(The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons October 1834, by Turner)
Well, D-Day has arrived. The papers are full of last-minute articles by MPs and journalists about why or why not Ms May’s deal should or should not be voted down. Theres’ nothing new there though – we’ve heard it all before.
The one item this morning which agitates the journalists and of course ourselves is how the cookie will crumble, what the votes will finally look like. It is speculation at the highest level. One argument emerges across the Leave-Remain board: if the defeat for Ms May is by over 100 votes, Corbyn will demand a vote of no confidence immediately, and an ensuing GE. Some sources in May’s Cabinet suggested yesterday (here) that she will have to step down if the defeat is too big, so Labour is doing their best to make it so (here).
One fact we can be certain of is that all ten MPs of the DUP will vote against May’s WA. Watch the clip of Nigel Dodds DUP in yesterday’s debate here, and enjoy the comments. More on all of that later – first some ‘bombshells’, one of which will make your blood pressure shoot up.
Yesterday there was a vote in the HoL on May’s WA. The result can be found on the Parliament site here where you can find the esoteric question and the names of who voted for what. So the HoL, Remainers nearly all of them, reject Ms May’s ‘deal’ and the WTO Deal … and only about 50% turned up to vote. Well, it was a non-binding vote, so why bother … but: this vote got a headline in a German conservative paper, together with a true ‘bombshell’:
“Oberhaus lehnt EU-Deal ab, Merkel soll May helfen wollen” (HoL rejects EU-Deal, Merkel allegedly want to help May). The Express reports it thus:
“If Mrs May’s vote is shot down allies have claimed German Chancellor Angela Merkel has alluded that further concessions could come forth with new reassurances coming from the EU on sticking points such as the so-called Irish backstop. A senior Government figure said Mrs May and Mrs Merkel had a “very positive” phone call on Sunday morning. The source said: “Merkel believes there is more the EU can do once the vote is over as no deal would be a disaster for everyone, and they agreed to talk after it.”(my bold)
Let that sink in!
How exactly Ms Merkel, now a Lame Duck, proposes to ‘help’ Ms May will tell us much about the EU, because they are on record saying that the WA Deal is brilliant, giving them almost all they, the EU, wanted – see here – with remarks which should chill even our Remainers’ blood:
“Brussels has boasted they got “almost everything” they wanted with Theresa May’s Brexit deal and told member states of plans to lock the UK into EU courts and rules for years. Eurocrats have said that there were “limited” concessions over the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Withdrawal Agreement and the same governance model will be applied to an EU/UK trade arrangements. […] The new compromises which could tie the UK into EU regulations for years to come appeared in the diplomatic minutes of a presentation by Commission officials to address concerns Michel Barnier had given too much away to the UK in November’s deal. The minutes suggest the UK has signed up to provisions favourable to the EU that are “without precedent” in previous trade deals. […] The Commission says that what the UK has accepted in terms of the Level Playing Field has never been adopted in an FTA before.”
Do we think that Ms Merkel will go against her EU Commission? Really? The letter from Tusk and Juncker yesterday (here) suggest that there won’t be any changes.
The outstanding Mr Martin Howe QC analysed this in yesterday’s DT (here). Describing that and how nothing has changed – the EU’s remarks above illustrate this – and quoting at length from the General Attorney’s letter, he states:
“So when we consider the last-minute letters sent by the EU to Mrs May, we need to question whether they have a legal effect which changes the conclusions in the Attorney General’s advice to Cabinet. They do not.” (My bold)
His last paragraph ought to send even more chills down the spines of Remainers and those Tory MPs who still waver about voting for May’s WA because it’s ‘the only deal in town’, as her spin doctors have spun up and down the country and the corridors of Westminster:
“Nothing in these letters can affect that advice. Regrettably, our Prime Minister is not engaged in a process of negotiating changes to her deal in the UK’s interest. She is only seeking to change the perception of it without changing the substance.” (My bold)
Let’s now turn to the nitty-gritty: the numbers game and the shenanigans. First, the shenanigans to be expected, with another ‘bombshell’ according to The Express:
“In a shocking reveal, BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg told tonight’s Politics Live panel that MPs could in fact “vote on something different” as a result of eleventh hour backbencher amendments […]: “It may well be when we’re talking tomorrow night that in the end MPs have voted on something different. Because although it sounds completely crazy, amendments – changes – can be put forward by backbench MPs all the way up almost to the last minute.”
Indeed so – this is where the ‘Grieve&Cable Cabal’ will finally reveal their proposal (see yesterday’s Column), an amendment certain to get heard and voted on thanks to the oh-so-nonpartisan support of the Remainer in the Speaker’s Chair, Mr John Bercow. There’s precedence, after all … but, seeing Ms May’s take on his behaviour (here), one can assume that her aides and whips are doing all they can to alleviate this constitutional coup.
And finally – the Numbers Game! All MSM are at it, and depending on their stance – Remain, pro-May or pro WTO – the number by which May will be defeated (note well: nobody now assumes that she’ll get her deal through, after yesterday afternoon’s EU Letter) is fluid. A nice graph is in this article. While there are certain “No”-votes, e.g. the DUP and the SNP, all eyes are on the Tories. The best analysis can be found here at ConHome who have been updating their list.
This Numbers Game is important because of what will happen next: will Corbyn get his heart’s desire and a GE with all that entails for Brexit? Will May step down or will she drag on and on?
Proceedings start at 12.45pm, Ms May is expected to sum up and rally her troops at 6.45pm, voting on the amendments start at 7pm – and the final, “meaningful”, vote is expected at 9pm.
All bets are now off – nobody knows anything, and tomorrow the cards will be mixed anew.
One thing’s fersure: nothing will surpass today’s drama in the House of Commons. It will end in tears – for some. That’s my ‘prediction’. Enjoy.