Britain’s House of Commons is voting on Theresa May’s so-called Withdrawal Agreement just hours before the nation was supposed to leave the European Union, with or without a deal — a deadline betrayed this week by Parliament after they voted to postpone Brexit months or even years into the future.
Britain’s lawmakers have already voted against the settlement the Prime Minister agreed with the European Union twice, and the government was blocked from bringing it to Parliament again. Yet by splitting the deal into two pieces, the ‘Brexit in name only‘ apparently comes before Parliament again as a different vote in spirit only.
UPDATE 1510 — Time for change?
Leave.EU, the larger of the two major Brexit campaign during the EU referendum in 2016, close to Nigel Farage, has welcomed the defeat of Mrs May’s deal, and called for her to step down and make way for “a proper leader who believes in Brexit” and will deliver a WTO, or No Deal, Brexit.
Another whopping defeat for May’s surrender document and now she’s talking about a long delay to Brexit. Time for her to resign so we can get a proper leader who believes in Brexit. We must go WTO!
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) March 29, 2019
28 Brexiteer Tory “Spartans” voted against the Withdrawal Agreement, including former Brexit minister Steve Baker, European Research Group (ERG) Vice Chairman Mark Francois, and veteran eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash.
ERG hardcore who voted against the deal again was 28:
– Adam Afriyie
– Steve Baker
– John Baron
– Peter Bone
– Suella Braverman
– Andrew Bridgen
– Bill Cash
– Christopher Chope
– James Duddridge
– Mark Francois
– Marcus Fysh
– Philip Hollobone
– Adam Holloway
– Ranil Jayawardena
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) March 29, 2019
UPDATE 1509 — Dominic Grieve revives Remainer hopes for a Second Referendum in wake of third May defeat
Mr Grieve, who is potentially facing deselection in his own constituency, reminded that with the Remainer-dominated House of Commons voting down leaving in a clean, no deal Brexit he sees room for a second referendum.
The former attorney-general said, “My view has always been that whatever deal we get we should go back to the electorate and ask them” with the options being accepting May’s deal and staying in the EU.
UPDATE, 1507 — Sky News cites EU sources mooting no deal Brexit
The European Commission, the unelected executive which has been leading the Brexit negotiations for the EU, has said it now believes a No Deal break with the United Kingdom on April 12th is a “likely scenario” — despite majority opposition to this by British politicians, and a widespread expectation that the European Council will offer the UK a long delay to Brexit, possibly to April 2020.
The European Commission says a ‘no-deal’ Brexit on Friday 12 April is now a “likely scenario”
— Sky News Breaking (@SkyNewsBreak) March 29, 2019
A full, no deal Brexit isn’t without friends in the United Kingdom despite the deep animosity towards it from the House of Commons, however. As reported by Breitbart London this morning, a respected economist and former governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King dismissed the claims of so-called project fear, and criticised politicians for having a collective “nervous breakdown” over Brexit.
Speaking to the BBC Friday morning, Lord King said:
My own personal preference would be to go back to Europe and say we have a clear strategy which is we want to leave without a deal. But we would like to take six months to complete the preparations to avoid the dislocation… I would like to see us say that we will leave without a deal, a certain distance ahead, which would give the country time to make those preparations and then I think we’d be in a much stronger situation.
Read more at Breitbart London:
Fmr. Bank of England Boss Mervyn King: No Deal Brexit Is the Answer, Project Fear Is a Myth https://t.co/Z5gF3QpzNK
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 29, 2019
UPDATE 1500 — What does this mean?
The United Kingdom has now defaulted to a clean, No Deal exit on the new April 12th deadline agreed at the European Council meeting where the Prime Minister agreed an extension of the Article 50 negotiating period with the bloc, but it seems likely that a Remainer-dominated House of Commons clearly opposed to No Deal will not allow this to happen.
“The implication of the House’s decision is now grave,” the Prime Minister told the House. “[There] is not enough time to agree legislature and ratify a deal and the House has voted to not leave without a deal and so we will have to agree an alternative way forward,” she observed.
MPs will now hold a new round of so-called “indicative votes” on Monday, to tease out a possible way forward.
The last of these ended in stalemates, with the House rejecting all possible options, including No Deal, revocation of Article 50, and a public vote on Mrs May’s deal.
UPDATE 1454 — European Elections now loom on the horizon
Speaking to Sky News, Independent Group (now Change UK Party, as of today) spokesman Chukka Umunna discusses preparing to field candidates for potential European Parliament elections which may now take place in May. No doubt, several other parties — including Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party, will be thinking the same way after the vote.
UPDATE 1451 — EU to convene an emergency meeting to respond
President of the European Council Donald Tusk has announced that he will be calling a meeting of the European Council on April 10th in response to the failure of Mrs May’s deal — two day’s before the new deadline for a No Deal exit.
In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on 10 April. #Brexit
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 29, 2019
UPDATE 1450 — The Prime Minister responds
Getting to her feet after the vote, the Prime Minister said:
The implication of the House’s decision is now grave. The legal default is the United Kingdom is to leave the European Union on the 12th of Aprill. That is not enough time to agree legislature and ratify a deal and the House has voted to not leave without a deal and so we will have to agree an alternative way forward.
The European Union has been clear than any further extension will need to have a clear purpose and be agreed unanimously by the 27 heads of state before the 12th of April.
It is now almost certain to involve the UK being required to hold European Parliament elections. On Monday this House will continue to see if there is majority for a particular future relationship with the EU.
I fear we are reaching the limits of the options of this House. This House has rejected no deal, this House has rejected no brexit on Wednesday. It rejected all the variations of the deal on the table and have rejected the withdrawal on its own. This government will continue to press the case for an orderly brexit that the result of the referendum demands.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn hits back, saying the Prime Minister should leave office and hold a general election. Interestingly he also states that today is the third vote on May’s deal — a truth unspoken by the government as part of the pretence to get the Withdrawal Agreement before parliament again in face of the Speaker’s ban on bringing the same legislation repeatedly.
UPDATE 1442 — Government defeated 344 — 286
As expected, the House has voted against the government’s Brexit ‘deal’ for the third time, falling short by 58 votes. The Prime Minister says this means the United Kingdom is on course to leave the European Union on April 12th without a deal — but acknowledges the Commons will not permit this happening.
The country will have to hold European Union elections in the month of May, therefore. If a real ‘no-deal’ Brexit is a nightmare for Parliament, then holding elections the mainstream parties are likely to be hammered at must come a close second.
UPDATE 1427 — Bercow announces divisions
After a morning of speeches in the chamber, including an impassioned speech by the Prime Minister in defence of her deal, the Speaker of the House has called divisions — meaning members have gone to the lobbies to vote. We can expect a result in 15 to 20 minutes.
Defending her deal against the persistent feeling that her Brexit settlement with Europe is no real Brexit at all, the Prime Minister appeared to plead with the house, telling them voting for her deal is the “the last opportunity to guarantee Brexit”.
The Prime Minister said:
Today’s motion is not about a blind breit is it a guarantee to brexit today we can give the public and business the certainty they need today.Today we can show we can stand by our word. Today we can come together in the national interest
Today we can take a step forward together this is a difficult day for mema crso the house by asking member to take a hard decision and asking some honourable members to vote for a brexit that is less than they hoped for and that is not east. I’m asking the opposition to deliver on instruction of British people and that is not easy either.”
I have said I am prepared to leave this job earlier than intended to secure the right outcome for our country and when the devision bell rings in a few moments’ time, everyone one of us will have to look into our hearts to see what is right for our constituencies and our country.
How did we get here?
Before now, the prime minister had assured Leave voters that “no deal is better than a bad deal” and promised no less than 108 times that the UK would be leaving the EU, come what may, on March 29th 2019.
However, after the Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated with the bloc — allegedly behind the backs of ministers at the Brexiteer-led Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) — was rejected by Parliament twice, she reversed course, asking the European Council for an extension of the two-year Article 50 exit negotiations commenced in 2017, over the objections of Tory activists and most of her own MPs.
The EU granted the Tory leader a shorter stay of execution than she was asking for, and MPs must vote today for her agreement so Britain can leave the EU under its terms on May 22nd.
If they do not, the country defaults to a No Deal exit on April 12th — although it is widely expected that the Remain-dominated House of Commons would move swiftly to prevent this, instead forcing the Government to request a much longer extension, with or without Mrs May, with the EU reportedly ready to push exit deadline all the way to April Fools’ Day in 2020.
What happens if the deal does pass?
If the deal does make it through the House of Commons somehow, it is likely that the United Kingdom will leave the EU under its terms on May 22nd — at least in name.
Britain would not participate in the European Parliament elections in May, and would lose its MEPs and European Council representation, but would remain an EU member in all other respects until the end of a so-called “transition period” in which negotiations between the British government — under new leadership, assuming Mrs May keeps her promise to stand down — and Brussels.
If no future partnership is agreed during this transition, which could last all the way to the end of December 2022, the deal makes provisions for the so-called “backstop” to come into force, with Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) being incorporated into an EU-controlled “single customs territory”, while Northern Ireland would be effectively annexed into the EU Customs Union and Single Market proper.
This is considered an unacceptable outcome by virtually all sides of the Brexit debate, and the deal does not allow for Britain to break the arrangement without the EU’s permission — leading to fears that Remainers will simply reopen the question of whether the UK should simply revert seamlessly to full EU membership once the transition is over.
Do we know what will happen next if the deal does not pass?
Legally, the United Kingdom should simply leave the EU cleanly on April 12th on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms if the deal does not pass — otherwise known as a “No Deal” or “Hard” Brexit.
However, this was also supposed to be the cast for March 29th, and the British government, Parliament, and European Union instead contrived for Brexit to be delayed.
It is expected that the same thing will happen if the deal fails today, with the overwhelming majority of MPs voting to reject a No Deal Brexit in a series of “indicative votes”.
However, MPs also voted against every other alternative, including pushing for an even weaker form of Brexit, holding another referendum, and revoking Article 50 — which would essentially cancel the Brexit process.
This leaves the country in an invidious position, where a Leave-supporting populace is served by a Remain-supporting Parliament which has voted against every available Brexit, and where no party commands an overall majority.
A long extension, as the EU has been pushing for with increasing confidence, seems to be the inevitable outcome, assuming the bloc itself does not force a No Deal — as some Brexiteers have been hoping.
This would likely mean Britain would have to participate in the European Parliament elections in May — an event which could serve as something of a proxy second referendum, with parties opposed to Brexit facing off against Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and Gerard Batten’s UKIP — and a British general election, in which the Tories would likely be under new management.
What strategy for Brexit the Leaver-backed but Remainer-led party would be putting to the people at such an election, however, is unclear.
This story is developing, more follows