Government can no longer command a majority in the House of Commons.
Two votes in 24 hours have demonstrated that the government has lost control of the House of Commons in the critical run up to a meaningful vote on the only deal on the table for leaving the European Union. Yesterday the Commons voted by 303 to 296 to limit the government’s tax administration powers in the event of no deal. Today they voted to require the PM to come back with a new deal within three days if the current deal is voted down.
In years gone by this would have meant the collapse of the government and a general election. Since the introduction of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act however the lame duck government can limp on, incapable of passing important legislation, until a formal motion of no confidence is passed.
The Labour Party has indicated that they plan to table such a vote if, as is likely, the Government loses the meaningful vote on May’s Brexit deal.
What can we probably expect?
- May will almost certainly lose the vote. She could even put her own neck on the block threatening to resign is she loses.
- May or her deputy, in the event she goes, will have no chance at all of getting the EU agree to a different deal within three days
- With 70 days before Britain is set to leave the EU there will be no deal and no prospect of one.
- Parliament may spend some of that time discussing alternatives before concluding that there is no majority for any plan.
- There are then just three alternatives:
- We leave without a deal on March 29.
- There’s a general election – this may be enough to persuade the 27 EU countries to delay Article 50 but no guarantee that they we will – so no deal exit on March 29
- There’s a 2nd referendum. This may be enough to get Article 50 extended but no guaranteed that parliament will allow it.
What can we definitely expect?
The vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister as leader of the Conservative Party will take place this evening (Wednesday 12 December). Graham Brady (above), Chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, announced this morning that he had received the necessary 48 letters to trigger the vote.
It is likely that the PM will win. The PMs opponents within the party have struggled to reach the magic number of 48 letters in recent weeks. In other circumstances that would wound a sitting leader, damaging them enough to precipitate defeat. In these unusual times the anti May caucus, needs to find another 100 plus MPs that will vote against May at 6pm tonight. That would mean no new leader before the deadline for a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal of 21 January. The result of voting the PM out would almost certainly lead to a no deal Brexit. Most Tory MPs don’t want that.
If May wins she’s safe from another vote for 12 months by which time she will have probably have left office of her own accord. In that event, the attempt to unseat the PM by hard line Brexiteers, will have backfired.
According to several pundits, the Leave vote in 2016 would precipitate a realignment in UK Politics. Whilst Brexit has dominated the political discourse ever since, the main parties remain intact and the voters are faced with the same choices they faced before the referendum.
The first National Assembly of the Renew Party may herald the beginning of a challenge to that status quo. The event taking place in Westminster today welcomed around 200 activists who gathered to discuss ideas and plan the disruption of the status quo, with the primary goal of pushing a second referendum. Party co-leader Annabel Mullin revealed that the party already has around 120 candidates in place to fight the next election with that number expected to rise significantly. “We are planning for elections… local, regional and national,” Mullin confirmed.
Whilst the party is still small, the resounding applause for every single speaker, indicates that The Renew Party may well be the most unified party in the country.
You don’t need a crystal ball to foresee the result of today’s cabinet summit at Chequers. There has never been any doubt, we are on coure for no deal and that means a hard Brexit with hard borders all round.
Either A) there’s a compromise that will work and all the brilliant minds in government have spent two years looking but can’t find it or B) there’s no compromise that will work. It’s B) if you’re wondering.
The problem is twofold. Even if the cabinet agrees to a fudge today it won’t hold.
The second hurdle is even bigger.
Let’s say just for argument’s sake, two years after the referendum, we agree a plan. It normally takes a minimum of five years to agree and implement a trade deal and in some cases it can take more than twenty. That’s if both sides want a trade deal. The EU doesn’t want one because it would likely lead to the breakup of the EU. So we have one year but we need between five and twenty from the date at which the EU decides it wants a deal, which is likely to be never. You do the maths.
By 2024 we might have struck some deals outside of the EU but we won’t be in a customs union or a single market. It’s not uncertainty that’s the problem it’s that the reality is so shocking it’s difficult to accept.