotiations on any future relationship – we will be no clearer about our desired destination and no more united in our national aims. The EU will remain in control of the entire process.

    That doesn’t mean things will get easier – but they just might not get worse quite as fast. Winning!


  4. The vote for the second reading presumably doesn’t carry over to the new parliament, so it’ll be back to square one for the WAB. Tory majority = Hard Brexit of course, but anything other than a Tory majority and the outcome is impossible to predict at this stage.

  5. You comments i.e. wisdom is most appreciated and awaited. I’ve written a satirical piece about four realms (from A to Z) Australia, Barbados, Canada and New Zealand persuading Mother England (all 50,000 square miles and 55 million people) to retire and make a farewell tour and live half the year in Australia’s back garden and Canada’s. Thus, having lost her marbles (they’re back in Greece), she can, on good days, recall her past hopes and glories. (Stay tuned)

  6. I do think Boris’ Deal (or something close to it) will pass by the end of the year.
    If the next Parliament wants to do something useful it can request an extension to the transition period.

  7. “The UK parliament has now agreed the current withdrawal agreement in principle.” – this presumably doesn’t have any LEGAL ramifications since there will be a new parliament after the election? (I do understand that it will have POLITICAL ramifications, of course, since Brexiters will be able to point to the “in principle” part of the WA).

  8. Thank you for another helpful analysis. Your situation reports have the great virtue, inter alia, of clearing away a lot of the extraneous clutter, leaving the key facts and decisions well-defined.
    One particular statement this time, “the EU will, it seems, be glad to be rid of the Brexit problem, if not rid of the UK” provoked some reflection.
    It is, I think, significant, that none of the official EU spokesmen/women have, to my knowledge, publicly expressed this sentiment. In fact, restraint, tolerance, continuing references to “our British friends”, and similar, seem to be the hallmarks of the reactions of the very capable, often impressive EU politicians and administrators who are dealing with Brexit. The contrast with the tone and content of statements made by UK politicians, even Cabinet members and senior legislators, is striking and also significant, I feel.
    It would not surprise me if the frustration and desperation for closure attributed to the EU by many UK commentators were not somewhat wide of the mark, or perhaps reflects only certain parts of public opinion in some EU countries.
    Is it not feasible that the leaders of the EU still harbour hopes (and wishes) that Brexit may be rescinded; that the whole thing has been an episode of temporary madness sweeping through our country and its structure of governance, the result of a manipulation of the many by the few; that Brexit has been a national fever that is due soon to burn itself out?

  9. We will be forever leaving. See Tom Paxton’s Georgie on the Freeways:

    The Summer sun was beating down, no pity would it show.
    George Chester’s office air conditioner would no longer go.
    As pools of sweat rolled off his brow he had one reverie.
    He saw himself with his wife and kids in his cottage by the sea.

    He paid for his car at the parking lot which gave the poor man chills.
    The attendant laughed and walked away thumbing a roll of bills.
    He started the engine with trembling hands at the end of a long, hard day.
    And placing himself in the hands of God he drove to the long freeway.

    The traffic stretched far as the eye could see as bumper-to-bumper they sped.
    They drove at supernatural speed, which filled his heart with dread.
    Sometimes they stopped for an hour or more and the thousand horns would blow.
    George Chester’s eyes rolled back in his head and his poor brain started to go.

    He came at last to the turnpike gate and he laid his money down.
    He took the first turn to the right and he followed the curve around.
    He took each bend of the cloverleaf, he followed every sign.
    And when he came back to the same toll-gate he gave them another dime.

    His hands were tight on the steering wheel, his lips and throat were dry.
    He swore by all that he held dear he’d make it through or die.
    He took the first turn to the right the cloverleaf to go through.
    He was quite sure of his success ’til the toll-gate hove in view.

    And now they say when the Moon is full and the cloverleaf is still,
    The sound of an engine can be heard laboring up the hill.
    A dime drops in the toll machine in the cool of a Summer’s night,
    And eternally that poor car takes the first turn to the right.

  10. David

    Good that you enliven your valued posts with illustrations from long b4 Brexit, but:


      1. Dear David

        I am really sorry to have upset you with my comment. I do read other bloggers but I also value, as do so many other non-specialist folk who long to understand Brexit, your insights and expertise.

        Please accept my apology and write as you do. Very best wishes


  11. “ Hallowe’en is nowadays a festival where once scary things are treated as not at all scary.”

    This is completely false. All Hallows-Eve was always the vigil before All Saints day. What you have today is some cheap, crass and contorted American import.

    1. Nothing in your response points to my statement being false, let alone “completely” false.

      Both contentions are compatible.

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