Hard Brexiteers from the European Research Group are threatening to vote down a No 10 motion in Parliament tomorrow, and inflict another Commons defeat on the Prime Minister. The motion to be voted on tomorrow outlines the “approach to leaving the EU.” It asks the House to reconfirm its support to the approach set out in the Brady amendment, which was supported in the Commons on January 29th.
It was therefore considered uncontroversial, until members of the ERG noticed the wording of the motion endorsed an extra amendment made by MPs on January 29th, which tried to rule out No Deal. Remember that? It was the amendment put forward that said the House would not accept a No Deal Brexit – the same amendment that the EU scoffed at and reminded British politicians that they could not stop No Deal.
The motion being voted on tomorrow effectively endorses that amendment and asks Parliament to support ruling out No Deal. Something the ERG clearly doesn’t want to do.
Speaking to the BBC, a well-known member of the ERG, Mark Francois said:
“We cannot vote for this as it is currently configured because it rules out no-deal and removes our negotiating leverage in Brussels…The Prime Minister, if she went through the lobbies for this tomorrow night, would be voting against the guarantees she has given in the Commons for months. It is madness.”
The Prime Minister denies that the motion will rule out No Deal, of course, with a No 10 spokesperson saying the motion simply reflects the Prime Minister’s desire to get a deal with the EU.
Mrs. May has also spent today playing down reports that she could force Members of Parliament to choose between her deal with the EU or delaying withdrawal. UK Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins was reportedly heard speaking in a bar in Brussels that the European Union was likely to offer an extension to the negotiating period. The Prime Minister today said that MPs shouldn’t rely on, “what someone said to someone else as overheard by someone else, in a bar.”
So the prospect of delaying Brexit still seems uncertain. The Prime Minister will, however, be changing a rule that requires 21 days before voting on an international treaty. That would mean she can delay the final meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement to just days before the UK is due to leave the EU. When Corbyn says that the Prime Minister is trying to run down the clock, it’s hard to disagree with him.
Can you imagine if, after all this time, Theresa May is actually trying to deliver us No Deal? That’d be one hell of a twist in this story…