Your guide to making sense of this whole mess.
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This will (probably be my last email of 2019. It's been one heck of a year. 
Thanks for joining me through it all.

I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful Christmas wherever you're spending it.
Get some rest, have some fun, spread goodwill.

Peace and love,


[Insert terrible Christmas analogy here]

We've got eight days until 25 December. This is the last (and first) week of this Parliament before the Tofurky is carved. By all rights, there should be a lovely warming festive vibe in your heart.

This email should be full of excitement, holding the torch of joy up against the darkest of days. 

It's not going to be that. Not this year. Not at this point in December. As I'm sure you are, we're all about Friday's Brexit vote. Christmas may not be cancelled, but it's definitely postponed.

Yes, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is back!

Now, before we go any further we need to recap what the WAB is all about.  It's mostly about making the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU law.  There are some other technical bits, but we'll get into them after a cup of tea and a week or so off. Here's a recap of the agreement: 

1) People staying put

I don't normally say what I think about things, but for me, this is the most important. EU citizens living here and UK citizens living there can stay. Why is it so important to me? I speak to lots of young people in my show and in schools. The number of children to ask me afterwards if they will have to leave the country was very difficult. Having small children scared about their future, their homes and their friends was heartbreaking.

This sorts that out. There have been some issues with the registration process, but we now have a year to get that sorted.

2) Paying the bill

As we agreed to the EU budget (and other things) a few years ago, we have some financial commitments.  There was a ruling that suggested we don't absolutely have to, have to pay the money, but it was generally agreed that we have a moral duty to pay the money we have agreed to pay. 

As the agreement was a while ago and the length of time left to run on the budget gets smaller, which means the bill is not quite as big as it used to be. It currently stands at roughly £32bn.

3) Northern Ireland

What's planned for Northern Ireland looks a bit like a duck, swims a bit like a duck and quacks a bit like a duck. The DUP call it a duck. Labour call it a duck. Boris Johnson, however, says it's definitely not a duck. Or a border in the Irish Sea. 

OK, reader, I'm going to level with you. At this point in the year, I don't think you really want a full explanation of the Irish arrangements. The detail of this whole thing will be back in the Commons after Mr Christmas' big day, so we'll leave it mostly for then. 

What you need to know now is that products going to Northern Ireland from Great Britain won't have any duty or tax levelled on them. Goods going through NI to the Republic of Ireland will have fees to pay. 

There will be no infrastructure on the border between RoI and NI and goods will be able to travel freely between the two bits of the island. Again, if products are to enter GB from NI there will be money owed. 

As I say, there is a bit more to it than that, but it's the general vibe.

4) Just an inbetweener

We'll get a transition period until the end of the year. This gives business and regular folks like us the opportunity to adjust and change things as necessary for the real leaving at the end of next year. It also gives the UK time to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU.

What this really means is that when we wake up on the morning of 1st Feb, we'll be out the EU but it won't feel very different. 

5) No extension

(not in the agreement, but in the WAB)

The transition period was supposed to be two years, starting with May's deal being passed back in January. You may remember this didn't happen.

The end of the transition period, though, has not moved as time has passed. That means we've got one year to sort out that trade deal.

There had been talk that we might extend the transition period if we didn't have a deal. This doesn't work for the Big Cheese. He's going to add to the WAB that we absolutely have to leave fully next year. This sends a message to us, but also to the EU who he thinks will have more of an incentive to get on and deal.

Of course, it doesn't rule out extending absolutely. A quick debate and vote in Parliament can amend any law that has ever been passed. He could just take this bit out.  That's not the point though. The flexing of the Johnson muscle is the point.

Friday's Vote

While out on the election trail, Boris Johnson said he'd have a vote on the Brexit Bill before Christmas. On Friday he will deliver on his first promise since Big vote. 

This will be the Second Reading vote. That is, counter-intuitively, the first debate in the Commons. As this is a new Parliament, it doesn't matter that it's already been debated before.  This isn't about detail, but about the general feels.

After the debate, there will be a vote. It will win by miles and miles. We can all get into our Christmas reassured that Brexit is coming and we'll be out by February.

The Queen's Speech

We've got a big QS on its way on Thursday, too. It's not as exciting as it has been. It will involve a lot about Brexit and a little of the manifesto we've just enjoyed hearing so much about.

Normally I get very excited about the Queen's Speech debate due a couple of hours later, but I think that's been postponed until after Christmas. We just get more MPs swearing-in. Apologies. The exact timetable hasn't yet been made clear.  It doesn't look like we will get that debate, though. Something to look forward to in 2020.
Feeling like celebrating / cheering yourself up? Of course you are!

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Day by day guide

Tuesday - This always happens. Parliament has been away. There's been an election. The House of Commons re-opens and a certain type of Friday morning email writer gets hugely excited. Until they (he) remembers that it's just a ceremonial re-election of the speaker and representatives swearing-in promising to not be bad MPs. Nothing happens. It's dull/ Booooo.

Wednesday - Yawn. Another day of signing up for MP rights in the Commons. Maybe find something else to do, yeah? 

Thursday - The Queen's Speech! These are once a year events, except we only had one a couple of months ago. Lucky us!  As I told you at length last time out, don't worry about the Queen bit. She arrives in shiny transportation, toddles about the Palace of Westminster for a bit, reads a speech she didn't have any part in writing and leaves.

The exciting bit comes at around 3, but I think that it's been cancelled to get more MPs through the swearing-in process in time for some Brexit fun tomorrow.

Friday - The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is back! Mr Johnson promised us a vote before Christmas. We've got one. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
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