And for all of the fun of the last few weeks, we’re now back into some real nitty gritty around Brexit.
Joy of joys.
The amount of detail about what is going on is almost mind-bending, so I’m going to do my best to break it down for you because some of the repercussions from today could be massive.
Some of these outcomes could feasibly alter the fate of Brexit entirely, with delays and extensions paving the way for a softer Brexit, a second referendum or, potentially, no Brexit at all.
We can but dream. But anyway, to business:
MPs, at the time of writing, are currently debating amendments to Theresa May’s Brexit plans. These are alternative suggestions to our current options, which are Theresa May’s deal, which was defeated in a historically large margin of defeat two weeks ago, or No-Deal.
…Or revoking Article 50 and pretending the whole referendum thing never happened, but that is about as likely as me being in the starting XV for England this Saturday.
These will be put to the house tonight after the debate – essentially those who have tabled the amendments will be asked, “Do you still want to vote on this?” The votes for those that still want to have their amendments voted upon will happen at 7pm tonight. There are three particularly interesting amendments, which we will come to. The others are all largely similar, attempting to either extend Article 50 or rule out No-Deal through legal or indicative means. They are largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, so feel free to skip, but they are:
- Rule out No-Deal, allow Parliament to vote on an alternative Brexit deal for creating a permanent customs union and a version of EU’s single market (basically, that we have a clear trading policy with the EU).
- Won’t get through – Conservatives won’t go for it.
- Extension of Article 50, rules out No-Deal, emphasises role of all UK nations in Brexit process.
- If Corbyn’s amendment is passed, then this won’t be voted on.
- Prevent No-Deal Brexit but more just an expression of Parliamentary Will than legally binding (i.e. “This is what we want,” not “This is what you must do.”)
- Very high chance of being passed.
- Requires government to ask EU to postpone Brexit day (March 29th).
- It will be killed by a previous vote for Yvette Cooper’s amendment, below…
Let’s start with Yvette Cooper‘s amendment as the first of the impactful amendments as it looks most likely to pass and could have the biggest overall impact.
- The most popular amendment which prevents No-Deal.
- Changes much of Parliamentary process, by allowing Parliament to make its ‘business’ a priority over the government’s ‘business’ – before, the government would always have precedence.
- This amendment guarantees time in Parliament for a private member’s bill that would extend Article 50 to December 2019.
- It binds Parliament to have to discuss and vote upon this bill, which was drafted by both Labour and Conservative MPs.
- It has a good amount of backing, including the Labour front bench, although Corbyn wants the Article 50 extension to be three months, to July, rather than December. Some Conservatives back this too, though they will be whipped to vote against it (i.e. their party will ban them from doing so. They may rebel, however, and 26 look like they might).
- There is a slight hint that the bill itself could be amended, too – this could take Brexit in a very different direction down the line…
Dominic Grieve’s amendment:
- Forces the government to ask MPs for a range of alternatives to the Brexit plan, including Norway, No-Deal or a second referendum. This would happen by each MP giving a non-binding ‘indicative vote’ to show their preference.
- Would have been interesting to see just how far the hunger for a second referendum might be in Parliament, but as Labour has now backed Cooper’s amendment it may not have as much momentum as it did.
Graham Brady’s amendment:
- Arguably the most controversial amendment. Graham Brady is a very influential character within the Conservative Party, and his amendment is designed to make Theresa May’s deal strong enough to get a majority in Parliament.
- It calls for an alternative to the backstop (an EU-demanded fall-back option that prevents a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the case that the negotiations over the transition period fail).
- Theresa May has ordered Conservative MPs to vote for this amendment.
- Some Conservative rebels, namely the ERG and Chairman Mogg’s Bastard Brigade, said that it was too vague and they would vote against it.
- However, Theresa May has now said that she will renegotiate with the EU and ask them to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement (her deal) so that changes can be made to the backstop, which has got the rebels back on board.
- The EU made it very clear last night that reopening the Withdrawal Agreement was categorically not going to happen…
So, to summarise: only Yvette Cooper’s amendment creates law, so long as her bill gets passed when it is voted on in Parliament. The rest are all advisory, but do carry real weight (a government cannot ask its Parliament for advice only to blatantly ignore it, especially on as hot a topic as this).
If Cooper wins her amendment and her vote, we will not leave the EU without a deal on the 29th of March. If Brady wins, Theresa May’s bargaining position is strengthened with the EU as she can tell them what she needs them to give her in order to secure a victory in Parliament, but they may still ignore her.
Either way, all of the amendments are focussed on trying to prevent No-Deal, improve May’s deal, or simply to get some common sense in place and break the deadlock, which can only be good things.
We’ll find out what happens at 7pm this evening… stay tuned!
…If you can be bothered.
I really don’t blame you by this stage if you can’t.