Updated 29 March: This was to have been Brexit Day, but instead it has seen the House of Commons reject Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement on leaving the EU. The House will now reconsider on Monday whether there are alternatives it could coalesce around in a procedure started earlier this week by Sir Oliver Letwin, and if not, whether or not it should revoke Article 50 to avoid the No Deal situation it has already said it will not permit.

Within minutes of the votes, Jeremy Corbyn called for the PM to go and set the date for a General Election. The ERG has called for Theresa May to go even though it voted heavily in favour of accepting the deal – the deal its leaders Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker and Mark  Francois had excoriated. It is rumoured strongly in Westminster and Brussels that they did so only so that May would keep her promise and go, and then they intended to install an “ultra” Brexiteer in her place and void the deal they had supported.

Other speakers after the result was announced called for a long extension or a People’s Vote, while the SNP’s Ian Blackford suggested revoking Article 50 to “put the brake on”. Of course revoking Article 50 is not a brake to buy time: once Article 50 is revoked that is it. Some MPs and even London mayor Sadiq Khan have called in the minutes following the result’s announcement for revocation followed by a people’s vote but that is impossible because article 50 cannot be revoked simply to buy time. Revoking is something that the ECJ itself has ruled must be “unequivocal and unconditional”. It is a one-off decision, for good.

Meanwhile the breakaway Labour and Conservative MPs who formed the independent grouping TIG have today applied to become a full political party – Change UK. They want to be ready for any and all elections coming up, including the European elections if the UK does take part in them, and a putative General Election if one is called in desperation by the Government under whoever happens to be leading it at the time.

Whatever happens now one thing is clear: the UK has lost the EU’s extension to 22 May, and Brexit will now happen on 12 April with an extraordinarily tight schedule to find any options that MPs might be able to get a majority for and which could avoid No Deal. Even if they do find them, they will be at the mercy of the EU, and whether it will agree the inevitably necessary extension for whatever plan Parliament can come up with. If they refuse an extension for a plan or if MPs fail actually to find one, Brexit will occur automatically as 11 April comes to a close.

Updated 28 March: MPs have rejected every option put to them through the indicative votes held last night, votes which were meant to indicate what MPs could support if it came to it. All yesterday has clarified is that they support nothing. The Government is today looking to see if it can find a way of bringing MV3 back to the Commons tomorrow that will comply with the Speaker’s requirement for it to have changed substantially from when it was put to the House as MV2: if they approve it, we have Brexit on 22 May; if they reject it, we are back in chaos with the clock counting down to No Deal at the close of 11 April, a fortnight today.

That at least is something that did become clarified yesterday. The legal procedure required to extend Brexit formally, as Parliament was required to do after agreement between Theresa May and the EU, was known as a Statutory Instrument, and that was passed yesterday … though 30 three-line-whipped Conservative MPs defied the Government and voted against it despite being faced with warnings from the Whips Office that voting it down would plunge the UK not just into further Brexit-related constitutional chaos but into deep and intractable legal problems. It passed, anyway, and so Brexit is now 12 April … without a deal unless MPs approve the Withdrawal Agreement in another Meaningful Vote (MV3) or come up with some solution to resolve the impasse.

They are sitting tomorrow even though they don’t usually sit on Fridays, and indeed have lost the first week of their Easter break … they are there until they resolve this, or until the clock counts down to No Deal on 12 April, whichever is sooner.

Updated 26 March: You will read a lot today about MPs “taking back control” of Brexit in Parliament last night. As with other claims of “taking back control”, the reality doesn’t always match up to the hype, and what MPs have actually taken control of is not Brexit, but the timetable of Parliamentary business which will see them discuss and vote on an alternative type of Brexit to that offered by the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Government and the EU.

What this means is that over the next few days MPs will hold a series of what they call indicative votes, being a means of indicating (hence “indicative”) the options which Parliament could, if it came to it, coalesce around and approve. These options could include remaining in the single market or the customs union, or they could include a second referendum or a general election. But they will only be indicative – and even if the Government acknowledges them fully, they won’t be “approved” until voted on as actual measures in their own right. These votes are merely to see what MPs could approve, not what they do approve.

In fact, as different ministers including the PM herself have now said several times, the Government doesn’t want MPs to have the control, doesn’t think indicative votes are either useful or effective, and if they result in MPs agreeing they could support a measure that’s not in the Conservative Party’s last election manifesto, then the Government will simply ignore them. That, of course, could cause constitutional upheaval on a scale we have not yet seen and at least one MP has said that in such a case MPs would pass legislation instantly to force the Government to take notice of Parliament’s view whether or not it’s in their Tory manifesto, though it is not immediately clear how MPs themselves could force through such legislation.

Others are saying that they are now intent on taking further emerging considerations and possible action in light of the clear evidence now that Cabinet and the Government are only concerned with the Conservative Party rather than the country. Where this might lead is another thing but it is indicative itself of the way in which the Government seems to be unable to get any traction for what actually matters – stability and assurance for the country, its economy, its nationals in the UK or the EU, and EU nationals within the UK.

At present, with Meaningful Vote 3 postponed because of lack of support and May’s inability to reconcile the irreconcilable, and without any immediate sign of an actual decision that achieves something concrete coming out of Parliament, the UK has just over 16 days left in the EU before it leaves with No Deal.

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

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