Morning Briefing: MPs take control, but how to use it? - Hard-Brexit Mexican standoff -EU citizens' rights in doubt
It’s great MPs have taken control of the Brexit process from a stubborn prime minister who has run out of ideas. Now they must use it wisely.
The scale of the Government’s defeat and the principled resignations of ministers Richard Harrington, Alistair Burt and Steve Brine yesterday are more nails in the coffin of a Brexit deal that very few in the country or Parliament have ever wanted.
The government’s churlish response to yesterday’s defeat by 329 votes to 302 - describing it as a “dangerous, unpredictable precedent” - shows its contemptuous attitude to Parliament. But as MPs prepare to debate Plan Bs tomorrow, it did make one good point: “Any options considered must be deliverable in negotiations with the EU.”
There will now be an intensive discussion among key MPs about what exactly happens tomorrow. One priority will be to prevent any “unicorns” being selected for debate. Otherwise, MPs will waste yet more precious time.
Another priority will be not to muddle up Brexit options with the People’s Vote. A new referendum is not a Brexit option. Rather, whatever MPs think is the least bad Brexit option - whether the prime minister’s deal, a softer Brexit, crashing out with no deal or just cancelling Brexit - should be put to the people.
It's clear that Brexit must be put to the people. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the People's Vote campaign. Sign up to volunteer today.
Although time is short, it’s important that the process isn’t rushed - and that we end up determining the country’s fate in a poorly thought through multiple choice speed-dating process.
Then there’s the question of whether the government will act on whatever MPs agree on. Theresa May hinted yesterday that she would refuse to implement anything that contravenes the Tory party manifesto from 2017, such as staying in the EU’s customs union and/or single market. She also hinted she would say no to a People’s Vote - even though her manifesto didn’t give a view on that at all.
But while this parliamentary drama unfolds, MPs must not forget the most important thing. The clock is ticking madly towards a new cliff edge on April 12. Last night they failed by three votes to back an amendment by Labour’s Margaret Beckett that was designed to prevent Parliament doing this by forcing a vote by next Friday on securing extra time. What is needed now in this national emergency is not more posturing or playing roulette with people's lives but to give Parliament the time and space needed to work out what Brexit means, as well as begin preparing for important democratic elections to the European Parliament.
When it becomes clear that any form of Brexit will let down everyone - no matter how they voted in 2016 - MPs will decide the only way out of this crisis is to hand the final decision back to the British people.
Video of the Day
WATCH: The government want us to leave the EU with no idea where we are heading. This is perhaps the worst broken promise of all.
Public opinion weighs against Brexit
Public opinion is starting to shift decisively against Brexit. 63% of people now think we’ll get a bad Brexit deal, reveals the latest survey from NatCen Social Research and What UK Thinks. Two years ago, Leave voters were willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt - now 80% think Brexit has been handled badly (that figure is 85% for Remain voters). What’s more, staying in the EU has been consistently polling higher than leaving. Currently levels are at 54% to stay versus 46% for leaving. It simply cannot be said anymore that the “will of the people” is to leave the EU.
Tweet of the Day
Jeremy Corbyn should look at the numbers and embrace the opportunity to support a People’s Vote.
The hard-Brexit Mexican standoff
This all means May’s deal is dead, surely? Don’t be so certain. The government still seems set on bringing back the deal for a third “meaningful vote”, although they’re struggling to set a date.
The problem for May is that she’s stuck in a Mexican standoff with Tory hardliners from the ERG and Northern Ireland’s DUP. The ERG are thought to be willing to back May’s deal if she promises to resign ahead of the next stage of Brexit talks. But they are unlikely to do so unless the DUP had to get behind the deal too. And the DUP will only jump once the ERG does.To complicate things further, the DUP is refusing to back the deal and is angry at the prime minister’s “scare tactics” and suggestion yesterday that a lack of preparation by Northern Ireland’s civil service is a barrier to Brexit.
So the deal is stuck - but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. There could yet be a breakthrough, especially as a softer Brexit looks more likely. MPs who oppose the deal need to be alive to that, even as they turn their focus to alternative ways out of this Brexit mess.
Video of the Day 2
"This chaos is not an accident. Nor did it happen by chance. It was forced upon us, unwillingly, by the Brexit Elite. Watch FFS’ Rania Ramli at 'Put It To The People' rally, calling out Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage, after 1 million people came to London to demand a Peoples Vote.
Please share on Twitter.
Doubts over EU citizens’ rights
The government is keen to reassure EU citizens living in the UK that their rights will be protected and their status guaranteed after Brexit. MPs on the joint committee on human rights are not so sure. Their latest report has several warnings of where EU citizens could see their rights eroded. The fact the government’s new settlement scheme doesn’t provide physical proof of status, the lack of which led to the awful treatment of the Windrush generation. Vulnerable people could also fall through the cracks if they miss the registration deadlines. The committee also urges proper legislation guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights, without which it warns people could find themselves in a precarious position over housing, social security and property rights.
Quote of the Day
“Human rights protections for EU citizens must not be stripped away after Brexit. EU citizens living in this country right now will be understandably anxious about their futures. We’re talking about the rights of people who have resided in the UK for years, decades even, paying into our social security system or even having been born in the UK and lived here their whole lives.
“When it comes to rights, promising that everything will be worked out in the future is not good enough, it must be a guarantee, which is why the committee have reinserted rights guarantees back into the wording of the bill.”
Labour MP Harriet Harman, who chairs the joint committee on human rights
Top Brexit comment
Lara Spirit : The only way out of Brexit lies with the People. (Washington Post)
Rania Ramli: For young people like me, the Brexit mess has sparked a much bigger debate about the future of politics (Independent)
Polly Toynbee: The Tories are no longer a party, and Theresa May must know that (Guardian)
Today , Tuesday 26th March
Tomorrow, Wednesday 29th March
|12.00||Prime Minister's Questions|
|PM||Indicative votes expected in Commons|