15.03.2019

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The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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I'm sure we're getting there, but I'm not sure where there is.


Last week I wrote you the longest email in history. I'm sure some of you are still reading it. Taking a chunk each night before you drift off into a Brexit filled dream. Possibly featuring the Brexit Secretary trio of David Davis, Dominic Raab and whoever is doing the job now. 
 

Chaos


Thinking of Stephen Barclay (for it is he), if you want a picture of how things are going for Brexit, imagine this:

Yesterday, Barclay was wrapping up the debate about the government's motion on asking the EU to extend Article 50. He was explaining all the reasons why MPS should back the motion.  That's the role of whatever minister is summing up. When he finished MPs started a series of votes. The last of which was on the government's motion that Barclay had been telling everyone was so great.   

In the terms of internet clickbait everywhere: you'll never guess what happened next.  He voted against the motion. Yep. The motion he told everyone to vote for.
 


Order


The good news is that things are beginning to be a bit clearer. Not only did events happen this week exactly as I predicted last week (not that I'm feeling smug, obvs), but the path forward is pretty clear.  I'd say there are three paths that are possible.
 

Path One - the shortest of paths 


This is where the EU27 are grumpy. Spain (who are currently having elections) might refuse to grant an extension unless we talk about Gibraltar. France could refuse if we don't have a clear plan.

So, for one reason or another no extension is granted. The most likely outcome here is that we leave with no deal. By the time this was all sorted it would b 22nd March, just 7 days before 29th March 2019.

So, yes, MPs have voted to rule out no deal, but it is still a possibility that we crash out with no deal at the end of the month.
 

Path Two - bish bash bosh


This is the path that Theresa May wants. In short: we leave the EU with the PM's deal on June 30th.

For this to happen, MPs will have to vote in favour of the deal in next week's Meaningful Vote 3 (MV3). In order to do that she needs to persuade 75 MPs to vote for it while ensuring everyone who had voted for it this week stays no side.

Who might those 75 be? I think that May is now beyond caring. As long as there are 75. The DUP have made noises about coming on board, and if they do, they will bring along lots of Conservative Brexiteers.

This whole thing is becoming more party political every day. The Conservative MPs really want to be able to support the government. One member of the ERG suggested that pretty much everyone can swing behind the government, with 15-20 who will never vote for the deal.

That still makes the numbers close. There were 75 Conservatives who voted against on Tuesday. If 60 of them back the PM (which is generous), plus all 10 DUP, that still leaves 5 to come from parties where headway is going to be hard to make. May will presumably focus on trying to bring accross a handful of Labour voters from Leave areas.

Anyway.  In Path Two, MPs back May's deal. She then asks the EU for an extension until June 30th so we can pass all the legislation and get our ducks in a row. The EU agrees. Parliament gets on with the Brexit legislation while all the correct forms are filled. We leave with a deal on June 30th.
 

Path Three - an epic tale of love and loss


The starting point for Path Three is Theresa May not winning MV3. And, let's be honest, changing the minds of 75 people on an identical vote from exactly a week earlier is a tough task. 

Her argument to Brexiteers on her own side is that now we've ruled out no deal and are looking for an extension, the deal on the table right now might be your last ever chance to properly Brexit. She'll tell them that it's now or never.

But in this pathway, that's not enough. She doesn't persuade enough MPs. The vote falls. Her deal is finally declared dead.

What she does then is march into Brussels and asks for a long delay. Anything from 9 to 20 months.

If they grant us this, the first thing that happens is that we get ready to hold EU elections at the end of May. Presumably, we'd delay our local elections due for early May, so we can have them on the same day. 

In this pathway, it has been suggested by some government ministers that on Wednesday the Commons would have a series of votes on different options (Norway, Canada, a second vote, all that stuff) to see what there is a majority for.  This may then be part of working out what to do next.

That's the thing about the longer extension. It allows time for all the bits and bobs that we like, but it doesn't solve anything on its own. It's still possible we leave in August 2020 with no deal. What it does do, is give chance for radical solutions. We could have a General Election. We could have a second referendum (although this is looking increasingly less likely). We could start negotiating a completely different deal.  

In this pathway, anything is possible.
 

And finally...


There's just one problem with all of this. As of right now, the official Parliament calendar, showing what's happening when has no mention of any of the above.

Yesterday, MPs all agreed that she's got a deadline of 20th March to get her deal through. That's Wednesday. But there is no sign of the vote anyway. Either Andrea Leadsom (who announces what's going to happen) was being deliberately disingenuous, or they still don't really know when the best day is.  There is definitely no mention of indicative votes either. 

What we've got below is the business of the House as laid out yesterday morning. It will be changed. I'd expect MV3 on Tuesday, possibly followed by indicative votes on Wednesday.

After that, whatever happens, all eyes will be on the EU27.
 

The Week Ahead. 


Beware. This is not true. Lots of this will simply not happen.  It is included in here so we can all have a good laugh once the week is over. What larks, dear reader. What larks.
 
Monday - Fairly dull, technical regulations and Brexit statutory instruments, both in the Commons and the Lords.

Over in Westminster Hall there is a debate on a petition calling to ban all ISIS members from returning to the UK. 580,643 have signed this so, people clearly care very much. Will be interesting to see MPs views on this thorny issue.

Tuesday -  Officially this is another day of SIs and other bits. I fully expect, though, this day to be the third Meaningful Vote. That will be announced at some point soon.

The Lords are getting on with business. They're looking at both the Offensive Weapons Bill and the Healthcare BIll today. Both explained below.

Wednesday - PMQs.  After a series of government defeats, I'm sure that Corbyn will have plenty to go on. 

Again the Commons are currently down to be occupying themselves with SIs.  Again, that's not what I think will be happening. There have been strong suggestions that say that today, MPs will be given a series of votes on different Brexit options, in order to see what, if anything, might have a majority in Parliament.

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

Thursday- General Debate time. This week it's services for people with autism followed by NICE appraisal processes for treatments for rare diseases.  While the rest of the week may well have scheduled business thrown out the window, I think that this day will survive. There will have been a whole lot going on, and it will continue today, just not in the Commons.

What is happening today is a key EU summit. That's where we will get our extension if we are to get one at all.  That's why all the key votes have to be so clear. We need to do to this summit and be very clear about what we want. 


Friday -  Private Members Bills day. Today it's a Bill to help British citizens abroad to vote in elections, a Bill to inform the public on free trade and a Bill to regulate pedal cycle taxis in London.
Our pick of the government Bills in Parliament next week.
(This week they are all in the Lords)
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
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
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