Morning Briefing: Valentine's votes - Labour rebel warning - ambassadors for a People's Vote
It’s Valentine’s Day, and the government’s gift to the nation is another series of parliamentary votes on Brexit. MPs will continue to search for a Brexit consensus. But it’s unlikely to be a love-in for Theresa May, who is trying to see off a hard-Brexiter rebellion against her ongoing Brexit plan.
Today’s votes are not the big one - another “meaningful vote” on version 2.0 of the government’s deal. That has now been kicked at least to the end of the month, and if it doesn’t materialise by then MPs will have a chance to place more amendments and take back control from our time-wasting prime minister. That will be an important moment at which MPs can stand up to this blindfold Brexit, which won’t give any clarity or closure and will keep us locked in endless Brexit arguments for years.
The motion today is not legally binding; it simply sets out to confirm Parliament’s view on the government’s current approach. Most of the fun is in the proposed amendments, with various options backed by different groups of MPs.
An amendment from the Labour front bench calls on the government to essentially admit that May’s deal is dead, and set out its plans for dealing with this in detail.
Another potential amendment (the Speaker has not yet selected which will be voted on later) calls for MPs to be able to express preferences over any Brexit options, with any that command a potential majority in the House then being put to a vote. Yvette Cooper has tabled another amendment seeking a delay to Brexit if May cannot get her draft withdrawal agreement agreed by MPs. The SNP have loftier plans, simply calling for Article 50 to be revoked.
Perhaps the most interesting proposed amendment is the call on the government to publish the latest briefings on the damage a no-deal Brexit would do. This amendment is backed by a swathe of MPs in favour of a People’s Vote, including Sarah Wollaston and Chuka Umunna.
None of these votes will bind the government to a course of action. While finding out what Parliament thinks is valuable insofar as it helps us start to rule out certain courses of action, it doesn’t change the fact that the government cannot offer clarity or closure on Brexit. Certainly if the Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ERG don’t support the government’s current process - having done so late last month - then May will seem particularly rudderless.
All the major decisions have been kicked down the road until after we’ve left the bloc, when our negotiating position will be far weaker. The government’s Brexit deal won’t tell us what our customs policy will be, what our trade deals will look like, or how the government plans to manage immigration. It will not allow Parliament a meaningful say in the future of the country.
When May does bring back her withdrawal deal for Parliament to reject again, she should give up on attempting to force through her blindfold Brexit and put the decision on the future of the country to the electorate in a People’s Vote.
Join hundreds of People's Vote supporters wearing blindfolds and waving placards in Parliament Square ahead of the debates in Parliament today. Come to Parliament Square Gardens, in front of Parliament, for 1pm!
Video of the Day
WATCH: No Brexit deal can bring closure. Not May’s deal, not Corbyn’s plan.
They both rely on the Political Declaration, setting out our future relationship with the EU. Nothing in it is legally binding, which means years more of political wrangling. A People's Vote can stop this happening.
The Labour party may finally be reaching a crunch point. After two years of Jeremy Corbyn wavering between his own euroscepticism and his party’s pro-European views, the end of the Article 50 period is forcing him to jump one way or the other. And if he decides against following the democratic decision of his party conference and attempting to push May into holding a People’s Vote, many of his MPs may well jump ship.
The Guardian reports that up to ten Labour frontbenchers could resign if Corbyn continues to help May in dodging such a vote. Meanwhile, the Financial Times says that February 27 – the next “meaningful vote” – could be the catalyst for a number of moderate MPs to leave the party altogether, setting up a breakaway faction in Parliament.
If Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t want to go down in history as the man who broke both the Labour party and the country, he should think again.
Quote of the Day
“I’m on the frontbench because I live in hope that the party will get to the bit of our conference policy where it supports a people’s vote.”
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South
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.
43 former UK ambassadors and high commissioners have written a joint to The Times urging a change of course on Brexit. The prime minister’s current deal tells us nothing about where we’re headed, and leaving with no idea of our destination would be foolish in the extreme. The ambassadors write: “Brexit has turned into a national crisis. There is no possible deal that will be a sensible alternative to the privileged one we have today.” They add that there is now “a powerful argument to go back to the people and ask them whether they want the negotiated Brexit deal” – and all of its attendant uncertainties – “or would prefer to stay in the European Union”.
Tweet of the Day
Islington Council may have tried to silence the young by painting over this sign - but Jeremy Corbyn can’t continue to ignore his own parties conference policy.
Video of the Day 2
MUST-WATCH: The government has repeatedly promised to carry over our current trade deals. It has now been revealed that only SEVEN will be ready for March 29. The promises of Brexit are falling apart at the seams. The only way forward is a People's Vote.
At least somebody is benefitting from the Brexit mess. Dutch PM Mark Rutte believes Britain is a “diminished” country facing a “devastating” potential no-deal exit, telling the Financial Times: “At the moment the ball is rolling towards the Dover cliff… but nobody is doing anything at the moment, at least not on the UK side”. Still, at the moment the Dutch are very much enjoying the process as countries move offices and staff out of the UK, with 42 companies creating 1,923 jobs and investing 290 million euros in the Netherlands.
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Top Brexit comment
Rosa Ashby: "I run a small florist's and Brexit is killing my business" (Mirror)
Martin Kettle: Remainers, hold your nerve. May is no nearer to her Brexit deal (Guardian)
Pavlos Eleftheriadis: 3-month delay causes no problems for European elections (InFacts)
Today, Thursday 14th February
|Debate and votes on amendable motion on Brexit|
|09.30||Chris Grayling takes transport questions in Commons|
Tomorrow, Friday 15th February
|09.30||ONS: retail sales|