Ed's Brexit round-up - a proper box of frogs!
15th Mar 2019 / By Ed Barker
Westminster – a proper box of frogs this week. Let’s try and distil it as simply as we can.
The week began with the Attorney General providing a few minor changes and clarifications to the ‘Northern Ireland backstop’ issue, but this did not change the Withdrawal Agreement in any meaningful way. As a result, the ERG and the DUP refused to back the deal. Later on Tuesday evening, the government lost the second meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement by 149 votes.
Straight after this, given that no deal suddenly became a lot more likely, the Government released what tariffs it would set on imported products in the event of a no deal – as expected pork was included within this. The announcement is detailed and has lots of issues intertwined within it -and as a result I have written a briefing note on it that will be published very shortly (look out for Piggy Points on Monday, March 18).
On Wednesday, parliament voted, very closely – 312 to 308 – to reject leaving the EU without a deal. Even though it is non-binding on the government, the government gave its MPs a three line-whip to vote against the motion seconds before voting was taking place. 45 Tory MPs went against the Government, including 13 ministers. Because the Ministers by and large abstained, they weren’t opposing Government and haven’t therefore been sacked, but it has bestowed bad blood on internal tory party politics (even more so than before).
After that, Parliament voted clearly to request an Extension of Article 50 to the EU, to provide more time for Brexit negotiations (by 413 to 202). Now this time it was a free vote, including 7 ministers voting against the extension! More than half the Tory party voted against an extension, however all opposition parties almost uniformly voted to extend. This means a new Brexit date of June 30 now has the support of Parliament.
Next Tuesday there will be a third ‘meaningful vote’ – now if the Government this time wins it (unsure how given the last two defeats), then there still will be an extension of Article 50 but it may be a short period just to tie up the legislation required in the Commons. However, if it is defeated again then don’t be surprised if the EU state the delay must be much longer – not least because where we go next is totally unclear. In this scenario expect backbench motions for softer Brexit approaches, EEA membership, a 2nd referendum, a general election etc etc.
And finally - just because Parliament has said no to no deal, doesn’t mean we will certainly not have a no deal (if youre still with me). The EU has to fully agree to an extension (all countries and the European Parliament) and we could reach another deadline only to not be any further on. So don’t discount it, even if has become less likely.
Let’s hope there aren’t any sporting contests between now and next week that could inflame the internal national politics of the UK any further.