I usually hate reading about stories that have been written because of the lack of a story. For example.:
“NO UPDATES FROM PARLIAMENT”
“MEGHAN REMAINS TIGHT-LIPPED ABOUT BABY NAMES”
“RAHEEM STERLING SEEN IN ASDA, EVERYONE LOSES MINDS FOR SOME REASON.”
However, over the weekend, Theresa May gave us a no-news news story that is actually rather important.
You might remember that I wrote last Friday that this week (commencing 25th of February) would be ‘tasty,’ due to May bringing more Brexit negotiations back to Parliament and the potential for amendments to be tabled. Well folks, consider the taste sensation to be scaled down from a Michelin-starred tasting menu to a Ginsters Scotch egg, because while the initial plan was to have a second vote on her deal this week, she has now delayed a vote until the 12th of March.
This is just 17 days before Brexit.
May made this announcement to reporters who were on her plane to Egypt, as she has flown out to meet with EU leaders (alongside a joint summit with the Arab League. They’ve not all just flown out there to catch some rays and get lairy in Sharm-el-Sheikh).
Why is this important? Nothing has happened except a date has changed.
True, but the set date is particularly telling. Let’s break down why:
- This Wednesday the 27th, MPs will have another chance to table amendments on her current deal.
- One of these amendments, led by Yvette Cooper, would force the government to delay Article 50 if a deal is not in place by…
- The 13th of March, the day after May’s new date for a meaningful vote on her deal.
- You can read more about the amendment as it appeared in the first round of votes in a previous article, found here.
Theresa May has said that she will never countenance delaying Brexit and has insisted that the choice can only be between her deal and ‘no-deal.’ However, the change of date to the day before the Cooper amendment’s deadline is a subtle indicator that she may be preparing for this amendment to pass this week.
Whispers from inside Number 10 have said that she is actually resigned to a delay happening, although she could never state that publicly because of the influence of the ERG.
Now, however, if the Cooper amendment is passed on Wednesday, it means that if the deal is voted down for a second time on the 12th of March, the government must ask the EU for an extension of Article 50.
This massively reduces the risk of a no-deal Brexit and rules it out in the short-term, as it means that the 29th of March is no longer the deadline for negotiations.
Brexiteers would be infuriated by this, but May wouldn’t lose too much face – she hasn’t taken a U-turn in policy, but rather is having her hand forced by the will of the House of Commons.
It’s actually quite clever, in a sneaky and pathetic sort of way.
Additionally, two Conservative Cabinet ministers have quietly stated that the Conservatives might table their own amendment that delays Brexit by ‘strictly’ two months to finalise negotiations. This is just a rumour so far, but could well be true – if the Conservatives are starting to realise that they might lose on Wednesday, if they won an amendment of their own then they could keep control of the situation.
Either way, there are plenty of unknowns and potential for more political posturing.
Sigh. Ok, so what is actually going to happen?
It’s hard to say for sure, but two relatively likely-looking outcomes could happen this week. The first is, in my view, the most likely:
- On Wednesday, MPs vote in favour of the Cooper amendments.
- This means that, if Theresa May’s deal is voted down on the 12th of March, Article 50 has to be extended.
- As an admission of the likelihood of this happening, the Conservative Party (not Theresa May) tries to push its own amendment of a two-month delay to ‘finalise negotiations’.
- This would infuriate the ERG, but keeps the power within the Conservatives and doesn’t hand it to the entirety of Parliament, as would happen if Cooper’s amendment goes through.
So it all depends on Wednesday, then?
It does. There will be an Inbox Insight on that day and on Thursday morning to discuss the results – for more information, please check it out here.
The ‘tasty’ week may not be as mouth-watering without a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote on May’s deal, but there’s still going to be plenty to sink our teeth into.