Jack Simpson reviews the first, and historic, day of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement debate.
It was a pretty spectacular day in Parliament yesterday. Government held in contempt, defeat on an amendment and the start of the Withdrawal Agreement debate. So what actually happened last night, and who said what?
Contempt of Parliament
First, the day started with holding Government in contempt. In November, the Government allowed a vote to pass requiring Government to publish the full legal advice it has received on Brexit. On Monday, the Government tried to fudge this by publishing a “Position Paper”, an overview of received advice.
A mixture of members from all parties then pushed to hold Government in contempt, or purposely ignoring the commands of Parliament. This resulted in a long constitutional vote on the powers of Parliament and who has the power.
Historically, by 311-293 MP's, Government was found in contempt of Parliament for the first time, including DUP and Conservative rebels. Government must now publish all legal advice, and will shake Government confidence for the week ahead.
Attention now turned to the Withdrawal Agreement. Originally, if the Agreement is reject in next Tuesday's vote, May would have to go back to Parliament with her “Plan B” and Parliament would only be given an advisory vote, with no power to change this course of action.
However, Dominic Grieve MP submitted an amendment that would give Parliament the power to instruct the Prime Minister on what “Plan B” should be. This means there would have to be a proper "Meaningful Vote" on Government's "Plan B", and rather than just noting what Government is doing, it can pressure what the alternative is.
Once again, Government was defeated 321-299 MP’s. This probably kills the notion of a purposefully pursued No Deal, as it would never command a majority in Parliament. I can feel sighs of relief across the North East.
So, in pure Political Theatre, on the back of two significant defeats, Mrs. May, the Prime Minister, has to get up to the dispatch box and lay her Withdrawal Agreement before Parliament and start the five-day (eight hours each) debate.
May described her Agreement as an "honourable compromise", and called on MP’s to “reflect how we got here”, outlining how it respects the referendum and unlocks our global future. This was followed by MP speeches, mainly from the big Brexit figures.
A few examples, Jeremey Corbyn, Labour leader, said it would make the UK worse off, Hilary Benn, Chair of the Brexit Committee, criticised May’s red lines and mocked Davis’ 2016 “easiest deal in history” quip. Boris Johnson, claimed the Agreement was a mockery of Brexit, and Nigel Dodds, leader of DUP which prop May’s Government, opposed it as it could separate N. Ireland from the UK. Ed Vaizey supported the Agreement, though he highly criticised Government tactics.
As well as this, there were two statements on the night from our regional MP's.
At around 11:40pm, Newcastle Central Labour MP, Chi Onwurah, stood. Chi used her experience as an engineer to deliver her main message that this Agreement “endangers our core industrial competitiveness and threatens our future British Industry”, highlighting the disruption of supply chains, restricted access to talent and the false promises of an Anglo-American relationship.
Just after midnight, Newcastle North Labour MP, Cat McKinnell, declared her opposition to the deal. Having early intervened on the Prime Minister’s Speech, Cat claimed the “all regions of the UK will be left poorer” and “. She then said that driving off the cliff edge is not inevitable and that with “no majority in this house for the Prime Minister’s Deal or No Deal”, a People’s Vote will break the deadlock.
Day Two will begin after PMQ’s and the Chamber will continue to report on the speeches made by regional MP’s, and the vote is due next Tuesday (December 11th).