I nearly put pen to paper, so to speak, last week (meaning wk 14th-20th) because what a week it was, but unusually for me I couldn’t face it. I’ve always said that I’d never look away from the Brexit mess, or say, I can’t do anything, therefore I can’t be doing with it. No, I was going to look at everything in detail. But really, the situation here in the UK is both extraordinary and infinitely stupid: what a …..ing mess, and please insert any swear word that you like within that sentence, because nothing is sensible these days, instead everything is senseless, reckless and ill-advised. Furthermore, pundits write and commentators comment and nobody has any idea what will happen over the next few weeks.
I’ll write more analysis shortly, and definitely look at the collective nervous breakdown England is currently going through, and note I say England: the Scots know who they are and so do the Irish on both sides of their border, as do the Welsh. But the English? No, we don’t know who we are – and while that’s quite a broad somewhat damning statement I promise to look at that more closely very soon.
OK, for those of you outside the UK, on Tuesday 15th January after days of debate the House of Commons voted on Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement with the government losing by 203 votes. This is incredible, because this is a very, very large defeat, actually the worst, as in, the largest defeat ever in parliamentary history. Forget that I’d heard from pundits that a defeat of 80 would be bad – 203? In any normal time the government would have fallen and never been heard of again. But no, Theresa got up, and said, I hear what you say, I will listen, I will work with you all, but looking closer at her words, you really felt she was mouthing sentiments that meant nothing. And not one hint of resignation. And although Jeremy Corbyn immediately tabled a vote of no-confidence, her party and Parliament just seems to go along with this non-resigning PM.
The following day (Wednesday 16th January) note that during the debate around the vote of no-confidence, Tory MPs who spoke emphatically against Mrs May’s deal the day before, stood up to defend her. And of course, Labour did not have the slightest chance of winning this vote, and indeed, gave the government an opportunity to say we won, which they did, by 19 votes. I give up on Labour. Jeremy Corbyn, is the worst opposition leader we could have on Brexit, ever. Labour’s official policy is to push for a general election and then renegotiate the deal to leave (not possible). Oh yes, and maybe, have a 2nd Referendum, because as he would say, all options are on the table, but not if Jeremy can help it as he actually wants to leave (see why I give up on Labour).
But both our leading parties have the worst leaders you could possibly have. Theresa May has been called rather wonderful for her endurance and her willingness to go on and on and on, but this unwavering service to her country is more about a certain rigidity and a total inability to negotiate with anybody let alone the EU. And as for the party she leads, it’s as though they can’t live with her and can’t live without her. But before I get into a tirade of negativity about Mrs May I will just say she is near to being unfathomable. Yes, while Cameron was/is a superficial posh bloke Mrs May has brought this country to a fine old state because of her stickability? Interesting. And you know what, it’s not impossible that her Withdrawal Agreement – at some point – is passed. And for more detail on that click here for a post that set out what it is.
So what’s the current situation?
OK, earlier this week (21st -27th) Mrs May offered Plan B to the House. Which it wasn’t. It was just, I will listen to you and try and make that Backstop thing more amendable to you, but really my Withdrawal Agreement is the only way. Various letters about this Backstop came winging over to us from the EU saying they really would try and make the Backstop more amenable, as in, it’s only temporary, honest. But get rid of it? No, they wouldn’t do that.
Through the week various people went into Number 10 and then came out again with most saying she wasn’t budging from her own Withdrawal Agreement (which if you remember was defeated by 203 votes).
The media has gone a bit quiet (just a bit, as there are things happening outside the UK) but behind the scenes you can bet that there’s a mega amount of work going on, primarily around amendments. These will be voted on Monday 28th before the government’s ‘next steps’ which will be voted on Tuesday 29th.
Basically, as I’m not writing in detail here, most of the amendments fall into wanting Mrs May to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, e.g. Andrew Murrison, Sir Graham Brady who want the House to back Mrs May’s deal apart from the Backstop and task Mrs May to re-negotiate, or killing off a no-deal e.g. the Cooper-Boles amendment which would direct May to ask for Brexit to be delayed if there is no agreement by February. And you forget that actually there are some good and brave people in the House of Commons reaching out across the benches and trying to work together to prevent the disaster of a no-deal, which apparently some people think means we don’t leave! This is a bang-your-head-on the table and/or face-palm moment!
There are many more amendments, far too many to be debated, so the one person in the House of Commons who has far more power than anyone and especially Mrs May, is the Speaker, John Bercow, who will choose which amendments are put to the vote. Wait for angry shouts of bias and partiality.
I love the Speaker! Have you seen him in action? But really, the archaic behaviour of the House of Commons is beyond parody. The Speaker dressed up as a schoolmaster in a Harry Potter film shouts at the MPs with his rolling basso profundo voice, keeping the equally shouty MPs in order. And the MPs bounce up and down like jack-in-a-box characters to get his attention. It really is a pantomime – could we not move into the 21st Century or maybe the 20th, perhaps?
The vote on the ‘next steps’ on 29th January will be another defeat for Mrs May.
So where does this lead to?
As I said above, no-one knows, the only certainty is uncertainty. But truly Mrs May is playing chicken, as perhaps, if we want to leave, her deal IS the only way we can leave the EU, which is why she is playing the ‘no-deal’ disaster as part of this. Yes, we are hearing more and more that a no-deal would lead to shortage of food and medicines, and many other goods that are imported in to the UK on that ‘just-in-time’ basis that modern day manufacturing is predicated. Consequently many firms are moving out of the UK and/or stockpiling. Apparently the warehouses of Great Britain are full and the army is ready to deal with unrest. You could not make this up. What stupidity for a nation, to self-inflict this on itself. But there are many MPs absolutely committed to preventing this, which is why I say, that Withdrawal Agreement might yet get passed. And then we will have left but not!
So, the possible scenarios are:
A 2nd Referendum – no, there’re aren’t the numbers to get it passed, but see below.
General Election – nope
No-deal – quite possible
The Withdrawal Agreement as it stands – quite possible
Delaying our withdrawal – quite possible
Delaying our Withdrawal
We can unilaterally revoke Article 50, as in commit to not leaving, but that would be impossible without a Referendum.
We cannot unilaterally delay and extend our leaving to say July or the end of the year. We must get the EU27’s agreement for this. But would they grant it without a specific reason? A delay for more muddle? No. But a delay for a Referendum? Yes that would be agreed.
Note – what is a bandied about a lot is the re-negotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement. But the EU has said over and over, it cannot change the Withdrawal Agreement. However, we can, apparently, adjust the Political Statement which is short, meaningless and bland.
Watch what happens this coming week.
Penny Kocher, Sunday 27th January 2019