Good Lawdy what a week. We had streakers on Monday, the Prime Minister asking Jeremy Corbyn for help on Tuesday, a split vote in Parliament on Wednesday, and a House of Lords debate that was more tetchy than a Torquay Tea Room with no biscuits left on Thursday, as well as the perfect metaphor for Brexit, pictured.
At least, this time, there was no sitting of Parliament announced for today. The madness can, thankfully, be put to one side for a few days.
Or at least it would have been until May steamed in this morning and ruined everything, again.
Let’s just review what the hell happened this week, clock off, and hit the pub, eh? Sound like a plan?
Monday was a Mad day in politics, and yes, the capitalisation is deliberate. The political pirates of Sir Oliver Letwin, Yvette Cooper and Dominic Grieve commandeered Theresa May’s leaky vessel and steered it into uncharted waters. It was the second day of indicative votes, after the previous Wednesday’s had failed to deliver a majority.
Lest we forget, last week was the week that saw May bring her deal back for one last vote on the Friday, having promised to resign if it passed, and then somewhat predictably lose by a comfortable margin.
At this stage, I think she’ll be Prime Minister when I die, and I’m 28. Although I am quite accident-prone, so maybe that’s not as long as we might hope.
The indicative votes were supposed to be our way out of this mess, and debates raged on for hours and hours. To alleviate the never-ending oratorial sludge of the afternoon, some climate-change protestors got naked and glued their buttocks to the viewing gallery window in Parliament.
Enough jokes have been made about the bare-faced cheek of it all, but I will just add that it was a welcome change of pace to have the arseholes in Parliament actually be up-front about something for once.
Eventually, no majority was found for any option, including a referendum or a soft Brexit, because mostly Conservative MPs abstained. This caused Nick Boles, architect of the well-intentioned-yet-flawed Customs Union 2.0 plan, to step down from the Conservative Party in disgust.
He has been having quite a bit of fun ever since.
I am no longer a member of the Conservative Party. So I can be blunt where previously I might have been discreet. The PM’s head of communications Robbie Gibb is a hard Brexiter who wants to destroy the PM’s new search for a cross party compromise.
— Nick Boles (@NickBoles) April 3, 2019
Lol. It is actually a very important point, especially as Gibb was also in charge of content on the BBC during the referendum. Hidden agenda, much?
Anyway, there was a startling lack of any kind of consensus after Monday. It was pretty depressing.
The MOACM. The Mother Of All Cabinet Meetings. For hours, the poor sods were stuck in a room with Theresa May at No. 10, phones confiscated to prevent leaks, arguing about which glass shard-laden dirt-track to drive the Brexit bandwagon down next. No-one knew what to expect.
Would it be a General Election they announced? Or another meaningful vote? Or would they just hand the reigns to the Queen and say “There you go, Marj. You bloody fix it”?
No-one really predicted what May actually did, which was offer an olive branch dipped in hydrochloric acid to Jeremy Corbyn, asking him to meet with her to find an approach to Brexit that all of Parliament could agree on. It was actually an ingeniously obvious trap: if he refused, he ruined Brexit if it failed, and if he accepted, he helped ruin Brexit if it failed. In one fell swoop, she dragged Labour into the mess she’d made, which, even though it is appallingly cynical politicking, is something of a blame-game masterstroke.
She also promised that no-deal would be ruled out for next Friday and we would ask for an extension to Article 50. Combine that with her new alliance with Corbyn and the Brexitophile wing of the Conservatives went YouTube Comments Section-levels of frothing-at-the-mouth bonkers.
Surely she wouldn’t survive this? Surely the talks would fail?
Well, they didn’t fail immediately, but they certainly didn’t succeed either.
The old adversaries sat together and tried to thrash out a plan. It didn’t come up with results, but both camps said the talks were productive. This is political code-speak to say that they didn’t kill each other, so it could have been worse.
Over in the Commons, meanwhile, all hell broke loose. First of all, a motion for next Monday to hold the next round of indicative votes was split by 310 Ayes to 310 Noes, resulting in John Bercow having to rule in favour of the motion failing (a longer explanation as to why can be found here). Such a ruling hadn’t happened since 1993, and this meant no more indicative votes on Monday.
Or, at least, Letwin’s rogue votes – the government has said that it will bring its own version to the House of Commons on Monday. At this stage, though, the choices will probably be May’s deal, no-deal, a referendum on May’s deal or no-deal, revocation of our collective will to live or a return to serfdom.
(Deep breaths. You can get through this.)
Next, the Pirates of the Cooperibbean (Jesus that was forced, sorry everyone) put a bill before the House that addressed May’s conciliatory speech from the day before and said, “Nice try, but frankly you’ve pulled this stunt before and we trust you about as much as a fart after a chilli-eating competition.”
Essentially, the bill sought to make it law that the UK government’s official position was to ask to extend Article 50, rule out no-deal next Friday, and allow Parliament, not May, to choose how long we ask the EU to extend Article 50 by.
What was extraordinary was that this was a bill, not a motion – in order to be passed and become legally binding, it had to go through three rounds of votes in the Commons. These usually span across weeks or months, but Cooper got them done in SIX HOURS.
In order to be ratified, they then had to head to the House of Lords…
Where it spent the entire day being filibustered. Filibustering is a term used to describe a means of blocking laws being passed by talking non-stop until the deadline has passed – thankfully, in the UK, there are measures in place to stop this. However, after a full day of debate and at least 13 filibusters from pro-Brexit Lords being defeated, the Cooper Bill is still not passed – it will be picked up again on Monday, unless today’s intervention changes things. More on that below.
Back in the House of Commons, because apparently the Lord himself is a satirist, the Commons itself had be closed mid-debate on a tax rebate bill because of a leak in the roof and water pouring into the chamber.
Parliament is both metaphorically and literally falling apart.
Also, according to Robert Peston, ITV’s smug-yet-knowledgable political editor, there were rumours late in the day of a pact being made between May and Corbyn’s negotiating team. The two leaders themselves weren’t actually there, and just for the sheer scandal of it I can only hope it’s because they were in a Travelodge suite somewhere making terrible life-decisions.
The rumours are, according to the man himself, that the negotiators agreed a plan:
- The UK would remain in a customs union;
- Have a “dynamic” alignment with the EU on workers’ rights;
- And Parliament would be asked whether this plan should be put up as an option vs. Remain in a second referendum.
If true, that is massive.
Yikes. So What Comes Next?
Despite all of the work on the Cooper Bill, May has sidelined them this morning by getting in ahead of the bill’s passing and asking the EU for an extension of Article 50 to June 30th.
WHY DO WE EVEN BOTHER
I don’t know. Just when you think something sensible comes along that might actually help things, May just storms off ahead and switches the tracks, and steers the Brexit train back towards oblivion.
Thankfully, it looks as though Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has seen though this ruse – May has asked for a short extension knowing she won’t get one, because asking for a long one would be political suicide. Rumour has it that Tusk will refuse this and instead offer a ‘flexible’ extension to the end of the year, with the option for the UK to leave long before that if they get their house in order. However, there are some major caveats:
- What happens with the European Parliament elections? Will we vote in them and then leave before the Parliament even sits in July?
- Will the 27 EU member states allow a long extension unanimously? Much rests on the ability of the Conservative/Labour cross-party talks finding a clear strategy to move forward and us demonstrating we have a plan that isn’t dig our thumbs more firmly up our bottoms.
At this stage, though, we are working with hypotheticals the likes of which we cannot comprehend. For all we know, Chris Grayling will be Prime Minister in two weeks.
And the thought of that makes me feel physically sick.
Have a good weekend everyone. Resolve anything you have left outstanding on your conscience, settle your debts and be close to your families. Next week, we go nuclear.
It’s deadline day, Mk. II.
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