Updated 20 March: Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed this morning that she has written to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council (heads of EU27), to request a short extension to 30 June: her letter is HERE. She told the House of Commons that as PM, she was “not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June”. She indicated that she was determined to hold another Meaningful Vote, and indeed EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker this morning said that MV3 would have to be passed before any extension could be agreed; May’s letter, however, requested the delay to be approved before putting MV3 to Parliament. If the delay is refused, or defeated again, or doesn’t actually take place with the Speaker maintaining his stance that it is unconstitutional without substantial change, or if the EU and UK can’t agree the order of delay approval and MV3, the UK is still looking at Brexit in nine days time.

Updated 19 March: After a fraught Cabinet meeting this morning, it seems that Theresa May is planning to write to the EU requesting a Brexit delay (as she was in any case instructed to do by her own amendment when it passed last Thursday). On the day that it is confirmed that Brexit has already caused 24 banks and €1.2 trillion in assets to move from the UK to the eurozone (link), the EU has met and concluded that it will need some sort of clear plan for it to grant an extension, and for a lengthy one the clear implication is that such a plan would have to include a second referendum or General Election. Barnier in press conference also made it clear that a request should either be for a long extension or a short one, not both: he said he was a simple soul and a thing could not be short and long at the same time. Unfortunately, there is little coming from London at present to suggest they know how long they need, nor in fact that there is any sort of plan at all; all sides, indeed, now seem agreed that the UK is fully in what the Solicitor General yesterday called “constitutional crisis”. What happens now is anyone’s guess, but Barnier’s press conference ended with him urging all sides to make final preparations for No Deal with the UK still set for departure, deal or not, in ten days.

Updated 18 March: The PM’s contemplation of whether she would have the votes to get her deal through the House of Commons on the third attempt or whether to pull it a second time has met the immovable object of Erskine May, the Parliamentary rulebook. This has been interpreted by the Speaker, John Bercow, as clearly ruling out an attempt to force a vote through more than once when the substance of the matter has not changed, or not changed substantially.

The Government is furious but is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is the British Parliament, which now will not allow the Conservative Government to hold it in contempt (it has been found to have done so once only recently, and still over Brexit). The hard place is the EU, co-signatory to May’s Withdrawal Agreement. They are due to hold an EU summit on Thursday to discuss the “current situation”, arrangements which were made before the Speaker’s latest ruling which will no doubt be seen to complicate things even further.

May has been instructed by the success of her Government’s own motion last week to request a delay from the EU. Whether Bercow will see such a delay “substantially changes” the deal is another matter, and that anyway begs the question of whether the EU will grant one of more than a couple of months with European elections looming, and a grant of one less than a couple of months allows very little time for the UK to get anything sorted out.

And so, at this moment, the possible scenarios are that May will request a delay and present a renewed deal to the Commons with the Speaker agreeing to or rejecting the changes as “substantial”; if she does and he agrees, this will result in the deal being put to Parliament again. Otherwise not.  The Government could also prorrogue Parliament: this would almost certainly require the Queen to agree to a Government request to terminate this current session of Parliament and start another. This would allow Meaningful Vote 3 to take place because the rule is just that a defeated vote cannot be put back to Parliament unchanged within the same session.

Alternatively, the EU could grant an extension purely for an election, or a second referendum … or MV3 could be brought back with an approval referendum as an adjunct so that even if Parliament were to approve the Withdrawal Agreement, it would still have to be put to the country to approve. Whether that would be considered “substantial change” would also need to be determined. And of course, this all assumes EU agreement to a request for delay.

The speaker clearly chooses his moments for maximum impact. And the impact is, currently, maximum, at least in terms of confusion. And as things stand right now, the UK is set to leave the EU at 11pm in 11 days time.

Source Janet Anscombe: https://www.janetanscombe.com/news/brexit-negotiations-affecting-british-nationals-in-tenerife.html

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