Last night MPs voted for the Spelman amendment – a non-binding amendment that suggested Parliament was in favour of ruling out a No Deal Brexit. While the government is not required to take action on the result of the amendment vote, typically this would be an indication to the government to change track. In these extreme times and circumstances, however, the government knows they must continue to pretend they’re willing to leave the EU without a deal.
Today, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said that a No Deal Brexit remains an option, and that the UK would leave the EU without a deal on the 29th March if an agreement cannot be made. Remainers might complain and consider it a betrayal of their Commons vote, but Barclay is only repeating what Michel Barnier has said on the matter – which is, the UK leaves on March 29th with or without a deal. The UK cannot stop us leaving without a deal unless we agree to a deal.
In a BBC Radio 4 interview today, Barclay was asked whether the UK would still leave without a deal. He responded:
“Yes, for the simple reason that the way you take no deal off the table is to secure a deal, or to revoke article 50 and not have Brexit at all, which I think would be catastrophic to our democracy and go against the biggest vote in our history.
Many MPs are concerned about the consequences of no deal, I share that concern as someone who oversees many of the plans on no deal. I’m not one of the MPs who says that no-deal can be managed in a benign way.
It is not a policy, it is reality. It is the fact that the majority of MPs voted to trigger article 50. The way you address the risk of no deal is to have a deal or to revoke article 50. That is the legal position.”
Barclay also confirmed that Theresa May will today be meeting Jeremy Corbyn to discuss possible changes to the Withdrawal Agreement. The leader of the Labour Party has previously ruled out working with the Prime Minister in the hope that she wouldn’t get a deal through Parliament, but following her success passing the Brady amendment yesterday, he now knows Labour’s potentially in for a kicking.
With the Brady amendment passed and the Tory party unified on a new way forward for Brexit Theresa May must go back to the European Union to agree “alternative arrangements” to the backstop. However, in the same Radio 4 interview today, Barclay failed to explain exactly what it is the UK wants. This is why Tory MPs were claiming the Brady amendment was too vague in the first place. When asked five times what the alternative arrangements might be, Barclay couldn’t answer.
Mrs. May now just needs to decide whether the alternative arrangements she pursues will be in line with Labour’s thinking, or something her party could get behind. She just needs the votes in Parliament, and I’m sure at this point she’d choose whatever option seems most likely to pass.