Yes, what is happening? Unbelievably, for a country that is leaving the EU in 20 days we still don’t know how we’re leaving. But next week is a critical week. I’ll give you a run-down of some certainties, of which there are very few. The thing is I haven’t been writing here as much as I could, because I cannot believe what I see and hear of our government (totally split, with no majority in the House and tethered to a near psychotic leader who come what may (ha) is telling us we’re leaving on 29th of this month) And then again nor can I  comprehend the shenanigans in Parliament, which is all sound and fury, yet seems to extract nothing, nada, zilch from this incompetent government who cannot bring us to a coherent understanding of how we’re leaving.

I can see I’m going round in circles here, which just about sums up the situation. So let’s look at some dates.

Week of March 4th

Geoffrey Cox, our esteemed (but see below) attorney-general returned from Brussels after failing to get any changes whatsoever in the ‘backstop’ which is what MPs said was their sticking point. Well, that’s not a surprise as the EU has repeatedly said that it will not change the Withdrawal Agreement and especially that ‘backstop’. Pause here for a moment, as I note that the media never truly explains the word. If you remember it means that if by 2020 we have failed to invent the technology to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland the UK stays in the Customs Union, which then means we cannot make any of these amazing trade deals we were promised we could have.  And it is when we can leave said Customs Union that is the truly tricky thing.  So this Cox, came to Parliament, and remember he has a peculiarly odd and very deep voice, which probably works well in court, but to normal people…… And here in the Mother of Parliaments apparently he told a couple of jokes about the backstop being Cox’s codpiece.

It’s not that I think he’s a right Widow Twankey type, but Brexit, reduced to this? And, if I start saying, you couldn’t make this up,  I’ll never stop, so I won’t.

And Stop Press: yesterday (8th) Barnier, in a series of tweets, suggested that the UK could go back to the original offer of Northern Ireland being solely in the Customs Union while the rest of the UK remains outside it.  That means the border would be in the middle of the Irish Sea and Northern Ireland would be that much nearer to unification with Ireland.  Can’t see that being accepted.

March 12

This is the meaningful vote on Mrs May’s deal.  A legal obligation under the UK’s 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act. And I hear that Labour is asking for its two backbenchers to ‘withdraw’ their amendment which aimed to pass the deal on condition that there was a second referendum, so that there is a ‘clean’ vote on the deal.

The deal is unlikely to pass. The critical thing here is by how many votes. If the deal is defeated with less than 50 votes Mrs May will try again.

March 13

This is the day when Parliament will vote on whether we leave with no-deal. And apparently there are still people out there that think this means we stay in the EU! Apart from the ERG, who want to make trade deals immediately (and there’s whole lot to say here about our vulnerability, which I won’t go into now, but note that trade deals take decades) and people who do not know any better, leaving the EU with no-deal is thought to be a very bad thing indeed.

It is likely that Parliament votes against a no-deal.

March 14

Parliament will vote on whether there is a delay to our leaving. Apparently Mrs May wants this delay to be short, no longer than June, mainly because if it is any longer we would have to participate in the elections to the EU parliament. Of course it is for the EU to decide whether we do delay, as we can unilaterally revoke Article 50 but we cannot delay without permission from the EU.  The key thing here is why, and for what reason is there a delay. I would say if the delay is dictated by Mrs May then delay is meaningless as she cannot negotiate anything different to the Withdrawal Agreement.  If the delay is for a second referendum or a very soft and different exit than yes, there is a reason for a delay.  To continue until June on her terms would just result in another couple of months of dithering.

It is possible that Parliament votes for a delay for the simple reason there is a shed load of legislation to be passed.  But equally, it may not vote for delay. Or, if they vote for delay the EU may not agree to it. There are some useful diagrams out there to look at, as the possibilities are many. Equally there are many and varied serious consequences coming from this vote. Let’s see: no to Mrs May’s deal, no to a no-deal, and then no delay?  That’s a bit of a muddle.  Therefore a vote for delay is probable, but not certain, and then again nothing is certain, because the EU has to agree it. As you can see I’m going round in circles – again!

March 21-22

The EU Summit. This is where any deal that comes out of the above will be agreed or otherwise.

Late March

If the House approves a deal to leave the government will put forward the European Union (withdrawal agreement) bill. This will/would be a hugely important and historic piece of legislation

But ratification will need to be approved by the EU parliament in a plenary vote. EU member states must also give their final approval in a ministerial meeting.

Talk about last minute

Two things: This morning on the news I watched the founder of a small business near to tears because no one knows what is going to happen or how we leave.  With just-in-time delivery of parts and products the norm how can a business be run in this uncertainty?  And the Tories are the government of business? Incredible.

And second, I see that the blame game has begun with Ministers and Mrs May saying it’s up to you, EU, to help us out. The arrogance!

Anyway, let’s see what happens next week.

Penny Kocher, 9 March 2019

The Guardian: The Brexit state of play: a guide to next week’s crucial votes

See also Financial Times: Brexit Timeline: key dates in UK’s divorce from EU

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12 thoughts on “The timetable – talk about last minute!

  • 9th March 2019 at 11:03
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    I am very disappointed to note that you, like all others who would prefer to Remain in the EU, state that to leave with No Deal would be a very bad thing. But, like all the others never actually state why!

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    • 9th March 2019 at 12:14
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      Hi Tina. I usually leave replying to comments to the following day as I don’t sit at my laptop for too long – shoulder ache! But I think this deserves a quick reply. And I apologise because i don’t like shortening words or jargon, yes, what is a no-deal?

      And I reply saying that we are all biased in some way. I speak and write as an Internationalist and a European and I can also remember rubble and gaps in streets from German bombs (born 1946 but bomb sites were there a long time). So I am biased. And you can see I read the Guardian but I read wider than that and take note of government statistics. So here’s my view on why no-deal is not a good thing

      Government stats forecast that economic growth without a deal will be 9.3% lower than it would be otherwise – and that’s over 15 years
      Ports will be stymied with queues
      Small businesses will be ruined as just-in-time delivery is curtailed
      Farming and the food industry will suffer from a lack of seasonal workers. AND our ability to export in the short term will be devastated
      Hospitality depends heavily on EU citizens and food prices of course will go up because we go immediately into WTO tariff increase of up to 22%
      Health. Matt Hancock has said that we have become the world’s no1 buyer of fridges. I mean what!
      Major industries like car makers will be affected – because parts are delivered just-in-time

      I could go on and perhaps will do a far more detailed analysis in another post. But I just see a no-deal as one of the greatest acts of self-harm a country could do to itself. Fortunately I think the majority of MPs see it that way too.

      But thanks for the comment. I believe that we have to communicate with each other. Imho the referendum should never have happened as that was also an act of self-harm and has divided the country so much. The mess and muddle in parliament just reflects that.

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    • 9th March 2019 at 16:37
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      I think you’ll find that there is lots written about why a no deal brexit is bad for the country. If we go by WTO tariffs that’ll be bad for imports and exports. If we go tariff free that means we’ll have cheap nasty food from places like the US that have poor animal welfare standards. No tariff will be very bad for our farmers and manufacturers as their overheads are higher than in many overseas countries. A no deal is wanted by people who seem to think we were self sufficient in WW2. We weren’t and things have changed since then thankfully. We are a very small island despite what leavers seem to think. We will be steamrollered by countries like America.

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      • 10th March 2019 at 10:04
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        A no-deal means we will be eaten alive by American trade deals. Why? Because it’s America First. We are so vulnerable to be picked off by countries eager to make a very very good deal for themselves. I despair because it seems you can’t ask the simple question, why walk away from the best trade deal we’ve got. It is all so wrong. Our poor farmers.

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  • 9th March 2019 at 22:42
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    The morning after the referendum I was gutted to see that we would be leaving the EU by such a tight margin. I had voted to remain and I was truly sorry with the result. When I had time to digest it all I said at the time and have continued to believe that we will NOT leave the EU as surely common sense will eventually prevail. I understand that there was a democratic decision to leave BUT we voted on false information. If there was a second referendum I think people would see how much harm will be done to our country and vote to remain. How can even the politicians vote without knowing the detail!!!!
    In the meantime we have seen how blatantly the MP’s look after their own interests. The incompetency of the government over this single matter is only matched by the total disregard for all of the other issues that our people face. This government has brought our entire country into disrepute and we are a laughing stock. I am ashamed that they do it as our elected leaders. We do not have a statesman in either party. We are a joke.

    Reply
    • 10th March 2019 at 10:08
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      Actually I let out a sound in-between a scream and a groan – like you I was devastated at the result. However, I would have gone with it if i) the margin of votes had been that much bigger and ii) if the Leave campaigners and our current government had a vision of the future, and a plan already worked out. But no they had nothing. Really, why would I want to walk off a cliff edge? As for all the other issues – just take our schools and lack of funding….

      I do hope for a 2nd Referendum but like everyone else, not sure it will happen. And if there was, what the result would be. Nothing, whatsoever, is certain.

      Reply
  • 10th March 2019 at 09:05
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    I agree wholeheartedly with all of the above, none of which was properly discussed or truthfully communicated prior to the referendum. That’s a whole other can of worms… You say Penny that the only people who want us to leave with no deal are those who don’t know any better. My MP, who is paid to know better, is constantly banging the drum for a no deal. I’ve never heard her explain the benefits, just sound bites like “project fear” which is unhelpful and offensive. When writing to her to ask why she came back with stuff about WTO and EU that was just plain wrong. I checked out everything she said and sent it back to her… silence. This is what we are up against. We are woefully badly served – save for a few honourable exceptions – on all sides by our politicians and media. I’m ashamed to think what the rest of the world thinks of us – these are going to be our future trading partners and it doesn’t bode well. How did it comes to this?

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    • 10th March 2019 at 10:26
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      The current government is excruciating, not only Grayling but take the Northern Ireland Secretary for one, she appears to be so incompetent and uninformed about Irish history and its politics, and the very recent history of the Troubles you can’t quite believe your ears! The lack of funding going to local authorities is to be deplored. Austerity is ideological and not a sound theory and not something a country should be put through.

      I read, somewhere, a journalist wondering where we might be if instead of Cameron winning the election Ed Miliband had won and remained leader – now there’s a thought! But, no, and here we are….

      Practically every day I thank the fact that Caroline Lucas is my MP.

      Reply
    • 12th March 2019 at 09:03
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      Your final comment ‘how did we come to this?’ Surely, we came to this because the ‘person in the street’ was asked one of the most important questions to be asked in the last 40 odd years and they didn’t know the answer. How could they???

      Reply
      • 13th March 2019 at 13:02
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        I don’t usually comment – but if we haven’t been told enough about the consequences of leaving, I am also unsure if we have been told enough about the consequences of remaining. I am currently trying to unravel the Lisbon Treaty which comes into being in 2020. Perhaps someone can explain this?
        And I still can not get my head around one of the suggestions that is being mooted ie remaining in the customs union which I think means we continue to pay in and keep freedom of movement, but without any vote (which I think is going to majority voting anyway under the Lisbon Treaty unless I am wrong about that?). The statistics show that there are still people coming in from outside the EU in large numbers so surely we can still staff the industries we wish as EU and non EU people will not be prevented from coming here to work? If the economy goes down the pan by leaving (as predicted) we won’t need the workers, if it goes well, people will still want to come for work? I am trying to follow all the arguments as best I can but it seems to me people are so entrenched that no one listens anyway. I do not believe that the people who voted to Leave are all uneducated and bigoted, nor do I believe that all those who voted Remain are enlightened and the only ones who want worldwide peace. And just being older doesn’t mean more stupid but could mean more life experience. The original idea of making trade easier between European nations, thereby enhancing economies so that poorer countries would also have the monies to buy goods and make life better for their people (making war less likely) is what I voted for so many years ago. How has it become so complicated?! I have truly got to the stage where I mistrust what any politician says on either side as it all seems so buried in party politics and dogma now. I agree, what a mess.

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        • 14th March 2019 at 07:53
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          Hello bewildered citizen! I think we are all bewildered, and mainly this bewilderment is directed at the antics in parliament. But it is so clear that no one knew anything about how we would leave when we voted. The whole campaign was a disgrace. Setting that aside we have to try and understand for our future generations what is going on – we simply must not close our eyes and say ‘we can’t be doing with it.’ But this week is crucial and really I can’t keep saying I don’t believe it! Because – believe it, we’re a country in crisis.

          If you look back at some of my very early posts immediately after the referendum I looked at i) why people voted the way they did and ii) and this was critical for me, I looked at the structures and processes of the EU – because did I know these, not really. But I tried to understand these, so do ferret back at some of my posts. Turning to your comment, I can’t tell you much about the Lisbon Treaty – I would just be looking at Wikipedia – I think we didn’t sign up to it all???? Above all I believe that the world is so changed from the past – it is a globalised world – everything is interlinked. Yes, the EU is a complex and flawed institution – but I still prefer to be in it than out. We are too small and vulnerable to be on our own.

          Re: workers coming here. No, I don’t think that people can just come here. Current EU residents must register see https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families and we already know that this applies to people who have lived here for years, and that people are being refused.

          And after us leaving EU workers wishing to work here must earn over £30,000 – I think, tell me if you know different. Did you see Jess Philips arguing against this on YouTube – it went viral – so good, and see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/20/seven-in-10-eu-workers-in-uk-would-be-barred-under-brexit-proposals

          So, no, seasonal workers will not be able to come to the EU and pick our potatoes. Unless of course we have a Norway or other soft Brexit that allows movement of workers – which so many people seem to want to stop.

          I totally am with you in your bemusement – personally my mouth constantly opens and closes like a goldfish with me going – what??????. What does the government and Mrs May believe in? Not democracy. Because now we know it’s a mess we need a 2nd Referendum! Honestly what a total total mess.

          Reply
      • 14th March 2019 at 07:26
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        Totally with you here, we absolutely should never have had that referendum. We were asked a complex question with no information.

        Reply

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