Parliamentary Brexit Takeover Flops as May Plans to Step Down
This Week in Brexit:
Welcome to this Weekly Brexit Briefing, Britain! This is the week we are destined to leave the European Union. I can’t wait to fly to Paris next week and stand in the Non-EU passport queue for two bloody hours and play… wait a second, we’re not leaving the bloc today? Why? Let me take you through this week in Brexit news while I wait for my phone to delete all the mind-numbing games I downloaded JUST for waiting in that queue in Charles de Gaulle. Sorry, Angry Birds 2.
Monday began with every politician’s favourite kind of breakfast - opinions. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay disclosed that in his opinion, Downing Street’s plan to offer several Brexit alternatives in a series of indicative votes later in the week will lead to a general election. At the same time, Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated that in HIS opinion, a second referendum should be on the table. And what was Mrs. May’s opinion, you may ask? None, as she gathered a group of Tory Brexiteers at an emergency meeting in Chequers (I think someone is nervous about a particular deal not passing, again).
At this point, I think Tuesday’s are becoming a trend for shocking events to take place in Parliament, after a Russell Crowe ‘This is Sparta’ moment from House Speaker John Bercow last Tuesday. This time, in a stunning humiliation for Prime Minister May, the House of Commons voted to seize control of Brexit negotiations from her and her cabinet. The indicative votes No. 10 Downing Street were planning to hold were turned into the hands of cross-party MPs, who will decide what Brexit alternatives to choose from and vote on those the following night. Three Tory ministers resigned in order to give the Commons the power to seize control of the process. My guess is PM May is feeling a bit like Emperor Palpatine right about now. It’s treason then.
The MPs behind the previous day’s takeover of the Brexit process announced Wednesday they had prepared their own series of indicative votes to be held that night in Parliament, with several various Brexit alternatives to May’s deal. It appears that everything from a second referendum to a no-deal Brexit is still on the table. Funny, considering that both of those ideas have been rejected in past votes, but what do I know? At the same time, May was meeting with a group of backbench MPs, unwavering in her effort to win more support for a third meaningful vote on her Withdrawal Agreement that has been set for Friday. A third vote on the same thing? I compare this to every time LEGO releases a new version of the Millennium Falcon in its stores (there have been a total of 16 LEGO versions of the famous ship since 2000, and lord help us if that’s how many meaningful votes we’re going to have on this thing). Mrs. May was also warned that if she did not allow her Conservative MPs to vote freely on the night’s indicative votes, as many as twenty junior cabinet members would quit. Again, see above reference of Emperor Palpatine.
Thursday began with unfortunate (but not very surprising) news that every alternative to May’s Withdrawal Agreement voted on the previous night had failed to reach a majority. None of the motions voted on in the Commons passed, leaving Parliament at a Brexit impasse (sounds just like our dear friend the Prime Minister). Speaking of our PM, Theresa May announced that if Parliament passes her deal, she will step down as Prime Minister. While there have been rumours for some time that she could be making this announcement at any time, it came as a surprise as she has been spending most of the week trying to rally more support for her deal. Her announcement paid off, for less than an hour later, ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a very outspoken critic of May’s deal, said he would support it. However, May has not announced a departure date from the office, so I think you’re jumping the gun a bit, Boris.
The week ended with the table set yet again for a party of 650, the main course: May’s Withdrawal Agreement. The third meaningful vote on the Brexit deal is scheduled to take place this evening, However, Parliament will not be voting on the whole Brexit deal. They will only be voting on the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement, which includes items such as citizen’s rights and the Northern Irish backstop. They are not voting on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. This is just like going to to Five Guys and ordering a bacon cheeseburger and saying you don’t want the beef patty, cheese, or bacon! May has said that the future relationship between the UK and EU will be voted on at a later date. Should the Withdrawal Agreement be passed today, the United Kingdom will leave the EU on 22 May with a deal. If it fails again, May will have to request a longer extension of Article 50, and the country will have to put forward candidates in the European Parliament 2019 Election in May.
That concludes our Brexit briefing for this week. To recap, the earliest we will leave the European Union at this point is 22 May, if the Withdrawal Agreement is passed tonight in Parliament. Theresa May will most likely be stepping down as Prime Minister in the next few weeks. And, I may never finish deleting the games I downloaded for that queue in the Paris airport. Thanks Obama (I miss you come back).
Second referendum: Another referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain in 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.
Withdrawal Agreement: the more official term used to describe the deal Prime Minister Theresa May made and agreed with the European Union upon in November 2018.
Northern Irish Backstop: refers to the border between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic of Ireland. It is an insurance policy so that an actual hard border does come into being. Post-Brexit, this will be the only land border between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
22 May: the date in which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is passed in the House of Commons.
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.
European Parliament 2019 Election: the election in which new MEPs (members of European Parliament) are elected to represent each EU member state. This year’s election takes place 23-26 May.