Brexit Groundhog Day # 402 (Or Whatever): MPs Attempt Brexit Process Takeover

-edited

Brexit silliness has been ongoing for at least a year. I made up a number. MPs voted to take control of Brexit. So What?

402 seems like reasonable number to start with, if for no other reason than to emphasize the endless groundhog nature of these daily charades.

The Guardian Live Blog reports MPs Start Debate on Indicative Votes as May Hints She Might Reject What Commons Chooses.

The key point is these indicative votes are not legally binding. May has already stated she might reject them. This is just like allegedly taking no-deal off the table in theory but not practice.

These clips are roughly in time order. I find many of them amusing. They are all meaningless.

The bottom line is the UK parliament succeeded in a vote to wrest control of the Brexit process from May. But it's not really binding.

Another Day, Another Resignation Threat

At various stages in the Brexit process there have been reports about pro-European ministers threatening to resign en masse if they don’t get some concession from the government. Those threats have always been withdrawn - normally (but not always) after Number 10 shifted a bit towards what the pro-Europeans wanted. According to ITV’s Robert Peston, something similar seems to be happening again.

Meaningless Circles

More He Said, She Said Silliness

A government source has denied Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that Theresa May suggested splitting the vote on the withdrawal agreement from the vote on the political declaration when they met at lunchtime earlier. The source said it was simply being explained to Labour side that the EU summit conclusions published last week - which could see article 50 extended to May 22 - referred only to the withdrawal agreement. “It was a clarification that came up in the course of a wider conversation,” the source said. The source said that in order to satisfy the terms of the EU Withdrawal Act, the Commons “meaningful vote” had to cover both the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.

Questions and Fears Over Meaningless Indicative Votes

MP Owen Smith says he made the case for a second referendum when he challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership unsuccessfully in 2016. Speaking in favour of the Lewin amendment, he says he is worried that, if there are indicative votes, the government will try to “bamboozle” MPs by offering them a whole smorgasbord of options, including a second referendum. But that would be “tricksy” and “deceitful”, he says, because a second referendum is a process matter, not an eventual outcome. He says he hopes the speaker would not allow this.

Jenny Chapman, the shadow Brexit minister, says different MPs have different views on how indicative votes could be carried out. She says the Labour amendment and the Letwin amendment both avoid being prescriptive on this point.

No One Willing to Accept the Results of the Indicative Votes

Ken Clarke, the pro-European, asks Barclay when the government will schedule its own indicative votes process. He [Barclay] says Labour criticised the government for not committing to definitely accepting the results of the indicative votes process. But Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would not automatically accept the results either.

To Get the Results on the 10 O'clock News

The debate is over. Labour decides not to move its amendment. That means MPs go straight on to the Letwin amendment, which is being voted on now. This means, if the government does get defeated on Letwin, the result will get onto the 10 o’clock news.

Resignations

Business minister Richard Harrington resigned to back the Letwin amendment.

Letwin Results

May suffers fresh Brexit defeat as MPs opt to take control of indicative votes process by majority of 27

MPs has backed the Letwin amendment by 329 votes to 302 - a majority of 27. That is a much bigger margin of victory than many people were expecting.

Three ministers resigned to back Letwin amendment: Richard Harrington, the Foreign Office minister, Alistair Burt, Minister of State for the Middle East, and the health minister Steve Brine.

Dame Margaret Beckett’s Amendment

Beckett’s Amendment would allegedly force May to recall Parliament from Easter recess to request a further extension to Brexit if there is no agreed deal seven days before the new April 11 cutoff date.

This pertains to the Easter Recess Schedule of April 4 through April 23.

The Beckett Amendment went down in flames 314-311.

Real Cutoff Date

The real decision cutoff date is up to Theresa May. If she desires, it's April 4, not April 11.

Bucking the Whips

Eight Labour MPs did not vote for Letvin. 30 Tories did vote for it.

There is no logic to backing Letwin and not Beckett. But this all appears meaningless anyway.

Hooray! This will make the 10 o'clock news.

Bottom Line

Here's the bottom line that few seem to realize.

MPs can instruct the Prime Minister to do something but they cannot force the PM to do it. The EU deals with heads of states, not MPs.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (41)
No. 1-23
mpowerOR
mpowerOR

Waiting for the inevitable twist when Brussels changes its' mind and tells May/UK, "...um, upon further reflection, we'd rather not have you in... Sorry!".

Mish
Mish

Editor

mpower, they cannot say that directly. They don't want to accept the blame. France may very well feel and act that way. Germany won't

Mish
Mish

Editor

I added this important conclusion to my post to explain why it isn't binding:

MPs can instruct the Prime Minister to do something but they cannot force the PM to do it. The EU deals with heads of states, not MPs.

avidremainer
avidremainer

Mish You couldn't be more wrong. If your Prime Minister acts like Charles I or his son James II or George III then the lesson has to be taught all over again. Parliament is sovereign or in your case the American people are sovereign. All these Tory ministers are fools when they say it is only a motion of the House it is not binding. They had better obey or Parliament will introduce laws to make them obey. You witnessed a very British coup and were absolutely unaware what was happening.

Latkes
Latkes

What is the situation now?

There will be a another vote about May's proposal (tomorrow?). If it's approved, Brexit will happen on 29th March. If it's defeated again, Brexit will be postponed to 12th April. Meanwhile, the UK can either ask for another extension or vote on May's deal yet again or get a new deal or exit on WTO terms by 12th April.

Does that sound right?