May Deal Defeated Third Time


Today, March 29, was the day that the United Kingdom was originally scheduled to leave the European Union. That deadline has now been moved ahead to April 12. But that doesn’t mean that March 29 was not still a momentous day in British history. For this is the day that Great Britain found out that very few members of their government have any spine whatsoever.

Today, the House of Commons rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a third time by a vote of 344 to 286. The vote has likely doomed May’s deal for good. Prospects going forward are that the UK either crashes out of the EU without a deal on April 12 or that a prolonged delay of Brexit ensues, which could last for an undefined amount of time.

May described the result of the vote as “grave.” She further said that “we are reaching the limits of this process in the House,” signaling that she might believe it is time to put Brexit’s future back into the hands of the voters given the parliamentary impasse.

“On Monday, this House will continue the process to see if there is a stable majority for a particular alternative version of our future relationship with the EU,” May told the House of Commons.

“The House has rejected no deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table. And today it has rejected approving the Withdrawal Agreement alone and continuing a process on the future.”

Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, responded to events in the House of Commons by calling for an emergency meeting. “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.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for May’s immediate resignation in order to trigger a new general election. “On Monday, this House has the chance … the responsibility to find a majority for a better deal for all the people of this country,” Corbyn said.

May had already offered her party her resignation in exchange for a yes vote on her Withdrawal Plan. She told the powerful 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, “I know some people are worried that if you vote for the withdrawal agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t — I hear what you are saying. But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit.”

“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and out party.”

But then the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, a crucial part of May’s governing majority, crushed that idea by still refusing to back May’s plan because it “poses a threat to the integrity of the UK.”

MPs today also voted down eight separate indicative votes on alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan. Tory MP Michael Fabricant tweeted an image of the indicative vote ballot.

The votes went like this:

  1. Leave with no deal on April 12: Yes – 160; No – 400

  2. Cancel Article 50: Yes – 184; No – 293

  3. Hold a second Referendum: Yes – 268; No – 295

  4. Permanent customs union with the EU: Yes – 264; No – 272

  5. Norway style Brexit: Yes – 65; No – 377

  6. The Labour Party’s Brexit plan: Yes – 237; No – 307

  7. Malthouse Compromise: Yes – 139; No – 422

  8. Common Market 2.0; Yes – 188; No – 283

The “leave with no deal” option is self-explanatory. The “cancel Article 50” option would trigger a vote on whether to cancel Brexit altogether if no deal can be agreed upon within two days of the new April 12 deadline. The “second referendum” option would require that any deal reached be put back to the public in a confirmatory vote. The “permanent customs union” option would require a permanent trade relationship with the EU and remove British sovereignty in trade issues.

The “Norway style” plan would not involve a customs arrangement with the EU but keep the UK in the European Economic Area, much like Norway currently is. The “Labour Party” plan includes a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU but with UK autonomy on future trade deals and continued participation in many EU programs. The “Malthouse Compromise” is a managed no-deal of sorts, requiring the UK to give the EU billions in exchange for a two-year “standstill” period. “Common Market 2.0” consists of continued membership in the EU customs union along with freedom of movement between the UK and EU, with the UK paying the EU for the privilege.

And if all of that sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone.

Again, these were “indicative” votes, in other words they were merely testing what PMs might support going forward. The second referendum option received the most votes, while a permanent customs union was the closest, with only an eight-vote majority voting no.

So, regardless of what happens going forward, Theresa May is likely out as prime minister within weeks — possibly even days. Several Tory MPs are said to be in the running to take over if May leaves, the most aggressive being former cabinet minister Boris Johnson, a hardline Brexiteer. Other expected to be in the running are Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid.

Meanwhile, the EU is openly mocking British indecision on the issue. “If I were to compare Great Britain to a sphinx, the sphinx would be an open book by comparison,” said EU President Jean-Claude Juncker in a speech to the European Parliament today.

“And let’s see how that book speaks over the next week, or so.”

Given a simple resolution by their citizens in 2016 Leave the European Union, the best way to proceed for prime-minister of Britain Theresa May to withdraw Britain from EU without agreement on 12 April in accordance with the general will of the British people expressed in obligatory national referendum in year 2016. Alternatively, prime-minister of Britain Theresa May may negotiate with EU with regard to participation of Britain in EFTA, which is what nearly half of deputies of British parliament desire as indicated by their parliamentary vote.


May Ponders Fourth Vote on Her Brexit Deal

It’s been a contentious April Fool’s Day in the House of Commons as members of Parliament discussed ways to move forward on Brexit. The debate is happening as Prime Minister Theresa May is contemplating bringing her thrice-defeated Brexit deal with the EU up for a vote yet again.

In a scene that sums up the absurdity of how the British government has botched Brexit, several climate activists from a group known as Extinction Rebellion, wearing nothing but their indignation and some underwear, spiced things up. MP James Heappey tweeted a photo of the activities.

The House of Commons today was set to vote on four alternative plans for Brexit in another round of non-binding indicative votes. As the name implies, these indicative votes test the support for each plan, indicating what approach might have the best chance moving forward.

Speaker John Bercow selected four of the eight indicative votes, which all failed on Friday. Today’s parliamentary discussion focused on these options:

Motion C: Customs Union

Former Tory Chancellor Ken Clarke’s plan calls for any Brexit agreement to include a binding commitment to negotiate a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU.” In Friday’s round of indicative votes, this plan lost by the closest margin, 271-265.

Motion D: Common Market 2.0

This motion was brought forth by a group of Labour and Tory MPs and calls for U.K. membership in the European Free Trade Association as well as the European Economic Area. The U.K. would continue to participate in the single European market and have a “comprehensive customs arrangement” with the EU. This is also called the “Norway Plus” plan. It was defeated on Friday 283-189.

Motion E: Confirmatory Public Vote

While this motion received the most number of votes (268) in Friday’s round of indicative votes, it’s not truly a plan. All it does is require that any agreement that Parliament finally does come to be put to a public vote to confirm that Brexit can move forward in that way. It passes the decision to move forward back to the people. It was defeated on Friday 295-268.

Motion G: Parliamentary Supremacy

This motion calls for parliament to seek an extension to the Brexit process from the EU. If that isn’t possible, parliament would vote on whether to leave the EU with no deal or revoke Article 50 altogether, in effect cancelling out the original Brexit vote by the people in 2016. This was defeated on Friday by 293-184.

All of these options are flawed in one way or another. They also lack something that Theresa May’s deal already has, namely, EU support. The EU can simply nix any of these options no matter what the House of Commons comes up with.

And that is the embattled May’s one trump card in the process, and why she may be considering a fourth attempt to get her deal passed, even after proclaiming on Friday that the U.K. would need “an alternative way forward” after her plan was defeated.

May’s plan has done a little better each time it has come up for a vote. In January, the plan suffered one of the worst defeats in the history of the House of Commons, losing by 230 votes. The next time it came up for a vote in mid-March, it lost by 149 votes, and on Friday, it lost by 58 votes.

May’s deal still lacks key support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has propped up May’s coalition government in the past.

The clock, as they say, is ticking. Friday was the day that the U.K. was originally scheduled to leave the EU, so this is an overtime period. April 12 is the next deadline for the U.K. to pass May’s deal, come up with a new plan acceptable to both Parliament and the EU, or leave without a deal in place.

Politicians have attempted to make that third option — the no deal option — a frightening scenario that few in the House of Commons even wish to think about it. But the stories of food shortages, travel disruption, and customs chaos have been vastly overblown. Both Great Britain and the EU have developed contingency plans in the case of no deal. Therefore no deal Brexit becomes the most realistic option.


Tory MPs Threaten Revolt if U.K. Is Forced to Take Part in EU Elections

Members of the U.K.’s Conservative (Tory) Party are warning Prime Minister Theresa May that her time is short should Great Britain be forced to take part in EU elections, which are scheduled to occur May 23 through May 26. Tories are convinced that to take part in such elections constitutes a surrender to a long Brexit delay or no Brexit at all.

May survived a no-confidence vote in December, which technically gives her until December of this year before her own party can vote again to oust her. However, angry Tories are warning May that the calls for her to leave will become so cacophonous that she’ll be forced out long before then.

May has already promised to leave her job as prime minister once Brexit is delivered.

On Saturday night, May made one more desperate appeal for MPs to back a deal, claiming that there was a chance that Brexit could “slip through our fingers.” Parliament has repeatedly voted down the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal in place.

“Because parliament has made it clear it will stop the UK leaving without a deal, we now have a stark choice: leave the European Union with a deal or do not leave at all,” May said.

“The longer this takes, the greater risk of the UK never leaving at all. It would mean letting the Brexit that the British people vote for slip through our fingers. I will not stand for that. It is essential we deliver what the people voted for, and to do that we need to get a deal over the line.”

May is scheduled to appear at an emergency EU summit on Brexit this Wednesday. But Tory MPs warn that if the best she can do is procure a long Brexit delay — which would include sending British members to the EU Parliament in elections in May — she will face overwhelming pressure to step down.

Tory MP Nigel Evans, an executive member of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbenchers, said, “At the moment there is focus on delivering Brexit, but if a long delay becomes a reality I believe the noise off about removing the prime minister will become a cacophony.”

“I and many other Conservatives would prefer leaving the EU on World Trade Organization terms to any humiliating long extension that forces us to take part in the European elections.”

Jeremy Hunt, a cabinet minister and a potential frontrunner to replace May, has been letting backbenchers know that it is his preference to leave under WTO rules, rather than allowing any long delay in Brexit.

But on the continent, EU negotiators are signaling that they will not negotiate any no-deal — including the WTO no-deal — until the Irish Backstop issue is addressed. In a joint appearance today with Irish PM Leo Varadkar, Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said, “Our goal is to protect the Good Friday agreement, peace on this island and the integrity of the single market. It is not any easy task.”

Former U.K. cabinet minister Nigel Adams, who resigned last week over May’s decision to seek help from Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, also warned that any deal with the EU that causes the U.K. to participate in EU elections next month is a non-starter.

“Over 170 Conservative MPs including cabinet ministers signed a letter to the PM last week urging her to ensure the UK does not take part in the European elections. Doing so will not end well.”

But the Tories may have conceded that they will be participating in EU elections according to an e-mail sent to possible candidates. That e-mail includes a deadline for those who are considering a run for European Parliament to make a decision on whether they will run or not.

It’s important to note that this is a legal necessity, which has to be in place should EU elections occur and not an announcement that such elections are scheduled to — or going to — occur.

May continues today to negotiate with the Labour Party about a path moving forward, but it’s unlikely that any deal that Corbyn and May come up with will pass parliamentary muster.

The citizens of the U.K. voted to leave the European Union in June of 2016. The original leave date, March 29 of this year, has already passed and an April 12 deadline looms less than a week away for the U.K. to decide how it wants to proceed.