Reflections Of The Moon
The next Brexit battles
Last week saw an historic turn of events. Nearly 500 MP’s voted to start the process of Leaving the European Union, something until a very short time ago would have been unthinkable. Regardless of if you thought that vote should have occurred or not (and I don’t), it was unquestionably an historic moment. Does that mean it is all over? No, there could still be battles in the House of Lords to come, although the size of the Commons majority and the threat of future sanction if the unelected house tries to stand in the way of the will of the public Referendum makes that less likely.
Some key battles will come this week in the commons however. Last weeks vote was only the second reading, this week will see the committee and report stages as well as a final (for now anyway) 3rd reading vote. It could come back to the Commons at the end if the Lords ask the Commons to look at some of their amendments. These stages allow MP’s to table their own amendments to add to the bill. Many amendments on all sides have been tables, from the SNP the Lib Dems and the Labour side. Not all will be considered, that will be for the Speaker John Bercow and his team to decide. Given how Bercow has operated however, the more contentious ones will likely be chosen and debated.
Two serious possibilities will be to guarantee the rights of foreign nationals already here and a debate on the terms of the vote Parliament will get at the end of the process. As for the foreign nationals issue, it is unlikely a deal on this will not be done in the negotiation, or separately if there is no free trade deal. This would be a difficult one for the Government to weigh up, ideally this is still a negotiating card the Government would like to keep, however there is a majority in the commons to get it through if the MP’s really want to push for it. It is not inconceivable that if the Government thought they may lose, they could conceded this anyway. I support all foreign nationals right to stay here and have no problem with this getting through. Indeed, the good will it would create may create the conditions for a better deal in the end to be obtained.
The other battle over the type of vote is more complex and could prove more important.. The Government’s position is that if there is a deal, Parliament will vote for the deal or for no deal. But what if there is just no deal? For most this would be a case of tough luck, however those desperate to stay in the single market sense an opportunity here. If there is no deal surely Parliament should have the opportunity to accept an alternative to no deal.. Theresa May has said as far as she is concerned no deal is better than a bad deal. That means trade returning to WTO rules. By pushing their amendment those pro the single market hope to keep their hope alive by forcing a vote in which the alternative would either be the EEA option, or worse still for those more cynical of the motives of some of those MP’s, there is the other option of this being a back door way of staying in the EU, as Tim Farron has proposed as the alternative in his Referendum.
It is tough to say whether any amendment based on an alternative vote could get through. In theory there may be enough Tory rebels, but some Labour MP’s will be against it as well and accounting for abstentions and perhaps the DUP backing the Government, it would still be a tough ask to win the vote. If this is called by the speaker it is one the Government must fight, their position of bi lateral deal or no deal is the right one for this country and it’s negotiation and the executive must not lose control of the terms of the final vote as it could hand those who still hope Brexit won’t happen a small window of opportunity. The Government has set out the right course, this week could see attempts to blow it off course, this must not happen. Battles this week may in the long run prove more important than last weeks vote.