Hasta La Vista, May-by

No Weekly Wrap-up today, gang. A rare busy Friday in politics means that there are more pressing matters to write about – I will try to wrap up the week in Monday’s article instead. 


In yesterday’s admittedly slightly long-winded and rambling article (I was extremely cross with our Theresa, apologies), I wondered about what might become of May and her deal today. Would she finally meet the same end as the T-1000 in Terminator 2, dropped into a vat of molten steel? Or would she find a way to drag her dismembered torso towards the prize for one last attempt to grab victory, like in The Terminator?

I’m glad to say, ladies and gentleman, that May’s deal is, finally, dead.

Arnold_Schwarzenegger_(9033486328)
“You have been terminated. Politically, I mean.”

What Happened Yesterday?

In a rare sitting of Parliament on a Friday, May brought her deal back to Parliament for one, last attempt to get it passed. It wasn’t the full deal that she had negotiated with the EU, however, as it omitted the Political Declaration on the future UK/EU relationship. Instead, only the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ aspect was voted on, which covers (or covered, now that it’s dead) EU citizens’ rights, the divorce bill that defines how we leave the EU, and the backstop.

Ohhhh backstop. You old dog, you.

MPs from both sides debated the vote throughout the morning, and things got pretty tense. Die-hard ERG members like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, who had previously stated that they would never support May’s deal, decided to back it overnight, which many saw as blatant attempts to keep their leadership bids alive. Dominic Raab, a man as perpetually disappointing as a one-armed pianist, began the day by saying that he would never agree to Mrs. May’s deal…

And then capitulated and decided to vote for it instead.

More and more ERG members started to capitulate before the vote, too – the numbers looked like they might, just might, fall in May’s favour by the slimmest of majorities. But then the DUP announced that May could jog on, some of the die-hard ERGers held their ground, and the wavering Labour support from Leave-voting constituencies decided to hold their nerve.

May’s deal lost by 58 votes, 344 to 286.


Why Is That Significant?

Because it was her last, sneaky roll of the dice. Her deal cannot come back to another vote, now, unless substantial changes are made to it by the EU, which they have flatly refused to do. John Bercow, the Speaker of the House, has ruled that she cannot vote on the same deal again, and yesterday’s “half-a-loaf” mangling of it was the last real way she could get around his ruling. Now that it has been defeated, it is dead.

…Please, God, let it be dead.

Hilariously, it also means that she probably won’t resign. She said that she would resign “once her deal had passed.” Because it hasn’t passed (and indeed, the idea of a Conservative leadership contest was probably what made those wavering Labour MPs vote against it), she now probably won’t go.

In the words of many political figures making the same joke, May is the first PM to fall on her sword and yet somehow manage to miss.

Additionally, it has brutally divided the ERG. The hardliners who are pushing for no-deal on our new departure date of April 12th will be rubbing their hands with glee, despite the fact that it is never going to happen. They are also furious with their glorious leader, Chairman Mogg, and the Raabit in the headlights for folding when the going got tough, as are the hardline Leave voters who feel abandoned by their leaders.

The Leave camp is becoming increasingly divided and the Remain camp has wind in its sails.


What Happens Next?

We march on to Monday – April Fools’ Day, no less!

Let’s hope the foolishness ends at the date, because it could be vital in securing the next steps for Brexit. MPs will take control of Parliamentary business again, as they did on Wednesday this week. While Wednesday didn’t find a clear majority, there were some indicators that suggested a new strategy could be found.

There were high numbers of votes for a Brexit with a customs union attached (i.e. a soft Brexit), as well as for a second referendum. These findings from last Wednesday might help to better frame the debate and discussion on Monday, and we might start to see the first signs of a majority appear. There may yet have to be more debates on what our strategy will ultimately be, but a positive step in the right direction would be a fantastic start.

We have until the 12th of April to find that strategy and go back to the EU with it. The date of 22nd of May that the EU gave us if May’s deal was passed is now defunct, because May’s deal is dead. 

What is looking increasingly likely is a need to participate in the elections for the European Parliament this Summer… and a plucky little group called The Independent Group just announced that they would be forming a political party to run for those elections. 

Given how little faith there is in any form of politics as it stands, they might do rather well…

Have a good weekend, everyone. On Monday, we march on.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but as a small site we currently lack the income to become a more prominent voice in the political landscape.

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

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Thank you so much for your generosity in advance!

ERGonomics

Today is the the 29th of March. It was our original Brexit deadline. It would have marked the start of the festival of Brexit, if only bloody Theresa and the Remoaners hadn’t got in the way of those true bastions of democracy – the angry, red-faced men of the ERG.

At the start of the week, today appeared to be a notable day for no reason other than symbolism – an echo of a time where Parliament was violently butting heads over how to proceed with Brexit, a zombie Prime Minister who shuffled endlessly towards the next brain to devour, and public baying for blood at the doors of Westminster.

Good to see things have moved on since then, eh?

Unfortunately, today has actually become rather more significant for an actual, definable reason. Even though the official Brexit deadline has long since moved to either the 22nd of May or the 12th of April, depending on which bonkers tarot cards you read from, a form of ultimatum has been laid down.

Today marks the day where May’s deal is either finally, at long last, chucked into the vat of molten steel like the T-1000 in Terminator 2, or, somehow, remains alive and kicking despite being chopped in half, like the T-800 at the end of The Terminator.

Let me explain.


What Happened Yesterday? I Thought It Was Meant To Be A Quiet Day…

So did I, friend. So did I.

After John Bercow’s reiteration on Wednesday that he would not allow Theresa May to bring her vote back to the house without “substantial changes,” it seemed as though May might struggle to find a way to put it back to the Commons.

Which is a bit embarrassing, considering that she promised to resign if it passed a vote. Should you be interested, I have covered how ridiculously fucking stupid that whole particular situation is in a very angry blog that I wrote yesterday. 

However, what I hadn’t considered is just how absolutely stark-raving mad our government has become. More fool me, considering that recent events have been Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ come to life in the form of political discourse, but honestly, I’m not sure anyone saw this coming.

Early in the afternoon, there was an announcement that MPs would be called to sit in the House of Commons on Friday. This usually doesn’t happen except for passing certain types of bills, because MPs are, first and foremost, representatives of their constituencies. Fridays are often when these MPs take the time to meet with and listen to the people that elected them so they can better represent them. So, when they are told that they can’t go back to their constituencies (bearing in mind that these range from Cardiff to Cornwall to Fort William to Belfast), there is usually a good reason.

Instead, there were just murmurings of something being conjured up in No. 10. A collective sigh echoed throughout Parliament. What kind of rabbit would May pull out of the hat this time?

As it turns out, a mangled one with myxomatosis, one eye missing and no bottom half.

I’m going to try to make this as understandable as possible, so bear with me.

  1. In order to get past Bercow’s ruling, May dismantled the Withdrawal Agreement – i.e. May’s negotiated deal with the EU, and what was resoundingly defeated in the last two Meaningful Votes.
  2. The Withdrawal Agreement is actually the wider name given to two sides of the agreement – one of which is the actual Withdrawal Agreement itself, which is a declaration of protection of citizens’ rights, the “divorce bill” and, crucially, the dreaded backstop. Tacked onto that is the Political Declaration, which sets out the future relationship of the UK with the EU.
  3. May is only holding a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, not the Political Declaration. Because she is now holding a vote on only HALF of the Meaningful Vote, Bercow allowed it.

Are you still following? Because frankly, if you still are, you deserve a gold star for commitment to understanding complete fucking nonsense.

This is what MPs are voting on today – half of May’s Brexit deal.


But… This Makes Absolutely No Sense.

Right. It doesn’t.

At first glance, it is clearly a blatant move to try and force through the gallant sacrifice that she announced on Wednesday and step down on her own terms after her deal is passed. Otherwise, she would have to suffer the ignominy of being axed by her own subordinates.

“Et tu, BoJo?”

Anyway, in about as clear an indication as to how low our government has sunk, how utterly devoid of ideas it is and how many soggy, crumbling barrel bottoms it has scraped to get to this point, this “at-first-glance” view is about as positive as it gets for the Maybot.

Let’s have a quick run-down of how futile today’s exercise is.

  • ONE!: Because it is all just a case of throwing the toys out of the pram. MPs voted in favour of continuing the Indicative Votes plan on Monday by a majority of 336, taking power away from the Prime Minister. It is one last chance at taking back control despite a new, better form of governance already being trialled.
  • TWO!: The DUP have refused to support May’s deal because the backstop isn’t dealt with and Northern Ireland will remain unequivocally screwed by the whole thing. By dismembering it, she hasn’t changed anything. Labour MPs will not support it either. It has next to no chance of passing if it doesn’t get the support of the ERG.
  • THREE!: Unfortunately, while certain ERG members (Boris, Jacob Rees-Mogg) have said that they will now back her deal to further their own leadership bids (yes, the public have already noticed), a majority of die-hard ERG members still refuse, meaning there is no majority. Mark Francois, a shorter, fatter, even more godawful Nigel Farage, even said he wouldn’t vote for it if they put a shotgun in his mouth.
    Which, in a way, I sort of admire. I’m not sure why.
  • FOUR!: Because even if she won the vote tomorrow, she would move our no-deal date back to May 22nd but would have absolutely zero plans in place as to what our future agreement with the EU would be. There would have to be another vote further down the line, before May 22nd, to ratify the Political Declaration, which is universally agreed to be legally fundamental to the whole Withdrawal Agreement as a whole. This vote isn’t guaranteed, meaning that it would be, to quote the shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, a “Blind Brexit” – a vote on the immediate, while taking the guarantees away from the future.
  • FIVE!: Because there is absolutely no way that the EU would allow this to happen. To take what they finalised with May after months of hard negotiations, rip it apart, wipe our collective arses with it, then hand it back to them, simply wouldn’t fly. A punitive response would be very likely.

So… What’s The Point?

What’s the point of anything anymore?

I’m so tired.

The arguments as to why this is even happening in the first place are absolutely insane.

  • It’s the original Brexit day, so maybe the ERG will collectively panic that Brexit might not happen and back the deal.
  • May took one for the team and said that she would resign if it passed, so we owe it to her to try to see if we can get some form of consensus over absolute fucking garbage so that she can commit political hara-kiri and die honourably.
  • Parliament hasn’t found a consensus yet, so let’s all choose the one thing that absolutely everyone hates. That’s a consensus, right?

None of these reasons will give us anything close to a positive majority. It’s all a waste of everyone’s time.

Nothing will come of today, other than it being remembered as the final fart of a gaseous corpse where leadership used to be. The fact that it’s happening in the first place is nothing short of a joke, and to see how far we have fallen is to demonstrate how much of a laughing stock we are.

Roll on Monday, where we might have some real, honest politicians debating in the public interest again.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but as a small site we currently lack the income to become a more prominent voice in the political landscape.

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

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Thank you so much for your generosity in advance!

A Call To Arms

Hi there, folks. We’ve got a favour to ask.

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Media and EUdia

Hey there, friend. We need to talk.

Breaking from the usual, simplified version of the news that Between the Lines usually does on mornings like this, I’m here to talk to you about the media.

You might have heard a few things about yesterday in the press. To look at the BBC alone, a self-proclaimed impartial commentator, you will see the following on their homepage:

  • A headline that reads: “No majority for any of the Brexit options.”
  • Followed by a quote from Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, said that the results “Strengthened ministers’ views that [May’s] deal was ‘the best option’.”

If you look deeper into the article, you will see such phrases as:

  • “The failure to identify a clear way forward led to angry exchanges in the Commons, with critics of the process saying it had been ‘an abject failure.'”
  • “Sir Oliver Letwin… called the results ‘disappointing.'”

Additionally, to look at the headlines in the papers tomorrow, the main story is:

  • “Theresa May promises to stand down as PM if her deal was passed.”

You will read about the doom and gloom, the “fresh doubt,” the “rejection of eight different proposals.” You will read about the imminent leadership contest and the fresh turmoil that we will be thrown into if May steps down. You will read that the indicative votes were a fun distraction, but a waste of time and energy.

I disagree.

All of these claims are entirely against the spirit in which yesterday’s votes took place and are wholly misleading. I could also write for days about May’s “offer to resign”.

It is infuriating to see sensationalised headlines ruin what was, in actuality, a historic day in British politics.

I plan to tell you a different story.


Alright Grumpy Guts, What Actually Happened, Then?

Grr.

What actually happened is that history was made yesterday. Our deceitful, impotent, and downright embarrassing government was called out on its inability to govern effectively and its safeguard, Parliament, took control of the process instead.

Various MPs put forward their own proposals on how to break the Brexit impasse, each one backed by varying degrees of support from MPs across the house.

To watch the debate in Parliament was to actually feel proud of British politics for the first time in what seems like a lifetime. Each MP that put forward a proposal, from both Leave and Remain camps, argued eloquently and passionately in favour of what they believed was the best option moving forward.

With the exception of an utterly limp-fysh performance by Marcus Fysh (Con), the political equivalent of a fart in a space-suit, it was glorious to watch. Whatever your leaning, all of the MPs focussed on the positives of their option.

  • Despite an eventual overwhelming defeat, John Baron’s (Con) impassioned cry to leave the EU with no-deal held plenty of rhetoric around his belief that the UK is still a force to be reckoned with, and that we should be more optimistic about how we could survive in the world;
  • Hilary Benn (Lab), Nick Boles (Con), and Ken Clarke (Con) all gave thoughtful rallying cries to their own, softer versions of Brexit;
  • Joanna Cherry (SNP) called on Labour MPs to support her Scottish colleagues by ensuring that no-deal was blocked by a fall-back vote on revoking Article 50;
  • Dame Margaret Beckett (Lab) gave an absolute belter of a speech calling for a second referendum, saying that it was more democratic to give the people a final say on Brexit now that they know what it is rather than sticking with a blind vote from 2016.

And yes, there were no majorities. The BBC (and other news channels) are correct in stating this fact.

Additionally, Theresa May held a meeting with Conservative backbenchers over the afternoon where she stated that “She was prepared to stand down from her role sooner than she had intended” and insinuated that she would step down as PM if her deal was passed.


OK… So Why Are You So Cross?

Because everything in the above section is only half the story.

Yes, MPs failed to find a majority through the first round of indicative votes, but they never expected to on the first try. This is why the plan for yesterday was to have the votes and then schedule another time on Monday to discuss the votes further, based on the findings from yesterday.

If yesterday was such a failure, MPs would not have voted to schedule this time on Monday by 441 to 105. That is a majority of 336.

A majority of three hundred and thirty six MPs voted to continue this process on Monday based on the results of yesterday. 

It is not an ‘abject failure,’ nor it is a ‘rejection of every option.’ It is the first step on the path to finding a majority. Regardless of whether you support Remain or Leave, to find a real consensus across Parliament is a goal that everyone should agree is worthwhile.

The fact that any media outlet would lead with these phrases after a day of real consensus-building and collaboration is appalling.

Oh, OK, I See Your Point. That’s Not Great Reporting But–

Shut up. I’m not done yet.

But–

SHUT. UP.

…OK.


Next, let’s have a look at the headlines today. They all vary on a theme, based on May’s announcement to a meeting of Conservative backbenchers yesterday where she said that if her deal passed, she would stand down as leader for the next round of negotiations.

The headlines are as follows (no, seriously, these are actually the headlines):

  • Financial Times: “May offers to resign in final plea for rebels’ backing on Brexit deal”
  • Daily Mail: “WILL HER SACRIFICE BE IN VAIN?
  • Daily Express: “WHAT MORE DOES SHE HAVE TO DO?
  • The Times: “May vows to resign
  • The Daily Telegraph: “May falls on her sword
  • Daily Star: “SEX CURES HAYFEVER

Wait, scratch that last one (although I promise you it’s real, and inside it gives you “top tips on how to get hayfever”).

RE: Theresa May’s exit, or Therexit… It sounds great, doesn’t it? Finally, we’re shot of her. The tone-deaf, autocratic nightmare that is May’s premiership might finally go, right? All our MPs need to do is finally vote her deal through, secure Brexit, then she’s gone.

With apologies for the fruity language:

Pull the fucking other one, it’s got fucking bells on.

No, really, just think for a minute. Just think about this statement. IF HER DEAL PASSESshe will leave.

  1. Today, John Bercow reiterated his statement from last Monday, saying that he won’t even allow her deal to come back to Parliament unless it has been significantly changed. It hasn’t changed. Not one bit. Circumstances have, but the deal hasn’t. It will not come back to Parliament.
    BUT EVEN IF IT DID:
  2. Even though prominent Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson are coming round to her deal, the DUP and plenty of ERG members aren’t. Lest we forget, she paid the DUP a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money to buy their loyalty, yet they are refusing to support her. This means she won’t get a majority unless Labour MPs decide to back it. Most would rather shit in their hands and clap.
  3. Why, for the love of any deity that is still listening, does anyone take Theresa May at her word anymore?
    • “I will ask the EU for a long extension to Article 50.” Immediately asks EU for short extension.
    • “I will seek a cross-party consensus.” Refuses to accept negotiation offers.
    • “I have heard the house’s will, and will take no-deal off the table.” Changes her mind, leaves it on the table.
    • “I will not bring my deal back to the House.” MV3.
    • “I used to run through fields of wheat.” IT WAS CORN, THERESA, AND YOU KNOW IT.

OK, OK, Just Breathe. It’ll Be OK.

No, it won’t.

Looking at the wording of the top stories today, it makes me about as furious as I could possibly be. We rely on the media to give us information to form our own, considered opinions, and yet the headlines, across the entire spectrum, are about as sensationalised as humanly possible.

While the articles within might be more measured, to isolate the headlines is to demonstrate that they show no attempt at nuance. There is no analysis, no balance, not even the vaguest attempt to look beyond what will sell copies or increase traffic. It is all hyperbolic, all playing to their consumers’ worst natures, all seeking to improve profit margins rather than give measured journalism.

For me, yesterday was not doom and gloom. Instead, it was:

  1. A day of politics doing its job in the face of a failed government;
  2. The first step in finding a solution to the Brexit nightmare, despite the divisions;
  3. The first example in months of politicians speaking about the positives of their beliefs rather than the negatives of their opponents’.

Do not let the sensationalism fool you. We have just experienced a once-in-a-lifetime, red-letter day for British politics.

Somewhere, far off in the distance, the faintest glimmer of light can be seen at the end of this dark, lonely tunnel. Regardless of the outcome of Brexit, if positivity can be the overarching sentiment of the discussions moving forward, we might just end up being ok.

That is what we should aim for. Not another click-bait headline, physical or digital, but an open, considered discussion to find the best possible outcome, not the least bad.

That is what will drive us out of this Brexit mess.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but as a small site we currently lack the income to become a more prominent voice in the political landscape.

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

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Madcap Recap

OK team, today’s going to be a biggie – for the first time ever, Parliament will take control of political process, with the affable (and occasionally laffable) Sir Oliver Letwin at the helm. Between the Lines has explained what might happen today, along with what is being tipped as the frontrunner for a new strategy on Brexit, here.

However, to give you a simple overview as to what on earth is happening today:

 

  • From 2pm today, Parliament has precedence over government in order to debate and then vote on indicative votes, which should help to find an overall majority out of the Brexit impasse.

 

  • Exactly what will be voted on will be decided by John Bercow, the Speaker of the House, but the options will probably be most, if not all, of the following:
    • May’s Deal;
    • A deal with a customs union and/or freedom of movement, which Corbyn supports;
    • No-deal;
    • A General Election;
    • A Second Referendum;
    • Revoking Article 50 and outright cancelling Brexit;
    • “A Norway-type deal.”

 

  • These votes are non-binding, and Theresa May has already warned that she may completely ignore the results of them, but that would lead to absolute carnage and possibly her head being paraded on a spike through Central London.

 

  • Additionally, it is still unclear if May or Corbyn will whip their MPs to vote for each party’s strategy, i.e. force them vote the way she wants to. For May, this could be disastrous as she has now presided over seventeen ministers resigning over Brexit, and she could well see more leave if she tries to force their hand.
    • She has previously promised to allow a free vote, but as we already know her word has about as much worth as a turd in a shoe.

 

  • There is also very little chance of a clear strategy being formed today – the votes will likely be spread relatively evenly across the various plans, resulting in no clear majority. Letwin has said that today is more of a means of seeing which way the wind blows rather than creating a definitive answer.
    • More votes will be held next week after debating today’s results, most likely Monday.

Additionally, a single, semi-rotted hand has also just smashed out of the shallow grave of politics. The battered corpse of Theresa May’s deal, MV3, has dug itself out and will probably drag itself back to Parliament for one, last, final (please God let it be final) vote on it tomorrow, regardless of whether or not it is an indicative vote option today.

  • Some prominent Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg have now stated that they will probably vote for it, as it is now the hardest form of Brexit that is likely to happen… The DUP, however, are saying that they won’t budge, which means that it’ll probably still be defeated (but maybe by quite a small margin).
  • The zombie deal of MV3 will hang over the heads of politicians during the indicative votes debate today… What happens today might even push for more support for May’s deal tomorrow, if it looks as though Brexit might be cancelled or softened until it’s just a big festering pile of democratic sludge, for instance.

It’s going to be a strange old day in Parliament – Between the Lines will try to make sense of it as best we can, so stay tuned for analysis and explanations as things happen!


A REQUEST

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Amendmental Pt. 3 – This Time It’s Personal

It took three attempts. Three attempts to swim upstream against a torrent of human waste and chemical dumps. But, through all of Parliament’s efforts, victory was finally realised.

Theresa May’s vacuum of leadership was dealt a coup de grace yesterday when, at the third time of asking, Parliament voted to take power away from government. In an unprecedented moment for British politics, Parliament will decide what gets put before the House of Commons rather than Theresa May and her cabinet.

It truly is a day that will go down as historic.

And it could have been entirely avoided had May and her government shown any kind of direction, unity, or, at the very least, competence.

Instead, we find ourselves here.


Yikes, Sounds Important. What Actually Happened Yesterday?

The Letwin amendment, which was drafted by Sir Oliver Letwin, a Conservative MP, was passed through Parliament by 329 votes to 302. This amendment was created with support across multiple parties in Parliament, with Hilary Benn, a Labour MP, also heavily involved in its creation. 30 Conservative MPs openly rebelled and voted against May to make this happen, and three cabinet ministers resigned to vote against her, too.

This amendment rules that on Wednesday at 2pm, Parliament (all elected MPs) is able to decide what is discussed in the House of Commons instead of the government (the PM and her Cabinet). The government has, historically, always decided what gets voted on and when until now.

In this instance, Parliament will hold a round of Indicative Votes on various alternative strategies as to how we enable or cancel Brexit. A simple explanation of what this means can be found here.

It is worth noting that this is a one-off occasion, and government will take back control of timetabling after this anomaly – for Parliament to take control entirely from government would be to completely rewrite British democracy.

However, its significance is monumental.


How So?

It is the first ever example of a Prime Minister and her Cabinet being so totally tone-deaf to the sentiment of Parliament that they refuse to resign and Parliament is forced to take matters into its own hands. May’s strategy has always been to lead by sheer will of her own beliefs at a time where constructive debate and listening to opposition was not only preferred, but a basic necessity to find a means to see Brexit through.

She wasn’t at all helped by the fact that the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, has been about as decisive on his party’s own policy as a drunk student in a kebab shop at 4am on a Friday night, but she wouldn’t have listened to him regardless.

It will set a strong precedent: a Prime Minister is not a President and cannot have the final say in political matters. Parliament is designed to safeguard against autocratic rule by ensuring that there will always be a minority party that will hold the ruling party accountable – usually by finding counter-arguments to the ruling party’s policy and debating them in the House of Commons.

In this instance, it took rebellions in the ruling party’s ranks to enable this safeguarding, but our political system worked in the end.

May has done her best to bash her opponents into submission through sheer populiast Trumpism, but our politics fought back. Elected politicians said “Hell frikkin no,” to someone who thought they had ultimate power, and that should be seen as extremely positive.


Jesus, Right, OK. So Chairman May Has Been Defeated… Again. What Does That Actually Mean?

It means that she is even more of a lame-duck Prime Minister than she was before.

However, she did state yesterday that any Indicative Votes held by Parliament are non-binding due to the fact that they weren’t approved by government – i.e. that she could ignore the decision.

She has precedent for this:

  • She brought her deal back to Parliament after it had already been defeated and then tried to again for a third time;
  • She ignored the will of Parliament and asked the EU for a short extension (to pass her already-rotting-corpse of a deal) rather than a long one (to find an alternative plan);
  • And she has tried multiple times to keep no-deal on the table as a negotiating tactic, despite it being heavily voted against by Parliament on account of the damage it could cause to the UK economy.

However, if she ignores what happens on Wednesday, it will cause a full-scale civil war within Parliament. She will likely be continuously defeated by Parliament, who will continue to take power away from her, until a proper consensus is formed.


Good Grief.

To lead us through Brexit was always going to be a tough job, but May has succeeded only in managing to unite every single politician and a nearly all of the country against her.

Yesterday was a red-letter day in British politics.

But May, assuming she isn’t ousted from power, will probably manage to fuck things up even worse before the week is done.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running and are looking to expand our readership over the coming weeks. While you can follow us on Twitter @BTLpolitics, we would be eternally grateful if we could spread the word to any friends, family or colleagues – only if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, of course!

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Soft-Core Brexual Content – Indicative Votes Explained & What Is a “Norway-Style Deal?”

Indicative votes appear to be all but confirmed as the means to try and smash through the clogged U-bend of Parliament, the plunger of common sense that will finally dislodge through the claggy wad of Brexit.

The principle of these indicative votes is quite simple – different strategies will be put before MPs, who will then vote on which is their favourite. If a way forward that requires a long extension to Article 50 is found, then they will take it to the EU in the hope that they will grant us a further extension in which to enact this new strategy.

There will probably have to be a process of elimination, as an overall majority would not be reached in the first round, but slowly but surely a winning strategy might end up being formulated as the least popular strategies are removed.

While not confirmed, the options will most likely look like the following:

  • May’s Deal;
  • A deal with a customs union and/or freedom of movement, which Corbyn supports;
  • No-deal;
  • A General Election;
  • A Second Referendum;
  • Revoking Article 50 and outright cancelling Brexit;
  • “A Norway-type deal.”

Most of these are relatively self-explanatory in that they have been discussed at length before and are quite obvious in how they might affect the deadlock.

However, the final option is something of an enigma. What, on earth, is a “Norway-type deal,” “Norway+,” or “Customs Union 2.0?” Even more intriguing is that many pundits are currently saying that this is the one that MPs are most likely to vote for when the indicative votes are held this week.

This, then, this glorious, Scandinavian-monikered strategy might be our salvation, our final way through Brexit, our democratic phoenix, flying from the ashes to save British politics.

Shame it’s a load of absolute shit, though.


Why? What’s Wrong With It?

Because it absolutely fails to make anyone happy – even more so than Theresa May’s deal.

It is a “soft Brexit” – i.e. that we retain close relations with the EU by:

  1. Remaining in the customs union;
  2. Allowing freedom of movement;
  3. Giving the EU money towards the EU’s budget. 

Aside from the obvious issues with the third point, what’s wrong with the first two? We leave the EU, but we still have the benefits of membership, right?

Yes, but those two principles are exactly what the majority of people who voted to Leave gave as their main reasons for wanting to Leave in the first place.

  • Remaining in the customs union means being subject to EU tariffs and rules on trade, many of which are arguably detrimental for some UK industries like farming and fishing.
  • Retaining freedom of movement means allowing EU citizens to move to the UK with little difficulty, as they do now. Many Leave voters were swayed by the numbers of Eastern-European workers coming over to the UK and filling low-skill, low-paid jobs.

Additionally, not only are we stuck in these principles, we have elected to remove ourselves from the head-table: the EU can create whatever tariffs, laws and rules it wants and we will have to abide by them without having a say in them.

So we end up in limbo – we’re not out of the EU’s grasp, which Leavers want, but nor are we a part of its governance, which is what Remainers want.


Oh. This All Seems Pretty Stupid. Why On Earth Would MPs Vote For It?

Because actively voting against Brexit is political suicide for many of these MPs. Indeed, with some of the death threats that they receive every day, it could even be personally dangerous. Many MPs do not want to leave the EU but represent constituencies that do, so to openly vote against Brexit is a highly contentious decision for them.

As such, damage limitation might be the best way for them to get by – to demonstrate that they voted in favour of Brexit, but also ensuring that they protect their constituents from the detrimental effects of it.

However, it is probable that if this really does become the preferred choice when the indicative votes are held, the public would be made aware of how useless this choice would be:

  • The ERG and Brexiteers would be apoplectic about it and might even vote to revoke Article 50 – a soft Brexit is no Brexit at all to them, so cancelling this round and having another go in a few years might end up being their preferred strategy.
  • Remainers would cry blue murder about how pointless it is and how it pleases no-one and could gain some support in showing that Remain really is the best outcome given the choice.

There are rumours that whatever happens, there will be a final, confirmatory referendum on the preferred strategy vs. Remain. If it is a variation of Norway vs. Remain, there would probably only be one winner.

It won’t be Norway. 


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running and are looking to expand our readership over the coming weeks. While you can follow us on Twitter @BTLpolitics, we would be eternally grateful if we could spread the word to any friends, family or colleagues – only if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, of course!

Word of mouth will always be the best form of advertising, so any help that our wonderful readers could give us would be hugely, hugely appreciated. Many thanks to all in advance.

What Do We Want? When Do We Want It?

As I opened a bottle of wine on Saturday evening, rumours were just starting to come in of a potential leadership coup taking place in the Conservative Party. It made me realise that Theresa May must not have had a single day off in 2019. For a moment, I thought,

“Poor old Theresa. I wonder what she wouldn’t give to just be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine with her husband on a Saturday night and just forget about all the things that were worrying her?”

Then I remembered that she’s basically been the key reason that we’re in this enormous Brexit maelstrom of turd, chuckled, and took a swig from my glass.

This is another big week. With momentum starting to really swing in favour of Remain, this is a pivotal moment for MPs to choose what actually becomes of this never-ending nightmare we call Brexit. By Friday, the day that we were originally supposed to leave the EU come what may, we might actually have a plan.

Except no-one has the foggiest what it is yet. Strap in team, because we are up to our hoo-hahs in variables for this week. I’ll try to keep it simple.


What’s Actually Going To Happen This Week?

Monday Morning

Well, today is going to start with a bang. May is going to hold a Cabinet meeting before all other business, and this could be significant:

  • Rumours were rampant over the weekend that either David Lidington, the de facto deputy Prime Minister, or Michael Gove, the environment secretary, would push May out of the hot-seat and take control on a caretaker basis.
    • A bit like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Man Utd, but with all the goodwill of a big brown dog croissant that’s been curled out directly onto your forehead.
  • However, both “candidates” publicly stated their support for May and said that they weren’t interested in the job. On paper, this sounds legitimate, but who even knows with politicians anymore?
  • Additionally, Theresa May called a group of MPs to meet with her yesterday afternoon to discuss potential strategies. These MPs included prevalent Brexiteers like Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab, Iain Duncan Smith and a veritable deli-selection of gammon.

So, even before we get into the real meat of the situation, May will have to face up to the Remain-leaning members of her cabinet. She may even face resignations, depending on what she says her plan is – this will have been decided by the ham festival with Johnson et al yesterday.

But the good news for her is that, just over an hour later, things will probably become a whole lot worse.


The Rest Of Monday

May is tabling a motion to the House of Commons on how to proceed with Brexit, which is standard procedure. Amendments will be tabled to this motion that alter it and suggest new pathways for the government to explore, which are then voted on by MPs. This has happened before (as I have covered here), but they have largely failed to either gain a majority, or even have May acknowledge their victory.

Tomorrow, at least one of these two amendments will likely be passed, and it will be significant:

  • The Benn amendment:
    • Takes control of timetabling away from the government and allows Parliament to decide what to vote on (which would be utterly humiliating for May).
    • In this instance, it would be indicative votes, where MPs can show their preference for a Brexit strategy that ranges from revoking Article 50 and remaining, a second referendum, a softer Brexit like Norway+ or Canada, or no-deal (more information on this can be found here).
    • This would happen on Wednesday.
  • The Cooper amendment:
    • Forces the Prime Minister to return to Brussels and ask for a longer extension if her deal isn’t passed by Thursday (Meaningful Vote 3 / MV3 / the shit-fest that failed twice already).
    • This is to rule out the Prime Minister trying to bring no-deal back as a negotiating tactic. We would leave the EU with no-deal on April 12th if we don’t have a plan in place by then. This currently hypothetical plan would need EU-approval for a long extension and for us to participate in European Parliament elections this Summer.
    • lol / internal screaming.

So by the end of today we may see May have power wrenched from her by Parliament… unless she decides to hold indicative votes herself, which she would announce before the amendments are voted upon.

Even if she does this, however, her support is now so low that there is a very real chance that MPs might vote in favour of the Benn amendment and take her power away anyway.

Ouch.


Tuesday

A possible day for MV3, or a final vote on May’s deal. She has already said that if she thinks it will fail, she won’t have a vote on it, but there is a joker in the pack – an amendment called the Kyle/Wilson amendment has been created that could change everything.

Put simply, it calls on MPs to allow May’s deal to pass, so long as there is a second referendum on itMay’s deal, or Remain. This would probably be significant enough for the nation’s favourite Small Angry Man, John Bercow, to allow it to be put to Parliament again (he previously said that a second vote on something that hadn’t changed would not be permissible).

However, if the Benn amendment passes on Monday (today) and Parliament decides to hold indicative votes on Wednesday, she wouldn’t vote on her deal until Thursday.

Still with me? 


Wednesday

Assuming the Benn amendment passes on Monday (today), this will be the day that MPs get to have an indicative vote to try and find a majority for one particular strategy.

While this might seem promising to Remain-supporters, this isn’t exactly the case – the rumours are that Parliament would be more in favour of a soft Brexit rather than reversing the referendum decision via holding a second referendum or revoking Article 50. (For more reading on this subject, the previously linked article will help, as will this reality check from yesterday.)

There is also a very high probability that no clear majority would be found, and Parliament votes evenly to support every eventuality…

Which leaves us no closer to figuring out what we will actually do without having to vote again and again until we find a clear majority for a strategy.

Give me strength.


Thursday

Meaning Vote 3 time again! Assuming that it didn’t happen on Tuesday, Bercow has allowed it, and MPs have indicated that they might want to vote on it on Wednesday.

Christ, my head.

Also, if Cooper’s amendment to ensure asking for a long extension passes on Monday (today), then this is the deadline for May’s deal.

Brain… shutting… down… 

  • Cooper amendment says Thursday is last day for May’s deal to be approved.
  • Because the EU said we could leave on May 22nd if her deal is approved, if it fails then we revert back to their other offer, April 12th, and this is the new deadline.
  • Which means we have to tell them exactly what we’re going to do in order to receive a longer extension.

NNNYAAAARRRGGGHHH.


Friday

Nothing of note will happen, although it is a day of note.

Friday is March 29th – our original Brexit Day. 

I imagine various members of the ERG will be crying into their sherries that evening, and Nigel Farage will probably outright explode.

And I’m ok with both of those things.


It’s going to be a horribly complex week, guys. Between the Lines will do its utmost to keep things as easy-to-understand as possible but by golly by gosh will it be hard. Do feel free to send in questions and we will do our best to answer them. 

Good luck, everyone.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running and are looking to expand our readership over the coming weeks. While you can follow us on Twitter @BTLpolitics, we would be eternally grateful if we could spread the word to any friends, family or colleagues – only if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, of course!

Word of mouth will always be the best form of advertising, so any help that our wonderful readers could give us would be hugely, hugely appreciated. Many thanks to all in advance.

EU-turn?

While there has been little political progress in the last two days, the people themselves have made their voices heard (or at least, a considerable number have).

Theresa May spent Wednesday night going on the telly to tell the people that she knew what they wanted. This was possibly a bit of a bad idea considering that the People’s Vote march was only three days later and represented a cheerful, raspberry-accompanied flipping of the bird at her vision of Brexit.

Comme ca.

Additionally, a petition created to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit entirely has now received over 4.5m signatures, making it the most-signed petition in history.

So, from the looks of it, you’d think that Remain was winning, right? Given that we now have a delay to Article 50 whatever happens and there is talk in the air about “Brexit being in the balance,” if you are a Remain-voter then now would surely be the time to start feeling optimistic for the first time in nearly three years.

“Maybe this Brexit madness will finally be over,” you might think. “Maybe we can just go back to how things were and pretend it never happened. Maybe everything will be ok.”

Well, sorry to piss on your chips, Remainers, but the door to staying in the EU might not be as open as you think.


Are We Actually Going to Leave?

Probably. Even though the will against Brexit is arguably at its most powerful since the result of the referendum was announced, that by no means guarantees that the referendum decision will be reversed.

First of all, May’s deal. I would wager a vital body-part (you only need one lung, right?) that her deal fails again, but maybe, just maybe, enough MPs would be terrified enough at the idea of Brexit not happening that they might just change their minds and give her a majority.

Again, I’d wager one whole, semi-healthy lung that it won’t happen.

So instead, indicative votes are the most likely outcome of this week in Parliament, where MPs will vote on exactly what kind of Brexit they want so that a majority (and a plan) can be found.

Sounds promising, right?

Sort of. There are rumours abound that these votes would be whipped – i.e. that the Conservative and Labour parties would tell their MPs how to vote.

It would be a perfect example of how utterly useless our politics is to have a vote on what MPs want… and then refuse them the right to say what they want.

There is probably a majority in the House of Commons to Remain: i.e. most MPs probably want to remain in the EU. However, despite some polls now putting Remain at 60% amongst the people (according to the Lib Dems, at least) many of these MPs who want to Remain are the MPs for largely Leave-voting constituencies, which gives them a dilemma.

“Do I do what I think is best, or do I do what my constituents want me to do?”

Imagine, for example, that you are a Labour or Conservative MP in a Leave-voting constituency that wants to vote to Remain via a second referendum or revoking Article 50. These are the obstacles that you have to contend with:

  1. Your party telling you not to, because both parties’ leaderships support Brexit. If you disobey them your career as a politician takes a significant blow (assuming that this MP isn’t a bell-end, they might one day go on to do some real good for the people they represent – disobeying their party will likely derail that).
  2. Your constituents want you to vote to Leave – even though they are coming from an honest place, as an MP you know that leaving the EU will make them poorer but ignoring them could lose you your seat.
  3. Daily abuse that threatens your family if you fail to see Brexit through (no, really, this is a thing that all MPs are currently facing).
  4. The very real and credible argument that the result of the referendum was a decision by the people that should be respected – to say otherwise is to belittle them.
  5. Voting in favour of Brexit would just finish the whole sordid affair and allow you to focus on sorting out local issues like education, healthcare and benefits – all of which are suffering massively because of Brexit stealing the limelight away from them.

These examples are just a few among a plethora of arguments that MPs have to face every day. For this reason, even if revoking Article 50 or holding a second referendum are serious choices in an indicative vote, the safest option for an MP to vote for would be to have at least some kind of Brexit, even if it’s an utterly useless one.

So the likely winner of a series of indicative votes is likely to be a softer Brexit, like Norway, Canada+ or Single Customs Market Union v. 3.2 or whatever the hell it is they decide to call it.

To be clear, a soft Brexit results in the following:

  • Everything about being a part of the EU, trading with the EU, and freedom of movement within the EU, remains almost exactly the same;
  • Except now we don’t have a say in the deciding of any of these factors because we have elected to remove ourselves from the top table.

Yet, for some reason, this may well end up being the result next week – to honour the referendum result in name only, but choosing to give ourselves less power.


But What About The March? What About The Petition?

A million people at yesterday’s march sounds great, as does 4.5m petition signatures. But the fact remains that these are still a drop in the ocean compared to over 17m people who voted in favour of Leave.

However much Remainers might believe that these two events might show that the tide is turning, officially, and for the government at least, the majority still lies with Leave.


Well Is There Any Hope For Remain At All Then?

Yes, definitely. Despite the odds, yesterday’s march, the petition, and the realisation of May’s total failure as a leader are all starting to bring the option of remaining in the EU out of the realm of fantasy and instead become a genuine, viable option.

Some MPs are becoming noticeably more vocal in their support for remaining, and the defection of Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson to the People’s Vote yesterday indicated that someone with considerable power was prepared to defy Corbyn’s abject leadership.

Additionally, there is an argument to say that MPs might be sensing that their parties are about to be absolutely eviscerated by the public. If they are given indicative votes, they could go against their party’s wishes – if support for their party then flatlines, it might do them some good to be able to demonstrate that they voted against their derelict party’s policies and stand them in good stead for the future.


So It Might All Be Alright For The Remainers In The End, Then?

No.

If the UK decides to stay in the EU then the economic issues around Brexit will be nullified.

However, the backlash will be horrendous.

While it is highly unlikely that there will be the carnage in the streets that prominent Brexiteers are warning about, trust in government will be at an all-time low. The debate will rage on for years, with justified fury being thrown at MPs and the government alike.

The result of this would likely see one of the most seismic shifts in UK politics in over a hundred years.

…However, if we leave the EU and are worse off, which nearly all economic institutions insist will be the case, then the same scenario will apply, just with a different section of society being furious.


So Whatever Happens, A Lot Of Us Will Be Angry?

Yep. It’s the perfect analogy of Catch-22, zugzwang, or whatever you want to call it.

British politics as we know it will be annihilated after Brexit – the only thing that we can really ask ourselves is this:

Whose side will you want to have been on when the dust settles?


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running and are looking to expand our readership over the coming weeks. While you can follow us on Twitter @BTLpolitics, we would be eternally grateful if we could spread the word to any friends, family or colleagues – only if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, of course!

Word of mouth will always be our preferred form of advertising, so any help that our wonderful readers could give us would be hugely, hugely appreciated. Many thanks to all in advance.

Weekly Wrap-Up, 15/03 – 22/03

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And so the Brexit circus continues. The big-top tent has been firmly erected in the middle of Parliament, and Theresa May is not so much The Greatest Showman as she is a clown that’s constantly smashing cream pies into its own face.

We’ve been granted a reprieve, for sure, and the pressure has been eased, but there are some absolutely frantic days coming up in the Brexit tent.

Roll up, roll up.

So, what happened this week?


Bercow’s Big Show

Following on from last week’s pandemonium in Parliament, it looked like Monday would be a nice, quiet day to ease in to the week and gear ourselves up for yet another meaningful vote fiasco on Tuesday or Wednesday.

In stepped the ringmaster, John Bercow, to change the tune entirely. He announced, with zero warning to relevant parties, that Theresa May would not be able to bring her deal back to Parliament unless it showed “substantive changes” to the deal that came last time.

Cue outrage.

Furious accusations were hurled at the speaker, claiming that he was trying to derail Brexit, but in reality all he was doing was upholding Parliamentary law and doing exactly what the rule, written in 1604, was created to do – prevent a government from bringing the same motion back, again and again, until it passes. This ‘war of attrition’ style of governance is pretty pathetic, and Bercow clearly took a dim view of it.

And so, the meaningful vote was cancelled. With a very important trip to Brussels looming on Thursday, May was quite clearly pretty bamboozled as to what to do next.


What Did She Do Next?

She got incredibly angry and insulted everyone except her, that’s what. This, despite her being the real architect of this farce.

Clearly stewing for most of Tuesday, PMQs on Wednesday were fruity, to say the least. She accused Parliament of “indulging itself” over Europe, inferred that MPs were all useless for not sorting out exactly what the next stage of the Brexit process should be despite not giving them a real opportunity to do so, and even suggested that they were traitors.

This, despite the point of Parliament being to hold government to account and not allow a totalitarian regime to run roughshod over democracy.

Rather than show any kind of contrition, she doubled down, and doubled down hard.

On Wednesday evening, she gave a speech to the nation from inside number 10. She told the people of the UK what they thought, with messages that varied from “You are fed up of Brexit,” “You want this all to end,” to “This all the MPs fault – I’m on your side.” Some political writers have thought that this might have been to try to push MPs over the edge and finally support her deal, at long last.

Instead, it drew an apoplectic response. MPs felt like it was trying to incite hatred against them from the people at a time where they already receive daily death threats over Brexit, and it led Dominic Grieve, by all accounts an honourable and respected politician, to say that it was the moment when he was most ashamed to be a Conservative.

The backlash was massive, and many MPs who said that they were slowly but surely coming round to the idea of voting for her deal said that now, she could stick it firmly up her arse.

Good one, Theresa.


Only EU Can Save Us Now

And so, with the country united back in the UK (although only in condemnation for her outright stupidity), May went to Brussels to ask, begrudgingly, for an extension to Article 50.

In a fitting demonstration of the UK’s diminished global influence post-Brexit, May gave a speech to the other leaders, and then had to wait outside while they deliberated on what extension to give her.

Reports came out of extreme tension within the room, as some like Emmanuel Macron of France suggesting that this was our mess and no-deal would teach us a lesson. Some of the smaller nations that rely more heavily on UK trade like the Netherlands were more keen to see a longer extension. Dates were being bandied about and discussions went on far longer than had previously been planned.

In the end, a result was announced – Britain had an extension until the 22nd of May if the PM’s deal was passed, or the 12th of April to demonstrate what we’d be doing instead if it wasn’t. In the words of one EU official, according to the BBC, “May didn’t seem to have a plan, so we gave her one.”

All things considered, this ruling by the EU is about as fair as it possibly could be, allowing May one more (and surely final) roll of the dice, but also giving us a clear deadline to find an alternative route. Given the absolute pig’s ear we’ve made of the process up until now, it is quite generous of them to give us the time it has.

However, this means that we now have to explore other options such as a second referendum or a general election, something that May has explicitly said she will not do. So, expect the Cooper/Boles amendment, where MPs will wrest control from government, to rear its head again, and this time it probably won’t fail.

May calling MPs traitors will have seen to that.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running and are looking to expand our readership over the coming weeks. While you can follow us on Twitter @BTLpolitics, we would be eternally grateful if we could spread the word to any friends, family or colleagues – only if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, of course!

Word of mouth will always be our preferred form of advertising, so any help that our wonderful readers could give us would be hugely, hugely appreciated. Many thanks to all in advance.