Brexit Act 3 Opens
Despite a little sabre rattling from Spain over the position of Gibraltar vis a vis the withdrawal deal and grumbles led by France on the fate of fishing rights in post Brexit territorial waters, the EU-27 signed off at the leader level on the document and on a political statement of intent about the future relationship in Brussels on Sunday. Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk have both made it clear that the EU will not agree to re-open the negotiations and that “the deal is the only deal possible”. This has not stopped various UK politicians from imagining that they could get the EU to grant the UK further concessions if they can just get the stars into the right constellations.
The next scene, the opening scene in Act III of Brexit, A comedy of Errors, is the “meaningful vote” in the British parliament. The government intended this to be a “take it or leave it” choice between May’s deal and no deal (a scenario which all but the barmiest of Brexiters acknowledge would be an economic and, probably, social disaster for the UK). However, with strong opposition to the deal across the board and from within her own party, it is unlikely that Mrs May can achieve this. It is probable that the bill proposing the vote will be subject to amendments and that the amendments will be debated and voted on before the meaningful vote itself. At this stage, all that is certain is that the debate is to be held on 11/12/18.
Bizarrely, Mrs May is set to go on a UK tour to try to bolster support for her deal and has offered to hold a TV debate with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn over the deal. Given that she currently claims that she will not grant a further referendum on membership of the EU (her deal versus remain) and has ruled out an early election as not being “in the national interest”, it is hard to see what she hopes to gain from it. As it stands, the only people whose opinion matters on Brexit, currently, are the members of parliament. It is fanciful to suggest that the tour would be intended to persuade people to lobby their MPs to back the deal – currently polling suggests a lead of several percent for remain should the vote be put back to the people. More on this later…
The other major development of the day is that the European Court of Justice is hearing arguments from the government and a group of Scottish MEP and MSPs asking the court to rule on the revocability of Article 50 notification. The plaintiffs want the court to rule on whether such revocation would be a unilateral act (under the power of the sovereign UK) or would require the agreement of the other EU member states. The government’s position is that the court should not make any declaration since it has no intention of revoking the notice. It is not clear when a decision will be delivered, but the court has expedited the case as an urgent matter.