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Johnson's Withdrawal Bill and Future Election


Jack Simpson's look at what is currently going on with the Brexit Withdrawal Bill and prospect of an election.

Last night, Parliament voted not to have an election after the passing of Johnson’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, estimated around December 12th.

Over the last month, Parliament has gradually come to a Brexit standstill. The Prime Minister negotiated a new Withdrawal Treaty with the European Union, though it was 95% the same as Theresa May’s deal, introducing a complex proposal for Northern Ireland and moving some aspects (like level-playing field) to future negotiations, and has attempted to pass it through Parliament saying it will move Brexit on, and allow Parliament to get back to other business.

However, Johnson's track record has instill suspicion in Parliament. With time running out, and worried about the prospect of a No Deal, Parliament voted not to approve the deal until the proper legislation had been implemented. It was thought they could voted for the deal, but Government block the implementing legislation, forcing through a hard Brexit on October 31st.

This is normally a standard procedure, however this is a Government almost hellbent on leaving October 31st, so when they proposed to whizz through the legislation in three days, Parliament cried foul and brought everything to a standstill. This has forced Johnson, under the Benn Act, to get an extension until January 31st, 2020.

Essentially, it’s a labyrinth of Parliamentary technicalities, customs and procedures.

But there’s a huge sense of frustration in every sect of society about Brexit. To seek a new route forward, last night, the Prime Minister tabled a motion to have three weeks debate on the Withdrawal legislation, followed by an election. This was defeated, as the opposition stated they cannot trust the PM not to force through Brexit (deal or no deal).

Instead Government will bring a new motion, based on Lib Dem & SNP proposals to hold an election with a fixed date (December 9thish) but without debating the withdrawal legislation. This will mean parties will campaign on various Brexit platforms, Lib Dems for remain, Conservatives for their deal Labour for… err…

It is unclear if this version will pass, as it only needs a simple majority, so only needs a slim backing of opposition MPs, but brilliant tweet summed up the current affairs Tom McTague:

In summary, then: We have a govt which has broken its central promise; an opposition which does not want an election to make them pay for it; two anti-Brexit parties offering to break the deadlock in a way that could enable Brexit; & an EU which cannot do anything about any of it.

As we have approached the end of 2019, Brexit fatigue has really set in, with increasing sense of “lets just get it done”. It has been incredibly frustrating, but we can’t use that as an excuse not to do this properly.

I am not sure that an election would unlock some brave new Brexit. We would, arguably be in a position where a new Government comes in and the whole process of “what does Brexit mean?” starts again (if it was ever answered). Business have been desperate for this answer for three years now and want the answer to be in a form that does not wreck their trading access and relationships with European partners and beyond.

To this end, business should be ready for any outcome. Review operations and supply chains, what is most vulnerable and how could the hardest Brexit affect your business. Action does not need to be taken now, but having a grip on what will be affected and how to respond will put business in much better stead.

Meanwhile, the Chamber will use the measure of being EU members to judge any future relationship, as well as campaign and advise on the key issues facing business as the process unfolds.