24.01.2019

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The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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What flavour Brexit do you like?



OK, Team. Listen up. Next week is an odd one. We've got a motion which doesn't say anything, but might be amended so it does, but it's not legally binding, so maybe it doesn't anyway. Does that make sense? No? AH. Well, that's Brexit in 2019 for you. Buckle up - I'm going to take you round this whole thing.
 

The Motion


This is a bit confusing to start with. Normally the motion is the whole point. The motion would say 'this House is of the opinion that we should all eat sausages'. And then amendments could change that to, I don't know, vegan sausages. Or steaks. Or Viennetta. Whatever. The point is that the motion normally says what the plan is. 

Not next week, though. The Prime Minister has tabled an amendment that doesn't really say anything. Just that we've all had a big think about Brexit.  What's the point? The point is the amendments. The Priem Minister is looking for instructions to go back to the EU with. She needs to know what MPS want, so she can try to negotiate that - and therefore she can win the Big Vote IV in mid-Feb.
 

Plan B(ish)

This is the idea. This motion that doesn't mean much is amended by the vote of a majority of MPs. 'Ah!' exclaims Mrs May, 'that's what Parliament needs to get behind a deal!'  Off she trots to the EU.

She tells them that the Withdrawal Agreement they signed off in December has no chance, but if we can just change this one thing that MPs voted to amend, I'm sure we can have a deal done and dusted by March 29th.

In turn, the EU see the error of their bullying ways and readily agrees to this small change.

The Prime Minister holds this new, improved deal above her head and marches triumphantly back to Parliament. By this time, loads of Conservative rebels have found a way to back down on their objections, and lots of other MPs love this beautiful new deal. In mid-February, it happens. Big Vote IV. It passes. The Prime Minister is carried out the building on the shoulders of MPs from all parties.

MPs knuckle down to completing all the necessary legislation needed by 29th March. 

And then... oh yes... we leave on 29th March and enter the transition period. Deal in place. Done. Smashed. Sorted.
 

The Amendments


There are many, many amendments that have been put down. They won't all get selected by the Speaker for a vote. I'd imagine it would be 4-6 that make the cut. It's also useful to remember that if any of these do pass, they are not legally binding. So if, say, Parliament voted for Article 50 to be extended, or a second referendum, or something else that the PM has said she doesn't want, she can ignore the vote completely.  That's in theory at least, despite not being bound by law, there would be some political pressure to follow the instruction of Parliament.

Here are the main contenders:
 

The Labour amendment

 
This is mostly what Corbyn has been calling for the whole time - it starts by ruling out 'no deal' and then asking for votes on a couple of options including Labour's plan (a permanent customs union) and a second vote. 

There is also an amendment to this amendment, from Lib Dem Tom Brake. He wants to add any public vote to definitely have an option to remain in the EU.
 

Stella Creasy amendment


Stella Creasy wants us to have something called a Citizen's Assembly. This would be to get together 250 people who have been scientifically selected to represent a cross-section of society. They would then spend a weekend in a big hotel ballroom - set up wedding style in big round tables - listening to and evaluating the opinions of experts from all sides. They would then give their own recommendations as to how to move forward.   The idea is that the opinion expressed by the assembly could then inform the way that MPs vote and offer a way out of this deadlock.
 

Hilary Benn amendment (and Frank Field's and Dominic Grieve's)


All three of these amendments want MPs to have a series of votes, to see which options have a majority, or at least the most support from MPs. The reason there are three different amendments all with this idea is because there are different sets of options for MPs to vote on. Benn wants to choose between May's deal, no deal, renegotiate between the backstop / Canada style / EEA membership, or a second referendum.  Field wants seven different options, while Grieve wants MPs to be able to table all the options they want.
 

Rachel Reeves amendment


This one has lots of cross-party support and it simply says that if we don't have a deal agreed by 26th February, the Prime Minister must try to extend Article 50 - meaning we would not be leaving on 29th March.
 

Yvette Cooper amendment


At this stage - with plenty of time for things to change before Tuesday- this one looks most likely to go through. It's got support from Big Gun Conservative backbenchers as well as support from across the opposition parties. 

This sets out a plan for a Private Members Bill to take precedence over whatever the government want to do that day. In short, it would allow backbench MPs to pass a Bill through the Commons. This Bill, like the Reeves amendment, would force the PM to extend Article 50 if MPs haven't agreed a deal before then. Specifically, this extends it until 31st December.  This amendment is very clear that the extension is there to make time to get a deal.

It's worth noting that if this passes and she is able to get the Bill through Parliament, this is the only option that would end up being legally binding.
 

Caroline Spelman amendment and Vince Cable amendment


Both these amendments try to rule out no deal. Of the two, Spelman's is the more focused as it does nothing except rule out the no deal option.  Vince Cable (leader of the Liberal Democrats) rules out no deal and also calls for a second referendum.
 

Backstop amendments


So far you may have noticed a predominance of softer / no Brexit amendments. There are also four different amendments around the backstop that might be more appealing for those wanting a harder Brexit. Andrew Murrison has stated that any backstop must have an expiry date, while John Baron has no fewer than three changes - scrapping the backstop completely, time limiting the backstop and giving the UK the power to get out of the backstop without asking the EU first.
 

Phew!


And that's your lot. Something for everyone there, I think. Unless the amendment you really want is 'let's just never, ever talk about Brexit ever again'.

As you can probably see from this email, it's all going to get very technical next week. As ever, do make sure you're following it with us on social media. We bring you the things that matter while ignoring the sound and fury.

Sunday - We'll see all the amenders competing with each other for attention and momentum on Ridge (Sky News 9am) and Marr (BBC One 10am).
 
Monday - The Immigration Bill is up in front of MPs. This is one of the pieces of legislation that is so important to get through before 29th March.

Tuesday - Massive day in the Commons. There is debate all day on the various amendments and ideas around Brexit. Expect voting to start at 7.

Wednesday - Once again, we don't really know where we'll be by Wednesday. It really depends which, if any, amendments get a majority on Tuesday night. Whatever happens, there will be some big ideological clashes at PMQs.

After that, MPs will look at the Crime (overseas production orders) Bill and Lords continue to look at the Trade Bill. Both are outlined below.

Thursday- Backbench Business time! We've got a motion on settling the debt owed to victims of the Equitable Life scandal and then the sustainability of maintained nursery schools.

Friday - MPs aren't in Parliament today, but the Lords are plugging away at a couple of Bills.
Our pick of the laws being debated in the Parliament next week.
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
Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill
Electronic information is increasingly important for the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. The companies providing services which generate and store electronic data, such as internet service providers, are often located outside the UK. This puts this type of data beyond the current reach of existing UK court orders. This Bill would enable law enforcers in the UK to obtain data from foreign service providers in countries with which the UK already has judicial cooperation.
More details
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

 

This is one of the crucial pieces of Brexit legislation that is needed before we leave on 29th March.

It aims to take back control of the UK's immigration policy. It removes the free movement from the EU while maintaining that right for Irish citizens.  It also lays out our plans for whom we should allow into the UK post-Brexit.

Apologies, we haven't got a full breakdown of this one yet, we've been stupidly busy. We aim to have something on the site before debate on Monday.
Ps - please don't forget to click here to chip in with Patreon if you can
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