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: Yvette Cooper aims to block no deal as Labour grassroots debate Brexit

Source: Labour List UK

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Last night, as a cross-party group of over 55 MPs wrote to the Metropolitan Police raising concerns about far-right protestors’ “intimidatory and potentially criminal” acts against politicians and journalists outside parliament, people switched on their TVs to watch James Graham’s new drama – Brexit: The Uncivil War. That intrastate war is, of course, still being waged, and it remains unclear who will be the victor.

Yvette Cooper hopes it won’t be the hard Brexiteers wanting to leave the EU without a deal. The backbench Labour MP has laid down a cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill that would see the government’s tax powers curtailed in the event of no-deal, unless parliament specifically voted for that outcome (not going to happen). To avoid the restrictions, a deal would have to be approved (not looking likely) or Article 50 extended (increasingly plausible, whatever the government says). Cooper explains in The Guardian: “The amendment doesn’t affect the normal operations of the Treasury and government. But it does make it harder for the government to drift into no deal without parliament being able to direct it.” Around a dozen Tories (probably on this list) are rumoured to be supporting the move, which could be enough to get it through this afternoon.

Richard Corbett writes for LabourList today about Labour’s own position and what he sees as the only options left on the battlefield. The European Parliamentary Labour Party leader, who publicly supports a fresh referendum unlike Cooper, rejects the idea of a different deal and sees stopping Brexit as the only possible path left for the party. He points to the YouGov poll widely promoted by pro-EU activists last week, and argues that “there are more gains to be made from Remainers than from Leavers”. But the leadership isn’t convinced. It doesn’t believe Labour can stop Brexit and thinks it would be dangerous – electorally and in a long-term, destroying-the-social-fabric-of-our-society kind of way – to try.

Tomorrow Labour’s International Policy Commission will meet and discuss Brexit. The body includes members of the shadow cabinet, national executive committee (NEC) and national policy forum (NPF), as well as affiliates, and its role is to develop foreign policy. Clashes are to be expected. In the run-up to the meeting, pro-EU groups have been encouraging submissions in favour of another referendum and an emergency party conference. Plus, Another Europe is Possible says hundreds of local parties are set to debate its left-wing anti-Brexit motion by the end of the month. Yet Corbyn has been clear that he thinks Theresa May should return to Brussels and renegotiate once her deal is voted down next week. Labour’s own internal war over Brexit continues.

Sienna @siennamarla

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