Interesting Times, Indeed
The British are certainly living in “interesting times” – one wonders what terrible act we must collectively have done to the Chinese to have bought such a terrible curse down upon our heads.
Following the historic rejection of May’s EU withdrawal deal, she claimed to be open to ideas from within her own party and from across the House. In the vote which followed her “Plan B” statement, amendments which would allow parliament to exert more control over Brexit (the Grieve amendment) or delay the ending of A50 notice period (Cooper amendment) were rejected, whilst the Brady amendment (in essence rejecting the backstop and requiring that the withdraw agreement be renegotiated) passed. Equally, a non-binding amendment calling on the government to avoid a no deal Brexit was passed.
Mrs May has met with EU leaders, notably Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker and has left with no concrete gains other than a commitment to continue to talk.
The leader of the opposition party issued a five point plan which he claimed would allow his party to back May’s deal (if woven into it), but as these called for a permanent customs union (with a say over EU trade deals), close alignment to EU worker and environmental rights and standards, de facto membership of the EU and involvement with EU institutions, they will be unacceptable to the Brexit wing of the governing party (and could be too much like cherry picking for the EU to accept).
The letter from Mr Corbyn will be responded to “in due course”. Meanwhile, it is being suggested that a further meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement (morphed or not) might not be held until the end of next month, just days before the UK would crash out of the EU. This type of brinkmanship is simply unacceptable.
May is due to make a further amendable statement next week at which point MPs will again have the chance to exert their will over the executive.
Many people with sympathy for the remain argument have applauded a heart-felt, but possibly intemperate comment from Donald Tusk at a press conference with the Irish PM when he said:
“I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”