I had planned to do a week-ender on historical precedents, but then the Graun came up with these two pieces: by Raphael Behr (rarely much good but interesting here) and Jonathan Freedland (usually rather better, balanced and perceptive). Ignore the clickbait titles, that's just the subs trying to earn their keep.
First Behr. The useful bit is this:
the race is on to form some cross-party coalition that can agree on some kind of plan: any plan that is not May’s one, and doesn’t involve flying off the no-deal cliff edge. As one cabinet minister put it to me recently: once that coalition is found, “it is then effectively the government”... and he goes on to describe how difficult this is. Varying the metaphor, Freedland addresses a similar question: "For pro-Europeans, the moment of truth is coming. To avoid no deal, they have to choose ... standing on the deck shouting at the [iceberg] will not help. MPs have to agree a plan to get out of the way – and they have to do it very soon." He also then explains how problematic this is - with some interesting notes on McDonnell's evolving position. And although he concludes ...
rarely for an opposition, [Labour MPs] can shape events. They can steer the country to safety.... he doesn't tell us how this could practically be done.
As regards the possibility of such a coalition: way back in 2016 I expressed surprise that a disciplined block of Remain MPs hadn't formed during that summer, probably with a parliamentary majority, albeit of a single-issue nature. Evidently, they were all sitting on their hands. Fair enough - who knew what was going to happen with enough certainty to glue such a bunch together? But for this to happen right now, in a maelstrom of unpredictable developments, seems to me even less plausible. Dominic Grieve (who, BTW, was known as Pushy Fresher of the Year at University, and was equally insufferable then) can command a majority - this week - for his clever-clever, not-too-partisan procedural gambits, which Jezza and John don't mind encouraging for their disruptive effect.
But for something that constitutes a concrete, deliverable course of national action? See messrs Behr and Freedland for just how difficult that could be, not least because all the components of the coalition have other, different loyalties (see Behr's neat Rubik Cube analogy). The difficulties would be particularly acute when any efforts to frame a concrete resolution were to bump up against Corbyn's world class intractability and/or McDonnell's old-Marxist-in-a-hurry desperation to bring about (*fanfare*) The Revolution.
Which leaves us with the only army in the field - HMG. Yes, asymmetric warfare is all fine and dandy, but who gets to talk daily to Merkel et al? Who wields the Civil Service / Police / etc etc? Who administers the benefits system? Who has plans, however culpably half-baked, for the ports and trucks and medecines and air traffic and electricity for NI (and gas for the Republic) ...
In short, however effective a squad of snipers may be on their own terms, they don't constitute an army of occupation. There are a couple of outlandish examples in history of individuals bluffing whole battalions to surrender on a misunderstanding - but it doesn't constitute a reliable strategy.
I can't see what the outcome will be in any detail. But I do believe it will be, well, whatever the government decides.