As I opened a bottle of wine on Saturday evening, rumours were just starting to come in of a potential leadership coup taking place in the Conservative Party. It made me realise that Theresa May must not have had a single day off in 2019. For a moment, I thought,
“Poor old Theresa. I wonder what she wouldn’t give to just be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine with her husband on a Saturday night and just forget about all the things that were worrying her?”
Then I remembered that she’s basically been the key reason that we’re in this enormous Brexit maelstrom of turd, chuckled, and took a swig from my glass.
This is another big week. With momentum starting to really swing in favour of Remain, this is a pivotal moment for MPs to choose what actually becomes of this never-ending nightmare we call Brexit. By Friday, the day that we were originally supposed to leave the EU come what may, we might actually have a plan.
Except no-one has the foggiest what it is yet. Strap in team, because we are up to our hoo-hahs in variables for this week. I’ll try to keep it simple.
What’s Actually Going To Happen This Week?
Well, today is going to start with a bang. May is going to hold a Cabinet meeting before all other business, and this could be significant:
- Rumours were rampant over the weekend that either David Lidington, the de facto deputy Prime Minister, or Michael Gove, the environment secretary, would push May out of the hot-seat and take control on a caretaker basis.
- A bit like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Man Utd, but with all the goodwill of a big brown dog croissant that’s been curled out directly onto your forehead.
- However, both “candidates” publicly stated their support for May and said that they weren’t interested in the job. On paper, this sounds legitimate, but who even knows with politicians anymore?
- Additionally, Theresa May called a group of MPs to meet with her yesterday afternoon to discuss potential strategies. These MPs included prevalent Brexiteers like Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab, Iain Duncan Smith and a veritable deli-selection of gammon.
So, even before we get into the real meat of the situation, May will have to face up to the Remain-leaning members of her cabinet. She may even face resignations, depending on what she says her plan is – this will have been decided by the ham festival with Johnson et al yesterday.
But the good news for her is that, just over an hour later, things will probably become a whole lot worse.
The Rest Of Monday
May is tabling a motion to the House of Commons on how to proceed with Brexit, which is standard procedure. Amendments will be tabled to this motion that alter it and suggest new pathways for the government to explore, which are then voted on by MPs. This has happened before (as I have covered here), but they have largely failed to either gain a majority, or even have May acknowledge their victory.
Tomorrow, at least one of these two amendments will likely be passed, and it will be significant:
- The Benn amendment:
- Takes control of timetabling away from the government and allows Parliament to decide what to vote on (which would be utterly humiliating for May).
- In this instance, it would be indicative votes, where MPs can show their preference for a Brexit strategy that ranges from revoking Article 50 and remaining, a second referendum, a softer Brexit like Norway+ or Canada, or no-deal (more information on this can be found here).
- This would happen on Wednesday.
- The Cooper amendment:
- Forces the Prime Minister to return to Brussels and ask for a longer extension if her deal isn’t passed by Thursday (Meaningful Vote 3 / MV3 / the shit-fest that failed twice already).
- This is to rule out the Prime Minister trying to bring no-deal back as a negotiating tactic. We would leave the EU with no-deal on April 12th if we don’t have a plan in place by then. This currently hypothetical plan would need EU-approval for a long extension and for us to participate in European Parliament elections this Summer.
- lol / internal screaming.
So by the end of today we may see May have power wrenched from her by Parliament… unless she decides to hold indicative votes herself, which she would announce before the amendments are voted upon.
Even if she does this, however, her support is now so low that there is a very real chance that MPs might vote in favour of the Benn amendment and take her power away anyway.
A possible day for MV3, or a final vote on May’s deal. She has already said that if she thinks it will fail, she won’t have a vote on it, but there is a joker in the pack – an amendment called the Kyle/Wilson amendment has been created that could change everything.
Put simply, it calls on MPs to allow May’s deal to pass, so long as there is a second referendum on it – May’s deal, or Remain. This would probably be significant enough for the nation’s favourite Small Angry Man, John Bercow, to allow it to be put to Parliament again (he previously said that a second vote on something that hadn’t changed would not be permissible).
However, if the Benn amendment passes on Monday (today) and Parliament decides to hold indicative votes on Wednesday, she wouldn’t vote on her deal until Thursday.
Still with me?
Assuming the Benn amendment passes on Monday (today), this will be the day that MPs get to have an indicative vote to try and find a majority for one particular strategy.
While this might seem promising to Remain-supporters, this isn’t exactly the case – the rumours are that Parliament would be more in favour of a soft Brexit rather than reversing the referendum decision via holding a second referendum or revoking Article 50. (For more reading on this subject, the previously linked article will help, as will this reality check from yesterday.)
There is also a very high probability that no clear majority would be found, and Parliament votes evenly to support every eventuality…
Which leaves us no closer to figuring out what we will actually do without having to vote again and again until we find a clear majority for a strategy.
Give me strength.
Meaning Vote 3 time again! Assuming that it didn’t happen on Tuesday, Bercow has allowed it, and MPs have indicated that they might want to vote on it on Wednesday.
Christ, my head.
Also, if Cooper’s amendment to ensure asking for a long extension passes on Monday (today), then this is the deadline for May’s deal.
Brain… shutting… down…
- Cooper amendment says Thursday is last day for May’s deal to be approved.
- Because the EU said we could leave on May 22nd if her deal is approved, if it fails then we revert back to their other offer, April 12th, and this is the new deadline.
- Which means we have to tell them exactly what we’re going to do in order to receive a longer extension.
Nothing of note will happen, although it is a day of note.
Friday is March 29th – our original Brexit Day.
I imagine various members of the ERG will be crying into their sherries that evening, and Nigel Farage will probably outright explode.
And I’m ok with both of those things.
It’s going to be a horribly complex week, guys. Between the Lines will do its utmost to keep things as easy-to-understand as possible but by golly by gosh will it be hard. Do feel free to send in questions and we will do our best to answer them.
Good luck, everyone.
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