EU and Me

I started this blog on the fifteenth of January, 2019. My first article was published at the height of the crippling indecision that was eradicating faith in our democracy.

Long story short, it was an utter shit show.

Theresa May had been to Brussels, negotiated a “Brexit deal” to some degree, but had no majority in Parliament. Her decision to hold a snap election and promptly lose her majority had seen to that.

Because she barely had the numbers to actually enact any policy, the Spartans of the ERG were holding her to ransom, and were pushing for a full break from the EU. Months of indecision and conflict within Parliament meant that her mandate, if she ever had any, was as meaningful as a “We tried to deliver your package” note from Royal Mail.

She was ousted, Boris Johnson took the reigns, and he openly mocked our institutions. By proroguing Parliament, he lied to the Queen, the people, and the judiciary. But that counted for nothing.

In the General Election, he won one of the most overwhelming majorities since Margaret Thatcher. His vision was mandated, his style approved, and his version of Brexit unstoppable.

The result? We have finally left the EU.

And, in 2016, this is what I wanted.


I have been a student of politics for twelve years, and even before then was more involved with it than most. From the age of 13, I read the Daily Mail – its sensationalist headlines and passionate editorials were very alluring. I only gave it up when I realised how biased and unnecessarily racist I felt it to be.

…Martin Samuel was a cracking sports editor, to be fair.

After shunning the Daily Mail, I moved to The Times – the newspaper of balance, supposedly. Around that time I started studying politics academically. This progressed from AS level, to A level, to an undergraduate degree at Durham University. I studied the Arab Spring during the overthrow of Mubarak, German politics at a time of great introspection in the German system, and US politics during the Obama era.

But nothing meant more to me than the bare-bones, nerdy-as-hell, nitty-gritty analysis of the British political system.

I first learned about the EU (properly, that is) at the age of 17. We had been a member of this supranational institution for the best part of forty years, but I had some major misgivings.

We gave up our sovereignty to be a part of this group. What had started as a trading bloc had slowly but surely become a major influence on policy across the continent, influencing everything from trade deals to human rights.

While the policies the EU dictated were largely admirable, they still weren’t being dictated by us, who I still thought to be a major international force. I didn’t like this one bit. Nor did I understand why our Great Britain was no longer being recognised as a world leader in international relations.

Over my studies, I became more and more concerned about how little say we had in the grand plans of these Brussels-based bureaucrats. “We’re the United Kingdom, though!” I thought. “We won World War II, we are the major players here, we deserve to be heard.”

I learned about UKIP. I learned about how there was a faction, relatively small, who wanted to leave the EU, led by a strange man called Nigel Farage. They were hell-bent on leaving this “misbegotten entity”, and restore the United Kingdom to its former, international glory.

I didn’t much like UKIP. I especially didn’t like Nigel Farage. But I conceded that they had a point.

And, in 2016, when I heard that there was going to be a referendum on whether or not we should remain in the EU, I thought, “Actually, this could be a really good opportunity for us. What has the EU ever done for us?”

Clearly, I wasn’t alone. As it turns out, millions of people across the UK had exactly the same worries and concerns as me: we eventually voted to leave the EU.

But, in between the calling of the referendum and the vote, I decided to listen. I wasn’t sure of my convictions, and I thought that if there could be a good, solid reason to stay in then I would give it the chance it deserved.

And it wasn’t easy to find it. The “Remain” camp were incessantly negative, with their arguments focussing far more on the “If we leave, x will decrease,” rather than “We will increase x if we remain.”

It was appalling. But the Leave campaign was far, far worse.

The second that the word “Empire” was used, absent-mindedly or not, alarm bells started ringing with the fervour of Big Ben’s bongs in an amphitheatre. The protagonists (or antagonists, depending on your view) of the Leave campaign, led indefatigably by the other-worldly Dominic Cummings, sought to “Take back control.”

This concept of restoring former glory was what, ultimately, resonated with a country where millions of the population were left bereft by Tony Blair’s erstwhile-yet-elitist push towards globalisation.

And, what’s more, this idea should have resonated with me, too.

This is what I was concerned about, after all. Finally, after decades of incremental influence upon our democratic systems by the unelected “EUrocrats”, we would be free from oppression.

But it just sounded hollow. I didn’t know why, at first, but the more that I read, the more I understood.

I started to learn that the textbooks that had made me wary of the EU were out of date. Technological advances had irrevocably and irreversibly changed the world of international relations. What used to be a group of autonomous, easily-defined states had started to congeal into a forever-undulating, insanely-intricate web of supranational checks, balances, and regulations (all, ultimately, to benefit our wellbeing).

It took a lot of reading to understand just how intricate this web had become. But the more I read, the more I understood that being a part of the EU was an irrefutable positive, not a negative.

For instance, I started to learn about how we, as citizens of the EU, are protected from free-market capitalism, where profit rules over morality.

When we buy a sandwich from Tesco, we know that we are not eating something that contains damaging chemicals or low-standards of production. Products will be checked as a part of EU regulations to ensure high standards are met (hence the issues around chlorinated chicken, should we form a trading partnership with the US).

When we browse the internet, we now know that our personal data cannot be harvested without our consent – GDPR protections are an EU directive.

When we are worried about people who come to our country to spy on us, cause damage to us, or even kill us, the EU’s criminal data network makes us exponentially more effective at stopping them. Europol is an incredibly effective network that can track, arrest, and convict those who seek to do us harm.

Being a part of the EU was, indisputably, a trade-off. We gave up a part of our sovereignty, but, in return, we were protected from a multitude of forces that would do us harm.

And I was no longer ready to assume that sovereignty trumped our best interests. There was, is, and never will again be a scenario where we are worse off by being a part of the biggest supranational institution in the world.

So I fought against leaving. I voted against it, I persuaded friends and relatives that it was a bad idea, and I started this blog.

It was already too late.


The last few years have been eye-wateringly embarrassing for our nation. We have seen a gridlocked Parliament consistently reject the pushes of a Government that assumed it had power where it had none. We have seen a Speaker of the House be dragged into political discourse by his own hand (regardless of whether or not you think he was acting in the interests of democracy or his own hubris). We have seen our Government lie to the Queen, to the public, and to the wider international community.

We have become a laughing stock.

But, despite the mayhem, there was a glimmer of hope. It seemed, for a moment, that these decisions around Brexit would be revealed to be as insane as they were jingoistic – a delusional afterthought to the nation that once ruled the world.

Britain will never have another Empire, and thank Christ on a bicycle for that fact.

But the idea that it might remains a beacon. To the Mark Francois’s. To the Tommy Robinsons. To those who think that this country can do better.

And do you know what? This country can do better.

But not in that way.


I was there at the moment we left the EU. I was in Parliament Square, surrounded by thousands of people who were overjoyed at the prospect of us being independent once again.

There were cretins, for sure. Cries of “MILLWALL, MILLWALL” cried out as this happened:

…And that is objectively funny.

But I listened to the people around me. Young, old, white, BAME… largely, the feeling was of liberation. Like this was about to be the start of something. The dawning of a new era of British politics.

In many ways, they weren’t wrong. This is going to be one of the most seismic changes in British politics in the last century. But there is one thing that must, always, be reiterated:

Not a single person at that rally wanted Brexit to happen because it would make us worse off.

Every person there thought that this will only be a positive for our country from here on out. And now, we will find out if they are right or not.


So, what next?

We can’t know for certain what will actually happen. The “Sunlit Uplands” might really be around the corner. I hope they are.

But the world is due another economic downturn. Slowing growth will damage everyone, from China, to the US, to the EU. But one thing is for damn sure – being a part of the EU’s regulations and safeguards protects those within it.

We do not have those protections anymore.

We are now alone. Maybe the British spirit can prevail, and I truly hope it does. No patriot wants anything ill to fall on their country just for the sake of being proved right.

But, if every economist worth their salt is to be believed, we are about to enter one of the most dangerous periods in our economic history.

What will actually happen is open for debate. I, for one, hope my initial instincts end up being correct, and leaving the EU opens us up to be an independent powerhouse again.

I’m not sure they will be though.


Goodbye, EU. You have your faults, by the bucketload in fact.

But we are about to take responsibility for ourselves. And I’m not sure we’re ready for it.

T-MINUS TEN : Brexit Bill Passes Parliament

And there it is.

Yesterday, MPs passed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (or WAB, a WABsolutely brilliant acronym built for satirists). This is the same Bill that Theresa May failed to pass three times through the House.

This time, there was never any doubt. Johnson’s swinging majority bismarcked Brexit into British law. As Jozzle Bonkz himself said last night, we have now, “Crossed the Brexit finish line.”

We are now less than ten days away from leaving the European Union.


DUB(side-)STEP

For this to make sense, we need a refresher on the legislative system in Parliament. In the words of Blue Peter presenters past, present and future, “Here’s one I made earlier”:

You might have heard that the Bill had already been passed, and you’d be right – it had passed the first, second and third stages of reading in the House of Commons. Then, the House of Lords stepped in to scrutinise.

And it was more controversial than you might have thought. And should be more widely reported.

But that’s another story about the media for you, for another day.

Johnson’s version of the WAB has been accused by its detractors of being a worse deal than May’s – and unnecessarily cruel, too. The House of Lords, using its capacity as a scrutiniser of law, sought to make five changes to the WAB.

The most notable suggestions were:

  • Give EU citizens who live in the UK automatic right to stay, rather than having to apply to the Home Office;
  • Not allowing UK politicians to disregard judgements made by the EU Court of Justice, which is currently more powerful than our Supreme Court, after Brexit;
  • And the Dub(step) Amendment, which sought to allow unaccompanied refugee children to live in the UK if they have a relative here so they can be reunited with their family.

It all sounds rather reasonable, doesn’t it?

Don’t stick two fingers up at the EU, our future trading partner. Don’t tell EU citizens who have lived, worked and contributed here for decades that they need to apply to remain a citizen. Allow children who are terrified and alone to be reunited with those who can care for them.

I mean, it sounds fair enough? What arguments could there be agains–

Oh no. Here comes the Johnson, flapping in the wind.


BOZZMARCKED

Johnson has total control over every last one of his MPs, and over his majority. And how do you think he ordered his troops to deploy?

Every amendment from the House of Lords was defeated in the House of Commons.

No introspection. No collaboration. No remorse.

Now all that remains is for Royal Assent – a mere formality. Unless the Megxit Saga has finally done it for Lizzo and she declares herself Empress and invades the Faroe Islands.

Anyway.

Yesterday’s vote sets the tone for the Johnson Premiership – my way or the highway, chaps!

For all of the rhetoric about “Bringing the country together” or “healing the division,” not one inch has been given to any sort of dissent. Criticism, valid or not, is to be thought, and not heard.

And even then, Dominic Cummings might pick up the thoughts with his ridiculous, Mars Attacks, telekinetic forehead and sack you anyway.

Cummings Enjoys Naptime After a Hard Day of Telepathically Making Larry the Cat Speak Spanish to Terrify No. 10 Staffers

It looks as though this is the way things are going to continue. Johnson at the helm, naysayers be damned.

Whatever you make of Bonkey Jong, though, he’s got a direction. We are, finally, marching on. Not just endless, repeated faffing about.

And, by refusing to acknowledge the opinions of anyone other than Dominict Cummingberbatches, he has also done what we all thought he might: placed the success of Brexit, and indeed his own Premiership, firmly onto himself.

If he cocks it up, he will try to pass the buck. I think, in that instance, he won’t find too many takers.


EU Give Love a Bad Name

I was in Bulgaria recently. Sofia, specifically. It’s a city with a frankly ridiculous amount of history, having seemed to have been passed around from empire to empire until the record stopped with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And so, when given its independence, what did Bulgaria then do?

Its absolute damndest to join the EU, that’s what.

Now, some of you might joke that this is a kind of imperial Stockholm Syndrome. “They don’t have an identity without some big daddy ruling over them, hahaha, poor sods, so they joined the dogmatic EU empire because they bloody love it,” said a Mr N. Farage, The Dog and Duck, Kent (unconfirmed).

But it’s not that at all.

Bulgaria is clearly a post-Communist state. Huge, stark buildings still pepper the city centre, with only the Red Star removed to hide its past. But it’s an EU state, too – with imported beers, aprés-ski bars, and European department stores in abundance.

Tourism is on the rise, its economy is on the rise… Bulgaria, in general, is on the rise.

It’s clear what EU membership means for this country. And that’s why it was all the more profound to be somewhere like that for the last time as a citizen of an EU member-state.

Leaving Bulgaria felt very much like my own physical manifestation of leaving the EU.

Many G&Ts were drunk on the plane.


What Next?

Brexit Day. 31st of January. Will Big Ben Bong?

No. Probably not. Nor bloody should it.

But, as of that moment, we are no longer an EU member state! Praise be to Jeebus / Oh God why (delete as appropriate).

Then begins the fun part – the transition period. Can Johnson really negotiate a full trade and relationship deal with the EU in just 11 months? We’ll soon see. If progress has stalled by the summer, there might be a few leathery squeaks from the Tory benches in the Commons.

But one thing’s for sure, squirm as they might, if it goes tits-up, they’ve only got one man to blame.

And if he’s going to take the fall, he’s going to pull the whole damn stage down with him.

ELECSHUN? ELECSOON! : What Happens Now? (Part Two)

Here we go, lads.

Here we bloody go.

After three and a half years of terror, torture and tragedy, we are finally in the Endgame. Brexit, one way or another, will be sorted on the 13th of December, 2019.

…Except it may well not be. The sad reality is that Brexit is a part of us now. Brexit is us. We are Brexit.

And we deserve it.

While this election is the closest opportunity we have had for a resolution since the result of the 2016 referendum, a clear end to the deadlock is absolutely, categorically not guaranteed.

This nightmare may yet drag on into 2020. It may go on, indefinitely, interminably, for millennia.

Or it may end in a few short weeks.

It’s all to play for, folks. Who is going to come out on top?


ELECTION REQUEST 4 : ELECTORISE THIS

Finally, at the fourth time of asking, Boris Johnson got his general election yesterday.

As I explained in yesterday’s blog, yesterday’s vote was a one-line Bill, designed to allow a general election to happen with just 50% of the House of Commons’ backing. On Monday, Johnson failed to win an election through the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which requires a 2/3rds majority.

But it was never fully guaranteed. In their trademark, charge-in-head-first style, the government tried to ram the vote through the House. However, Stella Creasy (Lab) won an amendment that allowed MPs to table amendments to it. As such, motions to extend the votes to 16 year-olds and EU citizens living in the UK were tabled.

Sensibly, however, John Bercow, into his final three days of Speaktatorship, decided that these amendments were not relevant to the matter at hand. He didn’t select them for debate or vote.

Essentially, they were important pieces of legislation that needed more debate, more time, and more thought, before they could be approved.

While if either had succeeded it would have been a huge blow to the Tories, this was the right call. Major changes to the franchise (those allowed to vote) should never be made on the hoof.

But there was still an amendment made to try and make the election happen on the 9th, not the 12th of December. This was to make it easier for students to vote, and further away from disrupting Christmas plans.

However, in the end, the government won, with a strong majority.

An election is happening on the 12th of December.


HOORAY! BREXIT WILL FINALLY BE SORTED

Yeah… about that…

Current polls have the Tories and Labour at exactly the same percentages as May vs. Corbyn at the start of their election campaigns in 2017. While the Tories have a healthy lead, that could easily evaporate in the fickle winds of an election storm.

Additionally, recent research suggests that this current electorate is the least loyal since records began in the 1960s – we are all far more prone to choose parties that we agree with, rather than just whose tribe we grew up in.

So while Johnson will undoubtedly be a better campaigner than Theresa May, who brought all the joy of a wasp in your pint, a Tory win is by no means guaranteed.

Corbyn, for all of his many, many… maaany faults, is a far better campaigner when he can take the conversation away from Brexit. He and his party have a final (if muddy) strategy on Brexit (negotiate Labour-led deal, then referendum), which they can announce and then focus away from.

And our politics is no longer a two-horse race. The Lib-Dems have had a massive surge in recent months since they have taken the most openly anti-Brexit stance. They made huge gains at the local and EU Parliament elections, and won the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

They have an untested but confident new leader in Jo Swinson, and aspire for an outright majority win. This might prove to be beyond them, but again – we live in strange times.

A thought for the Brexit Party, too. While the wind has been thoroughly taken out of their sails in recent weeks, expect a strong resurgence. Johnson must campaign for his deal, otherwise he undermines the weeks he spent negotiating it and thus himself (which he often spectacularly does anyway).

While there are currently splits in the Brexit Party about whether or not to support it, they will almost certainly unite to fight an election under a “no-deal” banner, which is still, somehow, a good idea to many. This could split the Brexit vote right down the middle.

Plus, Theresa May only won a majority thanks to a £1bn “investment structure” to the DUP. After throwing them under the biggest of busses in negotiating his new Withdrawal Agreement, they are about as likely to get into bed with him as they would anyone outside of wedlock.

Which is funny coz they hate extramarital sex and gay people and Northern Ireland just voted to make all of that hatred illegal.

Lol. Get with the times, DUP.

Anyway – do not believe the hype. This will not be an easy win for anyone, especially Johnson. He may well do it, and may well get the majority he needs to enforce his own brand of Brexit, but if I were a betting man, I would keep that money firmly in my pocket.


SO… WHAT’S ACTUALLY GOING TO HAPPEN?

No idea.

But…

My early-doors prediction is that the Lib-Dem/SNP alliance makes them joint-kingmakers. Neither the Tories nor Labour will win an election outright, and will need to get into bed with the opposition.

If it’s the Tories, a coalition won’t happen without a referendum. If it’s Labour, the referendum will happen anyway, and the hard-left socialist policies that Corbyn and McDonnell are pushing for will never get a majority.

Centrist politics will be forced back onto the agenda out of necessity, with the reigns firmly on which ever party leads. No more idealogical politics, just debate, compromise, and common sense.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping for. Unicorns may exist.

However.

In that scenario, Brexit doesn’t end on the 13th of December. Oh no, no, no.

A referendum takes six months to prepare. Six more, agonising months of Brexit debate. Over and over again through the same tired arguments. Paralysed from everything else in the meantime.

We are Brexit. And we deserve it.

See you all in July, 2020.

ELECSHUN : What Happens Now?! (Part One)

A disclaimer: this is not a full blog.

Why is this, I hear you cry?! Surely so much has happened that we simply must be brought up to speed, damn you Between the Lines!

Well, shut up. I’m going to tell you.

Then I’m going to tell you why, yet again, it might all be irrelevant by the time you’re reading this.

Here’s the deal.

  • The EU has granted us an extension to Article 50 to January 31st. Johnson’s pledge to deliver Brexit, do or die, by October 31st is dead in the water.
  • Johnson has tried to call an election yet again – this was blocked yesterday evening in the House of Commons.
  • Why? Because Labour think an election might be an absolute disaster for them – they are polling terribly, are in a state of constant civil war, and are currently adrift in a typhoon in a rapidly-deflating life-raft.

Ok, So Now What?!

Despite yesterday’s setback, the government will today table a one-line Bill designed to grant an election on December 12th.

This might pass.

WHY TODAY AND NOT YESTERDAY?!

I know, it’s exasperating. But there’s some reasoning behind it.

  • Despite Labour’s refusal to budge, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have joined forces to try and help an election happen.
  • I know, it seems bonkers at face value, but both of them benefit if an election happens before Brexit is sorted: the Lib Dems can campaign as the only true Remain party, and the SNP could try to kill off the Scottish Tories, win more seats, and push for a second Scottish independence referendum.
  • If Johnson tables this bill, it could win a majority – it is a Bill, so only needs a simple majority. Yesterday’s vote was under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, where 2/3rds of the House of Commons would have to agree to it, not 50% +1 extra vote.

So… We Are Getting an Election?

Not necessarily.

*hits head on desk*

I know. I know.

But. Because it’s a Bill, it could be amended.

  • The SNP want to introduce a Bill that reduces the voting age from 18 to 16/17, as well as one to allow EU nationals living in the UK a vote, too.
  • These would be awful for the Tories if either passes, as neither of those demographics are remotely likely to vote Conservative, giving added power to opposition parties.
  • If either of these amendments are successful, the Tories will likely pull the vote.

So, we won’t actually know what’s happening until the close of play today. If the stalemate continues, it’s hard to know what comes next.

But there is a very real chance that neither amendment passes (or is even selected), so we could see an election finally, finally be announced.

And I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. So take all of this in, immediately forget it, and face the new day.

Because while nothing stays the same in politics, in this day and age it’s changing faster than a chameleon on a disco ball.

Weekly Wrap-Up : *distant screaming*


OH GOD IT JUST DOESN’T END.

Nope. Nope nope nope. Even I am so done with this now, and I write about Brexit for a living.

Don’t get me wrong, this week has been, yet again, utterly bizarre and totally bonkers, and absolute gold for politicos like me. I should be happy.

It’s been a week where Boris got his biggest win as Prime Minister, only to suffer his most damaging loss just fifteen minutes later.

Then, a day of relative calm. Anger, discussion, confusion, for sure. But calm.

And then yesterday. Boris laid down the gauntlet for a general election. In any sane time, this would mean we would, indeed, have a general election.

But, because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, Corbyn doesn’t have to agree to it. He can just keep Johnson in purgatory, suspended in midair like a dollop of mayonnaise in an anti-gravity chamber.

Oh God, oh God, OH GOD.

Let’s review the week and see what on earth happens next.

Links in descriptions. Strap in.


MONDAY

Fresh off the back of the weekend where he asked the EU for an extension, despite telling the entire world he would rather “Die in a ditch” than do so, Boris had another nightmare to deal with.

The pint-sized Speaker of the House, John Bercow, refused to allow him a second meaningful vote on his new Brexit deal. This is because it went through unopposed after the Super Saturday/Pooper Crapperday debacle, so according to British constitutional law, he couldn’t bring it back.

And, to make things worse, Sir Oliver Letwin (aka Olly Bolly Letty Winz) had reversed Boris’ plan. The original plan was to pass a meaningful vote, giving him Parliamentary consent to his deal, and then pass the legislation. Vote on the sandwich, then rate the fillings.

Letwin, instead, opened up the sandwich to have all the fillings be approved first, before the overall sarnie could be given consent.

This was disastrous for Johnson.

But then, Tuesday wasn’t all doom and gloom for our beleaguered PM…


TUESDAY

There were two votes on Tuesday – the first was the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, or WAB. This passed by 30 votes, which suggested that some form of consensus could be found for a Brexit deal.

It was not, and I cannot emphasise this e-sodding-nuff, Parliament giving its full consent to Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Not even remotely.

That being said, it was a huge win for Johnson. He’d managed to negotiate a deal, against all the odds, and had managed to get some form of support for it through Parliament (despite shafting the DUP, Debbie-Does-Dallas levels of hard).

It was short-lived, however. Just fifteen minutes later, Parliament voted against his plan to debate, scrutinise and pass the bill in just three days, because it was utterly mental. Most bills require weeks to scrutinise, and this is the most important in living memory.

So, the October 31st deadline finally died a sad, miserable death.

In a ditch, presumably.

As such, we were destined towards an extension to Article 50…


WEDNESDAY

…But yet we had to wait as the heads of the EU’s 27 member-states deliberated as to how long that extension should be. Wednesday saw Johnson appear in a rare PMQs, looking every part the shifty, defensive Prime Minister he has come to be defined as.

It was just his second since taking office.

He and Corbyn had a meeting first thing in the morning, which unsurprisingly achieved the political equivalent of using a Henry Hoover to clean up Chernobyl. Jack all.

But still we waited on the EU to give us an answer…


THURSDAY

Until Boris hit the button. Again. Johnson urged Corbyn to go for a general election. His ruse was to say that his deal could be scrutinised, but only if there is an election on December the 12th.

Now, with the EU expected to give us a longer extension, no-deal was off the table, right? This time, Corbyn couldn’t refuse the call to arms to take it back to the people, could he?

Well…

We still don’t know how long an extension the EU will grant us. We still don’t know if Johnson can be trusted. We still don’t know if Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party can collectively agree on anything more than, “Oooh, socialism, yey.”

Supposedly, the entire Labour Party is in fully-blown civil war as to what to do. Most know that a Corbyn-led party would be eviscerated at the polls, others think that they cannot be seen to shy away from the election they have promised.

It’s an absolute bloody nightmare. It really does look like Corbyn may not go for the election.

So where does that leave us? Johnson will be left dangling like the aforementioned levitating blancmange, and the EU might take one look at the whole situation and just think, “Zut alors, non.”

Johnson has also said that if there is no general election he’ll go on strike.

No, seriously. He’ll simply refuse to do any work, and repeat day after day that he wants an election.

While this seems petulant, to give the man some credit it would be extraordinarily amoral and, in my opinion, not even remotely in the spirit of democracy, if an election wasn’t called. Corbyn may not win it, but political gamesmanship is refusing to allow the people their say.

…Although the Conservatives have also refused to do that, so maybe they can both just piss off.

But what’s this? Olly Bolly Strikes, Yet Again?!

Rumours are coming out of Parliament that Olivier Letwinium might bring Theresa May’s deal back to Parliament in order to try to drive the process onward.

Yes, that deal. The one that I described as dead not once, not twice, but three times a few months ago. The zombie deal might shuffle its way back to our political discourse.

What an abject, miserable disaster our politics has become.

We await the verdict of the EU.

In the meantime, I’m going to drink a small sea of gin.

EXTENSION REBELLION : MPs Delay Deal, But Don’t Block It Either

Talk about a game of two halves.

Yesterday evening, MPs voted in favour of Johnson’s Brexit deal going through to a third reading in the house. It won by a majority of 30, a strong result.

This was the first time that a Brexit deal of any kind had won a majority in Parliament.

Then, just fifteen minutes later, Parliament voted against the government’s proposed timetable to pass the Bill. It lost by 14 votes.

I know. It makes as much sense as War and Peace written in Hungarian.

Now look, this is confusing for anyone who isn’t a total politics nerd like me. Why on earth would Parliament agree to a deal, then delay it? Why can’t this nightmare be over?!

Let me explain.


FURIOUS MASS DEBATING RETURNS

Yesterday’s Brexit slog started with a five and a half-hour debate about the two votes. There were some notable moments, such as the DUP publicly and furiously turning against Johnson for selling them so far down the river they were basically back in the sea.

Combine this with the newly-enacted laws in favour of same-sex marriage and abortion rights and it’s been a real humdinger of a couple of days for the Duppers.

The DUP, remember, believe that any kind of customs checks between NI and GB (England, Scotland, Wales) is totally unacceptable, because it threatens the sanctity of the United Kingdom – hence Democratic Unionist Party.

Johnson’s deal imposes those checks with impunity. It’s gone down like a turducken at VegFest.

Not only this, there were MPs openly rebelling against Corbyn to his face (in a “constructive” manner), former Tory MPs turning up the heat, and yet another farcical statement from the Prime Minister that showed no understanding of the realities he faced.

But, we’re not here to deal with misunderstandings. I watch BBC Parliament because I’m a huge nerd and something interesting happens every few months, but I know the vast majority of it is hysterically boring to most of you.

So let’s get to the crunch of it.


VOTE NO. 1 : WABSOLUTELY FWABULOUS

The first vote was on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, or WAB for short. As I explained in my flowchart for yesterday’s blog, this isn’t the same as the meaningful vote that was amended and abandoned on Saturday and rejected on Monday.

This is the full, legally-binding text for Boris Johnson’s deal. And, for many MPs, there are some major issues with it.

Saturday’s meaningful vote, had it passed, would have nullified the Benn Act and given a form of Parliament’s consent towards the deal being passed. However, the WAB would still have had to have been voted on in Parliament in order to be approved.

Yesterday’s vote, however, was not Parliament giving consent to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

More complications. I know, I’m sorry. Let’s break it down.

The vote wasn’t Parliament’s consent. This is because of the word “Bill“.

A Bill, when passed through Parliament, becomes law. This is how all of our laws are made. A Bill isn’t passed through the House of Commons in just one go, however. Instead, it is given three “Readings.”

…Do I hear a BAM?

BAM

INFOGRAPHIC TIME

Click to Zoom

Looks pretty intense, right? So the vote yesterday was for Royal Assent, or something… right?

Nope.

Second Reading.

Yep. That’s it. Just the seven more steps to go before it’s made law.

Which is the whole point. There is still an absolute mountain for the deal to climb before it can be ratified by Parliament. It needs debating, a third reading, going to the House of Lords to be scrutinised, back to the House of Commons to be scrutinised again, and then sent to the Queen.

And, while it is undoubtedly impressive that Johnson got a majority vote on his deal at all…


VOTE NO. 2 : WABSOLUTE GARBAGE

The second vote told Johnson that his original plan of three days was nowhere near enough time to give the Bill proper scrutiny.

The government wanted to push through all of the next seven phases in the space of three days, including the day spent debating the timetabling.

Three days, where a normal Bill would take weeks. It was nothing short of insanity.

So why did Johnson want to rush it through so quickly?!

  1. There are serious holes in the WAB. In the hours of debate before the votes yesterday, many of these were picked up.
  2. One major hole is that, currently, if we were to “leave” on October 31st, we would have until December 2020 to work out the new trading agreements with the EU (known as the transition period). If we failed in this, under Johnson’s deal, we would leave with no deal.
  3. And Johnson didn’t want anyone to realise that.

Unfortunately, they did. As such, MPs voted for Brexit to be delayed, again, despite a deal appearing to be closer than ever before.


SO NOW WHAT

Well… It’s quite hard to predict.

Johnson said that the Bill was now on hold until we knew what extension the EU would grant us. Johnson was forced to ask for an extension last weekend after the Letwin Amendment enabled the Benn Act.

Read about it here if you’re confused (and if you can be bothered – by this stage I don’t blame you).

So, the ball is now in the EU’s court.

They could refuse an extension, and we would have to smash out this deal before next Thursday or leave with no deal.

They could grant us an extension until December 2020.

They could grant a short-term extension of a few weeks in order for Parliament to amend the WAB.

Or they could grant us an extension until March-April 2020, and politely insist we use the time for a General Election, which Labour has said it would do.

We don’t really know for sure, but make no mistake – Brexit is all but delayed, again.

And the second that that delay is confirmed, all hell breaks loose.

Get your voting hats on, people – it’s (probably) going to happen.

A READ-LETTER DAY : Boris Asks For Extension, Denied Vote

The joke has been said many times already. I can’t resist.

Boris is presumably writing his last will and testament, prior to his self-interment in a ditch somewhere in St. James’ Park.

He said he wouldn’t do it. He refused to sign it. He sent three letters, trying to undermine his own request. But he did it.

Boris Johnson asked the EU for a delay.

And for all of the bluster around his childish attempts to bypass the law, this is the only response that matters:

That’s Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission, telling the world that the EU considers it a formal request for an extension. That’s all that is important about the letters. An extension has been requested.

It is vitally important to forget the rest of the noise around this and to understand that the EU will, with 99% probability, offer to delay Brexit until January 2020 at the earliest.

Unless Boris Johnson passes his deal.

Which is a profoundly confusing situation, isn’t it? What the hell is a Letwin Amendment? Why are the words Meaningful Vote being used again?

What is an Erskine May?


BAM

INFOGRAPHIC TIME

Click to Zoom

Right. There’s a lot going on in there. Let’s go into a bit more detail.


THE REVENGE OF LETWIN’S SPANNER

Ah Letwin. Olly Bolly Letwin. A constant thorn in the side of our current and previous Prime Ministers, he has thrown his trusty spanner straight into the cogs of the Johnson machine.

I wrote about the full effect of the Letwin Amendment on Saturday, but to summarise:

  • Before, the plan for Saturday 19th was to have a vote on Boris’ new deal. If he won this vote, he officially had Parliament’s consent for his version of Brexit.
  • Bozzle Konks desperately wanted this to happen so that he wouldn’t have to comply with the Benn Act, which would force him to ask the EU for an extension. The deadline was… Saturday 19th.
  • However, the Letwin Amendment passed by 16 votes. This Amendment made the meaningful vote a meaningless vote – it removed Parliament’s consent.
  • Instead, Parliament would have to approve the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the legal text of the deal, in all of its many intricacies, before consent was given.
  • The Prime Minister cannot leave the EU without Parliament’s consent.

So, it forced the PM to ask for a delay, forced the letters, and forced the humiliation.

Now.

Things get more tricky here.


BERCOW BLOWS TOP

Right. The drama of yesterday revolved around a meaningful vote – you might remember that Theresa May lost three of these during her premiership. Saturday’s vote was meant to be a meaningful vote, but Letwin ruined that.

So yesterday was meant to be the meaningful vote instead.

Except there was a problem. One which, quite bizarrely, isn’t being discussed at all by the press.

The meaningful vote happened on Saturday. Most MPs had gone home, but no-one opposed it and it was just approved. It literally happened with a nod of the head.

Johnson won the meaningful vote, but it was meaningless, due to Letwin.

But. It happened. Which is important.

Because when the Prime Minister tried to bring it back yesterday, Bercow reminded him of the situation with Theresa May – a government cannot keep bringing the same question back to the House, over and over again, until it gets the answer it wants.

So he denied them a meaningful vote. This sent the Tory party into meltdown, and he faced a number of furious questions from pro-Brexit MPs. To which his response was largely… well…

I completely, 100% understand why people hate Bercow. He’s pompous, adores his own voice, and is widely reported to be a massive bully to his staff.

But to watch him in full, Berconian bluster mode, was glorious.

Beautiful.

And, for what it’s worth, I think it’s true – he will be remembered as someone who always fought for Parliament to have a say. He never allowed a minority, bonkers government to run roughshod over the British political system.

And he was nothing “short” of Napoleonic in his Small Angry Man syndrome.

God speed, Bercow. Enjoy your retirement on the US Speaking Circuit, starting next Thursday. I’m sure they’ll adore you over there.


SO NOW WHAT, FOR GOD’S SAKE WHY WON’T IT END

Extension!

OH GOD WHY

Because it has to, really. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons and solitary windfarm turbine possessed by the ghost of Neville Chamberlain, said yesterday that the government plans on passing all of the WAB legislation by this Thursday evening.

Or, at least, they’re going to try to.

This is so that they can show to the EU that the deal stands a chance of passing before they decide to give us an extension. However, this is incredibly tricky.

For a start, it’s a monstrous task to try and undertake in the space of three days. Not only that, but doing it this way round means that MPs can add amendments to every vote, including a full customs union or, even, a second referendum.

Supposedly, the government would just give up if it was amended to be a completely different deal. They wouldn’t dare go back to the EU, cap in hand, and negotiate a new Brexit deal that Labour had concocted. They’d rather force a no-deal Brexit.

Or even die in a ditch, one might say.


OH GOD JUST MAKE IT STOP

Either way, it’s going to go one of three ways.

1% possibility – the deal doesn’t go through, the EU doesn’t grant us an extension, and we crash out of the EU with no-deal next Thursday.

29% possibility – somehow, out of nowhere, the government gets the deal through Parliament. We leave with a deal next Thursday.

70% possibility – the deal doesn’t go through, the EU grants us an extension, but begs us to have a general election.

Lest we forget… (1.31)

We’re finally in the endgame. It’s Brexit, one way or another, or a General Election/Second Referendum.

Here we go lads. Here we go.

NOT-SO-SUPER SATURDAY : Brexit Deal Delayed

Well that was unexpected.

Boris Johnson’s brand spanking, shiny, glorious, definitely-not-Theresa May’s-deal-in-lipstick deal didn’t even get a vote.

Instead, Oliver Letwin, affable spaniel-turned politician, tabled an amendment that delayed a decision to be made on Brexit, and it passed by 322 votes to 306.

So the first Saturday sitting of Parliament in decades was actually not the showdown it was billed to be – it was, instead, yet another delay to Brexit.

Depending on your leaning, this might be a much-needed chance to scrutinise the deal or just another kick down the road of a pretty well-beaten can.


OH GOD WHY WON’T IT END

Yep. I know. It’s still happening.

So, what happened today? Parliament sat on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in order to either approve or reject Boris Johnson’s newly-negotiated deal with the EU. If they had accepted the deal, Brexit would finally have been delivered.

However. Sir Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, tabled an amendment to the bill. The bill, in this case, was Johnson’s deal, and bills have to be passed through Parliament in order to turn them into law. Amendments are suggested by MPs as a way of altering or manipulating bills.

Olly Bolly Let-Let’s amendment to the Brexit bill was to ensure that today’s sitting isn’t the final say on the deal, but that Parliament’s consent can only be given once the finer details of the deal have also passed through Parliament. He succeeded, which took all of the impetus out of today’s proceedings.


BUT WHY, JESUS H CHRIST, WHY

Yes, I know, it’s frustrating. Everyone, from the Queen to my mum’s dogs, wants Brexit to be done.

See?

But.

There was a real threat lurking within Parliamentary procedure. Before Letwin’s amendment, Parliament could have approved Johnson’s deal today. However, that wouldn’t be the end of it – more votes would be required to pass the finer details of the Bill.

Therein lies the threat – hard Brexiters could have voted for the deal today, then vote against the legislative fineries next week. If they did this, we would have a no-deal Brexit.

Bolly Wolly Wetling’s amendment protects against that. The fineries have to be approved first before Parliament’s consent can be given.

Brexit is delayed. Until next week. Monday, in fact.


MEEEUUUUURRRGGGHHHHOAJSGMAWRSEIGHAGHASDI

I know. It’s insufferable.

But we are nearly there. What comes next?

Because Parliament hasn’t given approval to the new deal, Boris Johnson is legally required to ask the EU for an extension because of the Benn Act. This will be until January 2020.

Johnson has said he’s not going to do this, yet he is legally bound to do so. It’s going to be a pretty dodgy bit of legal tightrope walking from here on in.

But it’s fair to assume that the extension will happen – the EU do not want to be seen as being the instigators of a no-deal Brexit, so will grant us one if asked.

So what now? The deal may well be passed next week, but no-deal is now off the table. Many of those supporting #LetWINNING’s amendment have said they will vote in favour of the deal, but wanted to protect against no-deal. The deal may very well still pass on Monday.

But, if it doesn’t, we now have a Brexit deadline of at least January. This gives time for a general election or, maybe, a second referendum (although probably with even more time given by the EU).

The can, once again, has been kicked. The road continues.

But it will run out soon, one way or another. While Johnson had a considerable amount of momentum this week, he’s lost it all now. Brexit hangs in the balance.

It could go either way.

Weekly Wrap-Up : CRUNCH TIME

Apologies for being misleading, but there’s no real weekly wrap-up this week. The reason for this is that anything I tell you now is pure speculation.

Yes, I know, speculation is basically what keeps this website afloat, but this is different. Tomorrow, Saturday the 19th, will be the day that decides Brexit, one way or another. To speculate on that now seems disingenuous.

Not to say that I haven’t speculated or analysed at all, though. I would strongly recommend you read yesterday’s blog that explains all of yesterday’s many complications, and throws in some predictions for what comes next.

Said blog can be found here:

What a week it’s been (I know, I’m a broken record). From nothing, to something, to a deal, to pessimism about the deal, in all of three or four days.

But go out today. Go and make Friday that 18th the best day you’ve ever had.

Because Saturday the 19th is going to be horrendous.

And I’ll be there with you, every step of the way.

SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR INFIGHTING : Brexit To Be Decided On Saturday

My hat is currently being doffed to within an inch of its life. Somehow, despite it seeming almost certainly impossible just a few days ago, Boris Johnson has managed to negotiate a deal with the EU.

That is a big, big deal, pun semi-intended. And something of a coup for the man who has been, thus far, arguably our worst ever Prime Minister.

I humbly apologise, and am genuinely incredibly impressed.

Anyway, back to normality. He remains, almost certainly, completely and utterly f*cked.


Wait, What?

I know. It doesn’t feel that way. It feels like Brexit is right on the cusp of being delivered, at long, long, loooong last. But there are some serious hurdles that Johnson has to overcome if it is to become a reality.

I do note that I said that he stood very little chance of negotiating a deal with the EU and yet he managed it.

But.

Big, big but.

Kim Kardashian levels of but.

In achieving a negotiated deal, he has had to concede on far too many issues. The deal is unacceptable to his opponents in Parliament.

As I wrote in last week’s Weekly Wrap-Up, Johnson’s position last week was this:

  • If he wanted to retain the support of his allies in Parliament, he would have to negotiate a deal that the EU had frequently, frankly, and firmly said they would not agree to;
  • But if he wanted to negotiate a deal that the EU agreed with, he would have to give away too many concessions and lose the support of the DUP and ERG in Parliament, whose votes he needs for a majority.

This second point is exactly what has happened. Despite the optimism surrounding a new deal, the DUP immediately rejected the deal. The ERG, or at least some of them, may well follow them.

So, when Johnson brings the deal back to Parliament on Saturday, the first time the House of Commons has sat on the weekend since the Falklands crisis, he will probably (maybe) lose.

But it’ll be close. Single-digits, absolute knife-edge close.

Saturday is going to be seismic.


(MARINA) WHEELER-DEALER

This morning, a BBC News notification popped up on my phone. I genuinely thought it was a mistake when I read it : “Boris Johnson announces a deal has been struck with EU.”

And yet he had managed it.

At a cost.

So, what is this new deal? Simple Politics, a brilliant company that makes politics palatable (hey, wait…), created the infographic below that explains it:

So. What does this all mean?

Well, it means that it’s got all of the issues that came with Theresa May’s deal, but this time it’s Boris Johnson delivering it. Somehow this means that it stands more of a chance of passing, because… charisma? Funny hair? Raw sexual appeal?

Eurgh.

I don’t know. But, somehow he stands a real chance of getting enough support to pass it.

It still remains unlikely, however.


SUPER SATURDAY

So what comes next? Well, first and foremost, an almighty row in Parliament on Saturday. Bear in mind that Saturday will be the only time that our MPs will get a chance to examine and scrutinise the deal, let alone vote on it.

Johnson had, initially, tried to limit the Parliamentary sitting time to just ninety minutes. In the space of time that it takes to play a football match, Johnson expected the House of Commons to decide on legislation that will determine our politics, economics, and arguably society for the next few decades.

Which is typically Johnsonian – all of these negotiations have been left to the last minute in the hope that momentum carries him over the line. The devil, for Bozzle Konks, lies in the detail, and he is desperate to avoid scrutiny wherever possible.

But today, MPs voted to extend the debating time – it will now go on as long as it takes. Which means that it could end up being a very, very late vote indeed.

Odds-on that Boris will crack out a bottle of the old vino tinto at 6pm.


NO VOTE FOR PEOPLE’S VOTE DURING VOTE

Momentum for a second referendum has been building, slowly but surely, over the last few weeks. It was widely believed that an amendment would be tabled to the Brexit bill on Saturday that stipulated it would only be passed if a referendum was guaranteed with it.

Boris’ new deal vs. remain.

Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, even came out this morning as being in favour of this plan.

But, as the day dragged on, reports came out that the People’s Vote team wouldn’t table an amendment this weekend – instead, they will focus all of their efforts in defeating the Brexit deal. Then, when Johnson has lost, and has to ask the EU for an extension, they will strike – second referendum time, with a hope that it will be sorted once and for all.

It is worth noting that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, did say that an extension wasn’t necessary earlier today. But whereas some normally reputable journalists excitedly reported that “AN EXTENSION IS RULED OUT”, that isn’t what he said, nor does he have the power to decide.

An extension will be granted by the EU Council, the leaders of the 27 member states, not him. And, if they refuse an extension and we leave with a hugely damaging no-deal, they will take the blame. Unsurprisingly, they will do their absolute utmost to avoid this scenario.

An extension, if requested, will almost certainly be given.


So. It all comes down to Saturday.

Pay-per-view, 9.30am. Johnson vs Corbyn / Swinson / Blackford / basically over half of the House of Commons.

It will be, without a shadow of a doubt, the most intense and important day in contemporary British politics.

By Sunday morning, Brexit will either be sorted, or we will have a good idea as to what comes next.

The end is finally in sight. One, final battle in this horrendous war. It will be the bloodiest yet.

I’ll see you there.