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Day Three: Extending Brexit Negotiations


Jack Simpson reviews the second Brexit vote on No Deal, and previews the third vote on extending the Brexit Negotiations.

Last night, the Government had the second in its series of three votes on how to progress with Brexit. First, Parliament voted to reject May’s Withdrawal Agreement for the second time, triggering a second vote on whether or not No Deal was an acceptable Brexit outcome.

Day Two Recap.

Yesterday, the Governments focus was on No Deal, publishing its plan for No Deal tariffs, which 87% of imports will be tariff free, and commencing the Vote on whether No Deal is an acceptable outcome for Brexit. You can see the Chamber’s preview here.

The majority of Chamber members have been clear that a No Deal Brexit would be a disaster, both for their business and the economy of the North East. We have consistently campaigned on the basis that No Deal should not be seen as a credible Brexit outcome, and was happy to see that parliament voted in accordance with this view, by a majority of 43 (321-278 votes).

However, we are now 15 days away from leaving the European Union, and there is seemingly no clear way forward. So, what on earth happens next?

Day Three: Extension of Article 50.

Today, is the third and final planned vote on the Brexit process (for this week) on extending Brexit negotiations, Article 50. As Parliament has voted that leaving with either May’s Deal or without a deal are unacceptable, it seem likely that this will be voted through.

However, the specifics get messy. Theresa May has said that she will bring her Agreement back to Parliament next week (third times a charm), before heading to the EU summit on March 21st where the Prime Minster will extension.

If her Agreement is passed before the Summit in a third Meaningful Vote, May will seek a short technical extension, estimated to last until June 30th. This would allow the UK to pass the proper legislation and prime business for the expected changes.

If rejected, the Prime Minister has indicated there could be a “long delay” to the Brexit process, potentially one or two years. While there is some appetite in Parliament and business to do so, the EU has indicated that for such an extension the UK would have to indicate a radical change in the Brexit process, like a new negotiation or public vote.

It is possible that May will use the extension as a threat to Brexiters, angling them to back her and get Brexit as soon as possible, or vote it down and have a long delay, EU elections (happening in May) and MPs using indicative votes to push options, like a Second Referendum.

A Needed Delay.

However, there is a practical need for a longer delay, as ignoring problems now will not solve them, only allow them to bite back later.

As a reminder, Withdrawal is only the beginning of Brexit. The problems and contradictions being smothered now, will surely come back to haunt Parliament in the Trade and Implementation Brexit debates, committing to "Frictionless Trade" for example, sowing the seeds for division and uncertainty further down the line. A longer decision would allow Government to form the credible political and economic consensus, in the interest of long term prosperity.

These ongoing Meaningful Votes have caused a Brexit paralysis, that is diverting time and resources away from other pressing issues, such as Liz Twist’s, Blaydon MP, motion on drugs for rare conditions, which was shelved to allow the Brexit debate.

An extension would afford Parliament the chance to effectively engage with ley stakeholders, and while Government strategy has focused on kicking the can down the road, now it is time for them to build bridges.