Morning Briefing: 'Half deal' vote is ultimate blindfold Brexit - trade deals incomplete - soft Brexit reality
Having failed twice to pass her Brexit deal through Parliament, today Theresa May will try and get MPs’ approval for just half of it. The Commons will vote only on the Withdrawal Agreement, the legally binding “divorce” deal that takes us out of the EU - and includes the controversial Irish border backstop.
This means asking MPs to approve our terms of departure from the EU without even the faintest clue about our eventual destination. It’s the most blindfold Brexit possible. It's also a desperate attempt to get the Withdrawal Agreement supported today - even though the vote doesn't actually ratify the agreement in law - so the prime minister’s preferred May 22 extension deadline doesn’t expire at midnight.
By splitting the deal in two the government are removing any indication of what our future relationship with the EU will look like. The Political Declaration, which outlines proposals for a future relationship with the EU, will not even be considered. Up to now a major criticism of the deal has been how vague it is on the future - now the government proposes to abandon even that.
The government know there isn’t a form of Brexit that delivers on the promises they have made, and avoids lasting damage to our economy. So, they are now proposing this ultimate blindfold Brexit in which the UK would be going on a voyage into the unknown. And now that May has promised to resign once her deal is passed, the likelihood is that the UK's immediate future will be in the hands of the right wing of her party.
So far, however, it looks like MPs - including the DUP - have not been fooled by these antics from a government trying every trick in the book to force its broken Brexit deal through Parliament. It is important that opponents of May's deal keep up the pressure and ensure politicians don't buckle.
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The Labour leadership have made clear they would never vote for this, and any MP who cares about responsible government and the national interest or the future of jobs and public services in their constituencies should not either.
The prime minister is, unsurprisingly, backtracking on pledges she made repeatedly that the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration “come as a package”. It was even outlined in the Conservative party manifesto 2017: “We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside our withdrawal”.
That’s not to mention the broken promise - made over 100 times by May - that we would be leaving today, March 29 2019. The reason we aren’t is simple: there is no Brexit deal that can deliver on the prime minister’s red lines or the promises of 2016. Nothing can result in anything other than real costs to our economy or to our sovereignty, or end the chaos of endless negotiations and national humiliation. It is telling that today, on “Brexit Day”, MPs will instead be voting on a deal that offers no clarity at all about what Brexit means for the future of this country after two years of negotiations.
Even if MPs vote for the Withdrawal Agreement today none of the legal conditions for the ratification of the agreement under the EU Withdrawal Act will have been met and the threat of a no deal crash out would not have diminished. A vote for the government today does nothing to bring certainty but would only add to the chaos.
If MPs reject the government’s latest cynical efforts, they then need to find a real way out of this mess. That takes time, and will need a longer extension from the EU. To get that there needs to be a clear sense of purpose and a willingness to move forward. And ultimately, the only way to break the deadlock is to put a final Brexit deal back to the people.
Quote of the Day
“There seems to be some shenaniganating going on here”.
Labour's Chris Bryant commenting on the government attempt to force vote on just the withdrawal agreement
Tweet of the Day
Pro-Brexit MPs work together
After Wednesday’s indicative votes failed to produce a majority for any alternative Brexit option, MPs who back various forms of “soft Brexit” are now redrafting their plans for the second round of voting scheduled for Monday, the FT reports.
However MPs who back these options must be honest with the public about the implications of these proposals. All the soft-Brexit options would mean losing our place at the EU’s top table, and leave us instead as rule-takers. Ken Clarke’s motion for a customs union, which emerged as the least unpopular, in particular needs more scrutiny as currently it is just another blindfold Brexit. But there are holes in other soft-Brexit proposals too.
The country needs more clarity and MPs attempts to find a common ground between their motions should continue in order to move towards ending the Brexit stalemate. But true clarity over the kind of Brexit the public want can only be found through a confirmatory public vote.
Video of the Day
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Trade deals not rolled over
Remember when Liam Fox promised we’d have 40 EU trade deals with other countries ready to roll over “for one second after midnight in March 2019”? The BBC now reports that even the eight deals that have been rolled over are “incomplete”.
The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) have said the the deals cannot guarantee trade will continue for British companies if we crashed out with a no-deal Brexit. This goes against the claims of the government who say the deals have been rolled over completely. The CBI is right to complain about the "gap between rhetoric and reality".
UKTPO highlighed one example of this being that the UK and Switzerland had agreed on just three out of 17 Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs), with products such as medical devices and construction products not included in the deal. The research group highlighted that the majority of the problems stemmed from the uncertain future trade arrangements with the EU. It is clear the country is not prepared for a crash out scenario, but Theresa May’s tactics mean we will also be unprepared for the blindfold brexit deal she is attempting to force upon the country, with the uncertainty of our future trading relationship with the EU just as stark.
Video of the Day 2
WATCH: Pro-Brexit Tory Nigel Evans sums up the confusion and irritation of MPs at the government's behaviour yesterday.
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Elections on the horizon
With Theresa May’s half deal today likely to be defeated again, talk has turned to whether a general general election is on the cards. However, minds should be turning to the more likely elections: for the European Parliament. Preparations are now stepping up for the UK to take part in them on May 23, as they will be a condition of a longer extension from the EU to avoid “no deal”. Pro-Europeans should be preparing to embrace these elections as a platform for making the case for staying in the EU. Nobody should use the prospect of fighting these elections as a reason to reject a longer extension and a public vote. It is ridiculous to use one democratic event as a means of preventing another one, or to force a final decision on leaving the EU on the basis of avoiding European elections.
Top Brexit comment
James Moore: If careerist Tories back Theresa May’s deal, it will destroy British democracy (Independent)
Margaret Beckett: My Brexit amendment lost last night, but I won’t give up fighting for a Final Say (Independent)
Jason Arthur: 27 MPs robbed us of a people's vote. If we want a future for young people, Labour must take it back (Independent)
Today, Friday 29th March
|09.30||ONS: Balance of payments, business investment and GDP quarterly figures|
|PM||MPs debate and vote on Withdrawal Agreement|