Tuesday 12th March
I voted with the government for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that is the necessary first negotiated step for leaving the EU. Had we succeeded we might have needed a few more days but would have left the EU on more or less the 29th March. But not enough of my colleagues supported the Bill, either because they didn’t think it was ‘good enough’ (many) or prefer No Deal (some) or really prefer a Second Referendum / No Brexit (a few). Labour – although all elected on the same mandate as us (to respect the Referendum result), are not treating this as a national issue to be dealt with on a cross party consensus basis and will not give the Bill any support. They really only have one policy: ‘Corbyn for PM’. This frightens most Labour MPs even more than it does me, but the impact is that only Conservative (and DUP) parties are trying to deliver Brexit.
But can we? Last night the government lost by 149: less than 230 last time, but still a big number. We could split hairs about how that happened, but we are where we are. What happens now?
Wednesday 13th March
We vote (free vote) on the government motion of do we go ahead with No Deal on the 29th March and I will vote against leaving with No Deal. Previously the argument was that we had to keep no Deal on the table for negotiating purposes. I agreed with that, but I believe (and the EU has now said unequivocally) that we have now extricated as many concessions from the EU as we can do and so there is no more leverage from No Deal: only the risk of actually ending there. I’ve explained elsewhere on my website (LINK) why No Deal is a real issue, especially at this late stage (16 days before March 29th). And I’m sure Parliament will vote NOT to leave on March 29th with No Deal: and there is a chance that the motion is amended by a cross party motion to read that that takes No Deal off the table in every circumstance, not just on March 29th. I won’t support this because there are SOME circumstances where No Deal could work (ie with a long preparation lead time), but not now or in two or three months time.
We’ll see what happens this evening, but those MPs who voted against the government Deal last night could end up having snatched Defeat out of the jaws of Victory – because the consensus in Parliament that is now needed to replace a Tory (& DUP) Brexit is very likely to be a softer one ie Norway type EAA and EFTA arrangement, which is arguably the feeblest of all worlds: in the Single Market, no control over free Movement, a contributor of funds but a rule taker..That cannot be what they want, and it’s not really what I want either: the PM’s Deal is much better than that.
Lastly it’s worth remember what Michael Gove has just highlighted in his speech: that Vote Leave was never about leaving without a Deal.
Thursday 14th March
The logic of agreeing not to leave on No Deal terms is to extend Article 50. The government will legislate for that on Thursday evening (Statutory Instrument or SI), but this needs EU approval. A couple of months should be ok, though we don’t yet have agreement on any Withdrawal Act at the moment, that would need a bit more time to get through Parliament, but beyond that runs into EU elections and different timing problems
The PM has spelt out that Parliament will then have to work out what it WILL vote for, presumably through a series of indicative votes. But as I say the results of this will not be good news for Leave voters, and will probably have to be an off the shelf solution (EEA, EFTA etc) where that organisation would have to approve our entry and we would be rule takers for ever after.
So the end result may be that the most enthusiastic leavers are the people who cause us to be locked into elements of the EU that they never intended to, as a result of failing to support Brexit with enough flexibility. Does that mean, when they realise this, that they will come back to the PM’s Deal? Stranger things have happened…
I will continue to tweet info, and update my website – and above all keep working cross party for a robust solution. Being an optimist I still feel we just may get close to the PM’s Deal, but the odds are reducing..