May Suffers Fresh Defeat As Commons Rebel Group Rises
Weekly Brexit Briefing (February 11 - February 15)
This Week In Brexit
A romantic week for the Prime Minister as she suffered another defeat in the House of Commons, shattering a ‘Tory truce’ and giving way to a new rebel group in the Commons whose goal is to take ‘no deal’ Brexit off the table and extend Article 50. Happy Valentine’s Britain, this week had love-hate relationships all around.
The week began with rumours of the Prime Minister planning to ask the House of Commons for a two week extension on the planned second Brexit vote set for Valentine’s Day. This came Monday as Mrs. May sent a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (undoubtedly asking him to be her Valentine), expressing her concerns about keeping the UK in a customs union with the European Union (which Corbyn came up with to try and initiate more of a soft Brexit than the deal May has been working on). However, May said she is open to talks with Labour so they could have more of a say in the Brexit deal. May’s Tory MPs were less than pleased with her statement, and whispers of resignations from some of her Cabinet members arose.
Tuesday saw Mrs. May address the House of Commons, asking for a two-week extension while she continues talks with EU leadership. She also called for her MPs to hold out a while longer as she fights for the changes she needs to get the Brexit deal passed for the March 29th deadline. The PM is expected to state that she will not move forward with Labour’s proposed plan of keeping the UK in in a customs union with the EU, following backlash from Tory MPs and Eurosceptics alike. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, it is now custom for her plans not to go as planned.
A scandal involving one of May’s top civil servants erupted on Wednesday. Chief Brexit Negotiator for the PM Olly Robbins was overheard outlining May’s plan in Brussels. In a bar. Yikes. This came as Mrs. May promised MPs they will have a “stronger and clearer role” in the future of Brexit negotiations (hopefully not too much of a future considering the deadline is literally a month away). The Prime Minister is also likely to meet with EU leaders in a summit on 21 March in a last ditch attempt to salvage an acceptable Brexit deal, as the last vote in the Commons on a deal is likely to be 26 March, just three days before the leave date (not cutting it close at all there are you, Madam Prime Minister).
Valentine’s Day began with a third-wheel for the Prime Minister and her Brexit plans: a rebel group. Led by senior Tory Oliver Letwin, a cross-party group of MPs have prepared an amendment to delay Brexit should a deal not be agreed upon in the next 30 days. The PM didn’t receive a whole lot of love from the media either, as she spent a great deal of Thursday putting out PR fires over Olly Robbins comments in a Brussels bar.
The week ended with some ‘tough love’ for Mrs. May as she lost yet another Brexit vote by a margin of 45 votes in the Commons Thursday night, in a 303-258 defeat. This was due to a break-up of a Tory truce in which over 60 Tory MPs abstained from voting (at least it wasn’t over text). May made an announcement this morning saying that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is far more likely now that the vote has failed. The PM suffered this defeat because of rumours that she was going to take ‘no deal’ Brexit off the table. This came as Oliver Letwin’s rebel group said they want to extend Article 50 and take ‘no deal’ Brexit off the table (imagine two people having the same idea in politics!) This would be an unprecedented move as should this idea come to pass, it would be the Commons deciding the future of Brexit, not the Government.
Not to worry Madam Prime Minister, it may have not been your week, but the best part of a sad Valentine’s Day is running over to the shop the following morning to buy some discounted chocolates! (I’d recommend Tesco’s selection).
‘Tory Truce’: refers to a deal made between members within the Conservative Party, particularly referring to Remain EU Tories and Leave EU Tories.
Article 50: the article that the United Kingdom imposed when it made its sovereign decision to leave the European Union. This article gave the leave date a maximum of two years time from its imposition.
March 29: the date on which the United Kingdom will officially separate from the European Union.
‘No-Deal’ Brexit: a scenario in which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without any trade agreement, is only subject to World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations.
Eurosceptic: a person who is opposed to the increasing powers of the European Union.