It’s been a funny old week in politics. At the end of last week, the amendment votes on Wednesday appeared to be the massive story for this week. However, the events on Monday and Tuesday, with massive U-turns from both major parties, somewhat nullified the threats that Wednesday posed.
Just goes to show, you never really know, do you? Heaven forbid that we actually have something go smoothly for once, eh?
Anyway, let’s have a quick reflection on the week, and then promptly forget about it all and go to the pub.
Corbyn Backs Second Referendum
On Monday, Corbyn announced that the Labour Party’s official stance would be to back a second referendum. However:
- Only if Labour’s alternative Brexit proposals failed in the Wednesday vote.
- Which they did – Corbyn followed through with his promise, but still said they’d be looking at alternative plans too.
- He would have known that there wasn’t a majority in the House of Commons for it.
- So he could support it to appease the Remainers in his party (and stop them defecting to TIG), safe in the knowledge that it probably wouldn’t actually happen.
- One could argue that he announced it to deflect away from the antisemitism scandal that is ripping apart the party.
- A Labour MP was suspended for saying that the Labour Party ‘apologises too much’ for antisemitism, and Tom Watson, Corbyn’s deputy leader, has started making strong statements about Corbyn’s failure to deal with the issue.
Woof. Brexit was always going to have a twinge of racism caught up in the fringes of the debate, but who would have guessed two years ago that it would be antisemitism in the Labour Party?
Labour are a party absolutely ripped in two at the moment – it will be very interesting to see how many more MPs defect to TIG, and whether or not Corbyn can unite a party that seems on course to tear itself apart.
May Promises Votes on No-Deal, Article 50 Extension
On Tuesday, May announced to the House of Commons that there would be a second ‘meaningful vote’ (i.e. vote on the deal she negotiated with the EU) by the 12th of March. If that failed, there would be a vote on no-deal on the 13th, and then, if that was defeated too, a vote on extending Article 50 on the 14th.
Basically, she tacitly confirmed that no-deal is highly unlikely and there might be a need for an extension.
This was a huge concession, with her hand being forced by the Cooper/Letwin amendment on Wednesday threatening to take control of the process out of her hands. And, like Andy Serkis’ portrayal of her as Gollum, she simply couldn’t countenance losing control of her precious Brexit.
What does this mean, realistically, however? Given the constant mayhem of Brexit, there is every chance that May will be able to secure a small change to the backstop. As Jacob Rees-Mogg, powerful chairman of the ERG, has said that this would be enough for his and the ERG’s support, this could mean that May’s deal gets a majority and gets passed.
Alternatively, if it is voted down and we have to ask the EU for an extension, it is the EU who decide what extension they will grant us. Some are calling for a two-year extension like Emmanuel Macron, the French President.
We simply don’t know. But that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?
And The Rest
- Wednesday’s amendments was a slightly dull affair, with little of note happening other than May’s promises for votes being expressed as Parliamentary will by a huge majority.
- Since then, a Eurosceptic minister, George Eustice, has quit his post in government over May’s concessions.
- Another Labour MP left the whole party earlier this week over the antisemitism scandal too, but isn’t joining TIG.
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Either way, we will be back on Monday to see what on earth Brexit can throw at us.
Only 28 sleeps to go, folks!