MIL-OSI UK: The latest amendment, government defeat and Brexit debate within Labour

Source: Labour List UK

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The Brexit debate in the Commons resumes today, following a month of delay during which almost nothing changed, except that the Article 50 clock ran down further. With an eye on the March 29th exit date, members across the House are understandably keen to get things moving quickly – after suffering through five days of debate before the meaningful vote on Tuesday, that is.

This afternoon, once PMQs and other necessaries are concluded in the chamber, a business motion will set out the timetable for Brexit Debate Take Two. To this motion, a cross-party amendment led by Tory backbenchers Dominic Grieve and Oliver Letwin has been tabled; this would force the government to return with an amendable next-steps motion by the end of next week should the deal be voted down as expected.

The amendment won’t necessarily be voted on (there is confusion over whether the motion can only be amended by government), but the move shows that senior MPs on Theresa May’s own benches are getting impatient. Crucially, it is evidence that their fear of no-deal is translating into rebellious efforts in defiance of the Prime Minister’s will rather than deference to her deal.

These attempts to grab power from the executive and award it to parliament come after another significant government defeat on Brexit. Last night, MPs approved the Yvette Cooper amendment to the Finance Bill by 303 to 296 votes. Three Brexiteer Labour MPs voted against (Kate Hoey, Graham Stringer, Ronnie Campbell), plus abstentions; 20 Tories rebelled against their whip.

The Cooper amendment restricts government tax-raising powers in the event of no-deal. What this doesn’t mean: no-deal has been blocked. What this does mean: the government will find it harder to manage no-deal. The effects of Cooper’s change aren’t inherently all that important. But this was a historic defeat, being on a Finance Bill; likely represents the first in a long line of anti-no-deal actions; and shows the parliamentary strength of opposition against no-deal even in a symbolic vote.

This morning, Barry Gardiner confirmed on Radio 4 that Labour will table a vote of no confidence in the government once the meaningful vote is lost. (Notwithstanding this well-spotted but probably inconsequential caveat.) The frontbencher heard accusations that the opposition party “bottled it” last time, despite it being clear that the VONC will not be successful unless Theresa May’s deal passes (at which point the DUP promises to withdraw support). Which means that it would have failed last time, and will probably fail this time.

The debate over the no-confidence vote really comes back to Labour’s internal row over whether to back another referendum. This afternoon, the party’s International Policy Commission will meet at 1.30pm to discuss Brexit policy. According to the People’s Vote campaign, 10,000 pro-PV members have contacted the National Policy Forum ahead of this meeting to lobby the commission, which includes members of the shadow cabinet and national executive committee, Len McCluskey, pro-EU elected reps, and more. Fireworks? My Labour Brexit 8-ball says ‘signs point to yes’. Keep an eye on LabourList for more on this later today.

Sienna @siennamarla

Update, 11am: Speaker Bercow has made the controversial decision to select the new Grieve amendment.

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MIL-OSI UK: Christmas is over, but on Brexit nothing has changed

Source: Labour List UK

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Hello. MPs are back from Christmas recess, and LabourList is back in your inbox every weekday morning. On Brexit, nothing has changed, as they say. Theresa May is still trying to “seek assurances” from the EU on the main sticking point of her deal, the backstop, while Labour pledges to vote it down. The Prime Minister doesn’t seem to have made any progress in talks with EU leaders, as expected, so the next question is whether she will delay the meaningful vote once again – pushing it back further from 15th January – or see it fail and force the Commons to repeatedly vote on her deal until it passes.

Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday, May refused to rule out the try, try and try again option (describing the event of her deal not being approved as “unchartered territory”), though Labour Remainer Chuka Umunna reckons this isn’t allowed under House of Commons rules. “I have consulted with the Clerks of the House of Commons on this – you cannot simply bring the same motion again and again and again,” Umunna told Sky’s Sophy Ridge, before quoting Erskine May on Twitter.

All bits of Brexit news involve the respective campaign groups digging their heels in. A significant number on the opposition benches continue to push for a fresh EU referendum, but that path hasn’t won majority Commons support and there is plenty yet to be resolved (e.g. options on the ballot paper, which Umunna says he is “open minded” about). The frontbench position is unmoved: shadow cabinet members point to unlikely scenarios in which Labour could back a fresh public vote, with Barry Gardiner suggesting a Labour government would put its alternative deal to the people, and Emily Thornberry saying the party would be in favour if May were replaced by a Tory no-dealer. Speaking to John Pienaar yesterday, the Shadow Foreign Secretary pointedly added that some within the People’s Vote movement want to “slap the Labour Party around”.

Over 200 MPs from across the House have today written to the Prime Minister, calling on her to rule out a no deal Brexit. The concerned signatories particularly highlight the effect trading on World Trade Organisation rules could have on the manufacturing industry. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has called such warnings “hysterical”, and hard Brexiteers say Tories are more relaxed than ever about a no-deal outcome.

Another cross-party demand is published today in the form of Lucy Powell and Robert Halfon’s ‘Common Market 2.0’ report advocating the Norway Plus model (single market and customs union membership). But this is still often seen as a bad compromise, with Remainers and Leavers both keen to point out how the model requires becoming a rule-taker and doesn’t end free movement. People’s Vote supporter Peter Kyle commented that the Norway ship has sailed, reflecting the view set out by fellow PV-er Mike Gapes on LabourList last month.

There is some respite from Brexit news: the government’s domestic agenda struggles on, as newly appointed frontbencher Amber Rudd has decided to delay the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit. Expect more details at work and pensions questions this afternoon, before MPs debate Laura Cox’s report into bullying and harassment in Westminster. Happy new year!

Sienna @siennamarla

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MIL-OSI UK: Sunday shows round-up: May’s Brexit deal and 10-year NHS plan

Source: Labour List UK

Andrew Marr Show

Theresa May:

  • On the meaningful vote going ahead: “Yes. We are going to hold the vote.” 15th or 14th January? “That sort of timing, yes.”
  • On progress with the EU, May is “still seeking assurances”.
  • On putting her deal to another Commons vote, May did not rule it out. If the deal is voted down this month: “We’re going to be in unchartered territory.”
  • On letting “the search for the perfect become the enemy of the good”, May warned there could be no Brexit.
  • On a fresh referendum: “In my view there should not be a second Brexit referendum.”
  • On elections and her leadership: “I’m not going to call a snap election, and I’m not going to be leading the party into the 2022 general election.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary and Labour MP for Leicester South:

  • On the government’s 10-year NHS plan: “People are waiting longer under this Tory government because the Tories have been running down the NHS for nine years, starving it of cash, cutting it back, privatising elements of it, failing to get the staff we need… It doesn’t need 10 more years of the Tories.”
  • On Brexit: “We’re not enabling Brexit. We had a referendum… That’s the way the country voted.”
  • On May’s deal: “We are committed to voting against Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Goodness knows whether we’ll actually have a vote on it next week given the speculation in the newspapers again. It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s delayed.”
  • On another deal: “If that’s voted down, it’s incumbent on the government to come forward with alternative proposals and try to renegotiate.”

Ridge on Sunday

Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham and People’s Vote campaigner:

  • On getting a fresh EU referendum: “I am not going to be disingenuous and pretend that we have the numbers for a People’s Vote.”
  • On the meaningful vote going ahead: “If she doesn’t hold that vote, she arguably will have misled the House of Commons and there will be moves on a cross-party basis from the backbenches to ensure that the will of the House is tested.”
  • On the ballot paper for another referendum: Remain, plus “I do think that you have to have an option on that ballot paper that would please the likes of Peter Bone, that is a hard Brexit”, i.e. no deal. “I would say two or three [options]. I am pretty open minded about it.”
  • On May’s deal being put to a Commons vote several times: “I have consulted with the Clerks of the House of Commons on this – you cannot simply bring the same motion again and again and again… Even if you sought say to bring a different motion through changing one word, if in substance it is the same thing, under the rules of the House of Commons, you can’t just keep bringing it again and again and again.”

Barry Gardiner, Shadow International Trade Secretary and Labour MP for Brent North:

  • On the government’s 10-year NHS plan: “I would have more confidence in their 10-year plan if the five-year plan that they announced in 2014 had actually been delivered on.”
  • On an election: “That is the quickest way of getting a people’s vote – you can have a general election in four and a half weeks.”
  • On a fresh referendum: “It is the responsibility of government to try and unite the country, not to divide it.”
  • On Labour’s preferred Brexit outcome: “If we as a new incoming Labour government were to go to Europe without [May’s] red lines, we know that we could get a different, better deal and that’s what we want to try and achieve.”
  • On being able to strike trade deals as a member of a customs union: “We would have a customs union just like there is in Mercosur in South America where each individual sovereign nation is able to determine whether a trade agreement that they conclude jointly with other countries should go ahead or not.”

Pienaar’s Politics

Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury:

  • On a fresh referendum: “It’s our policy that we go for a general election.” But Thornberry also said that if May were replaced by a hard Tory Brexiteer intent on leaving the EU without a deal, Labour would back another referendum.
  • On ‘people’s vote’ supporters: “Some people within the People’s Vote movement seem to think that their purpose is to slap the Labour Party around.”
  • On a vote of no confidence in the government: “We want to do things that are effective… We will be doing it when we expect to win it.”

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