Brexit: Coming up this week
10 Dec 2018
This week, a number of hugely important events in the Brexit calendar occur.
- Withdrawal Agreement
The central event of the week is (or was supposed to be) the Parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday night. At the time of writing (1230, Monday 10 December), there are reports that the government will pull the vote. The government must have come to the conclusion that a) they were going to lose the vote and b) losing did not put them in the best position for moving forward. (Confusingly, had Theresa May lost the vote tomorrow, it might have given her the authority to go back to the EU and demand they move their position Irish Backstop. Then, she could return to the commons with the 'new' deal with slightly more confidence that MPs might side with her. However, they must have decided that the potential consequences of Labour's likely no-confidence vote were too high.)
- Amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement
These are significant as, if passed, they will make no-deal more unlikely. Hilary Benn announced that he will be tabling a motion that would prevent the government from going forward with a no-deal without consulting Parliament. This gained immediate support and will means no-deal Brexit is pushed a few notches down the scale of likelihood.
They may also allow MPs to tweak the vote enough to make it more palatable. For example, MPs may table changes that mean the position is moved towards a Norway-style agreement. This feasibly could garner greater support by Parliament. Whether it will be enough to pass is a different question.
- Article 50 in the ECJ
This morning, the European Court of Justice releases a ruling on C-621/18 Wightman - the case brought by Scottish MSPs, MPs and MEPs that asked whether the UK could unilaterally rescind Article 50. The ruling confirms what the Advocate General recommended last week that the UK can do an immediate U-turn and reverse Brexit, should it gain a Parliamentary majority or if a people's vote occurred and the population voted to remain.
- Scottish Continuity Bill
The UK Supreme Court will rule (probably on Thursday) on the legality of the Scottish Continuity Bill. Currently, there are some powers that are technically devolved to Scotland but which lie within the remit of European Union mandates. When Brexit occurs, these powers will need to be given back to the relevant parts of the UK Government. The Scottish government and UK government are currently in disagreement about how this should be executed. The two governments agree in principle that the powers should be devolved. However, the UK government wants to outline the frameworks of administration and argues that, if an agreement is not reached, the UK government should control the powers.
The Scottish government wants a say in how the frameworks are made and then to have carte blanche over how they are administered. If the court rules in favour of the Scottish Government and Parliament, it will be another kicking for a government already in the gutter. If the Court rules in favour of the UK Government, you can be assured that the SNP will cause a stir and a headache. Yesterday, polling was released that suggests that more people in Scotland would prefer independence over both a negotiated and no-deal Brexit. With this fact and the appearance that the UK Government has stolen powers from the Scottish Government, things will likely kick off north of the border and amongst Westminster’s SNP MPs.
Other events of note
- A Conservative Party leadership challenge
Should the Prime Minister appear too weak to pass an agreement, or the government loses the vote over the Withdrawal Agreement by a big margin, the pressure on Theresa May to go may be too great.
- Prime Ministerial Statements
These will announce any big changes in the course of events or, indeed, the Prime Minister’s resignation if things go badly. There is one already scheduled for 1530 today, at which it is expected Theresa May will announce the pulling of tomorrow night’s vote over the Withdrawal Agreement.
- Opposition Party Statements
Conversations have been happening between all opposition parties. No doubt they will be livid if Theresa May delays the vote. There is a chance they could table a no-confidence vote anyway as, frankly, the government is admitting it doesn't have the control of Parliament as it stands.
You can follow live updates from the DMA as events unfold here.