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The Brexit Week

 

Jack Simpson previews the major Brexit week ahead, and all the votes that go with it.

This week is the mother of all Brexit weeks. The United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union this Friday, unless the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement (see more here) can be agreed, or an extension is triggered. If you’re sick to death of Brexit, you will hate this week!

The Chamber has also looked at what a No Deal would mean for the North East here.

A THIRD Meaningful Vote

Theresa May plans to push her Withdrawal Agreement through, one last time. The Agreement has twice been defeated in Parliament, by a record 230 votes in January, then again by 149 votes two weeks ago. May has sought changes to the Agreement that will convince 75 MPs to back her deal this week.

However, it is the context, rather than the text that is changing. We are only five days away from the 29th March, the date set in law that the UK must leave (unless changed for extension). May hopes to back MPs into a corner, depending on her audience, that its either her deal or No Deal, or her deal or no Brexit. Generally, it’s a political mess.

Theresa May is unlikely to bring the vote back to Parliament if she feels she can't win it, so will probably spend the week trying to drum up support. The key players are the Northern Irish DUP, who refuse to back her, deterring many MPs support.

If Theresa’s Agreement passes, there will be a short implementation period until May 22nd to get all the required laws and support implemented for leaving, then a two-year transition period. If the deal is defeated, or she fails to table it, the UK will ask for an extension until April 12th, and hold a series of indicative votes to find a new way forward.

Indicative Votes

Parliament is then aiming to take control this week by holding a series of indicative votes, likely on Wednesday. This will be a session where MPs will get to vote on what kind of a Brexit deal they would find acceptable, such as a Free Trade Agreement, Customs Union + etc. These votes are not binding, so the Prime Minister could just ignore the outcome, nor does it mean MPs will vote for the chosen deal once negotiated.

However, this is a new and welcome approach. As Politico noted, this will be the first time Parliament would be seeking a majority for a common outcome, rather than simply voting down May’s deal in a cross fire of arguments. A debate is scheduled for Monday evening, and will set out what outcomes will be put to the vote later this week.

A clearly stated Brexit outcome would go some way in providing economic certainty, and while we won’t know the fine details, we will have a ball park idea of what to prepare for.

However, it is possible that nothing gets a majority, or that a Free Trade Agreement is favoured, and re-hashes the same problem around the Irish border that May’s Agreement is struggling with.

Ah, political processes….

Calling the Whole Thing Off

In response to Theresa May’s speech in which she attacked MPs for the delivery of Brexit, a petition was started to “Revoke Article 50”, which has exceeded 5 million signatures, and was followed by a reported one million Brexit protest in London.

While the debate of Brexit v anti-Brexit will rage on in endless debate, there is some merit in constructively revoking Article 50. Quite clearly, Parliament is struggling to decide what is the best outcome for Brexit, and is being pressed up the wall by redlines and deadlines, and Brexit is now consuming so much time, Parliament is unable to act on other pressing matters.

Revocation would allow a much more free and open Parliament to debate and conclude the preferred outcome to the Brexit talks. It will take much more time, but it will surely be better than forcing through poorly thought legislation, and accepting a deal on political, not economic grounds, that could adversely affect long term prosperity.

Either way, Government looks set to extend the negotiation period, even if for a few weeks. Parliament should use this time to engage with key stakeholders, and work out which Brexit outcome will best match the needs for the UK as a whole, rather than stick with the isolation approach that has landed policy makers in this whole frustrating mess.