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.

JUDGEMENT DAY

Hello BTLers. Apologies for not being in touch over the last couple of days.

You might have expected me to have breathlessly commented on how brilliant it was that Johnson had managed to negotiate a deal, like the rest of the mainstream press.

You might have expected me to tell you that the end is nigh, that Brexit-day is upon us, and that we’re finally going to leave the EU, like the rest of the mainstream press.

You might have expected me to tell you, definitively, what will happen next, like the rest of the mainstream press.

But why bother?

It’s all bollocks. Utter, utter bollocks.

For the last three days, we have been waiting on the EU’s decision concerning Johnson’s offer of a deal. Everyone from The Telegraph to The Guardian to Buzzfeed to Twitter has had their own take with next to no real information to go on.

It’s all bollocks. Hearsay, speculation, and nothing else.

While rumours have emerged of Johnson conceding ground on Northern Ireland, it probably won’t get the support of the DUP, and so won’t pass through Parliament.

While rumours have emerged of the EU finally making way to let a new Withdrawal Agreement happen, they haven’t. They might have cleverly rewritten it to make the idiots who voted it down the last time reconsider, though.

Read into all of this what you will, but know this: anyone who says they know what’s happening is a liar. We will only know what is going to happen late this evening.

Until then, everything is mere speculation.

Stay tuned. This is going to get wild.

QUEEN AND STUNTERY : Parliament Returns In Crucial Brexit Week


Here we are again.

Parliament, having been prorogued, is back. Brexit is still unresolved, despite us being seventeen days away from our departure date. Boris Johnson is still acting like a minor deity, despite having no power in Parliament.

However, something has noticeably changed in the air. While the hopelessness of the last few weeks led to some pretty horrendous vitriol from the mouths of the Prime Minister and Parliament as a whole, the mood music is different.

The possibility of a deal being negotiated with Brussels seemed about as likely as an Under-11 XV from North Korea winning the Rugby World Cup for most of last week. However, at a meeting with Irish PM Leo Varadkar last Thursday, Boris managed to bring negotiators back to the table.

Which, despite my many, many misgivings about his premiership, is quite remarkable.

As such, discussions are currently being bandied around the EU with a real, if slim, chance of a deal being struck. For the first time in a while, there is an air of real optimism.

But, even if the momentum might seem behind Bozzle Konks, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

It may yet prove a garden bridge too far for our beleaguered BoJo.


QUEEN’S PEACH OF A QUEEN’S SPEECH

Well, not really. I just can’t resist wordplay.

Earlier today, the Queen reopened Parliament with a Queen’s Speech, where she set out the agenda for the government. This is not unusual in and of itself, but a Queen’s Speech usually sets out an agenda for around about a year.

Seeing as this government is actively calling for an election, however, there may be another Queen’s Speech by the end of the year, so they might have to wheel her out for another expensive ceremony again.

Poor Queenie. She doesn’t deserve this bollocks. She just wants to watch that nice young man Alexander Armstrong on Pointless.

Anyway, the event itself was as it normally is – ostentatious, heavily steeped in ritual, and involved a lot of wonderful hats and wigs. Not least the Crown itself, which is now too heavy for the Queen’s head, and so gets its own pillow, like a spoilt cat.

We watched the procession of the Queen from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords, where she disembarked her carriage looking like a blinged-up Yoda.

We watched Black Rod, a white woman from Wolverhampton, summon the House of Commons after getting a door ceremoniously slammed in her face.

We watched Jacob Rees-Mogg, a sentient windsock from a cemetery, be the only person part of the ceremony that looked as though it was “#justanotherMondaylol”.

And then we had the speech itself. It was, as you’d expect, standard fare for this government – low on detail, high on loose ideas on what they’d like to do. Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s Chief Political Editor, described it as a “shopping list” – it’s more of a bucket list, seeing as Johnson, without a majority, can enact very little of it.

Notable mentions for:

  • Immigration: Priti Patel’s new reform for immigration to an Australian “points-based” system, designed to ensure only talented and skilled foreigners move to the UK.
  • Crime: A far tougher stance, with particular emphasis given on increased prison sentences for violent crime.
  • NHS: Yet another mention of Social Care reform, which has been the bane of multiple governments over the last decade, yet no actual plan.

But, as to be expected, Brexit took centre stage, being mentioned in the first line. Tellingly, however, the Queen did not specifically say that we are leaving on October 31st.

Instead, she said “My government’s priority has always been to secure the UK’s departure from the EU on 31st of October.” This might be an admission by the government (who write her speech for her) that they know that this deadline may not be met.

Despite all the ceremony, there was a slight element of sombreness to the proceedings. The Queen must have been left reeling by the unlawful prorogation she sanctioned a few weeks ago, and to have to read out the words of a government that is trying to push our constitution to its limits must have rankled.

While famously inscrutable, there seemed to be an increased element of detachment today. Although that is pure speculation, I must emphasise.

I am no monarchical medium.


SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Well, very little from the speech itself. Everything is waiting on the EU discussions around Brexit, as they will define what happens next.

Deliberations will continue this week, before a meeting of the EU Council on Thursday evening. A final decision will be made, probably in the wee small hours of Friday morning, as to whether or not to agree to a deal, or to give us an extension.

Then, for the first time since the Falklands crisis, Parliament will convene on Saturday to debate and decide on what to do next. If there is a deal, they will vote on it. If some try to add a referendum to the deal, they will vote on that, too. If there is no deal, they will vote on accepting the extension.

Saturday could well prove to be the day where Brexit was decided once and for all… or just the start of the next phase, now with added referendum / general election.

But, in the meantime, we wait on the EU. While the positive overtures from the weekend are starting to turn sour again, there may still be a chance for a deal.

Stay tuned to Between the Lines this week for all the info you need.

Weekly Wrap-Up : BLAME GAME? NO SHAME

Well, we thought it was going to get messy. Lo and behold, this week saw the beginnings of what is going to be a truly horrendous election period.

An extension is now the most likely outcome on the 31st of October. As such, the desperate scramble by Boris Johnson’s team to defect blame away from them has started in earnest.

There was the scorched earth tweet sent from Cummings to a Spectator journalist, Leave.EU’s xenophobic and moronic anti-German tweets, and tweets aplenty from Leave-supporting MPs and commentators about the EU’s refusal to compromise.

It must be noted that the EU refused to “compromise” on Johnson’s attempt at a Brexit proposal, which amounted to the diplomatic equivalent of attending a Remembrance Sunday event and farting into the microphone.

This week marked the beginning of the end for this current phase of Brexit. Toxic, hate-baiting and literally illegal, Johnson’s stewardship has been nothing short of dangerous to society.

And yet he’ll probably win a General Election.

Democracy, eh?

Links to previous blogs are found in sub-headings, where available.


MONDAY

As I predicted in the blog linked above, the Arcuri scandal has now faded from memory. We probably won’t hear of it again. While investigations into Johnson’s mayoral conduct are ongoing by the Greater London Assembly, it is unlikely that they will achieve anything.

There is something tantalising about the fact that Boris submitted evidence but requested that the contents remain a secret, for sure.

But, again, unless he confesses, it is extremely hard to prove anything. While he might have personally intervened to improve Arcuri’s profile, he could legitimately argue that he thought she would benefit the trade delegations he put her on, or contribute to the British economy by giving her companies grants.

Favouritism for personal reasons is illegal. Favouritism for economic gain is encouraged. How can you tell one from the other without hard evidence?

Anyway. What we can all agree on is that Boris Johnson probably banged a blonde, 27 year old woman while his wife was suffering from cancer. He then also probably used taxpayer money to help her career, and she’s taken some of that money back to the US with her.

Sadly, we cannot prove it. But just the fact that you, reading this, know that it’s probably true, shows the character of the man who is our Prime Minister.

Monday also saw this:

The beginning of the blame game – election posturing come early, pitching the EU as the bad guys.

It’s only going to get worse from here.


TUESDAY

Last week, Johnson sent the EU his Brexit offer. It would have been more useful to send them a glitter bomb full of guinea pig turds.

Essentially, the proposal was to have two borders on the island of Ireland, away from the border, rather than one; to give the Northern Irish government a chance to veto the arrangements; and to tell the EU that this was their “Final Offer.”

Because of the fact that, historically, there have been a few small kerfuffles on the Irish border, the offer was a non-starter. It was divisive, pointless, and failed to learn from the last three years of negotiations.

In a phone call with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, Boris was told this in no uncertain terms. This led to No. 10 releasing a bad-tempered statement, saying that Merkel showed that the EU were never going to give way, so they should prepare for no-deal.

Toys? Pram? Thrown.

Then, Leave.EU popped this little gem out on Twitter.

Which led to a major backlash, not just from Remain-supporters, but a Brexit party MEP and Piers bloody Morgan.

A tweet, therefore, as misjudged as a photography contest by David Blunkett.

Then, that evening, Parliament was prorogued again. Legitimately, this time, in preparation for a Queen’s Speech, which will happen on Monday, 14th of October.

One can only imagine how thrilled Queenie must be to give a speech that lays out the framework for a government led by the man who openly lied to her.

Her majesty’s government will look to give vital funding to the NHS, our most vulner… oh sawd it, he’s a bloody twat, I’ve had enough of this. Charles, you’re up. Queenie out, I’m orf to bloody Benidorm.


WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY

With Parliament prorogued, nothing happened in the House of Commons. But the tone around Brexit did shift, quite significantly.

Leave.EU’s Arron Banks, funder-in-chief and epic shitbag, apologised for the anti-German images his group had posted online. He did, however, blame his team rather than take responsibility.

You stay classy, Baron Wanks.

I’d just like to say that I came up with that name on the spot, and I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that I’m more proud of.

Which says quite a lot about me.

Anyhoo, Johnson himself went to see Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taioseach or Prime Minister, yesterday. This was to try to clear the air between the Republic of Ireland, the EU and the UK – Johnson’s team had been quickly torn apart over its stupid blame game and so the tone was far more genteel.

And, to his credit, Boris managed to negotiate without it being a colossal tyre-fire.

This is surprisingly optimistic, and, in a time where all language is sensationalist, a welcome return to sanity.

But.

Yes, I know. There’s a but.

Varadkar’s statement requires a huge amount of shifting by Johnson, and conceding on points that many within the House of Commons will not support, least of all the DUP.

To concede too much to the EU is to lose his support in Parliament. To keep his support is to stonewall the EU’s requests for flexibility.

It’s a pure, almost beautifully-tragic Catch-22.

So even though the rhetoric has, mercifully, been toned down in favour of compromise, it is still next to impossible for an actual deal to be found.

And, once the election is confirmed, the rhetoric will, once again, be ramped up to 11.

Maybe Johnson will just step up to the House of Commons despatch box and call Jeremy Corbyn a withered old ballsack.

Maybe Jeremy Corbyn will call Boris Johnson an over-inflated colostomy bag that’s been dropped on the floor of a dog-groomers.

Maybe John Bercow will call everyone a bell-end, long-arm a can of Strongbow and set fire to the Speaker’s chair.

We will know next week.

COMING HOME TO ROOST : Johnson Loses Game Of Chicken With EU


A relatively short and simple one today. The deal, which wasn’t a deal, because it wasn’t agreed on both sides, was explicitly rejected yesterday, making it even less of a deal.

Because it was never a deal.

In fact it was barely a proposal. And now, here we are, with Johnson’s “brilliant deal” looking very much like a half-eaten pigeon next to a bin.

Remember when he said that the chances of a no-deal Brexit were “a million-to-one?”

Who, on earth, could ever have seen this coming?


Merkel ‘Merks’ Berk

Boris’ day started badly. In an early-morning call with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, he was unequivocally told that his deal was as good as dead. While not an official spokesperson for the EU, Merkel is a leading voice among them.

This was about as unexpected as a Southern Rail train being delayed – depressing, infuriating, yet inevitable. It was never going to be good enough (“A hard border is a bad idea you say? Have two instead!“), and today all hope of negotiations seemed to die off.

And, just to put some nails into the ashes that used to be a coffin before it was burnt on a pyre, Number 10’s office released a statement about the call without giving any advance warning to the Germans. In this statement, they openly derided Merkel’s position and tried to fan the flames of blame against them rather than accept how appalling their deal was.

Unfortunately, everyone has clocked on to Mr Cummings’ plans these days. What was meant to stoke the fires of oppression seemed more like a small man in an Austin Allegro honking his horn at an Audi R8 that overtook him on a B-Road.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission and a man with the patience of a thousand Tibetan monks, tweeted a truly wonderful response:

Quo vadis, so we’re clear, is Latin. Johnson studied Classics at Oxford, and so would know that it means ‘Whither goest thou?’

Or, in layman’s terms, “What the actual f*ck are you playing at, you vat of unpasteurised milk made human?

All of this means that Boris must legally ask the EU for an extension, unless a complete miracle happens before the 19th of October.

If he doesn’t, then things are going to get messy, as I wrote about yesterday.

And if you think that that’s alarmist…


Alleged Racists Act All Racist In Shock To Everyone

Leave.EU, the company that funded the Leave campaign, absolutely outdid themselves yesterday. I’m not going to link to the actual Tweet that they posted, lest they get more traffic than they deserve, but just observe the screenshot below and draw your own conclusions.

With the greatest of apologies, Verpiss dich, Sie rassistische Fotzen.

This has garnered a truly superb response in that not only did the likes of David Lammy, erstwhile Labour and People’s Vote campaigner, call the message disgusting.

Oh no.

Richard Tice, the Brexit Party MEP (!!!), explicitly called the Tweet “Stupid and offensive“.

To which Andy Wigmore and Aaron Banks, the two founders and funders-in-chief of Leave.EU, responded with this:

I almost admire the brash, Three Lions, oi oi, Inglund-til-I-Die, gutter-mob mentality that comes with this. It’s so utterly stupid and counter-productive that it’s almost beautiful.

Because this has shown how desperate the hard Leave campaign has become. Boris has raged against the machine and been crushed. He is now stuck between a rock of pure diamond and place where he must meet Lady Hale’s hard stare.

His choices now are to destroy this current manifestation of Brexit, destroy our Parliamentary democracy, or destroy the Conservative Party.

He will have to decide within the next ten days.

Tick tock, Prime Minister.

Tick tock.