By GRAHAME ANDERSON
The Prime Minister now has something clear on Brexit to take to Brussels following voting on seven amendments in the commons on Tuesday evening. The success of the Brady amendment calling for the Irish backstop to be ditched along with her own deal, means for the first time there is a possible majority, albeit a small one for attempting to get a deal through before March 29th.
But any joy on what was a positive turn around for Theresa May following her huge defeat two weeks ago proved to be short lived. Within minutes of the end of voting, Donald Tusk announced in conjunction with all 27 EU leaders: “The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation”.
This will no doubt make for a fascinating encounter, when the PM goes back across to Belgium to try and seek cliff edge concessions in up to two weeks of possible talks. And even though Labour could celebrate supporting Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromy’s wish to reject a no-deal Brexit scenario, this in reality is still a possibility at this point. And of course, the government aren’t legally bound to adhere to it.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn however, agreed to accept the PM’s invitation to talk, now he believes a no-deal has technically been taken off the table. Five out of the other six amendments were all defeated. This all followed several hours of heartfelt passionate debate.
Rising to the despatch box Theresa May told the house she would speak to the EU to seek “legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement”. She felt the house had reconfirmed its view the UK should not leave the EU without a deal, and was in complete agreement. She added: “This government will redouble its effort to get a deal the House can support.”
SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford incurred the wrath of many MPs including the DUP’s Nigel Dodds when he sensationally claimed the Good Friday Agreement had been effectively torn apart by the Brady amendment. Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable intimated this could still all end up pointing toward a no-deal Brexit, and asked for the PM to make these so called alternative arrangements clearer.
The Next Chapter
A few years ago Greece failed to get the EU to change their approach at the last minute – will the UK succeed now the PM is about to answer their call for an understanding of what we really want?
Should Theresa May oversee an orderly Brexit 58 days from now, it will represent an extraordinary change in political fortunes not seen since the days of Winston Churchill. It could also of course create more humiliation for the government.
That’s still a long way off however as in real terms nothing has substantially altered at this moment, apart from the fact the PM has a mandate to at least try and get EU leaders to offer flexibility over regulatory alignment.
More voting will take pace in the commons on Valentines Day – it can only be hoped MPs together with their European counterparts are loved up enough to bring an end to this worrying withdrawal stalemate. We will still leave the EU on march 29th.
The List Of Seven
- Amendment A – designed to allow MPs to vote on any options to stop a no-deal exit, including maintaining a customs union and the possibility of a second referendum, was defeated by 327 votes to 296.
- Amendment O – The SNP’s attempt to extend Article 50 and rule out a no-deal was heavily defeated by 288 votes – (327 to 39).
- Amendment G – The intriguing Dominic Grieve plan to take control of six days of commons business leading up to the leaving deadline, look at alternative options and stop a no-deal, surprisingly went down by 20 votes – (321-301).
- Amendment B – created by Yvette Cooper (14 of her colleagues voted against it) and Nick Boles, to allow MPs to vote on a bill to extend Article 50 if the PM failed to secure a deal by late February, was defeated 321 votes to 298.
- Amendment J – Rachel Reeves’ idea of extending Article 50 if a final deal wasn’t agreed was also rejected 322 votes to 290
- Amendment I – This suggested change from Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromy to reject a no-deal Brexit outcome, was a clear winner by 16 votes – (318-310).
- Amendment N – The all important Brady amendment to ditch the backstop in favour of alternative arrangements, stole the show 317 votes to 301.