“…And Breathe.” – A Reflection On 2019 So Far And What Comes Next

On Thursday the 11th of April, all of the UK’s MPs broke up for their Easter holibobs. They won’t return to sit in Parliament until the 23rd, and although some work (particularly Brexit-related) will continue over this period, the majority of our politicians will probably spend the time with their families, maybe even sneak a holiday in, and put their feet up.

It is tempting to see this news and say, “Oh, so you turn the country into a social and political quagmire then head off for a jolly before it’s fixed, eh? Thank you very much. Enjoy your sangrias in the Costa Del Sol, you bellends.”

However, this break, more than any other in recent history, is crucial. It is sometimes easy to forget that these people are human beings, flawed and imperfect (some far more than others), and the last few months have been exhausting for the public, let alone the politicians themselves.

After the EU’s ruling yesterday to extend Article 50 until the end of October, we are, finally, in a position to take a step back, take stock of the situation and regain our senses. The relentless, crushing pressure of the Brexit deadline has been eased, temporarily at least.

As things settle down, let’s take a moment to remember exactly what’s happened so far in 2019, think about why it matters and what lessons might be learned.


So What’s Actually Happened In 2019 So Far?

In short:

  1. The Government tried, and failed, to pass Theresa May’s deal three times, as it failed to get a majority in any of the votes.
  2. We have seen the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition join forces to try and create legislation.
  3. MPs from across the House have also joined forces to attempt to take control away from government and succeed, with both the indicative votes process and Yvette Cooper’s Bill being passed against the wishes of the government.
  4. We have seen the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, enforce a centuries-old rule that prevents the government from bringing the same vote back to Parliament if the motion itself hasn’t changed.
  5. A ‘no-deal’ Brexit has, for all intents and purposes, been taken off the table as a reasonable result of the referendum.
  6. And a new political party, the Independent Group / Change UK, has been formed by MPs rebelling against their original parties.

It is worth noting that every single one of these examples would, in normal circumstances, be a hugely significant political event. A new splinter party hasn’t been seen since the 1980s, the Speaker wielding so much power is unprecedented in modern times, and Parliament voting to take power away from government for the first time is a genuine piece of history.

And yet, this is Brexit. Despite their individual significance, the last few months have happened at such a breakneck speed that the true magnitude of what any of these events might mean has been lost.

Instead, the overarching push/pull tension around what is at the very core of Brexit has been all encompassing – Leave vs. Remain, 52% vs. 48%.


That’s All Very Well And Good, But What Does It All Mean?

Let’s look at the wider Brexit context. In December, May announced that she had formulated a deal with the EU and would be holding a vote for it in Parliament. Remember: before the start of 2019, it looked as though Brexit was almost a done deal.

However, things for May went so far South that she found herself in the political equivalent of Antarctica, huddled for warmth with the pompous Emperor penguins of the ERG and slowly freezing to death.

She decided to delay December’s vote after the discovery by MPs of the issues surrounding the backstop, having previously promised she wouldn’t delay it. However, when the vote was finally brought to Parliament, the issues that plagued the withdrawal deal meant that it was ripped to pieces by MPs – she lost by 230 votes, the largest defeat in modern history.

Then, she kept trying to ram it down Parliament’s throats, resulting in Bercow’s ruling to protect Parliament from what were, essentially, bullying tactics. Slowly, but surely, May alienated everyone within her own party – the moderates by refusing to make Brexit any less severe, and the hard-right Brexiteers by refusing to push for a no-deal Brexit.

Because of her disastrous idea to hold a General Election in 2017, she lost her majority – her own vision of Brexit could not and would not be passed because she didn’t have the numbers for legislation to be approved without issue. Additionally, Parliament was utterly split down the middle – to compound matters, she has endured countless rebellions from her own MPs, who vote against her and further reduce her chances of success. Even despite her offer to resign, she still failed to get the deal passed.

It’s not just the Conservatives who are split, but Labour too – many Labour MPs represent Leave-voting constituencies and, despite their reservations, many of those MPs feel obligated to see Brexit through. Others simply cannot bring themselves to vote for something that will make their constituents poorer.

It is worth noting how abysmal Labour’s strategy has been – those Labour MPs who are torn could have been brought into line by any kind of decent leadership and a real opposition could have been formed. Any coherent opposition party could and should have seized power from this calamitous Conservative government long ago, yet Corbyn’s total refusal to take a definitive stance on Brexit has only contributed to the deadlock.

So, something had to give. Thankfully, the EU granted us two extensions to Article 50 to allow us to sort our issues out. But the formation of the Independent Group was the first retracing of our footsteps back to reason and rational debate, rather than increasingly extremist views holding all the power.

After TIG’s creation in February, if moderate MPs in both Labour and the Conservative Party were told to vote in a way they didn’t want to, they had a viable alternative. They could just defect. Their parties’ leaderships had to start to cater for them, as opposed to kowtow to the more extreme wings. TIG’s creation marked the beginning of the worst levels of conflict in Parliament over the last few months, where tensions were at their highest, but also revealed the first signs of optimism.

May, for some reason, continuously favoured the views of the ERG (probably because they were the ones who had already tried to depose her once before), which gave legitimacy to the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Francois, the Dick Dastardly and Muttley of British politics. However, after TIG’s formation, she was slowly pulled back into the centre by a new, stronger, cross-party group of moderate MPs.

As time has progressed, the far-right fuckwits have slowly demonstrated how tunnel-vision their vision for Brexit is and how little they will concede – May’s third and final attempt to pass her deal was their last chance to vote for a hard-ish Brexit in all likelihood. Most ERG members decided it was still too soft and refused to budge.

This was the turning point for May – she realised that her deal would never be passed because of the zealots at the fringes of her own party. The last couple of weeks have been largely about trying to find concensus, even turning to the Labour Party to find common ground (much to the self-righteous fury of the ERG dafty brigade). There is nothing for her in the ERG anymore – the only way she can find a solution is to abandon them.

It seems as though, at long last, she has done.

As MPs leave for their break, they leave with a glimmer of hope waiting for them when they return – a lifeline granted by the EU, and a Prime Minister who seems to be actively seeking a way to move forward, now that she knows that her deal is dead and buried.

RIP deal. At long last.


So… Bearing All That In Mind, What Happens Next?

When MPs return, Brexit will begin anew – despite the new deadline being just under six months away, the dangers of running down the clock are now all too apparent. Brexit will be back with a vengeance.

However, I think things will be different. The spirit of compromise is the new order of the day. While we may not see anything actually come of the cross-party talks, the feeling from both sides is that something constructive is being sought.

If the talks do fail, May has said that the government will hold its own form of indicative votes, but this time they will be binding. There are caveats to this worth noting – they might not be free votes, and the government will set out the agenda of what gets voted on. They could decide to not put ‘Remain’ options like revoking Article 50 or a second referendum on the voting paper.

However, amendments would probably change that. The momentum behind a second referendum is gathering pace, with some very prominent Brexiteers like Nick Ferrari and Peter Oborne recently switching sides to Remain. Even if May felt she couldn’t table a second referendum, an amendment might bring it before Parliament anyway.

As time has dragged wearingly on, a truth seems to have been slowly revealed: the Brexit that Leavers want is unachievable, but an achievable Brexit (like a soft Brexit) is completely undesirable. 

Remaining in the EU is, for the first time, as likely as leaving.

Local elections are being held in early May and European elections in July. These will be the first time the British people has had the chance to vote on their politics since the 2017 election. They may well end up showing both Labour and especially the Tories how deep the hole they have dug themselves has become.

Before all else, however, is this: the last few months have been the worst, politically, in a generation. Many governmental processes have failed, disastrously, and there will be an inquest at the end of all of this that could very well see criminal convictions handed out.

But, for the first time in nearly three years, something close to a positive plan seems to be formulating.

If a holiday can help nurture that sentiment, then to all the MPs on their breaks I simply say: Put your feet up. We’ll need you rested for the months to come.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but now we are looking to expand our readership and our voice in the industry – exciting times!

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

  • Following Between the Lines on social media or by email (on desktop – to the right of this page, or on mobile – scroll below, after the comments section);
  • Subscribing to Inbox Insight, our newsletter on important days in politics;
  • Or giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help in advance!

Normal Service Is Resumed

Ahhh. There we are.

It’s been a bit unnerving this week. If you ignore the more radical wings of the Tory party, the majority of the news stories around Brexit have been overwhelmingly positive. A real effort to try to find cross-party consensus from the Labour and Conservative leaders, Theresa May acting responsibly, laws being passed to safeguard against a no-deal Brexit…

It was almost as though everyone decided, at one minute to midnight, to act like grown-ups. Maybe, just maybe, this wouldn’t be a disaster.

However, with five seconds to go, one man has decided non – let’s try to ruin everything.

Emmanuel Macron, ladies and gentlemen.

Merci fucking beaucoup.


Wait, What? I Thought You Said He Was A Leading Light In Politics, A New Centrist Messiah In A–

Shut up.

But–

Just… shut up.

…What Happened?

Theresa May appeared before an emergency summit of the European Council yesterday, the day after she met with the French and German leaders, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, to try and pre-empt any issues at the Council meeting. It was meant to go smoothly.

May was asking for an extension to Article 50.

  • She asked for a short extension to the 30th of June in order to give her time to pass a withdrawal agreement;
  • But she probably knew that the EU would almost certainly refuse this and grant her an extension to the end of the year instead – Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission, wrote to the 27 member states’ leaders to say that this was the best course of action;
  • She also assumed, as per Tusk’s letter, that the extension would be flexible – if she could organise Brexit before then, the UK would leave when they could.

While the politics of her having to ask for a doomed-to-fail short extension solely to placate her moronic ERG party members back home was ridiculous, Tusk gave us a lifeline. We could leave when/if we found a plan, but were also hypothetically given the breathing space to try to find an alternative if we wanted to.

The planned extension to the end of the year would grant the UK enough time to hold a General Election, a second referendum, or at least enough time to try and figure out a rational way out of the Brexit impasseIf we found a way out, we would leave.

The plan was a tiny, shining nugget of common sense in the sifting pan of murky bollocks that is this whole Brexit fiasco.

All we needed was for the 27 EU member states to agree to it. Rumours were plentiful that the majority did. Theresa May pitched her plan to the other leaders and, by contrast to last time she appeared before them, they were supposedly quite impressed by her. The general consensus was that most member states weren’t exactly happy about an extension, let alone a long one, but realised how necessary it was.

We were so close.

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, refused to agree to a long extension.

He insisted that the deadline be May’s requested 30th of June, which is not enough time to achieve anything productive in the UK assuming that no deal is passed through government. As all 27 leaders needed to unanimously decide on the extension, his refusal to budge was a death knell to the concept of a long extension to the end of the year.

In the end, his stubborn refusal to allow a long extension resulted in a ‘fudge’ – a final offer from the EU of an extension to the 31st of October, with a review on proceedings in June.

May, bound by law, accepted it.

Us at BTL HQ.


WHY?! WHY ON EARTH WOULD HE DO THAT?!

Look at what’s happening in France. Riots in the streets, les gilets-jaunes waging war against Macron and his policies, and his approval rating absolutely bombing. Macron wants to stamp his authority as a legitimate leader, and being firm with the old frenemies across the Channel could be seen as a means of doing so.

However, all he has done is make the delay utterly pointless.

The delay isn’t long enough to hold a second referendum, despite momentum increasing in favour of one, and nor is it short enough to put some time-pressure on the fatuous, imbecilic dickhead-department of the ERG to fall in line. If they did, they might help to ensure an orderly Brexit as opposed to the economic catastrophe that would be no-deal.

Throughout this whole ordeal, the EU has acted rationally, calmly and diplomatically – noticeably at odds with May’s consistent inability to demonstrate anything close to leadership. This was the first evening where they failed, although to watch Donald Tusk at the press conference after the announcement was to see a deeply disappointed man.

Throughout everything, Tusk has continuously been a friend to the UK, trying as hard as he can to give us the space we need to fix our own mess and defending us at every turn.

Sadly, his hand was forced by Macron’s show of “strength.”


Oh For God’s Sake. What The Hell Happens Now?

We have found a new road down which to kick the proverbial can. The nightmare continues, and we do not even have enough time to explore all the options we can. The only good news is that this was not specifically said to be the final extension – if (when) we get to October with nothing new, we can most likely extend again.

In the interim, however, May will talk to the Commons tomorrow and will face an immediate rebellion from a huge number of her own backbenchers. She will have to fight tooth and nail to remain in place as Prime Minister, but will probably be ousted before long. This will open the way for a hard Brexiteer to come in and make matters far, far worse.

Talks will continue between her cabinet and Labour, but there are no signs of any kind of agreement being made.

Elections will almost certainly be held for the European Parliament in June. It will take a massive, concerted effort by the UK electorate to prevent hard-right, Brexiteer parties from making massive gains in these elections. If elected, they will be incredibly disruptive to the EU and could result in sanctions being posed upon the UK… which will lead to further anger from Leavers.

Nothing concrete will likely be achieved by October, and we will have another emergency summit two weeks before the deadline of the 29th to ask for another extension.

On a day where the densest body of mass in the universe was photographed for the first time, politicians from all sides did their very best to embody that unimaginable denseness as an homage. After all the optimism this week, we’re finally back to square one: uncertainty, fear, economic decline and a total erosion of belief in our political system.

Ahhh. It’s good to be back.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but now we are looking to expand our readership and our voice in the industry – exciting times!

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

  • Following Between the Lines on social media or by email (on desktop – to the right of this page, or on mobile – scroll below, after the comments section);
  • Subscribing to Inbox Insight, our newsletter on important days in politics;
  • Or giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help in advance!

 

 

…Is This It?

Yesterday, I wrote that very little had happened on Monday despite this being the crunch week for Brexit. No advancements in the cross-party talks between the Conservatives and Labour, no definitive answers as to what strategy we might employ like a referendum or election, no discernible clue as to what might happen next…

So Tuesday would surely be the day, right? Finally, the previous three years would come to a head and carnage would ensue.

The House of Commons would finally descend into an all-out fight to death. Theresa May would beat Jacob Rees-Mogg to death with his own briefcase. Corbyn would be stabbed 42 times by his own backbenchers (“et tu, Watson?”). John Bercow, jaunty tie wrapped around his head like Rambo’s bandana, would cry “ORDERRR” as he bludgeoned as many MPs to death as possible with the House’s ceremonial mace.

Something had to happen, surely? Everything has been building up to this. Remember: there’s less than three days to go until we leave with no deal if the EU don’t grant us an extension. Surely this would be, at long last, the final battle. Let’s Game of Thrones this shit – Winter is here, bitches..

Except… nope.

No fire, no brimstone. No fury, no crumbling House of Commons. No doomsday. No apocalypse.

Just Theresa May, and I write this as incredulously as you might read it, acting in a forward-thinking, responsible way. 

WHAT IS HAPPENING?! THIS ISN’T BREXIT!


Where’s The Destruction I Was Promised?!

Hang on, hang on… it may happen yet, we’re only just starting hump day. There’s plenty of time left.

In the meantime, however, things have actually become quite sensible. From the people that matter, at least.

Theresa May did a short tour of Europe yesterday ahead of today’s meeting of the European Council, where they will either deny (highly unlikely) or grant (please sweet Jesus please) the UK a long extension. She met with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, the German and French leaders, to discuss today’s meeting and make sure that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. It was welcomed by Merkel and Macron, as it allowed them to have an open discussion with May ahead of the meeting tomorrow.

The last time she appeared before the European Commission, lest we forget, she did so badly that Macron started the night thinking she had a 10% chance of passing her withdrawal agreement, then after hearing her speak reduced that chance to 5%.

It was a sensible, rational and productive idea to ensure tomorrow goes as smoothly as possible. As such, Donald Tusk (the European Commission President) has written a letter to the leaders of the 27 member states asking them to grant a long, flexible extension to the UK:

  • For no longer than a year;
  • With an option to leave before then if the UK agrees on a form of Brexit;
  • So long as the UK will hold elections for the European Parliament in June if they haven’t left before then
  • And promise to behave themselves if we remain a part of the EU until it leaves (i.e. not vote down budget plans, any major pieces of strategic legislation etc.).

Additionally, even though there are clearly some major stumbling blocks in the way, the cross-party talks between the Tories and Labour have continued to try to find a way out of this impasse. The rhetoric around the talks has been guarded and not entirely optimistic, but has at least had a tone of pragmatism – if a deal can be found, then both sides sound as though they are really trying as hard as they can to find it.

So far, so sensible, right? Tomorrow might actually end up being something of a formality rather than a tense, nervous affair – the EU grants us an extension, we use the time to find a rational new approach to Brexit either through consensus or otherwise, bish bash bosh, we walk off into the sunset.

We’re not entirely happy as a nation, but we’re a damn sight happier than we might have been.


Good Lord. So Everyone’s Actually Acting Like Adults, Now?

Argh.

It’s hard to convey how deeply I sighed when I began to write the answer to this.

No, they’re not.

First of all, a vote was held in Parliament on the Cooper Bill that passed into law yesterday – the one that gave May a legal obligation to extend Article 50 rather than crash out with no deal on Friday. The vote was basically a further expression of Parliamentary will rather than anything binding, admittedly, but even so, the fact that 97 Conservative MPs voted against the idea of extending Article 50 in favour of no deal is absolutely staggering.

By which I mean it is, by any conceivable definition of ‘entirely’, entirely fucking moronic. No-deal has been voted down by Parliament, is almost unanimously considered to be the economic equivalent of hacking your leg off after you stub your toe, and is representative of a total collapse in the ability of our elected representatives to rule properly.

Yet nearly 100 MPs voted in favour of it.

Then you add in Mark Francois, ERG attack-dog (by which I mean overly-aggressive terrier) and proudly ex-Territorial Army, and his statement yesterday.

Holy shit, what a statement.

So we’re clear, this is the definition of perfidious:

“Deceitful and untrustworthy.”

Sounds about right, from what we’ve seen so far.

While there are definite concerns about the EU trying to become more involved in the workings of its member states and trying to overextend its reach, one fact does stand out:

The British, as a prominent EU member, have constantly fought back against such ideas, and other EU states thank them for doing so. We have the power to stop this already, yet are voting ourselves out of that very position of power.

Which is what Mark Francois wants. The man with a French name is desperate to stop French-led EU integration, despite the fact that we are already doing it.

This odious fuckwit has, unfortunately, become a widely-recognised face of Brexit – a misinformed, self-aggrandising, General Melchett-wannabe vision of mansplaining made flesh.

And he is not the only one.

Sadly, despite the progress we seem to be making, it seems as though there are still a number of prominent politicians who absolutely refuse to listen to fact, common sense or responsibility to the public and instead chase a damaging pipe dream to further their own careers.

We can only hope that one day, when an inquest into this fiasco is held, they will be held to account.


So It’s Not Exactly Sunshine and Rainbows?

No. When May comes back with another extension offer on Thursday, and indeed at PMQs tomorrow, the far-right lunatics of her party will do their best to eviscerate her.

However, one promising concept is that if the ERG and their more cretinous wing (the “headbangers”, as the media calls them) try to topple May and come up short (again – they tried once already in December) then they might finally, finally, be confined to the loony bin at the fringes of political discussion.

Or they might take power. This is Brexit, after all.

For now, at least, we move on to tomorrow. With, for the first time in what seems like a lifetime, genuine optimism.

…Ish.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but now we are looking to expand our readership and our voice in the industry – exciting times!

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

  • Following Between the Lines on social media or by email (on desktop – to the right of this page, or on mobile – scroll below, after the comments section);
  • Subscribing to Inbox Insight, our newsletter on important days in politics;
  • Or giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help in advance!

The Calm Before The Sh*t-Storm

Yesterday was a very strange day in what is, supposedly, the week where Brexit is decided. Perhaps it’s the fact that most Brexit commentators these days are profoundly jaded after the wall-to-wall, incessant series of monumental catastrophes that happened over the last few weeks…. Now that some real, constructive dialogue happens, we all lose our minds a bit.

“WHERE IS THE HEADLINE WHERE THERESA MAY DENOUNCES CAPITALISM?” we cry. “WHEN WILL SHE ADMIT THAT SHE IS ACTUALLY A SLEEPER CELL FOR THE KREMLIN?”

Instead, what we got yesterday were a few rational tidbits from government, and the news that the Cooper Bill, finally, was passed into law at around midnight. The day itself was almost worryingly uneventful, even though the Bill’s passing is sort-of (but also not sort-of) a big deal. Safe in the knowledge that I’m coining a huge cliché:

It’s quiet.

Too quiet.


Wait… So Nothing Happened Yesterday?

By Brexit’s standards, yeah – nothing happened. Until late on, at least.

May announced that she was travelling to meet with Angela Merkel today, as well as a number of European head honchos, in order to ascertain whether or not they would grant her a long extension if she asked for one. Lest we forget, a long extension is not assured – she will need all 27 EU member states to unanimously agree to one before it’s granted, and many will ask why she needs one.

While important, this wasn’t ground-breaking – May was getting the grovelling in early before being forced to do so in front of all of the EU Council on Wednesday. This was a litmus test of where she stood before it really mattered.

Aside from that, the only other real newsworthy story of the day was that talks to find a consensus on a Brexit deal between the Conservatives and Labour continued in the late afternoon. Labour appear to be taking the talks as seriously as possible and not as a means of political gain. Arguably, this is largely because Sir Keir Starmer, one of very few people involved in Brexit who isn’t clinically insane, is trying to find a workable solution. The Conservatives, however, are supposedly refusing to budge.

I know very little about negotiation, but inviting someone to negotiate with you and then immediately telling them that you will concede the square root of sod all would probably seem to be, at the very least, acting somewhat in bad faith.

By which I mean it’s completely sodding pointless.

However, Labour remain convinced that there is a deal to be done, and today was the first day where a mention of a “confirmatory vote” (or a Second Referendum) was touted as a definitive Labour stance. For Remainers, this is good news.

At the time of writing, no breakthrough has been found, however.


So Why Is This Cooper Bill So Important?

Good question – it might be vitally important, but will most likely be completely irrelevant.

What?

Yeah. Let me explain.

The Bill was passed in record time through the House of Commons and the House of Lords – a legally binding Bill such as this usually takes weeks or even months of checks and balances through both houses before it is passed. More can be found on this here.

So what does the Bill do?

  • It legally takes the power away from Theresa May and instead allows Parliament to say what length of extension May must ask the EU for;
  • It ensures that May cannot legally allow a no-deal Brexit this Friday;
  • *****It means that any extension granted by the EU must be voted on by Parliament.***** SEE BELOW FOR CORRECTION

Ok… So what does that all mean?

May promised that we would not crash out with no deal this Friday, which we would have done had we not secured an extension from the EU. However, now that the Bill has passed, she must actively try to seek an extension, which she would probably have done anyway, but now she would be breaking the law if she didn’t.

Given that May has been more slippery than an eel at a lube factory up to this point, this seems prudent.

It also means that May might have to go back on her letter to the EU last week asking for an extension to June 30th – instead, she might have to ask for longer if that’s what Parliament decides today.

Either way, it sounds as though the EU is pretty fed up with the UK’s failure to find a solution – they would probably have rejected another short extension outright, and instead offered the “Flextension.” It is highly likely that whether it was May or Parliament asking for an extension, the EU would have set its own agenda out anyway.

So this is not all that much of a revelation, aside from the fact that it’s now set in law. Whether the Bill had passed or not, the UK still required the EU to grant an extension.

*******But the last point is something worth noting – now, instead of accepting it herself, May must ask Parliament if they agree with the extension the EU has set. While it is almost certain that they will, there is a caveat – if they don’t, then what does May do now? She is legally bound to prevent crashing out without a deal…

Which means that she would probably have to Revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit. This is the first time that this might even be countenanced as an option.

But it probably won’t happen, so why speculate? 

…Because speculating is fun, that’s why.******

CORRECTION:

Just to illustrate how insane Brexit is and how quickly things can change, there was actually an amendment made to the Cooper Bill at the last minute – The PM does not now need to get Parliament’s approval for an EU offer, but can make the call herself. 

However, there is a very slight chance that pressure from within her own party might make her refuse the offer from the EU… and her only legal option in that instance is to Revoke Article 50.

That is about as likely as Kim Kardashian joining Mensa, however.


So Nothing Much Happened… But What Did Happen Might Be Vitally Important To What Happens Next?

Welcome to Brexit.

I Wish I Was Dead.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but now we are looking to expand our readership and our voice in the industry – exciting times!

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

  • Following Between the Lines by filling in the form to the right;
  • Subscribing to Inbox Insight, our newsletter on important days in politics;
  • Or giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help in advance!

Flextension, Flexit Or Fluck Up?

Well, we’ve already said this once before, yet here we are again. It’s crunch time, the end of line, or the curtain call for Brexit…

Or it might just be the beginning of an interminable intermission that goes on until Christmas.

We just don’t know, folks. ISN’T IT EXCITING!?

Regardless of how tedious Brexit has become, this is an incredibly important week. After all this time, all of this stress and all of this anxiety, we will finally have some kind of longish-term answer to what happens with Brexit by Friday:

We will either have a long extension until the end of the year, with the option to leave before then if we manage to sort our Brexit-befuddled brains out, or we will crash out Europe with no-deal. 

The fall-out from either option will be utter carnage.

I’ll get the popcorn.


So What Is Actually Happening This Week?

Monday & Tuesday

Today and tomorrow will see the government and the House of Commons try to figure out what on earth will happen this week. 

  • There could be some consensus formed from the cross-party talks between the Conservatives and Labour and a new deal created that could unite Parliament. This is highly unlikely as talks broke down last week.
  • A hypothetical deal could be put to the House for a vote, or if no deal is created then a vote might be held on alternative strategies like the Indicative Votes. This time they would be binding, however.
  • Additionally, the Cooper Bill could pass through the House of Lords and get Royal Assent, which means that Parliament would force May to choose to ask the EU for an extension date they have chosen, rather than stick to May’s choice for 30th of June (which will be rejected by the EU anyway).

Wednesday

May will travel to an emergency summit of the European Council to ask for another extension. Yes, it is getting as embarrassing as it sounds.

Even if a cross-party deal gained a majority in the House of Commons earlier in the week, meaning we have a confirmed Brexit plan, May would still have to ask the EU for a short extension in order to pass the legislation.

If, as expected, there is no deal organised, the EU will almost certainly reject a short extension and instead offer May a “Flextension.” While a diplomatically-sound concept, it is burdened by the having a nickname that is the stupidest and most deeply-irritating port-manteau since “Brexit.” Created by Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission, the extension would be until the end of 2019, but would also allow us to leave at any other time before then if British thumbs are pulled from their rectums and we manage to finally sort out a way to achieve Brexit.

It is worth noting, also, that the EU has previously stated that it would not grant a long extension without a clear indication from the UK that it was going to use the time for something specific like a General Election or Second Referendum – May would need to use whatever was the outcome of Monday or Tuesday’s votes to secure a long extension, assuming a plan was actually passed.

Either way, Wednesday will be horrible for May.


Thursday

If the Cooper Bill passes, the House of Commons will have to vote to ratify whatever May comes back with. It would be pretty bizarre for Parliament to reject a long extension, given that it’s what most of the MPs in the House are asking for, but this is Brexit.

Down is up, left is right and the ERG are for some reason sabotaging their own ambitions to leave the EU.


Friday

If the EU has refused to grant a long extension or Parliament fails to ratify it, we could crash out of the EU with no-deal.


Anything Else We Need To Know?

If it looks as though no-deal might be the eventual outcome, Parliament may decide to Revoke Article 50 rather than crash out. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, told the BBC that Labour would think long and hard about revoking rather than leaving, as workers livelihoods could be irrevocably damaged by the fallout of a no-deal Brexit. As the government currently does not have a majority, only a few rebellions would be needed for this outcome to occur…

Another referendum is likely to be voted on again in some form on Monday or Tuesday. If a consensus is found, Corbyn is under huge amounts of pressure from the rest of his party to ensure that a referendum if promised on the final deal – the deal vs Remain. However, if no consensus is found, it will likely be an option on the binding votes that the government will bring to Parliament – probably as an amendment, as the government has refused to countenance a second referendum and is unlikely to now.

The Labour Party has been hit by both barrels by The Times today, which has exposed just how serious and deep-rooted the anti-Semitic issues within the party are. The Jewish Labour Movement has passed a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, which is a huge blow for their perception and political clout.

Good grief. Whatever Happened to “OHHH JEREMY CORRRRBYN?”

I know. While Brexit may dominate the headlines this week, this story will not go away anytime soon.

For now, though, we enter the Brexit Endgame, Pt. II.

Good luck everyone.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but now we are looking to expand our readership and our voice in the industry – exciting times!

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

  • Following Between the Lines by filling in the form to the right;
  • Subscribing to Inbox Insight, our newsletter on important days in politics;
  • Or giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help in advance!

Weekly Wrap-Up, 29/03 – 04/04

Good Lawdy what a week. We had streakers on Monday, the Prime Minister asking Jeremy Corbyn for help on Tuesday, a split vote in Parliament on Wednesday, and a House of Lords debate that was more tetchy than a Torquay Tea Room with no biscuits left on Thursday, as well as the perfect metaphor for Brexit, pictured.

At least, this time, there was no sitting of Parliament announced for today. The madness can, thankfully, be put to one side for a few days.

Or at least it would have been until May steamed in this morning and ruined everything, again.

Let’s just review what the hell happened this week, clock off, and hit the pub, eh? Sound like a plan?


Monday

Monday was a Mad day in politics, and yes, the capitalisation is deliberate. The political pirates of Sir Oliver Letwin, Yvette Cooper and Dominic Grieve commandeered Theresa May’s leaky vessel and steered it into uncharted waters. It was the second day of indicative votes, after the previous Wednesday’s had failed to deliver a majority.

Lest we forget, last week was the week that saw May bring her deal back for one last vote on the Friday, having promised to resign if it passed, and then somewhat predictably lose by a comfortable margin. 

At this stage, I think she’ll be Prime Minister when I die, and I’m 28. Although I am quite accident-prone, so maybe that’s not as long as we might hope.

ANYWAY.

The indicative votes were supposed to be our way out of this mess, and debates raged on for hours and hours. To alleviate the never-ending oratorial sludge of the afternoon, some climate-change protestors got naked and glued their buttocks to the viewing gallery window in Parliament.

Enough jokes have been made about the bare-faced cheek of it all, but I will just add that it was a welcome change of pace to have the arseholes in Parliament actually be up-front about something for once.

Eventually, no majority was found for any option, including a referendum or a soft Brexit, because mostly Conservative MPs abstained. This caused Nick Boles, architect of the well-intentioned-yet-flawed Customs Union 2.0 plan, to step down from the Conservative Party in disgust.

He has been having quite a bit of fun ever since.

Lol. It is actually a very important point, especially as Gibb was also in charge of content on the BBC during the referendum. Hidden agenda, much?

Anyway, there was a startling lack of any kind of consensus after Monday. It was pretty depressing.


Tuesday

The MOACM. The Mother Of All Cabinet Meetings. For hours, the poor sods were stuck in a room with Theresa May at No. 10, phones confiscated to prevent leaks, arguing about which glass shard-laden dirt-track to drive the Brexit bandwagon down next. No-one knew what to expect.

Would it be a General Election they announced? Or another meaningful vote? Or would they just hand the reigns to the Queen and say “There you go, Marj. You bloody fix it”?

No-one really predicted what May actually did, which was offer an olive branch dipped in hydrochloric acid to Jeremy Corbyn, asking him to meet with her to find an approach to Brexit that all of Parliament could agree on. It was actually an ingeniously obvious trap: if he refused, he ruined Brexit if it failed, and if he accepted, he helped ruin Brexit if it failed. In one fell swoop, she dragged Labour into the mess she’d made, which, even though it is appallingly cynical politicking, is something of a blame-game masterstroke.

She also promised that no-deal would be ruled out for next Friday and we would ask for an extension to Article 50. Combine that with her new alliance with Corbyn and the Brexitophile wing of the Conservatives went YouTube Comments Section-levels of frothing-at-the-mouth bonkers.

Surely she wouldn’t survive this? Surely the talks would fail?


Wednesday

Well, they didn’t fail immediately, but they certainly didn’t succeed either.

The old adversaries sat together and tried to thrash out a plan. It didn’t come up with results, but both camps said the talks were productive. This is political code-speak to say that they didn’t kill each other, so it could have been worse.

Over in the Commons, meanwhile, all hell broke loose. First of all, a motion for next Monday to hold the next round of indicative votes was split by 310 Ayes to 310 Noes, resulting in John Bercow having to rule in favour of the motion failing (a longer explanation as to why can be found here). Such a ruling hadn’t happened since 1993, and this meant no more indicative votes on Monday.

Or, at least, Letwin’s rogue votes – the government has said that it will bring its own version to the House of Commons on Monday. At this stage, though, the choices will probably be May’s deal, no-deal, a referendum on May’s deal or no-deal, revocation of our collective will to live or a return to serfdom. 

(Deep breaths. You can get through this.)

Next, the Pirates of the Cooperibbean (Jesus that was forced, sorry everyone) put a bill before the House that addressed May’s conciliatory speech from the day before and said, “Nice try, but frankly you’ve pulled this stunt before and we trust you about as much as a fart after a chilli-eating competition.”

Essentially, the bill sought to make it law that the UK government’s official position was to ask to extend Article 50, rule out no-deal next Friday, and allow Parliament, not May, to choose how long we ask the EU to extend Article 50 by.

What was extraordinary was that this was a bill, not a motion – in order to be passed and become legally binding, it had to go through three rounds of votes in the Commons. These usually span across weeks or months, but Cooper got them done in SIX HOURS.

In order to be ratified, they then had to head to the House of Lords…


Thursday

Where it spent the entire day being filibustered. Filibustering is a term used to describe a means of blocking laws being passed by talking non-stop until the deadline has passed – thankfully, in the UK, there are measures in place to stop this. However, after a full day of debate and at least 13 filibusters from pro-Brexit Lords being defeated, the Cooper Bill is still not passed – it will be picked up again on Monday, unless today’s intervention changes things. More on that below.

Back in the House of Commons, because apparently the Lord himself is a satirist, the Commons itself had be closed mid-debate on a tax rebate bill because of a leak in the roof and water pouring into the chamber.

Parliament is both metaphorically and literally falling apart.

Also, according to Robert Peston, ITV’s smug-yet-knowledgable political editor, there were rumours late in the day of a pact being made between May and Corbyn’s negotiating team. The two leaders themselves weren’t actually there, and just for the sheer scandal of it I can only hope it’s because they were in a Travelodge suite somewhere making terrible life-decisions.

The rumours are, according to the man himself, that the negotiators agreed a plan:

  • The UK would remain in a customs union;
  • Have a “dynamic” alignment with the EU on workers’ rights;
  • And Parliament would be asked whether this plan should be put up as an option vs. Remain in a second referendum.

If true, that is massive.


Yikes. So What Comes Next?

Despite all of the work on the Cooper Bill, May has sidelined them this morning by getting in ahead of the bill’s passing and asking the EU for an extension of Article 50 to June 30th. 

WHY DO WE EVEN BOTHER

I don’t know. Just when you think something sensible comes along that might actually help things, May just storms off ahead and switches the tracks, and steers the Brexit train back towards oblivion.

Thankfully, it looks as though Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has seen though this ruse – May has asked for a short extension knowing she won’t get one, because asking for a long one would be political suicide. Rumour has it that Tusk will refuse this and instead offer a ‘flexible’ extension to the end of the year, with the option for the UK to leave long before that if they get their house in order. However, there are some major caveats:

  • What happens with the European Parliament elections? Will we vote in them and then leave before the Parliament even sits in July?
  • Will the 27 EU member states allow a long extension unanimously? Much rests on the ability of the Conservative/Labour cross-party talks finding a clear strategy to move forward and us demonstrating we have a plan that isn’t dig our thumbs more firmly up our bottoms.

At this stage, though, we are working with hypotheticals the likes of which we cannot comprehend. For all we know, Chris Grayling will be Prime Minister in two weeks.

And the thought of that makes me feel physically sick.

Have a good weekend everyone. Resolve anything you have left outstanding on your conscience, settle your debts and be close to your families. Next week, we go nuclear.

It’s deadline day, Mk. II.


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but now we are looking to expand our readership and our voice in the industry – exciting times!

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

  • Following Between the Lines by filling in the form to the right;
  • Subscribing to Inbox Insight, our newsletter on important days in politics;
  • Or giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help in advance!

Help Me Obi-Wan Corbyni, You’re My Only Hope

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Lol just kidding, it was yesterday in the festering sewage dump of politics that is Westminster.

Theresa May called on Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) to meet with her and thrash out a deal to solve Brexit. Given that she is a life-long Conservative Party member and he is a self-confessed Marxist, this was about as surprising as Yoda and Emperor Palpatine sitting down together over tea to try and thrash out this whole “Star Wars” snafu. (That’s the last of the references, promise.)

It was an extremely tetchy day in the House of Commons, too. There were resignations, MPs both failing and succeeding to take more control away from government, and even a vote receiving a 50:50 split, which hadn’t happened since 1993.

With the Brexit deadline fast approaching (…again), developments are starting to happen at breakneck speed.


Sounds Like Yesterday Was A Bit Of A Rollercoaster…

As with all things Brexit these days, the day was a messy mix of being incredibly dull but interspersed with some big sparks of excitement.

First up, the meeting of the (rather dysfunctional) minds. On Tuesday evening, after her marathon Cabinet meeting, May had called for Corbyn to meet with her to try and find a united strategy for Brexit that the House of Commons could rally around. This heavily implied that she was turning away from her hard-right, ERG, no-deal Conservative MPs for support, and was seeking a softer, cross-party consensus instead.

As expected, a Party leader abandoning her own MPs in favour of the enemy went down like Hugo Rifkind’s hypothetical cheese submarine: very, very badly.

Brexiteers were furious, going as blue in the face as their promised passports, and two ministers resigned over the course of the day. Both were relatively junior, and May has thus far managed to avoid a high-profile resignation from her cabinet, but it can only be a matter of time. The ERG members are now plotting on how to remove May and prevent a soft Brexit, but it is worth noting that if May decides to try and grow Labour support anyway, their votes may not be as important to her – she might get a majority from elsewhere…

Regardless of what the talks did to her party, very little was actually achieved by them. Both sides called them “constructive,” but reports followed that there was some dismay at how far apart they were in terms of finding common ground. However, it was extremely unlikely for discussions to succeed at the first attempt.

Meanwhile, the House of Commons was about as exciting as a proctologist’s waiting room. But then, all of a sudden, the swashbuckling rebel MPs’ agenda, led by Captain Cooper and first-mate Letwin, was brought before the House.

Things went a bit mental.

  • First up was Indicative Votes, PT. III, or at least the planning of them. The rebels wanted the House to approve another round of votes on Monday, and to achieve this by taking timetabling away from government (as they have the last two times). However, whereas the last two attempts won by reasonable majorities, this time resulted in 310 for the Ayes and 310 for the Noes – a split, for the first time in 25 years.
    • The Speaker, John Bercow (the small angry man who shouts OARDURRRR), normally doesn’t vote because, even though he is an MP, his role is supposed to be impartial. In cases like this he will cast the deciding vote, but is obligated to maintain the status quo.
    • As such, he voted against the motion, so there will not be indicative votes on Monday, unless something changes.

 

  • Then came Cooper’s Bill against no-deal. Whereas many of these motions and amendments that we have seen recently are non-binding, this one was – if passed, it would be made law. The Bill made it the legal default for the Prime Minister to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50 rather than leave without a deal next Friday.
    • In order for a Bill, not a motion, to pass, it must go through three rounds of votes in the House of Commons, then be ratified by the House of Lords, then receive Royal Assent (sign-off from Queenie). This usually takes weeks, or even months. Cooper pushed for her Bill to have all three Commons votes in less than 6 hours.
    • It passed the first two rounds of votes and various amendments that tried to limit its power were defeated. The Bill, unamended, received its third and final vote at 11.15pm. It passed by one vote. 

Blimey. That All Sounds Significant.

Again, this is Brexit we’re talking about. It sort of is, but sort of isn’t.

May and Corbyn’s Talks

The talks are significant in what they represent, which is a total divergence from the usual Punch and Judy politics of British democracy. Normally, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will be naturally opposed to one another’s policies, yet here they are trying to thrash out a joint one. However, it is highly unlikely that a resolution will be found, so in terms of overall impact they probably won’t be very significant at all.

More significant is the effect on the parties – as above, the ERG and hard-right Conservatives are furious, but there are serious concerns on Labour’s side, too.

  • Many Labour MPs are worried that this is a well-laid trap put down by the enemy to rip their party in two.
  • Corbyn has already said since the meeting that a second referendum would only be required to prevent “a damaging no-deal or Tory Brexit.” His preference is clearly to find a deal to leave, despite the fact that Labour MPs are largely in favour of a second referendum. Emily Thornberry, shadow Foreign Secretary, wrote to all MPs last night telling them that a second referendum was party policy, though that’s not exactly what her boss had said.
  • But not all MPs are in favour of a second referendum, with senior Labour ministers and MPs rebelling against their party’s instruction to vote in favour of a second referendum in the last round of indicative votes. If Corbyn forces a referendum, he will face resignations just like May.

Cooper’s Bill

First of all, there is a very real chance that this might not even pass the House of Lords.

  • To thrash out legislation in one day is quite haphazard, and although the House of Lords cannot veto a Bill it can delay it. It is there as a safeguard, and many of the Lords themselves are highly experienced lawmakers.
  • If there are any issues with the Bill like legal ambiguity or loopholes, therefore, it will be sent back to the Commons for an amendment to it. This would likely see the majority of one extinguished and the Bill be abandoned, RIP Bill.
  • It needs to be passed ASAP because it is regarding next Friday’s deadline set by the EU – any delay could mean that if it did survive the Commons again, it might not be ready in time.

Secondly, there isn’t a huge amount it might actually achieve:

  • May has already said she is going to ask for an extension, not crash out with no-deal;
  • It is the EU who decides on whether or not to grant us an extension anyway (which they probably will do).

However, there are two significant aspects to it:

  1. If it passes into law, May cannot break her promise (which she has considerable precedent for).
  2. If passed, Parliament, not May, chooses how long an extension we ask the EU for, which rules out a possible sneaky attempt to have another short extension to force her deal through again (sneaky old Tezza), rather than a longer one to have a second referendum or, God forbid, a General Election.

I’m Exhausted.

Me too. Good news is that Parliament will not sit again until Monday, giving frazzled MPs (and writers) some breathing space. The only things to keep an eye on today are Cooper’s Bill in the House of Lords and ongoing talks between Corbyn and May.

I hope the Bill passes. Lord knows we need some more time to sort this out properly, but it will need all the luck it can get to pass. To the Bill, I simply say:

May the Force be with you.

(I’m not even sorry)


A REQUEST

We at Between the Lines have had a ball getting it up and running over the last few weeks, but now we are looking to expand our readership and our voice in the industry – exciting times!

If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

  • Following Between the Lines by filling in the form to the right;
  • Subscribing to Inbox Insight, our newsletter on important days in politics;
  • Or giving a monthly donation to our Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/betweenthelinespolitics

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help in advance!

Maybot I’m Amazed

The media has, as expected, gone into full meltdown over Theresa May’s address from No. 10 Downing Street yesterday. Some have called it a “Full blown U-turn in policy.” Others, “A firm stance against the hardline Brexiteers.”

While the tone of her rhetoric was certainly positive, openly calling for unity rather than division, it is worth remembering who said these words: Theresa Bloody May. For a vicar’s daughter, her promises are about as Gospel as the writings according to St. Rodney of Grimsby.

…As in they are non-existent, just in case there was any doubt.

(Before we begin, here is the explanation for today’s article’s headline. It’s a lovely listen, and might make the following slightly less depressing if you have it on in the background.)


What Happened Yesterday?

Not a huge amount by the breakneck standards of Brexit. Whereas on normal days, we seem to be haring towards oblivion at breakneck speed while listening to AC/DC at full blast, yesterday was more of a leisurely sojourn towards a tar pit while listening to Smooth FM at half-volume.

There was a distinct lack of Meaningful Votes in our lives yesterday, which absolutely everyone save May herself was grateful for.

Her cabinet, however, were probably somewhat less grateful to her. Yesterday morning they entered a cabinet meeting and surrendered their phones to try and dam the steady stream of leaks that have seemed to pour out of seemingly every cabinet meeting. They finally appeared out of Downing Street at around 6.30pm. 

Imagine, just imagine, being stuck in a room with Theresa May for a whole day. It almost makes me want to forgive the horrendously divided, totally ineffective cabinet for everything they’ve collectively put us through.

Almost.

In the end, Theresa May eventually scuttled up from her cave under No. 10 to address her screaming fans (and not screaming in a good way). In a short statement, she:

  • Indicated that she would not allow us to crash out of the EU with no-deal next Friday;
  • Would instead ask the EU for an extension that would not exceed the 22nd of May – i.e. an extension to resolve these issues, but not long enough that we would have to participate in voting in MEPs for the European Parliament elections;
  • Offered a new strategy, which was to offer an olive-branch to Jeremy Corbyn. She said that she wanted to find a compromise that both sides of the House of Commons could agree on, thereby ensuring Brexit was confirmed at the earliest possible date.

That Sounds Promising! After a Whole Day Of Talking With Her Cabinet, She’s Found a Way Through…

Yeeeaaahhhh. ‘Sounds’ promising, doesn’t it?

You could, however, write a book of caveats to her address.

1. We Don’t Know What Her Cabinet Thinks.

By seemingly acquiescing to the soft-Brexit / Remain part of her cabinet, she has ostracised the hard-right / Brexiteer group. Famously, these Brexiteers tend to be people who can understand a rational viewpoint besides their own, see the error of their ways, and try to find a constructive way to move discussions forward.

Oh wait no, the opposite of that. The complete opposite of that.

Leave.EU, the group responsible for the Leave campaign for the referendum and who were recently confirmed to have illegally rigged the entire referendum debate through overspending, has said that it will target all MPs who fail to honour the referendum result and try to get UKIP members in instead.

This was their Tweet after May’s speech:

“Pathetic cowardice! May effectively rules out leaving without her disastrous deal, extending Article 50 indefinitely until she and Jeremy Corbyn have agreed a watered-down Brexit In Name Only.

Expect resignations. ERG, it’s time to bring this government down!”

Cool, nice one. 

With this level of rational thought being the driving force behind a number of Conservative MPs, we’ll probably see a pretty sizeable fallout within cabinet from her decision yesterday.

And a whole lot of very angry people frothing at the mouth from outside government.

2. What If Talks With Corbyn Fail?

What if indeed. This outcome is highly likely.

Corbyn has said that he understands his ‘responsibility’ to answer her call, but whether or not the two will get along after years of open hostility remains to be seen.

By which I mean one of them might literally kill the other rather than find a common strategy.

3. What About Indicative Votes?

These are happening today. If a majority is found as a result of these votes and talks with Corbyn fail, then May said that she would honour the result of indicative votes. This was, presumably, referring to an inferred preference towards a customs union rather than a second referendum because one delivers a form of Brexit and the other doesn’t… but frankly we just don’t know.

Basically, if a second referendum wins, May is facing an absolute nightmare. It is no longer hyperbole to suggest that it might even destroy the entire Conservative Party.

4. What About the EU?

Rumour has it that the EU is pretty unimpressed with her latest Wheeler-Dealer-Geezer-Theresa move.

Upon granting us a short extension at the EU summit, they definitively said that if her deal didn’t pass (and one glorious result of today seems to be that May has, finally, accepted that it will never pass, RIP May’s deal) they would need to have a clear indication as to how the UK intended to proceed before granting another extension, which would have to be a long one. 

For May to ask for another short extension to enable talks that have about the same chance of being a success as Kanye West at a humility convention is a big old finger in the eye to Tusk and his chums.

As tolerant as the EU has been to the UK’s inability to find a strategy (outwardly, at least), they may well tell her to absolutely do one.

At this stage, that might actually appease some Brexiteers who are furious with her, because even the enemy don’t agree with her now.

Which might make them like the EU more, but probably won’t, because we live in a world where nothing makes sense anymore.


So Not As Good As We Thought, Then. What Fresh Hell Do We Endure Today?

MOAR INDICATIVE VOTES!

Hopefully MPs will have learnt their lessons from the other day and might actually try to form a real consensus. For all of the flaws in May’s statement, there was, for once, a genuine tone of conciliation, too – this might help to persuade MPs from across the House to listen to their counterparts from the opposite bench.

Additionally, Yvette Cooper, the eternal Lego brick under Theresa May’s bare foot, has tabled a motion for today that would ensure under UK law that the PM would have to rule out no-deal next Friday. Given May said that she wouldn’t allow that to happen in her statement, you might think that this motion might not be moved (i.e. voted on) because the PM has already addressed it.

But, having watched Cooper for the last three months, you could probably assume that she trusts May to be about as true to her word as anyone would trust a puppy to guard a sausage if you left it in their food-bowl.

We might, finally, see some progress by the end of today. Alternatively, we might end up in an even more ambiguous position.

At this stage, who even knows anymore?


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

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your generosity in advance!

Vindictive Nopes

Between the Lines covered last week’s indicative votes and lamented the fact that they were largely called a failure by the media. The backlash against them was due to the fact that no majority was found for an alternative Brexit strategy, despite the fact that the first round was always designed to “see which way the wind was blowing” as opposed to find a clear-cut majority.

It wasn’t the resounding victory that we were hoping might save us from this never-ending Brexit nightmare, but it was a start.

I’ll be honest, I had higher hopes for yesterday. I think many of us did.

However, Parliament failed to find a majority for the second time. Hooray for democracy.

Many learned political commentators, including ITV’s very own stroppy teenager of punditry, Robert Peston, warned that no-deal is now increasingly likely because of yesterday’s results.

No matter how despondent the mood is amongst journalists, however, there is still, still, even at this 11th hour and 59th minute, some cause for optimism.

If you look really hard for it.


So What Happened, Then? Sounds Like It Wasn’t Great.

It wasn’t the best day, no.

Throughout the afternoon, MPs debated the various options that John Bercow, the Speaker of the House, selected. Ultimately they were all defeated.

The options (with voting results as FOR / AGAINST / MAJORITY), were as follows:

  • Deal with a Customs Union: 273 / 276 / -3
  • Customs Union 2.0 / Norway: 261 / 282 / -21
  • Second Referendum: 280 / 292 / -12
  • Revoke Article 50 (Cancel Brexit): 191 / 292 / -101

The actual debate was, for the most part, about as exciting as constructing an IKEA flat-pack coffee table. However, much like making anything from IKEA, there were a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

First up, the protestors. In the viewing gallery of the House of Commons, a few guys and gals who were in favour of the entire human race not being burned alive by climate change agreed with Nelly that it was, indeed, getting hot in here. As such, they took off all their clothes (save for some pretty gruesome black thongs, evoking horrifying memories of the attorney-general’s quip about codpieces).

In a rare moment for Parliament, a few well-intentioned, driven people decided to state a case for their firmly-held beliefs in a non-confrontational, self-deprecating manner.

They were all arrested, and normality was resumed.

Two Conservative MPs, Huw Morrison and Ed Vaizey, gave quite remarkable speeches about their disillusionment with their party under May’s stewardship. As usual, Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit Secretary (Labour’s counterpart to the Conservative, silver-haired Pez-dispenser of drivel that is Stephen Barclay), was a strong voice in the discussion.

However, despite everyone’s best efforts, after the votes were counted it was eventually announced that no majority had been found.

In what was a truly commendable moment of someone acting on principle, Nick Boles, the Conservative MP who had been pushing the (admittedly pretty terrible) Customs Union 2.0 model, stated that he had failed due to the fact that his party was unable to compromise.

He stepped down from the party on the spot.

It was an act that deserved respect on a day where a huge number of MPs failed to have the bottle to rebel against their inept and incapable leaders.


OK, So What Did We Actually Learn From Yesterday?

Questions were left unanswered as to why the Labour top brass would refuse to support the Article 50 Revocation Bill. Seeing as it was only ever intended to be used if it was the only option left to defeat a no-deal Brexit, and Labour overwhelmingly voted against a no-deal Brexit, it makes no sense that they wouldn’t then vote to block the very thing they wanted to avoid. 

In the debate, we saw yet again that truly impressive and decent Parliamentarians like Starmer, Morrison and Vaizey will always be scuppered by the gaping chasm of leadership from those more powerful than them. The single most depressing thing about Brexit, in this writer’s opinion, is that this is the case on both sides.

Good, decent MPs are resigned to understudy roles on both sides of a Parliament that is crying out for some honesty and real leadership, their voices silenced by the confused authoritarianism of both the Conservative and Labour Parties’ abysmal leaders.

Neither can accept that there is a spectrum of beliefs within their own parties, so they decide to delay any kind of definitive answer to policy questions in the hope that someone else takes the blame.

In case you hadn’t noticed, as a country, we’re not in the best democratic shape right now.


So What Happens Next?

Tomorrow is a bit of a free-for-all. There are rumours that May’s zombified deal might somehow find its way back for a fourth vote, because if you’re going to force satirists to make jokes about your political strategies, you might as well push them onto George Romero jokes.

However, this is not confirmed yet. What is confirmed is that Wednesday will hold more indicative votes based on the findings from today – despite the second inevitable media backlash of how much of a “failure” it has been so far, there are two things worth remembering:

  1. The smallest loss was by 3 votes, and that was in favour of a customs union;
  2. The biggest number of votes in favour of any option was for a second referendum.

Today wasn’t a great day for those of us who are desperate to see any form of Brexit resolution happen that isn’t no-deal or revoking Article 50. At this stage, seeing Brexit through in some way that makes at least some people happy would be nothing short of miraculous…

How we get there, however, is anyone’s guess.


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

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your generosity in advance!

Plan B. Or Maybe Plan C. Or D, Or…

When the EU gave the British government a deadline for the 12th of April, assuming May’s deal failed (again), they probably assumed that we’d pull our fingers out of our collective political bottom and get on with it at long last.

Instead, last week was a solid week of achieving next to jack all.

The Prime Minister, whose name has now officially been changed to Theresa Bloody May, promised to resign if her deal was passed. This resulted in some sickeningly insincere praise from MPs and the media alike for her “courage” and “leadership.” As I predicted, however, everyone seemed to forget that her deal had about as much chance at passing as the stool of someone with a low-fibre diet who has just eaten cement.

As such, a special sitting of the Commons was called last Friday to hold a vote on half of her deal. While the margin of loss fell to 58 votes, it was still a comprehensive loss nonetheless. So, her deal didn’t pass, which was supposedly the prerequisite for her leaving: what effect would that have on her “resignation?”

Unsurprisingly, she’s not going anywhere. Over the weekend, some MPs have been quoted as saying that she might even be the Conservative candidate if a snap General Election is called as there might not be time to find a new leader. If she then won, she would have her own, fresh mandate, and could stay in charge for up to five years.

So, to summarise, that whole exercise was about as pointless as a dog with a law degree (now the picture makes sense, eh?). May not only tried to fall on her sword and missed, she actually fell onto a trampoline that bounced her back to square one.

However, one good thing to come out of last week was the open, impassioned and rational debate by MPs on finding an alternative route out of the Brexit impasse through indicative votes. While no majority was found, a high percentage of votes found some traction for a softer Brexit and a second referendum.

The next debate, and next round of indicative votes, is happening today.


So What Is Actually Happening This Week?

Monday

MPs will sit and debate the various motions put forward by MPs for the indicative votes process. These will likely include (with results from last week beside them as FOR / AGAINST / MAJORITY):

  • A deal with a customs union: 264 / 272 / -8;
  • A Second Referendum: 295 / 268 / -47;
  • No-deal: 160 / 400 / -240;
  • Labour’s Brexit plan: 237 / 307 / -70;
  • Revoking Article 50 and cancelling Brexit outright: 184 / 293 / -109
  • “Common Market 2.0” (Norway-type deal): 188 / 283 / -95

As you can see, the first two options both had relatively small defeats – it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility to see one or both gain majorities today. One hypothetical outcome could see a second referendum where the choices are the ‘deal with a customs union’ be the option vs. Remain – a combination of both strategies.

Monday Evening / Tuesday / Never?

Despite me calling the official time and declaration of death for May’s deal last week, there are rumours abound that somewhere, deep down in that dank little hovel she inhabits under 10 Downing Street, she is still scheming to find a way to bring it back yet again. Depending on the results from today, she might try to pitch her deal as the option against whatever strategy finds a majority in the indicative votes. This might this evening, tomorrow, or not at all if she cannot find a way to bring it back.

For God’s sake Tezza. Let. It. Rest. It tried its best, continuously failed, is now as dead as a doorknob. Any attempts at resuscitation would just be cruel. This deal is far more Gregor Clegane than Jon Snow at this point (one for you Game of Thrones fans out there).

Wednesday

Assuming that a majority has been found, MPs might try to put the result of the indicative votes into legislation – i.e. legally make it the official new strategy of Parliament. May has warned that she is under no obligation to do this if she disagrees with it, and many of her Brexiteer chums have said that they will resign if she agrees to support anything less than a hard Brexit or possibly try to force a general election.

On the other hand, if she refuses she will probably be forcibly removed from office, with some claiming that she would even be breaking the law if she refused to listen to Parliament.

Absolutely no matter what she does, May is going to suffer this week. A lot.

Thursday

MPs are supposed to lock everything into their tuck boxes and saunter off on their Easter holibobs.

I can’t imagine that will happen, somehow.


Anything Else I Need To Know?

  • Over the weekend, 170 MPs wrote to May to ask for a “managed no-deal Brexit.” Despite their overwhelming stupidity at trying to flog this long, long-dead horse, and their greed in using an economically disastrous outcome to further their own political careers, they still represent a sizeable chunk of the Conservative Party. It is unlikely that the letter would have had much effect, however.

 

  • It was a bad weekend for Dominic Grieve, the Conservative MP who has been a constant thorn in May’s side by promoting a second referendum and helping to create the indicative votes system. He was given a vote of no confidence by his local constituency association for his attempts to undermine the government. However, he will not be deselected by the Conservative Party amidst fears that this no confidence vote was infiltrated by UKIP members.

 

  • The latest opinion polls have the Conservatives’ majority falling considerably. While Opinium published results that put them level with Labour at 35%, the Mail on Sunday even gave Labour a 41% lead over the the Tories’ 36%. However, opinion polls are famously terrible at predicting anything, so take these numbers with a pinch of salt.

 

  • The Vote Leave campaign, which promoted the Leave option during the weeks preceding the referendum, has dropped its appeal against a ruling that it overspent, admitting its guilt. Funding is capped for campaigns to ensure a level playing field, yet Vote Leave admitted it ignored the law. The only punishments so far have been some fines. DEMOCRACY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

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

Any donation, whether large or small, would be massively appreciated.

Thank you so much for your generosity in advance!