Yesterday was a very strange day in what is, supposedly, the week where Brexit is decided. Perhaps it’s the fact that most Brexit commentators these days are profoundly jaded after the wall-to-wall, incessant series of monumental catastrophes that happened over the last few weeks…. Now that some real, constructive dialogue happens, we all lose our minds a bit.
“WHERE IS THE HEADLINE WHERE THERESA MAY DENOUNCES CAPITALISM?” we cry. “WHEN WILL SHE ADMIT THAT SHE IS ACTUALLY A SLEEPER CELL FOR THE KREMLIN?”
Instead, what we got yesterday were a few rational tidbits from government, and the news that the Cooper Bill, finally, was passed into law at around midnight. The day itself was almost worryingly uneventful, even though the Bill’s passing is sort-of (but also not sort-of) a big deal. Safe in the knowledge that I’m coining a huge cliché:
Wait… So Nothing Happened Yesterday?
By Brexit’s standards, yeah – nothing happened. Until late on, at least.
May announced that she was travelling to meet with Angela Merkel today, as well as a number of European head honchos, in order to ascertain whether or not they would grant her a long extension if she asked for one. Lest we forget, a long extension is not assured – she will need all 27 EU member states to unanimously agree to one before it’s granted, and many will ask why she needs one.
While important, this wasn’t ground-breaking – May was getting the grovelling in early before being forced to do so in front of all of the EU Council on Wednesday. This was a litmus test of where she stood before it really mattered.
Aside from that, the only other real newsworthy story of the day was that talks to find a consensus on a Brexit deal between the Conservatives and Labour continued in the late afternoon. Labour appear to be taking the talks as seriously as possible and not as a means of political gain. Arguably, this is largely because Sir Keir Starmer, one of very few people involved in Brexit who isn’t clinically insane, is trying to find a workable solution. The Conservatives, however, are supposedly refusing to budge.
I know very little about negotiation, but inviting someone to negotiate with you and then immediately telling them that you will concede the square root of sod all would probably seem to be, at the very least, acting somewhat in bad faith.
By which I mean it’s completely sodding pointless.
However, Labour remain convinced that there is a deal to be done, and today was the first day where a mention of a “confirmatory vote” (or a Second Referendum) was touted as a definitive Labour stance. For Remainers, this is good news.
At the time of writing, no breakthrough has been found, however.
So Why Is This Cooper Bill So Important?
Good question – it might be vitally important, but will most likely be completely irrelevant.
Yeah. Let me explain.
The Bill was passed in record time through the House of Commons and the House of Lords – a legally binding Bill such as this usually takes weeks or even months of checks and balances through both houses before it is passed. More can be found on this here.
So what does the Bill do?
- It legally takes the power away from Theresa May and instead allows Parliament to say what length of extension May must ask the EU for;
- It ensures that May cannot legally allow a no-deal Brexit this Friday;
It means that any extension granted by the EU must be voted on by Parliament.***** SEE BELOW FOR CORRECTION
Ok… So what does that all mean?
May promised that we would not crash out with no deal this Friday, which we would have done had we not secured an extension from the EU. However, now that the Bill has passed, she must actively try to seek an extension, which she would probably have done anyway, but now she would be breaking the law if she didn’t.
Given that May has been more slippery than an eel at a lube factory up to this point, this seems prudent.
It also means that May might have to go back on her letter to the EU last week asking for an extension to June 30th – instead, she might have to ask for longer if that’s what Parliament decides today.
Either way, it sounds as though the EU is pretty fed up with the UK’s failure to find a solution – they would probably have rejected another short extension outright, and instead offered the “Flextension.” It is highly likely that whether it was May or Parliament asking for an extension, the EU would have set its own agenda out anyway.
So this is not all that much of a revelation, aside from the fact that it’s now set in law. Whether the Bill had passed or not, the UK still required the EU to grant an extension.
But the last point is something worth noting – now, instead of accepting it herself, May must ask Parliament if they agree with the extension the EU has set. While it is almost certain that they will, there is a caveat – if they don’t, then what does May do now? She is legally bound to prevent crashing out without a deal… Which means that she would probably have to Revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit. This is the first time that this might even be countenanced as an option. But it probably won’t happen, so why speculate? …Because speculating is fun, that’s why.******
Just to illustrate how insane Brexit is and how quickly things can change, there was actually an amendment made to the Cooper Bill at the last minute – The PM does not now need to get Parliament’s approval for an EU offer, but can make the call herself.
However, there is a very slight chance that pressure from within her own party might make her refuse the offer from the EU… and her only legal option in that instance is to Revoke Article 50.
That is about as likely as Kim Kardashian joining Mensa, however.
So Nothing Much Happened… But What Did Happen Might Be Vitally Important To What Happens Next?
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