Putting The C**t In “Country-First”

Theresa May has outdone herself this morning. Reports are coming from Number 10 that she will write to the EU today asking for a short extension. 


Why is that bad?

Because it means that the only extension we would be asking the EU for would be around two months, which would be barely enough time to pass May’s deal if it was voted through Parliament.

Which it most likely won’t, if it’s even allowed to come back to the house by John Bercow.

If that happens, we are then left with the very real threat of no-deal being the default position… unless someone has the balls to cancel Brexit entirely, which is about as likely as finding Elvis Presley on Mars.

A longer extension would allow us time to have a general election, a second referendum or to look at alternative options for Brexit such a softer, Norway-style Brexit.

Instead, unless MPs decide to wrest control from government (which is a possibility), we are stuck with May’s Deal, which might not even get brought back before Parliament, no-deal, which would be terrible for our economy, or revoking Article 50, which no-one will do.

Give me strength.


Why on earth is she doing this?

The Maybot has turned into the Terminator, relentlessly pressing on with her deal despite having had her synthetic flesh burned away and her legs ripped off. She is dragging herself along the floor to try and Terminate any lingering hope the UK has in actually finding some sort of democratic solution to the Brexit nightmare.

Her rhetoric, in a statement today, plays to the nations anger and despair, saying that “they share the people’s frustration” at Parliament being indecisive.

BUT THE REASON WHY THEY’RE BEING INDECISIVE IS BECAUSE IT IS A MASSIVE PROBLEM AND THEY ARE TRYING TO MAKE SURE THE COURSE OF ACTION WE ARE TAKING IS THE RIGHT ONE.

THIS REQUIRES NUANCE, DEBATE, AND RATIONAL THOUGHT.

Just throwing your hands in the air and saying, “Oh well, this is all shit, might as well just do my deal,” is an absolutely abhorrent form of leadership.

Rather than take responsibility for the nation, she has simply folded and pandered to the hard-right in the ERG.

It is utterly disgraceful.


Is there any hope?

Yes, thankfully. There is a chance that the EU will simply dismiss a short extension out of hand, as they have always maintained that they will only grant an extension if they are told definitively what it’s for – be that a general election, second referendum etc.

Additionally, this might be the final straw for MPs who are already apoplectic at Theresa May. There will be an exceptionally heated PMQs today, and there may well be motions made in Parliament that wrest control from May at long last.

However, whatever happens just remember:

  • Theresa May is playing politics with the biggest political decision the UK has faced in the last few decades.
  • She is pandering to her party to remain in power, is tunnel-vision to democratic process to the extent that she is undermining Parliamentary process.
  • If she showed any kind of real leadership, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

Put your hands together and pray for sanity. We won’t find it in our government.


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.

Only 9 sleeps to go!

“British Exit” – How Did This Happen And What Do We Do Now?

Concerning Brexit, I’m aware that the dust isn’t so much settled as being furiously blasted directly into our eyeballs. Everywhere we turn, all we see is Brexit, Brexit, Brexit: Government warnings on the sides of bus stops; furious, red-faced people shouting at each other on TV; newspapers with headlines that scream about THE TRAITORS WHO RUINED BREXIT or ‘BREXIT WILL KILL THE ELDERLY,’ SAYS NEW REPORT. 

The radio, especially the godawful joy-vacuum that is a BBC 5Live debate, is little better.

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Edvard Munch actually painted this after listening to Stephen Nolan for just 3 minutes.

The fact of the matter is that we, as a nation, are absolutely sick to death of Brexit. It’s both alarming and wearisome in equal measure, like cleaning a plug-hole that’s full of hair, but you live alone and it’s not your hair.

Yet, on both sides of the argument, the debate rages on with almost more verve and vigour than when the referendum was contested all the way back in 2016. The gaps in our society have been ripped into chasms, with the most passionate of both the far left and far right, Leavers and Remainers, and even the divides within our two ruling parties, splitting us further in two.

Those of us left in the moderate, “functional liberal soup” that is centrism, to quote from Hugo Rifkind, are the ones caught in the crossfire of the shouting match, covering our ears and praying for it all to end, one way or another. At some point, there will be inquiries into this utter nightmare, and some serious questions need to start being asked.

Why are we in this position? For many, it is easiest to apportion blame to the easiest targets: “Those idiots in the North voting for Leave when it will make them poorer”; “Those bigwigs in Westminster who run the place like a public school debating society”; or even “Those bloody Millennials with their avocados and their top-knots and their naive, Free-Hugs-For-All attitude.”

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“Wanker.”

But this is exactly the cause of the problem. While certainly not helped by some absolutely appalling figures in politics trying to coerce, dupe and outright lie their way into relevance by throwing unsubstantiated hyperbole into the ether, we as a society have become increasingly divided by our own making. It might be comforting to blame those we disagree with, passing the buck firmly onto the “other” viewpoint, but unfortunately we must all share blame.

We, as a society, lack the ability to think critically about other viewpoints. It is an inherent part of human nature, as our “flight or fight” mechanism still remains firmly lodged in our heads despite being the top of every conceivable food chain (unless you decide to wrestle a bear, in which case I think your “flight or fight” mechanism might need some logical WD40).

Matthew Inman, creator of the Exploding Kittens board game and The Oatmeal webcomic, created a superb comic about this, which you can find here. You wouldn’t think the creator of a game called Exploding Kittens would be capable of so much nuance, but it’s a brilliant read.

Essentially, when we are presented with evidence that conflicts with our established world-view we go straight into defensive mode – to our most basic instincts, this new information is seen as a threat. This means that we start putting up walls and coming up with counter-arguments before we even begin to consider that the other person might have a point. Consider as well that we live in a society of click-bait, biased journalism, Piers Morgan, and a multitude of other factors that sensationalise news stories. These deliberately fan the flames of more extreme views in order to increase sales, influence or fame.

It is so easy for us to find examples that agree with our world-view – all we have to do is follow someone who agrees with us on Twitter, read a certain newspaper or even just Google something. The internet is a free-for-all where anyone can simply vomit their opinion onto a web-page, call it fact, and tell people to believe in it.

No, the irony of me writing that sentence as an internet writer is not lost on me.

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WARNING: HYPOCRITE

But my point is that it has never been easier for us to succumb to our smaller minds and to shrink away from argument. Nowadays, we can simply thrust an iPhone into someone’s face to demonstrate that, um, actually, this guy with 67 followers on Twitter and has #MAGA written in his bio says that Trump isn’t a white supremacist, so there. We, as a Western society, simply cannot understand a different point of view because we are shouting at the other and they are shouting at us. We are both building up our own walls while trying to tear the other’s down.

So how does that tie in to Brexit? Put simply, Remain vs Leave.

The split within the Conservative Party over Europe has been there since we first joined the European Economic Community way back in 1972. The Prime Minister, Ted Heath, was leading a Conservative Party that was completely divided over whether or not to join the European project. He decided to press on, but the Eurosceptics in the party have always been there and have never been truly silenced. The referendum in 2016 was supposed to be the final say on the matter – “You’ve had your chance, the people have spoken, we’re staying in Europe and that’s final.”

Instead, we chose to leave.

The split within the Conservative Party spilled out into society, with fantastically moronic political grandstanding from prominent MPs like Boris Johnson and public figures like Nigel Farage leading the charge. Through using very clever (if arguably highly deceitful) rhetoric, they played on the hearts and minds of those people in society feeling most threatened by a post-financial-crash economy. They promised them nirvana once we escaped the clutches of those dastardly EUrocrats who straightened our bananas and flogged us dodgy meat, despite not having the faintest clue as to what comes next.

They inspired people to believe in a better Britain, yet gave them absolutely no assurances as to how it might happen.

Almost three years later, very little has changed. Yes, there have been considerable political developments, but the sentiments remain the same (aside from levels of boredom and despair increasing exponentially with each day that passes). It remains a case of Us vs Them: Brexiteers baying for blood if Brexit is delayed, Remoaners crying into their teacups about how stupid everyone is.

This is where our “fight or flight” mechanism comes into play. We are actively pitted against each other in the media because it sells copies and/or increases traffic. We refuse to listen to the other side of the story. Leavers are idiots, Remainers are snowflakes. One way or another, whatever the outcome, someone is going to be disappointed.

But I want to talk about a different way. It’s a very simple concept, but it requires a huge amount of self-awareness (and self-confidence). For many, it is probably impossible. But it is just one, simple idea:

Listen.

This writer voted to Remain, and for the best part of the last two and a half years I fell wholeheartedly into the trap of thinking that Leavers were all deluded. Why wouldn’t they listen to facts? Why would they vote in favour of something that almost all financial institutions claimed would badly affect our economy and our most vulnerable citizens? Why are they doing this to us?

And then, when I started Between the Lines, I realised that if I was going to call myself unbiased and be true to my word then I would have to step out of my liberal echo chamber. I forced myself to follow some prominent right-wing politicians and figureheads on Twitter, I forced myself to read articles by Leave-supporters and I tried to figure out what made them tick.

I realised, after two years of blocking out those perspectives that disagreed with mine, that Brexit can be boiled down to something really rather simple.

Hearts vs. Minds.

Leavers are not idiots. Yes, the financial and economic outcomes of Brexit are predicted using detailed data analysis and modelling, and the facts do fully indicate that, in the short-term at least, Brexit would be damaging to our economy. But whereas before I thought that disregarding facts was wilful ignorance, I have come to realise that for Leave voters it is simply them putting up their barriers against those who threaten something that they truly believe in. The very message, no less, that they were sold by Farage and his ilk – a better Britain.

This isn’t a concept that should be ridiculed, despite its proponents, but rather promoted far and wide. In fact, I now have a profound respect for Leave voters. As something of a romantic, I deeply believe that to live life by statistics and numbers alone and suppressing gut instinct and feelings is to live a life half-lived. Who is to say that this shouldn’t apply to politics?

Tempered with the concept of realpolitik, or the notion that politics can only ever be a game of pragmatism, some idealism could actually give us some much-needed clarity of vision. A better Britain is something that everyone can agree on, yet simply reverting to the status quo of before the referendum would simply be to shrug, hold up our hands and say “Well, things are ok, so why bother changing them?”

This, despite the fact that as a relative giant on the global stage, we have a staggering number of people who are sleeping rough on our streets and rising child poverty levels. Both of these things, in a nation such as ours, should never happen.

Leave voters, admittedly somewhat less restrained by verified facts (for better or worse), have something bigger in mind than just reverting back to what came before – positive change to help those in our society who need it most, because normality will not achieve it. Even if the reality is that Brexit might not achieve this, and certainly won’t in the short term, we must listen to this organic sprouting of positive ideology – but they must listen to factual temperance, too.

All it takes is for a few of us to reach out a hand, tell the others that we are prepared to listen and hear what they have to say. To really hear it, not just give them their dues – to listen, to understand, and to try and find a solution.

Imagine a government that actually reached out across the House to try and form a real consensus, rather than trudge relentlessly on to deliver a compromise that satisfies no-one.

Imagine a political landscape where yes, there are opposing views, but the best aspects of both were accepted through constructive debate and something new and better was formed.

Imagine a society where we listened, we engaged, and we challenged ourselves, rather than others.

That sounds like a better Britain to me.

May Thinks Bercow Is Jerk Now

I’m feeling rather smug.

This morning, when I wrote about potential outcomes this week, I wrote this:

Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 18.07.19

Lo and behold, Mr. Speaker has proved me right. This afternoon, he gave a statement that said that Theresa May cannot bring her deal to Parliament for a third time if it “remains substantially the same”.


What Does That Mean?

Theresa May was gambling on bringing her deal back for one last roll of the dice – what has changed is that since the last vote, no-deal has been taken off the table and an extension to Article 50 is guaranteed.

  • Because of these developments, previously reluctant MPs might have changed their minds and vote in favour for it rather than see Brexit delayed or cancelled.
  • May has been proactively trying to recruit the DUP and Brexiteers over the weekend for exactly this reason.

What hasn’t changed is the deal itself. This means that under a law set out in Erskine May, the rulebook for Parliamentary proceedings, it cannot be brought to the House again in the same “Session,” or current government and Parliament (a new session starts after a general election).

  • The reason why it was allowed to come back for a second vote in the first place was that there was a change to the backstop between the votes – similar changes would need to be seen for Bercow to allow it for a third time.

So What Happens Now?

For now, May’s deal is dead. Unless she can magically get some concessions from the EU on Thursday that changes the deal, she cannot bring it back to the House of Commons.

So, finally, we start to tackle what we do instead. There are currently no plans for any different strategies to be put to the house before May goes to Brussels on Thursday, but that might well change. Given the EU will look at today and think that a long extension is all but guaranteed (a short one would only have been for implementing May’s deal), they may ask what we will use that extension for.

That would require us to have a plan in place – currently, we have the square root of sod all. The Kyle-Wilson amendment could now be the only way for May’s deal to have a chance of being passed – you can read more about it in my earlier article here.

However, we shall have to wait and see over the next couple of days what the actual outcome will be…


Was Bercow Right to Make This Ruling?

If it really is the end of the deal, it’s a fittingly damp squib of a way for it to go out – with a small squeak and a squelch of Bercow’s boot. May has been trying to hammer the deal through the wall of opposition by using scare tactics and fear-mongering more than any kind of positivity – she was, essentially, trying to manipulate her colleagues rather than inspire them.

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, I hope that we one day go back to feeling proud of our leaders, and not just mildly apathetic. Or despairing.

Whatever you think of Bercow, be it odious little toad or hilarious toff trouble-maker, his ruling today told May that her tactics were not in keeping with the spirit of Parliamentary process, let alone legal.

I, for one, welcome it.


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.

Only 11 sleeps to go!

EU Can’t Hurry Love

Woof. What a week. It was like watching a bladdered Wetherspoons regular trying to roll a cigarette at 11.30pm on a Friday night – quite entertaining in a sad sort of way, but with a real possibility of everything being set on fire. 

This week won’t see the same level of Parliamentary carnage, unfortunately, but may well end up being no less important. We could see Theresa May’s deal finally get passed, resulting in a confirmed Brexit this Summer (coming soon to a cinema near you), but more likely is that we will see just how long it’s going to be delayed by.

A quick note for our wonderful readers – due to some recent upgrades to the website (i.e. figuring out what on earth Widgets are) we now have a follow button to the right of this article. If you would like to receive a notification whenever an article is published, please do take the 30 seconds it takes to sign up.

Your support is massively appreciated!

Anyway, to business! First, we look at what could happen, then we move on to the hypothetical outcomes.


What’s Happening This Week?

We will finally find out what kind of extension we will be getting to Article 50 and how much longer this Brexit debacle can limp on.

  • On either Tuesday or Wednesday, Theresa May will likely put her deal before Parliament for a third time. If it passes, then we will have agreed to leave the EU. If it fails, as expected, then it’s a political free-for-all.

  • On Thursday, May will travel to Brussels to discuss the outcome with other EU leaders. If her deal has passed, she will ask for a short extension to Article 50 in order to have the extra time for getting the technicalities sorted and passed into law. If she has failed (again, lol) then she will have to ask them for a longer extension – the EU will decide the length of this.

Sounds Simple Enough…

Yeah, it isn’t though.

Is It Ever?

No, not anymore.

There are so many variables to what could happen this week that it’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen. 

To start with May’s deal alone:

  • She has been spending the weekend meeting with Brexiteers to try and persuade them to change their minds on her vote, and has had some levels of success – a few prominent Brexiteers such as Esther McVey have openly stated that they will support her deal. 

  • She has also been negotiating with the DUP, although these negotiations seem to have not gone particularly smoothly – reports are suggesting that the DUP remains highly reluctant to support a deal that still hasn’t sorted the backstop.
    • Supposedly, the attorney-general Geoffrey Cox (“Bollocks”-man) is looking at further ways of spinning the legal amendments made this time last week to try and change DUP hearts and minds.
    • There has also been condemnation of reports of more funding being made available to the DUP if they support the deal. It smacks of bribery, much like the promise of funds to poorer, Labour-supporting areas a couple of weeks ago. 

  • Additionally, and most importantly, even with full support of the DUP and some Brexiteers, it still looks as though May wouldn’t have anywhere near enough support for her deal to actually pass.
    • Phillip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has indicated that if it looks like they won’t have the numbers then they simply won’t hold the vote.

  • However, there is also an amendment being discussed called the Kyle-Wilson amendment:
    • It calls for temporary support of Theresa May’s deal and allows it to pass through Parliament…
    • …so long as it is then immediately followed by a referendum, with one choice – May’s Deal or Remain.
    • This might be May’s best chance of seeing her deal passed through Parliament, but so far it remains just speculation.

 

OK, So We Might Not Have a Third Meaningful Vote This Week Then?

Quite possibly not. There is also a chance that the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, might refuse to let May have another vote on it anyway. If the deal is unchanged from the one that was voted on last week, there is a (very, very old) law saying that she can’t have another vote on it.


Sigh. OK, So What Happens If There Isn’t a Vote Or It Fails, Then?

When May goes to Brussels, she will have to ask for a longer extension to Article 50. This is extremely complicated:

  1. All 27 EU member states have to unanimously agree to allow an extension, and Nigel ‘Frog-Face’ Farage has been lobbying EU member states to veto one. If this happens, we crash out on the 29th with no-deal. It is extremely unlikely, but is a possibility. 

  2. The length of the extension is open to debate – currently, the whispers are that it would be two years. This is to allow the UK to have a general election, a second referendum, or a total rethink of what we actually want from Brexit. 

  3. The EU has also stated that it won’t grant an extension without a clear indication that one of the previous options is actually going to happen – Parliament will have to demonstrate that it has a plan for finding a clear strategy on how to proceed.
    • This will most likely be achieved by holding ‘indicative votes,’ where every MP is given a list of choices (i.e. Norway, no-deal, second referendum, revoke Article 50 etc.) and they vote for their preference. The choice with the least number of votes is struck off and another vote is held on the remaining choices. This is repeated until there is only one choice left. 

  4. A longer extension means that the UK will have to participate in the EU Parliament elections this Summer, which would be an absolute nightmare. 
    • Firstly, for May, it shows that we have demonstrably not left the EU more than three years after the referendum, which would anger Leavers.
    • There are concerns that Leavers would vote in their droves to elect  Leave-preferring candidates, which could badly disrupt Parliamentary process.
    • There are legal issues abound, too – if the UK refuses to take part but then remains an EU-member further down the line, then all the decisions made by the EU Parliament while the UK wasn’t represented are no longer legally-binding. 

  5. A quick reminder that we are supposed to leave next Friday at 11pm, and legally will do so unless we have secured an extension by then. There is absolutely no road left down which to kick the battered old Brexit can.

 

Ultimately, we simply don’t know what will happen this week – any of the above could well happen. We will most likely only know what will happen on a certain day the morning of it, and then the result that evening.


Jesus Christ. Any Good News?

Yep. Nigel Farage’s “Brexit Betrayal” March over the weekend, which was the start of a two-week trek from Sunderland to London, was an unmitigated disaster. Only 370 people turned up, and that number dropped to 77 by day two. 

Given that Farage has been a whining, pitiful, tweed-wearing twerp throughout the entire process, to see his plans for a glorious march turn into a rain-drenched trudge was extremely cathartic.

By which I mean it was fucking hilarious.


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.

Only 11 sleeps to go!

Weekly Wrap-Up, 08/03 – 15/03

Between the Lines was incredibly sad to hear of the senseless violence in New Zealand last night. Our hearts and minds are with the people of Christchurch and the country as a whole. While it can be tricky to find humour on mornings like this, we simply must try to, and so we will.

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BREXIT STILL UTTERLY SHIT

Jesus Christ.

What a week. I posted on Monday that I thought that it would be an absolute political train wreck this week, but even by Brexit’s standards it was an absolute humdinger. As it was the main event of the week, I thought we should just have a quick run-down of what happened day-by-day.

We all need a laugh.


MONDAY

Things were tense on Monday. A weekend of hard negotiations between the UK and the EU had largely failed, yet May had a meaningful vote on her deal the day after – something had to give.

So, that bastion of democracy, that champion of Britain, the vicar’s daughter with the thirst for slaughter (NB: not accurate), Theresa May the Maybot herself was flown over to Strasbourg to sort those nasty EUrocrats out once and for all. She fought through storm Gareth over the Channel, parachuted out over EU headquarters, smashed through the window into the negotiating room and screamed “BREXIT MEANS BREXIT” at Jean-Claude Juncker so loudly he accidentally swallowed his cigarette.

This resulted in a joint announcement from May and Juncker that many thought impossible:

A COMPROMISE HAD BEEN FOUND. BREXIT WAS SAVED.


TUESDAY

Except the compromise was as leaky as a 17 year-old spaniel with a drinking problem. Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, announced on Tuesday morning, the day of Theresa’s big vote, that the legal issues still remained around the backstop – the UK could become trapped in it.

He also swore at Jon Snow on Twitter, leading to many Cox and Bollocks jokes.

May, appearing to debate in Parliament, had the look of someone whose fringe was covering the twitching vein on their temple. She had no voice either, presumably because of the scream at Juncker the night before. However, on she doggedly went, challenging her MPs and warning them that if her deal wasn’t passed, there might not be a Brexit at all. The Maybot fought to the last.

Sadly, dear reader, her wretched MPs failed to listen to our hero’s voice.

She was absolutely pummelled again, 391 to 242.

Hahahahaha.


WEDNESDAY

Fresh from another bruising defeat, at least May knew that the vote the day after was an ‘open and close’ case. No-one wanted no-deal to happen except for the silly old gammon-faces in the ERG. All she had to do was wander into the Commons and tell everyone, “It is in the nation’s best interests to vote against no-deal, so that then we can begin t– oh fucking hell wait what the hell are you doing Spelman?”

“Spelman?!”

“…SPELMAN?!”

One of May’s own, Caroline Spelman, had tabled an amendment that meant that the no-deal vote would take it off the table forever, not just for the 29th of March. May, presumably swearing heavily under her breath, told Spelman to retract the amendment, which she did, only for the Speaker to tell her she couldn’t – other MPs had also signed on the amendment and one of them might want to move it.

“Oh fuck,” said May.

She immediately told her party not to vote for the amendment, but tons of her MPs were like “lol” and voted for it anyway. That meant that the big vote was now against no-deal under any circumstance, which led to one of the most stupid things ever seen in Parliament.

May told her own party to vote against a motion that she herself had set.

And then members of her cabinet, junior ministers and MPs alike all said “lol” and voted for it anyway.

HAHAHAHAHAHA.


THURSDAY

Now the Maybot was starting to really fall apart, voice faltering, face puffy, ahead of the votes to asking the EU for an extension. But somewhere, deep inside that puffy flesh sack, a machine whirred into life.

>>>start_program
>MEANINGFULVOTE.exe

>>WARNING: Program previously force quit due to vital system errors

error: BackstopResolution.exe not found
error: PublicSupport.exe not found
error: Leadership.exe not found

COMMAND: _OVERRIDE_

***CAUTION, OVERRIDING COULD CAUSE PROGRAM Parliament.exe TO CRASH***

COMMAND: _OVERRIDE_OVERRIDE_OVERRIDE_

And so, the Maybot decided to take her vote back to Parliament again. AGAIN. FOR THE THIRD TIME.

Thursday’s vote was actually the one with the most complications, because asking the EU for an extension came with so many caveats itself that it was never going to be a case of a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. Anyone who thought it would be that simple was an utter fool.

May decided put it to a simple yes/no vote. She even added a caveat to make things spicier – she would ask the EU for a short extension if MPs passed the meaningful vote in ROUND FUCKING THREE or a longer extension if they didn’t.

“That’ll make them vote for my deal. It is a good deal,” she thought.

Well, we’ll have to see about that – for the meantime, however, the motion to ask the EU for an extension passed, and a couple of amendments that would have basically finally killed off May failed. One failed by two votes. Two.


May must have smiled to herself when she got in last night.

“Victory at last,” she would have said to herself, drinking her cup of lukewarm tea. Now, she could put her meaningful vote back to Parliament one last time.

She would have got into bed, put her head on her pillow, and closed her eyes.

“This time,” she would have said. “This time, we will win.”

Something tiny inside her head would have sparked into life.

>>begin protocol DestroyAllHumans.exe?

COMMAND: _SNOOZE_


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.

Either way, we will be back on Monday to see what on earth happens next.

Only 14 sleeps to go!

Magic May’s Multi-Misery Mayhem

I have a theory.

Theresa May is actually a magician. Not actually magic, mind, but a magician – a master of trickery and sleight of hand who can amaze those around them. A normal magician would do this to inspire feelings of wonder and delight to the watching crowd.

May inspires feelings of emptiness. There remains a faint echo of the fury, sadness and despair that used to fill the void, but through her mystical ways she has removed all of these to be left with nothing.

No joy, no despair, no hate, no love… just… nothing.

What May achieved this week was nothing short of spectacular. At every turn, she tried to manipulate MPs from both her own party and across the House of Commons only to have her schemes spectacularly backfire. Over the last three days she:

  • Tried to force the attorney general to say that her deal had changed, only for him to say that it hadn’t;
  • Pushed her deal for a second time to the House, threatening that it was the only option aside from no-deal, only to see it savagely voted down with huge rebellion from her own party;
  • Promised a free vote about no-deal and campaigned to vote against it, only to change her mind when the motion was amended to be permanent, not just regarding the 29th of March;
  • Tried to whip her party to follow this new strategy in a blind panic, only to see one cabinet member resign and four abstain, a plethora of MPs ignore her, and then suffer the indignity of seeing her own motion against no-deal passed against her wishes;
  • And saw her own Brexit Minister, Steve Barclay, argue passionately in favour of the government’s position to extend Article 50 only to then immediately vote against it.

All of these ludicrously hilarious examples of how shit her leadership is are set against a backdrop of someone desperately clinging on to power and totally ignoring the fact that they have a laughably small amount of power left. It is almost Shakespearean in how overwhelmingly sad it has been watching someone who started with a reasonable amount of promise slowly lose everything: first her integrity, then her party, then her dignity, then finally her own voice.

Do not get me wrong – she is by no means the only villain in this tragi-farce. Corbyn has been relentlessly dire, failing to form any kind of coherent opposition over the last two years and failing to seize the initiative over the last couple of days against what must be the single most divided party in Parliamentary history. 

The red-faced schemers of the ERG must also share a huge amount of blame. They have  constantly been a thorn in the side of an admittedly already-limping PM and have skewed the argument to the realms of the nigh-on fascistic. Their attempts to manipulate proceedings is nothing short of Machiavellian.

Yet the fact of the matter remains that over the last few weeks, months and years we have been subjected to a leader that must be one of the most lacking in actual leadership ever seen in Britain. May’s dogged determination to hammer through her deal by smashing it through a brick wall head-first would almost be admirable if it wasn’t so damaging.

At no point has she proactively attempted to seek any kind of cross-party alliance or even engagement to try and find some common ground for moving forward. Her only strategy has been her deal, which she fought so hard to get and remains so proud of despite it being fatally flawed in the backstop. It’s like a beaming mother showing you her newborn baby, only she hasn’t realised that it’s actually a dog.

Invoking Article 50 despite having done absolutely no planning as to how much time the country would need put far too short a time-frame on one of the most complicated political negotiations in history. And then, somehow, she managed to do seemingly fuck-all until December last year, where she finally, finally got the deal!

HURRAH!

When the criticisms came in, it must have hurt her, hard. But then she had every opportunity to realise that her way was wrong, to be conciliatory, to recognise that there must be a different way, whether that be a softer Brexit, Norway Plus or a Second Referendum.

(As a quick aside, I am forcing myself to believe that no-deal was never (and still isn’t) a real option but just a negotiating tactic. If I thought, for one moment, that our government would actively vote to make its own people poorer, especially the most vulnerable, then I think I would probably go and move to the US. At least their leader ruins everything by accident.)

All she has done is ignore everyone. Her enemies, her critics, her allies, everyone. Still she marches on with this deal. STILL she tries to flog it like the last used-car in the lot at 4.55pm on a Friday afternoon, despite it causing the biggest loss on a policy vote in history the first time round, then smashed to bits again the second.

To reiterate, there will be a third vote on the deal next Wednesday. If it passes, then we leave at the end of June but no-one is happy about it, not even Brexiteers. If it fails, we start to explore other options. Oh wait, sorry: we start to explore other options nine days before we legally leave the EU, and with no promise of them granting us an extension.

It’s not a farce anymore. It’s a genuine scandal.

  • The Leavers are furious at how their vision has been disrespected,
  • The Remainers are furious at not being allowed a say now that we know what damage Brexit will do to our country,
  • The Conservatives are split in two,
  • British businesses are leaving,
  • The pound is all over the place,
  • And with just over two weeks to go we still have no idea what the future holds.

And yet, despite how furious I should feel over this, I just feel empty. That’s the magic of May’s tenure, somehow managing to destroy everything she touches and yet just continuing as though nothing has happened. After enough time, it just means that she is so devoid of self-awareness that criticising or opposing her simply doesn’t matter any more.

Where there should be fury, there’s just emptiness.

Abrafuckingcadabra.

Judgement Day

The big day is finally upon us. The build-up to this finale has been more of a dreary spin on a merry-go-round than a white-knuckle ride on Nemesis Inferno, with arguments incessantly going round and round and round and making us all feel mildly nauseous. For weeks, all we have heard is divisive conjecture, furious arguments over hypotheticals and even threats of “THE END OF DEMOCRACY AS WE KNOW IT.”

Well, the time for hypotheticals is over. Today, all of that bluster, all of that noise, furious and tribal, will be put to the test with a simple vote:

Yes or no.

No more teacups, folks. Today, we’re doing Nemesis Inferno and we’ve got Fastrack tickets.


Backstop Believin’

Hold on to that feelin’…

Last night, Theresa May flew to Strasbourg to meet with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, to thrash out a desperately-unlikely last minute change to the backstop for her to take to Parliament today.

Remarkably, she actually came out with one.

The changes can be simply described as:

  1. A legal document signed by the UK and the EU that helps to ensure the backstop is not intended to be permanent. Alongside this is a document that ensures that, if an independent body decides the EU is negotiating in bad faith, the UK can suspend its obligations. This will even be lodged as a treaty at the UN.
  2. An alteration to the political declaration on how both sides will find alternatives to a hard border in Ireland – basically, the EU has conceded that it must find alternative arrangements before the end of the transition period (29th March – 31st December 2020, where the UK negotiates its future trade deals with the EU).

  3. A declaration by the UK government explaining why it feels like the UK will not be ‘trapped’ in the backstop – this will form the basis of the legal advice on Brexit given to Parliament by the attorney-general, Geoffrey Cox, later today.

Speaking of which…

 

Cox: “Bollocks.” (No, Really)

Much of today’s result lies in what Mr. Cox QC has said to Parliament this morning. As the attorney-general, his job is to pore over the finer legal jargon of treaties and other documents to ensure that they have been properly understood.

It was his legal advice on the backstop being to continue “indefinitely” that caused it to be such an issue in the first place.

For the last few weeks he has been the one negotiating with the EU (and mostly just pissing them off, according to some sources). However, it was May herself who secured these changes last night and, today, it was Cox’s decision on whether or not he can tell Parliament today that they are enough to change his legal advice.

According to The Times and the BBC, Cox was said to be “agonising” over his decision. Channel 4’s Jon Snow reported on Twitter that his first answer was that the changes weren’t enough, and that a legal team had been summoned to help Cox change his mind.

Cox’s response was, short, swift and absolutely beautiful.

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 10.47.52

So, good to see things are being handled with the nuance that the gravity of the situation warrants.

As of 11.18am, Cox has stated that the change “reduces the risk” of the UK being “indefinitely” held in the backstop.

This is an admission that the changes, while significant, may not be enough to change the hearts and minds of Brexiteers.

 

Jesus Christ. What Happens Now, Then?

MPs will debate all afternoon until a vote is held at 7pm tonight.

If May’s deal passes, we leave the EU, with a deal, on the 29th of March.

If it doesn’t, tomorrow will see Parliament vote on and probably reject a no-deal Brexit, then Thursday will see a vote on an extension to Article 50.

Thursday’s vote would have been likely to pass if it was a short delay, though there are rumblings from the EU that a delay (the length of which is set by them, not us, remember) could be more like a year – this could pave the way for a general election, or a second referendum, muddying the waters somewhat…


So… This is a Big Deal.

Yep. For once, Brexit isn’t just hypothetical. Today is the last real chance for Theresa May’s deal. If it fails, then Juncker has said that “there is no third chance.”

In terms of what will happen, it really is hard to say. Cox’s legal advice will simply not be enough for some Brexiteers, though hearts and minds may have changed in the last few weeks – they may think that this is now their only real opportunity to leave the EU at all. The remainers will most likely still vote against the deal, although some have wearily admitted that maybe the best thing for our country is just to accept a deal.

However, it really does fall down to today’s vote. If May fails, the second referendum campaign could gain some serious traction. Depending on how long the extension is, there is still the very real threat of us crashing out of the EU with no-deal at a later date, too.

Whatever happens, there will be a lot of very pissed off people.

But then again, that sort of is Britain these days.


Between the Lines will be live-tweeting events from the vote this evening, so if you would like to follow this historic evening for our country from the perspective of this little blog, a) thank you very much and b) follow us here:

@BTLpolitics

Good luck, everyone – this is going to be interesting.

 

Here We Go

And so, one of the most important weeks in British politics begins as I’m sure it will continue – a total lack of a clear plan, bitching and in-fighting from both sides of the House, and Theresa May looking ever more like a dead duck, bobbing away in the lake of democracy.

Also, the lake is on fire.

Happy Monday everyone! This is going to hurt.


Negotifailtions

Over the weekend, negotiators from the UK and the EU kept thrashing away at the backstop, trying desperately to find a compromise that would mean that May’s deal gets passed tomorrow, Tuesday the 12th of March.

  • Sources close to negotiations say that while there were signs of progress, it remained highly unlikely that any changes made would be significant enough to change the hearts and minds of those who voted against it. Indeed, Downing Street has said this morning that talks are “at gridlock.”
    • Without a massive number of changed minds, May’s deal looks set to lose dramatically again.

    • If (lol, when) this happens, she will hold a vote on Wednesday about whether or not MPs want a no-deal Brexit. If no, as expected, on Thursday she will hold a vote asking whether or not she should ask for an extension to Article 50, delaying Brexit.

  • However, reports today suggest that she might not even hold the vote tomorrow if there are no breakthroughs in the negotiations.
    • Another massive margin of defeat would be highly damaging to May’s political clout. Whatever’s left of a pretty feeble amount to start with.

  • If she does decide to do this, she will instead table a motion setting out terms on how to deal with the backstop that Parliament could get behind and vote in favour of.
    • If so, she could take that vote to the EU to demonstrate what Parliament wants, strengthening her hand. Although it is strengthening her hand while the EU plays Poker and she plays Uno.

Singing in Disharmony

  • Other prominent Tories are saying that they would vote for the deal if Theresa May promised that she would resign as soon as her deal passed.
    • Given May’s track record of resolutely failing to fall on her sword, however, it seems unlikely that she would concede this.

  • Michael Gove, the environment secretary, encourages his peers to vote for May’s deal, writing in the Daily Mail that, “Everyone who believes in democracy should support it.”

  • Boris Johnson, however, has written in The Daily Telegraph that his peers shouldn’t vote for the deal and “do nothing further to weaken the UK’s position.”

Good to see our ruling Party sticking to what it knows – slowly and excruciatingly ripping itself in two like a suicidal slug.

Biding Their Time

Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, has said that Labour would not table their amendment for a People’s Vote this week.

  • For those who want a second referendum this is good news, counterintuitively.
    • It is unlikely that there is currently enough support in Parliament for a second public vote, but this will likely change as other options begin to fall away.
    • Assuming that Article 50 will be extended, saving a second referendum as a last resort is probably the best strategy to see it come to fruition.

So while this week will be absolutely crucial in defining what comes next for Brexit, it has at least started off in the same way as it has rumbled on for weeks and weeks – smashing-face-into-wall levels of frustration.


On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I will be sending out Inbox Insights to go into more detail about the previous evening’s votes and what they mean. Inbox Insights are short, concise emails that give you all the info you need to know straight to your inbox, just in time for lunch.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please sign up here.


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.

Only 18 sleeps to go!

Weekly Wrap-Up, 01/03 – 08/03

Happy International Women’s Day!

As predicted, it’s been considerably slower this week on the Brexit front, with the tension slowly ramping up before what will be a monumental showdown next week. Seriously, next week will be massive – a bull elephant on steroids let loose in the House of Commons would still cause less damage to British politics than what could happen after the votes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

While it’s all very well and good to laugh at the ridiculousness of Brexit, the only other major story of this week is considerably more serious – the arguments across the government about knife crime. The recent spate of horrific stabbings and killings has resulted in a pretty pathetic game of passing-the-buck between senior politicians, but at least the reality of knife crime is now, at least, seemingly being addressed.

Jolly stuff. Happy Friday, everyone.

Let’s re-cap the week, then get our drank awhn.


Cox and Balls-Up?

I couldn’t resist.

Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, has been carrying out negotiations over the backstop with the EU this week ahead of next Tuesday’s vote over May’s deal.

  • Reaching a concession over the backstop is vital for the deal getting support, a majority, and being passed.
    • The deal, as it stands, will be voted down again as it was January, because politicians from all corners believe that the backstop will lock the UK into the EU’s customs union.
  • Negotiations will carry on over the weekend.
    • The mood from both sides of the negotiating table is reportedly “pessimistic,” however. No change there, then.
  • May will attempt to put pressure on the EU today by blaming them for not conceding to our demands.
    • This is the political equivalent of throwing a strop when you don’t get your ice-cream.
  • Gaffes from May’s Cabinet will not have helped matters.
    • In a superb demonstration of ineptitude, three cabinet ministers made colossal gaffes yesterday.
      1. Karen Bradley, Northern Ireland secretary, said that killings by troops during the Troubles in Ireland were not a crime (13 civilians were killed on Bloody Sunday by the military). Remember, we are currently at loggerheads with the EU over issues with Ireland and are negotiating directly with the RoI.
      2. Amber Rudd, work and pensions secretary, called Diane Abbott ‘coloured’ while actively trying to defend her against hate crimes.
      3. Andrea Leadsom, Commons leader, believed that cases of Islamophobia, which have recently seen 14 Conservative Party activists sacked, should be directed towards the Foreign Office, suggesting she believes that it is not an internal issue.

Sometimes you really do have to just sit back and admire the majesty of such utter incompetence from our ruling class.

Knife Crime – Where Does Responsibility Lie?

After a number of high-profile stabbings in London and across the country, debate has been raging about how to tackle the issue, which has been described as a ‘disease’ by Sajid Javid, the home secretary.

  • Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police Commissioner and winner of ‘Best Name In Policing’ by Juvenile Sense-of-Humour Weekly, said that there was a link to increasing violent crime and falling police numbers.
    • Theresa May disagreed with this seemingly obvious statement.
    • It is not surprising that she did, however, given that under David Cameron, she was the home secretary and annihilated police budgets.
    • Those chickens are arguably coming home to roost.
  • One new line of inquiry is considering whether rising school exclusion rates are also responsible.
    • 25% of children who said that they carried a knife in the last year had also been expelled or suspended from school.
    • However, this correlation may be coincidental when compared to rising child poverty, issues around mental health and increased numbers of ‘at risk’ children.
  • Increased stop-and-search powers and police funding are being discussed as means to tackle the issue.
    • While a welcome deterrent, many campaigners have argued that simply tackling it as a case-by-case issue will never prevent the underlying causes from being tackled.
    • To get thoughtful, insightful and nuanced views on this, I would recommend watching any interview with rapper and author Akala.

The issue is certainly divisive, and while it is excellent that more proactive measures are being taken, it is still disheartening to see that all too often our governments try to tackle huge issues with short-term impact as the overarching strategy.

It takes bravery to tackle issues around crime at grassroots, which would show little immediate benefits but would be far more effective long-term. Instead, we mostly see increased arrest statistics to show that a government is “tough on crime,” which is always a popular message for voters.

And The Rest

  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman who has been jailed in Iran for over three years, has been given diplomatic protection by Britain.
  • The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has said that it was considering launching a formal investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party.
    • This is a highly damning indictment of the actions of Labour, claiming that it might have broken the law by ‘unlawfully discriminating against Jewish people.’
  • The Independent Group has announced that it is taking the steps necessary to become a political party.

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.

Either way, we will be back on Monday to see what on earth Brexit can throw at us.

Only 21 sleeps to go!

Wheeler Dealer Theresa Geezer

Happy Monday one and all, 25 sleeps until Brexit!

And if that doesn’t fill you with an overwhelming sense of dread then I admire your optimism. Even if Brexit itself turns out to be fine, the arguments and anger will never truly end.

Welcome to Brexit Britain – one big, drunken Wetherspoons argument where everyone gets vomit splashback on their shoes.

The real meat-and-two-veg of Brexit will happen next week – next Tuesday is the deadline for a second vote in Parliament on Theresa May’s deal, and the subsequent days will see votes on no-deal Brexit and delaying Article 50.

However, there have been some developments over the weekend, so let’s have a very quick update.


May Offers Bribes For Votes*

*Although not explicitly, I must add. I don’t want to be sent to the Tower Of London for treason (that’s still a thing, right?).

Theresa May has created a £1.6bn fund for redistributing wealth to some of the poorer towns across the UK. In particular, this money will go to the north and the Midlands and will be sent out over the next six years.

  • MPs from across Labour and Conservative Parties have accused this of being a means to bribe Labour MPs who represent poorer, Leave-majority constituencies.
    • The accusation is that in exchange for more funding, Labour MPs might rebel against their party and vote for Theresa May’s deal next Tuesday.
    • It is worth noting that these funds are available even if the vote fails, however.
  • Most funds are directed to Labour-heavy areas, leading to accusations that it is also simply trying to buy support from Labour supporters.
  • Additionally, the amount of money that’s been offered has been widely ridiculed by MPs.
    • Ruth Smeeth (Lab, Stoke-on-Trent) called it “extraordinarily pathetic.”
    • The accusation is that national cuts to local funding generally vastly outweigh the offered funds, meaning that these towns will still be poorer overall.

Why is this important?

It suggests that May is starting to panic somewhat in what could be a vital week in gathering support for the vote on her deal. She will almost certainly need Labour defectors to get a majority and this new offer of funds for poorer efforts does smack slightly of underhand tactics to get support.

Speaking of support…

ERG Still Unhelpful Cretins

The ERG have laid out three ‘tests’ to any new deal that must be passed before they can support it. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is currently handling negotiations with the EU to make changes to the backstop before next Tuesday’s vote.

The tests call for a clear, legally-binding change to the backstop that unequivocally states that the UK will never be locked into it indefinitely – i.e. that it can only ever be temporary.

Sounds reasonable…

Yep. However, a change which fulfils these criteria is extremely unlikely to be accepted by the EU. The backstop must exist, they argue, to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, as they must protect EU member states – in this case, Ireland. Alternative solutions are being studied, but many around the negotiations are reported to be pessimistic about the outcome.

So this is basically just more blustering from the ERG. It is, however, still a sign of at least some form of conciliation, so even if their demands are highly unlikely to pass, it demonstrates more of a willingness to work with May to pass a deal.

And the importance?

As above, May desperately needs support for her deal. If she can get the Brexiteers in the ERG onside, she stands a much better chance of getting a vote through the House of Commons.

If she doesn’t, the circus of delaying Brexit begins, which would be catastrophic for her politically.

And Finally…

  • The antisemitism row continues in the Labour Party:
    • Deputy Leader Tom Watson has asked for complaints about antisemitism to be sent to him directly as he has lost faith in the party to handle it.
    • General Secretary Jennie Formby has said that this is unacceptable as it is not proper process. Formby is a close ally of Corbyn.
    • Watson has gone more and more rogue recently, looking likely to actively oppose Corbyn in the next few weeks. He has considerable support from moderate MPs.
  • Tony Blair has praised the courage of the MPs who left to form The Independent Group, but has said that he will remain a Labour Party member.
  • Jeremy Corbyn was egged as he visited a local Mosque. Reports say that he was “unharmed.” Presumably this is because the weapon of choice was an egg.

I predict this to be a slower week so will keep developments to a minimum in preparation for next week, which I shall henceforth refer to as:

The Brexit Ultimatum: Lies, Leverage, Stalemate, Histrionics, Idiocy and Tusk.

B.U.L.L.S.H.I.T.

I think it’s a fitting acronym.