More drama on Brexit

Yesterday, the British parliament passed by the narrowest of margins 313 to 312 a motion proposed by backbenchers and supported largely by the opposition and opposed by the government that if there was no Brexit deal by the April 12 deadline, the UK would ask the EU for an extension of Article 50 rather than leave with no deal. The bill does not say how long the extension should be nor is there any guarantee that the EU would agree to it. This bill was vehemently opposed by hardline Leavers who seem to be hoping that the current deadlock will lead to a default no-deal outcome.

The bill is now being debated on a fast track in the House of Lords where it seems likely to pass despite attempts at filibustering by Brexit supporters. (I had thought that members of the House of Lords, being part of such an anachronistic institution, still wore wigs and robes but a livestream of the debate shows them in ordinary business attire. The presiding person is also much less charismatic that John Bercow so the whole thing is a lot less fun.) Once the bill passes that body (assuming it does), it will go the Queen to formally give approval on Monday and then it becomes binding on the government even though they opposed it. Then prime minister Theresa May May must come to parliament next Tuesday and specify an extension date to the Friday, April 12 deadline to be presented to the summit meeting of EU leaders on Wednesday.

Meanwhile May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn continue to hold discussions on a possible deal but arriving at one that they can sell to their respective parties is going to be tough. May will be fiercely fought by the hardliners in her party if she agrees to anything other than leaving the EU completely and Corbyn is being pressured to push for a second referendum or ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit, something that is bitterly opposed by Leavers.

The cross-party group that drafted the bill that passed parliament is concerned about May executing an end-run around their plan.

Senior MPs who oppose Theresa May’s Brexit deal have met to discuss how to stop No 10 “stitching up” crucial votes that will decide how the UK leaves the European Union.

The cross-party group includes Sir Oliver Letwin, Nick Boles, Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn, who have already successfully forced legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit through the House of Commons.

They are now concerned that No 10 could present a series of alternatives for how Brexit happens for parliament to vote on – such as May’s deal, Labour’s proposals, or a customs union – without consulting MPs properly about what options should be on the table.

There is growing suspicion that the government is still set on trying to get the prime minister’s deal through parliament if talks with Jeremy Corbyn fail.

May has said she will first try to make a deal with Corbyn but if that is not successful, she will try to agree a process with him to allow parliament to find a solution, as long as Labour also promises to be bound by the result.

In what is being seen as a metaphor for a broken system, the House of Commons was suspended on Thursday due to a torrent of water falling from the ceiling into the press gallery.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    Corbyn is being pressured to push for a second referendum or ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit, something that is bitterly opposed by Leavers

    … of which he is one. This is one of the most serious problems we have -- the Leader of the Opposition isn’t doing either of the things that title implies -- he isn’t leading, and he isn’t opposing. He was voted in on a ticket of being a plain speaker, but he’s waffled and prevaricated for three years because he knows that his real anti-Europe views are anathema to the party he leads and diametrically opposed to its policies going back decades. History will have a hard time sorting what order to place the guilty in, but I predict Corbyn will be in the top 5. Cameron, May, Johnson and Gove are the obvious top four (in more or less that order), and I honestly thing Corbyn has done more harm to the country than any other Tory (than those four). He’s been more damaging than, say, Rees-Mogg.

    What a shower.

  2. jrkrideau says

    I had a pipe break over my head just as I was arguing about a water pumping problem with my calculus prof in first year.

    I have often wondered how he did it. He may have moved on to consulting with the British Govt?

  3. file thirteen says

    The Cooper bill is easily thwarted. Today May did in fact ask the EU for an extension until May 30, but the EU replied that the reasons for asking for an extension were too vague, exactly as they had strongly stressed they must not be.

    Is May so incompetent as to not fully believe, even now, that the EU mean what they say, or has she moved towards setting up excuses for an impending no-deal? Labour have been called in for talks but are already claiming that, despite promises, the government aren’t willing to compromise. Is that the reason the SNP wasn’t also invited, that it suits the government if talks with Labour fail?

    Also, the government have stated that they won’t accept any agreement with a clause requiring it to be voted on in a second referendum. I expected this. People’s Vote advocates still aim to force the government’s hand, but that would be very difficult even without Corbyn, a Leaver, calling the shots for Labour.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    the government have stated that they won’t accept any agreement with a clause requiring it to be voted on in a second referendum

    I’m starting to see a reason for this…

    According to recent Yougov polling, incredibly, if there is no deal by April 12th and the EU refuses an extension, 42% of Britons would want to remain in, but 44% would prefer to leave immediately with no deal.

    I’m starting to think that May is dead set against a people’s vote because she thinks Leave With No Deal would win it. And I’m starting to think she’s right. I live in a lovely lefty SJW echo-chamber where most of the opinions I hear are ones I agree with. But just a few of my FB friends I connect with because of paragliding are Leavers -- rabid ones, at that. Unreachable by reason or facts, I’d say. And the other day one posted the result of that Yougov poll and I was brought up short. .They’re a reputable organisation (not UKIP). They had a decent sample size (in excess of 2000). They sampled across the country. And Leave Now With No Deal is winning, still. This surprises and horrifies me, but it might explain why May desperately does not want to go back to the people. She knows the people are stupid and nasty and don’t learn, and will give the wrong answer next time just like they did the last time.

    I’m hoping (I really am) that she is the secret Machiavellian genius I’ve been saying she is, and she’s manoeuvering the country into a position where we have to rescind Article 50 altogether WITHOUT a vote. At that point, she can step down from the leadership and leave whoever follows her with the poison chalice of having to decide whether to trigger Article 50 again (if they’d be allowed to by the EU…), or whether to hold another damaging and divisive referendum, or whether to grumble, complain, and get on with the business of running the damn country, which they’ve not been doing for the last three years.

    If May achieves that, I’d send her flowers myself. She’d be the single greatest leader we’ve had since the war, possibly ever. She’d have saved us. And right now, I’m not ruling it out.

    Sheesh, I hope I’m right. I’m not optimistic, but I really hope I’m right…

  5. file thirteen says

    The Cooper bill is easily thwarted

    Now that bill has passed into law, I realise I was dead wrong about this. The point which I missed is that when the PM attempts to pass a motion asking the EU for an extension date, as she’s now required to do, that motion is subject to amendments. If she proposes a new date which the EU would never agree to (a “unicorn” date to use the term currently in favour), it can easily be amended by the house to any date that they collectively think is more realistic.

    May can whip against her own amended motion passing, as she did to another very recently, but whipping has been less successful of late, and even if she succeeds, she’s back at square one: having to pass a motion of extension.

    Or at least that’s how it appears to me now. Did I miss anything else?

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