Heading home from Westminster after a day that turned out more damp squib than Super Saturday ...
As so often is the case, today’s events in the House of Commons are clouded by procedure and convention leaving the public, understandably, scratching their heads.
As reported, today was the day the Government would bring a so-called “Meaningful Vote” motion under Section 13(1)(B) of the European Withdrawal Act 2018. And it did.
The difficulty was caused by an amendment tabled by Sir Oliver Letwin MP which sought to delete that motion in it’s entirety and say Parliament cannot approve the revised Withdrawal Agreement (WA) until all implementing legislation is passed.
After a Statement from the Prime Minister, reporting back to MPs on this week’s EU Council and his revised WA, we moved into a short debate which considered both Mr Letwin’s amendment and the Government’s main motion itself.
At 2:30pm, that debate was closed and (although the Standing Orders of the House do not prescribe it must be that way) the House moved first to a Division (or vote) on the amendment.
If that had been defeated, we would have then moved on to a Division on the revised Withdrawal Agreement itself; the main event as billed.
It was NOT defeated (it passed by 322 votes to 306) thereby deleting the “Meaningful Vote” motion and rendering it meaningless. For that reason I did not support this amendment.
There was a second Government motion - to see if there is a majority in the House for no-deal - but it, and a late in the day tabled amendment calling for a second referendum, were not moved so we didn’t vote on them either.
If you’re still following this, go to the top of the class!
My view is that the public will be livid at today’s near farcical events in the House of Commons.
They were told, admittedly by the media who equally have next to zero understanding of how Parliament actually works, that today was the day when MPs would finally make a decision and move the Brexit process into the next stage.
It wouldn’t “get Brexit done” but it would have moved us on a few tiny steps and I think the public, whatever their view of the deal or Brexit itself, would have dared to believe we might be turning the page at last.
Instead, they saw Parliament once again say what it does not want and we MPs were prevented from casting a vote.
As is well known, I supported the “Benn Burt” Act last month which blocked a no-deal exit from the EU at the end of October. It was that vote which saw the Conservative Whip suspended and why I currently sit as an Independent MP.
To re-cap, I was not at all convinced the Government was putting anywhere near as much effort into securing a revised Brexit deal as they were planning for no-deal - nor was I of the view that Act would prevent them getting one - and so it proved.
The Prime Minister secured changes to the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement so the Act, in my opinion, served it’s purpose.
Mr Letwin took a different view and, despite many of us protesting with him to allow MPs a clean vote (on the deal itself and that alone), he went ahead.
So, we move into next week with an attempt at least to hold that “Meaningful Vote” on Monday and then proceed to the Second Reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Tuesday.
I will, of course, be present in the House and stand ready to play my part in this ongoing process.
As I said in the House today, you can only start to heal this divided country by moving past this phase and you must have the losers consent in any referendum that was won by such a narrow margin. That means leaving with in a safe and sensible way with a transition period and a mutually agreed Withdrawal Agreement.
Hence, I remain inclined to support this new ‘deal’ because you can ONLY prevent no-deal by voting for A deal. I will, of course, put my views on the record in the usual way at the time.
Thanks for the interest.
Steve Brine MP