The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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Well, this is awkward...

Dear lovely reader,

You may, quite reasonably, be reading this thinking that I might tell you what's going to happen next week. That's pretty much what this email promises to do. And yet, on this occasion, I can't do it. I'm sorry.

There are so many variables and so many different things that could happen.

What I can do, though is walk you through some of the options.  We can have a look round those variables and see what we find. 

Feel free to let me know what you think is the most likely scenario.



The Breakthrough

At the time of writing, I'm still expecting something to be presented as a breakthrough.  The first round of talks with Stephen Barclay (Brexit Secretary) and Geoffery Cox (government's legal man) in Brussels didn't go very well.  We've pretty much been told there can be no unilateral exit from the backstop. There can be no time limit on the backstop.

Fear not! Cox and Barclay are due back in town today. The plan is to talk right through the weekend, with Theresa 'the Big Cheese' May ready to swing into Belgium on Monday to finalise whatever it is has been agreed. 

What might that be? Well, right now it looks like we're talking about independent arbitration. That might mean there is an independent body to decide when we have, for example, enough technology to keep that border open.

Of course, there could be no breakthrough or a breakthrough that's considerably different to what I've suggested. It's all about that negotiation.


Big Vote VI (The Biggest Vote)

This is the thing that is most likely to happen. I can see very little chance of this part changing.  On Tuesday, the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration (and any extra bits from the breakthrough) will be put to the vote.

Forgotten what the WA is? It's actually pretty simple. We'll have a 21 month transition period, during which we'll stay in the Customs Union and the Single Market. We'll pay £39bn to the EU. EU citizens will be able to stay in the UK, UK citizens will be able to stay in the EU. There's a backstop for the border in the island of Ireland. 

The political declaration is where we say what we want to do in the future- including trading freely and sharing security and generally staying friends.

The backstop is there in case, at the end of the transition period, we haven't done all the deals we said we want to in the political declaration. In this instance, in order to keep the border in the island of Ireland open, we'd all stay in the customs union (with a few different rules for Northern Ireland).  We'd stay in that position until both the UK and the EU agreed we have made enough progress and the border could remain open in another way.

There are three things that could happen with this vote.

It should be noted that there are lots of MPs who already know exactly how they will vote - there are some whose vote could be determined by the breakthrough. What Cox and Barclay can squeeze out of Team EU this weekend really could make all the difference. Or no difference at all. Depending.

Theresa May wins!

This is the simplest thing. If she wins, it's all go. There is a frenzy of activity, lots of legislation goes through Parliament. We leave, with the deal in place, on 29th March.


Theresa May loses by not very much

The numbers here are difficult. Some say a narrow loss would be fewer than 80 MPs, some suggest it would have to be much narrower than that.

If it's close, then the PM could decide that she's still got a win close by. As such, she might postpone the two votes we've been promised if she loses. The votes on no deal and extending Article 50. They'll be pulled.

Why? Because she'll hope that she can win round the few votes needed. Whether they are from her own benches or the opposition. Presumably with reassurances rather than relying on another breakthrough.

So the new plan would be this: schedule Big Vote VII (This Time) for Monday 18th (11 days till we're due to leave) and then have the no deal / extend A50 votes on Tuesday 19th if necessary.  She would then start inviting MPs who she sees as persuadable to Number 10 for some buttering up.

Her plan would then be to win that and still leave on March 29th - moving into transition as planned.


She loses by not very much, but still goes ahead with the no deal / A50 votes. Presumably assuming that MPs vote for extension and not no deal (more of which later).  Then she asks for a one-month extension, giving her more time to win round those MPs who might change their mind.

Easter recess is cancelled. Big Vote VII (This Time) is on roughly 8th April. She wins that, gets all the legislation through, we leave by the end of April 2019 and start our (slightly shorter) transition period.

Theresa May loses by loads of votes

Numbers wise, this could be more than 50 votes. Or it could be more than 80 votes. That kind of thing. 

In this case, we have the votes on Wednesday and Thursday as planned. There is no point in postponing.

It's clear there is no Parliamentary majority for No Deal, so the Wednesday vote will lose.  It's equally clear that there probably is an appetite for an extension of Article 50.

This scenario is actually pretty simple. May loses heavily and MPs vote to extend. Done.


Article 50 Extension

OK. We know that MPs have voted for an extension. But for how long? The vote (whenever it comes) will not have a fixed period. It will be up to the government what they ask the EU for. It looks likely that the EU would be prepared to extend if requested.

1 month - this would be if the PM thinks she can win Big Vote VII (This Time).  It's short and sweet.

2 or 3 months - this is discussed regularly, but it's not clear what it would achieve. The EU don't seem to be in the mood for any more concessions. Unless there was a radically different proposal on the table. It would then have to be about persuading MPs.  

Note: A 3-month extension to 1st July is the longest possible without having EU elections. That's because on 2nd July the old European Parliament is dissolved and the new EU Parliament forms with MEPs elected across the 27/28 countries. 

9 months - this is when the really radical solutions start to become possible. An extension to 31st December would probably be long enough for either a General Election or another referendum. Or, if neither of those two, to go back to square one and completely renegotiate a brand spanking new deal. Maybe something with a customs union. 

There has been talk of a 21-month extension - instead of / as well as a transition period. That appears to have been largely dismissed, although, so much that has at one point been dismissed is now back in the game. 
Dear lovely reader (again),

I just wanted to pop up again on a personal note. Firstly to thank you for getting this far. I hope you have found it useful. 

I've been writing these Friday emails since 5th November 2015. That one went out to 22 people and was opened by 16 people, one of whom unsubscribed. Actually, hats off to Joe from Democracy Club (who I've met and is lovely) and Gerry (who I haven't but I'm sure is too) - they're still opening the emails three and a quarter years later. Not even my mum was on board back then. 

Anyway. What I was saying is I've been writing these emails for three and a bit years and this is so far and away the most difficult. There are so many permutations. So many moving parts. So, yes. Thank you for reading. I hope you are a little less confused than you were half an hour ago when you started reading this thing.

I'll try to put something out as an extra during the week if I think it'll help.

Have a wonderful weekend,


The Week Ahead. 

Sunday - if you'd like to keep up with where we're at for Big Vote VI (The Biggest Vote), you can't go far wrong by watching Ridge (Sky News, 9am) and Marr (BBC One, 10am).  I'd also love to tell you to come to my family comedy politics show in Brentford at 3pm, but it is now sold out.

Monday - A rare piece of consensus politics in the Commons. A Private Member's Bill to help children who are victims of female genital mutilation has been given government time and will complete it's Parliamentary journey today. Of course, you probably won't spot that this is happening, because the news will be wall to wall Brexit coverage.  

Theresa May will be hoping that she's in Brussels to agree The Breakthrough. 

Tuesday -  And here we are. Thirty-two months after the referendum, it comes down to this. Unless it doesn't. OK, it might come down to this. MPs will vote on the Prime Minister's deal - including any concessions that are won over the weekend. There is a full day's debate, with the vote coming at around 7pm. 

The Lords are looking at the healthcare Brexit Bill.

Wednesday - PMQs.  What happens at PMQs rather depends on what happened on Tuesday evening. Will Corbyn be calling on Theresa May to resign after another defeat? Will he keep the focus on austerity, with the Chancellor coming up later (which is much more likely if, somehow, the PM has won)? TIme will tell.

We then have the Spring Statement. Which used to be when we had the actual Budget, but Hammond wants to only have one 'fiscal event' a year and for that to be in the Autumn.  We should, therefore, expect very little from the Chancellor this time out.

The official business for the rest of Wednesday is a general debate on housing. Which is much needed as we've got something of a housing crisis. However. this debate is very unlikely to take place. Much more likely is that Big Vote VI (The Biggest Vote) will have been lost. So we will have a debate today and then vote on whether we want to leave on March 29th with no deal.

As you can tell, there is not much this week that I am sure about, but on this I can be clear. If the vote on no deal takes place today, it will not pass. There is no majority in the Commons for no deal.

Oh, and, yes, there is also a chance that the vote on Tuesday loses narrowly, this vote will be postponed until after Big Vote VII (This Time) next week. So, that would have us back with the general debate on housing.

The Lords are looking at the Trade Bill (which has already seen the government defeated).

Thursday- Let's be honest. By this stage of the week, almost anything could have happened. The official business is a debate on NICE appraisals of rare diseases. And, that's what we could be doing. Absolutely. Votes could have been won, or votes could have been pulled, or something else. 

Still, what I think is most likely is that the vote on Tuesday falls.  The vote on Wednesday falls. Today, we're debating an extension of Article 50. And I think that, if we get that vote, it will pass. 

Friday -  An abrupt change of pace today. We've got Private Members' Bills. MPs will be debating: the return of cultural objects from the Holocaust; Brining the PM back for PMQs at least twice a week; and enforced Leaders' Debates during a General Election.
Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill

This Bill will give the Government powers to set up and fund healthcare deals with other countries after it leaves the EU. At the moment the UK has Reciprocal Healthcare agreements with other countries based on its EU membership. These agreements support people from the UK to obtain healthcare when they live in, work in or visit other countries and vice versa, for people from other EU countries in the UK. The Bill has already attracted some criticism as it does not mention retaining the European Healthcare Insurance Card that ministers had previously said they would consider.

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
Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill [HL] 


While FGM is already illegal in this country, and the first person ever has now been successfully prosecuted, this Bill makes some changes. It is officially a Private Member's Bill from Lord Berkeley and Zac Goldsmith, it is being given a full day of government time to get through the Commons on Monday.

According to the House of Commons library: 

The Bill relates to a small, technical amendment to close a gap in the law in relation to proceedings for Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPOs), which are used to protect and safeguard victims and potential victims of FGM.

The Bill will mean that when a court is dealing with an application for an FGMPO, it will also have powers under the Children Act 1989 to make other orders regarding the welfare of the child. This will improve the ability of the court to act quickly to protect children at risk. The Bill extends to England and Wales only.

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.
Ps - please don't forget to click here to chip in with Patreon if you can
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