The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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Expect the expected

Ladies and gentlemen, the stage has been set. The players are all in place. The audience (that's you and me) are shuffling into our rows. Popcorn is being eaten. Sugary drinks have been purchased at exorbitant prices. We're finally having our 'high noon'.

Except, of course, it's not this week. It's next week. And, yes, we've heard this before. We're constantly being told that while this week is a bit nothing-y, next week will be a humdinger. 

Wait! Come back! Stay and watch events unfurl. Be our companion on this journey through the technicalities of leaving the European Union.  

This time is different. It's March 2019 - we've been talking about this month for very many days. The can has been kicked and kicked and kicked and here we are at the end of the road. A brief look at the numbers doesn't make pleasant reading for our Prime Minister. There was a three line whip to vote for the upcoming votes on Wednesday night and over 100 MPs didn't do as they were asked. If the meaningful vote was today, Theresa May would surely lose by a wide margin.

Except. The vote is not today.  It's not even next week. It's the week after, on 12th March (probably). So what can we expect this week, in Act One of what must be her two week Magnum Opus?  Clearly, she needs a breakthrough in Brussels to have any hope. And that is exactly what she'll get. Probably.

At some point next week, or even next weekend, we're almost certain to get some kind of deal / commitment / legal jargon that will be just enough for Geoffrey Cox to change his legal opinion to say that we couldn't be in the backstop forever. These will be called 'alternative arrangements'.  Both sides know exactly what we need, and my bet is we'll get whatever the minimum concessions to achieve that is.

How will the rebels feel about this? It depends on what exactly is agreed to. If there would be any differences between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, the DUP won't be on board. If we could be held in the backstop against our will for any period at all, there will be ERG members who won't sign up.

Act One will close on Conservative backbenchers making plans, developing strategies and shaking hands. 

The curtain will rise on Act Two on Monday 11th March. Don't spend too long in the foyer - you won't want to miss a second.

The Week Ahead


Heads up: If the PM strikes a deal with the EU at any point, she will bring it back to the Commons and this timetable will be ripped up.

There have been rumours of a surprise 'meaningful vote' this week. 

Sunday- Keep an eye on all the manoeuvrings by watching Ridge and Marr. There is a bit of time, so different people will be back promoting their Brexit priorities.  Expect discussion of Kashmir and Trump, too. We certainly live in interesting times.

Monday - Fans of technical and, well, dull legislation and debate will love the Commons today.  We've got the wrapping up of a Bill about financial services and then some secondary legislation on benefits. Expect most MPs to stay away all day.

The House of Lords are still looking at the Offensive Weapons Bill.  Details below.

Tuesday - MPs will be debating Northern Ireland today, but not about the backstop. It's like they've suddenly remembered some of the non-Brexit problems being faced. The Northern Ireland Assembly hasn't sat since January 2017.  That's over two years ago. The civil servants have kept on working using the previous budgets and directions but as time drifts on, that's increasingly difficult. So, today MPs will debate putting a budget together to keep the place afloat while negotiations continue (or not) to get back to power-sharing in the assembly. 

Wednesday - PMQs.  Last week was mostly Brexit free as the PM and Corbyn clashed on poverty and argued over whether manufacturing is in recession. It was... slightly less dull than normal. The trouble is this - between Corbyn and May there is very little ideologically in common. They see totally different paths to making the country prosperous for all. Which means that they can never agree on the best road forward. Which means they can only shout at each other that they are on the wrong path. There is nowhere else to go. We're locked into this permanent ideological struggle. 

Once we're done with all that malarkey, we're onto some technicalities and more Northern Irish finance stuff.

Over in the Lords, they're actually looking at one of the vital pieces of legislation we need before Brexit. It's the Trade Bill - details below.

Thursday- Who loves General Debates? We all love General Debates! MPs get to tell us what they think about things without any danger of any change being made. This week we've got International Women's Day debate (the day itself is tomorrow) and 'Opportunities and challenges facing the modern Commonwealth in its 70th year '. 

Friday -  It's International Women's Day. Neither the Commons nor the Lords are sitting.

Sunday - The family show I do in collaboration with Comedy Club 4 Kids  - How Does This Politics Thing Work Then is in Brentford. Come along!
For most of this week, will people will be doing is looking forward to next week, so here's the plan.

Tuesday 12th - A meaningful vote on Theresa May's deal. Presumably as amended in talks this week. Or, maybe not amended, but as added to between now and then.

Wednesday 13th - If the meaningful vote doesn't pass on Tuesday (which I really don't think it will), today will be spent debating and then voting on leaving with no deal. 

Thursday 14th  - If MPs didn't vote to leave with no deal yesterday (I'm absolutely certain they won't), today will be spent debating and then voting on an extension of Article 50.  The working theory is that this extension would be until the end of June, the last date by which we would not have to have EU elections.

If MPs haven't voted for the deal, I'm almost certain that this will be the outcome.  What happens next, as in, what happens between 29th March and 30th June, I am less sure about. We shall see.
Offensive Weapons Bill

Knife crime increased by 22% in the UK in 2017, and between 2013 and 2017 the number of recorded corrosive substance (acid) attacks increased from 183 to 504.  

This Bill will make it harder for people to buy knives and acid online, and will make it illegal to possess certain weapons such as knuckle dusters, flick knives, and rapid firing rifles. These measures form part of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy announced earlier this year and could get cross party support, however the opposition parties regard lack of police resources one of the main causes of increasing crime, which is not a factor this Bill addresses.

More details
Trade Bill

This is one of the nine new pieces of legislation that lay the groundwork for Brexit. This Bill will attempt to carve out a future for Britain as an independent trading nation after we leave the EU. The Bill will create powers so the UK can transition trade agreements that currently exist between the EU and other countries, and which we are party to through our EU membership. It will also set up a new Trade Remedies Authority, to defend UK businesses against unfair trade practices.   

More details
I'm back out on tour with my fabulous family comedy politics show!
If you live near any of these places, find some children and come along.
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