Morning Briefing: 'Take back control' amendments - never mind the backstop - elections watchdog ready for People's Vote
This week MPs will have the chance to take back control of the Brexit process. Through a series of amendments tomorrow, Parliament will have the chance to take a catastrophic “no deal” Brexit off the table and tee up a People’s Vote to give the public the final say on this Brexit mess.
There are four amendments to watch out for on Tuesday - though the number being voted on by MPs will depend on which ones the Speaker selects on the day. Two amendments by Labour MPs Yvette Cooper and Rachel Reeves require the government to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline if no deal has been agreed by the end of February. Another by Conservative Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey aims to rule out “no deal” entirely.
A final amendment, by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, will carve out time every Tuesday until March 29 for MPs to decide where they ultimately want to end up. This is particularly important, because the terms of any extension from the EU will depend on what sort of plan we have to take things forward. The hope is that MPs will spot the flaws in all the alternative forms of Brexit and see that a People’s Vote is now the only way forward.
These amendments will need the Labour frontbench’s support to pass. Fortunately, it looks like Jeremy Corbyn is willing to whip his MPs in support. Not to do so, and to persist with the same inertia that has dominated Labour’s Brexit policy so far, would risk Labour being blamed for facilitating what its supporters see as a “Tory Brexit”.
Inaction and ambiguity is already costing Corbyn support, especially from the young. A new survey, reported in The Times, reveals 37% of young people do not approve. Of Corbyn’s approach to Brexit, with only 23% supportive. Those figures have practically flipped since July 2018.
Even if Labour is whipped in support, the amendments still need the backing of Conservative rebels. While a hardcore of People's Vote supporters on the Tory backbenches remains strong, some potential rebels still loyal to May's deal now look less likely to defy the government tomorrow. A group of over a dozen pro-European ministers have pulled back from threats to resign, on condition that the prime minister puts her deal to another “meaningful” vote in two weeks time.
This unhelpfully eats further into the time left before the Brexit deadline, but a window still remains for another parliamentary push later. However, if May reneges on her promises now, ministers should not allow their bluff to be called again.
None of tomorrow’s amendments will, in themselves, bring about a People’s Vote. And all of them will gain votes from MPs who currently do not support our campaign. But they do give Parliament the time and space it needs, without the threat of a deadline or no deal, to give proper consideration to all the various forms of Brexit.
There is no Brexit that can fulfil the promises made in 2016, represents a better deal than the one we’ve got inside Europe or will prevent this crisis going on forever.
Let your MP know you want them to back the “take back control” amendments on Tuesday. You can contact them here.
Video of the Day
Never mind the backstop
Hard Brexiters seem spooked by the prospect of Brexit not happening at all. As such, several of them - Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg among them - have suggested they could back the government’s deal if the “backstop” is overhauled. A step towards this would be for the government to support an amendment by Tory backbencher Graham Brady calling for “alternative arrangements” to the backstop.
There are two problems here. First, the EU won’t let the government take a hatchet to the backstop. Ireland’s deputy prime minister again insisted the backstop “isn’t going to change”. Jean-Claude Juncker meanwhile said in a private call to Theresa May that the only way of revisiting the backstop is for the UK to enter a permanent customs union with the EU.
Second, the backstop is not the only bad thing about May’s deal. It will leave us poorer and following many EU rules without a say on them. We will also be locked in years of frustrating negotiations over our future relationship with our neighbours. Can rebellious Tory MPs really agree to all that?
Quote of the Day
“The very need for the backstop in the first place was because of British red lines that they wanted to leave the customs union and single market.
“So the Irish position is, look, we have already agreed to a series of compromises here, and that has resulted in what is proposed in the withdrawal agreement. Ireland has the same position as the European Union now, when we say that the backstop, as part of the withdrawal agreement, is part of a balanced package that isn’t going to change.”
Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney rules out changes to the backstop.
It's clear that the only way forward is a People's Vote. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the campaign. Sign up to volunteer today.
Electoral Commission already thinking about People’s Vote
There is an interesting interview with Bob Posner, interim head of the Electoral Commission, in The House magazine. Not only does Posner confirm the elections watchdog is preparing for a new referendum, but he also highlighted some of the issues that need to be addressed ahead of any vote. These include quicker reactions by the electoral authorities, transparency of digital campaigning material and heftier fines for those found in breach of electoral law. For anyone concerned about a new referendum campaign being as bitter as 2016, it is reassuring that the Electoral Commission is taking a keen interest in making any new vote fairer and more robust against rule breaking.
Tweet of the Day
Top Brexit comment
Hugo Dixon: The public don’t understand no-deal Brexit – so it’s time we properly discussed it in parliament (Independent)
Lara Spirit: Don’t let the amendments fool you — parliament is still gridlocked (Times £)
John Harris: England can be better than the Brexit caricature. We have to make the case for it (Guardian)
Today, Monday 28th January
|-||Commons vote on proxy voting for MPs on maternity leave|
|-||Immigration Bill second reading in Commons|
|-||Last day for new amendments to EU withdrawal bill|
Tomorrow, Tuesday 29th January
|-||Commons vote on amendments under section 13 of EU withdrawal Act.|
|09.30||ONS: Economic review, January 2017|