Morning Briefing: MPs must back crucial amendments - Brexiter sideshow - majority against no deal
The Brexit clock is ticking down ever louder to March 29. But today Parliament can take back control of the Brexit process, carving out more time to figure a way forward from this Brexit mess. MPs on both sides of the House of Commons can stand up for the national interest. Ultimately, the only way forward is a People's Vote - but we're not there yet.
The People’s Vote campaign is backing four important amendments today, but there is one that has received comparatively little attention: Dominic Grieve’s killer “take back control” amendment. All MPs who wish to stop “no deal” should rally behind it.
If Labour is serious about avoiding "no deal", it should whip its MPs to support this amendment. Jeremy Corbyn should also whip for other key amendments, in particular Yvette Cooper’s which asks for extra time. If he doesn’t and we end up crashing out of the EU, he will share the blame. The party hasn’t yet decided what to do, according to the Guardian.
Grieve’s amendment takes control of the parliamentary timetable from the government for six days between now and the end of March and gives it to MPs. It doesn’t spell out what MPs should use those days for. But it gives them a powerful tool to resolve the crisis.
If the amendment passes, MPs could thoroughly explore alternative forms of Brexit. They could examine “no deal” and rule it out; they could look into Labour’s Brexit plans and various compromise solutions being bandied around. Most likely they will discover that the only good forms of Brexit are fantasies; and the only viable ones are bad.
If and when all forms of Brexit have been tried and found wanting, the case for a People’s Vote will be compelling. There should then be a Parliamentary majority in favour of one, as there will be no alternative left under Labour’s Brexit policy - and Corbyn should be prepared to back it.
At that point, of course, Brexit will have to be delayed. And that’s where Cooper’s amendment, clearing time for emergency legislation to force the government to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 deadline, will have its most powerful impact. The EU will happily give us extra time for a People's Vote but will be reluctant to do so if we don’t have a clue what to do.
Let your MP know you want them to back the “take back control” amendments this evening. You can contact them here.
Video of the Day
Although the “take back control” amendments are the critical ones today, there are a series of important sideshows in the Brexiter camp.
The government has decided to whip in favour of Graham Brady’s amendment requiring it to seek “alternative arrangements” to the notorious “backstop” which would keep the UK in a bare-bones customs union without any say over EU trade policy. The ERG hardliners appear to be divided over whether to support it, and it is currently unclear how much support it would receive if it were to be selected. But it is very unlikely it could secure a majority.
A manoeuvre that was designed to give Theresa May a strong hand when she tries to reopen negotiations with the EU will achieve the opposite. The other countries have already made clear they won’t reopen the Withdrawal Agreement which contains the backstop. Why would they even bother to make cosmetic changes if they know Parliament still won’t agree?
Meanwhile, Rees-Mogg has teamed up with soft Brexiter Nicky Morgan to devise another “cake-and-eat-it” version of Brexit. The duo want the EU to dilute the backstop. Fat chance of that. If the EU doesn’t agree, their fallback plan is to abandon the backstop completely and ask for a three-year “transition” after Brexit to cushion the blow. This is another fantasy proposal.
Finally, the prime minister has caved into pressure from ministers, including Amber Rudd, who want to stop “no deal”. In order to prevent them rebelling, she has promised to bring back to the Commons an “amendable” motion in two weeks. That will give MPs another opportunity to take back control on February 13 if the Grieve and Cooper amendments don’t pass.
This means the ministers are unlikely to resign today - and can fight their corner within government. But other MPs, including Labour’s leadership, have no excuse. They must take a stand today and vote for the key amendments.
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.
There is a majority in Parliament… against ‘no deal’
One thing that does have a majority in Parliament is opposition to crashing out of the EU with no deal. The FT has done a bit of number crunching to prove this, tallying up MPs who have spoken out against no deal, or signed amendments or voted against no deal in the past.
The reason otherwise divided MPs can unite against “no deal” is simple: the consequences are catastrophic. New warnings from concerned businesses and public services emerge every day. Yesterday, food retailers - including Sainsbury’s, Asda and McDonald’s - predicted “significant risks” to maintaining the choice, quality and shelf life of food. Meanwhile the Home Office announced it would demand visas for any new EU visitors staying longer than three months, axing plans for a post-Brexit transition period. Such abrupt change could cause significant disruption, not just to EU citizens but to Brits who would likely face reciprocal measures for travelling to the continent.
Thankfully, MPs have the power to take “no deal” off the table. The votes in Parliament today can take us a long way to averting this nightmare scenario.
Quote of the Day
“Once firms have taken the costly decisions to move operations or relocate people, these moves are unlikely to be reversed. This is why securing agreement as soon as possible and ending the current uncertainty is vital.”
Miles Celic, chief executive of TheCityUK
Brexit uncertainty just as damaging
But even if “no deal” is spiked, Brexit uncertainty is already damaging our country. Take the roughly 4,000 jobs in the City of London expected to have moved abroad by March 29. These losses are now “irreversible”, even if Brexit is stopped altogether, The Times reports. Bankers may not be the most sympathetic profession, but they bring a lot of money into the economy. Their loss means the government has less to spend on things like public services. And the decisions unfolding in the City will happen in other industries too the longer Brexit uncertainty drags on.
That’s why MPs need to give themselves the time in the next few weeks to work out a way through the Brexit mess, seal off dead ends and get behind a People’s Vote - the only option that prevents years of crippling Brexit uncertainty. The first step to doing that is voting for the four "take back control" amendments today.
It's okay to change your mind.
To get extension, first we need a plan
Even if the UK asks for an extension to Article 50, the type of extension the EU is willing to give us depends very much on what our plan is. EU members are currently debating the kinds of terms which could be tacked onto an extension, reports Bloomberg. One possibility is ruling out reopening the withdrawal agreement and “backstop” question. Another is to force the UK to have a written plan. Then there’s the problem of how an extension sits with the election of a new European Parliament. Senior EU officials want the UK either out by July or to hold full European elections this spring, The Times reports.
There are lots of moving parts to getting an extension. But the clearer the UK is, the better chance we have of getting the type of extension we need. That requires a plan, and a plan requires time. MPs must vote to give themselves that today. And the best plan - which will certainly need an extension - is a People’s Vote.
Tweet of the Day
Bridget Phillipson MP argues that going ahead with a Brexit so different from what was promised without the consent of the people could destroy trust in the political classes. A People’s Vote is the best way to maintain this trust. Read her article HERE.
UK’s Brexit timeline is impossible (Politico)
Top Brexit comment
Polly Toynbee: Britannia rules the waves? After Brexit, it’ll be floundering (Guardian)
Tony Blair: Leaving before we know where we are going is a profound mistake (Times £)
Today, Tuesday 29th January
|09.30||ONS: Economic review, January 2017|
Speaker to announce which amendments will be voted on
|19:00||Commons vote on amendments under section 13 of EU withdrawal Act|
Tomorrow, Wednesday 30th January
|-||European Parliament holding its own Brexit debate|
|-||Sarah Wollaston’s Ten Minute Rule debate on the “requirements relating to withdrawal|
|11.30||Northern Ireland questions in Commons|