After the break of the holidays and the start of a new year, one would expect there to be a refresh in the cycle of the news, as usually occurs. However, 2019 is set to be the year where the British democratic system is tested to its extreme. As of the time of writing, the UK is set to leave the European Union on Friday March 29th 2019. However, also at the time of writing, the Withdrawal Agreement has not been passed by parliament- this being the legally binding text of the terms under which both parties will conduct negotiations.
Theresa May has to convince enough MPs to have confidence enough in her deal to vote it through, otherwise the country faces the risk of leaving without any safeguards and we default to World Trade Organisation rules. Now, the context is well known at this stage, with all sides lobbying for their own position- whether that be a People’s Vote, No Deal or May’s Deal. However, the answer to which of these will emerge victorious is currently unclear.
The vote for Theresa May’s deal will occur on Tuesday January 15th and it is likely to be lost by the government. This doesn’t necessarily immediately spell death for the Deal as the government is able to submit either the whole Deal or a variant for a second vote, but it will throw the UK into a serious constitutional crisis. No Deal is not the most popular option, except for among the most ardent Eurosceptics, but parliament must be sure to not accidentally end up triggering it by having the time run out on it.
Needless to say, the next few months will be critical as MPs are presented with the final result of a question asked in 2016. The argument of sovereignty played a huge part in winning the result for Leave originally, and in this time we are privileged to witness what parliamentary sovereignty looks like. However, in a very real sense, the normal nature of political manoeuvring within the party system has dissolved. The Conservatives are riven with division, as one would expect; they have form in being ruptured whenever a question about Europe arises. Surprisingly, the real concern is within the Labour party, which is seeing its own divisions.
In truth, Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t seem willing to push for anything more than a general election saying recently on the Andrew Marr Show, “We will table a motion of no confidence in the government at a time of our choosing, but it’s going to be soon, don’t worry about it.“ He has repeatedly leaned away from calling for a People’s Vote, something which sets him at odds from his colleagues, including Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan, who has repeatedly expressed his wish for a second referendum. The question remains as to how significant this division will prove to be. Cross-party mandates are being formed around where to take Brexit, once May’s deal fails, and it could very well be that they will dictate to the government exactly what sort of Brexit they would like to see.
Even so, the clock continues to tick. There is little time for the UK to either make up its mind, or inform the EU commission it wishes to extend the exit date. Yet even if it chooses the latter, the next deadline becomes the EU parliamentary elections at the end of May. If we have not left by then, we will be required to participate and vote for our MEPs, effectively negating the point of leaving. If Theresa May is unwilling to make serious concessions, we risk leaving without a deal, or not leaving. In her own words- No Deal or No Brexit at all.
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