ABHI Membership

Brexit Update: Another week, another eleventh hour concession

I did the déjà vu thing last time, so I am not going to rehash the jokes. Or maybe I just did? Anyway, you know where I am coming from. Another week, another eleventh hour concession to potentially rebellious Tory MPs, and another damaging defeat for the government averted. I am really not trying to provide the commentator’s curse here, but history will have no choice but to admire this Prime Minister’s tenacity and survivability.

We were, once again, dining with MPs close to the crucial juncture, this time over breakfast on Wednesday, where we pondered what type of deal would be tabled this time. If you have managed to stay interested, it is all about giving MPs a meaningful vote and the role of parliament as opposed to government in agreeing or vetoing any deal. The concession this time was that the Speaker will decide the nature of any vote should the government return from Brussels with no deal or one parliament does not like.

Opinion was split over the significance of the concession.

Dominic Grieve, who was so angry over last week’s saga, and whose amendment was being voted on on Wednesday, was certainly convinced. He was satisfied enough with the legal opinion he received, and he is a distinguished lawyer himself, to support the government and vote against his own amendment. Others, though, think the concession is basically meaningless, and there are any number of legal constructs open to the government to block the Speaker, who, by the way, is under pressure to resign amid allegations of bullying. A new Speaker, less rabidly committed to the supremacy of parliament, could critically change the optics. We will know in the fullness of time, but only then if we end up in a very bad place during negotiations. For now at least, the government has avoided a showdown with its own MPs, and maybe that is the PM’s great strength. 

It could be, however, that all this is rather academic. More than one MP has told me that this (the EU Withdrawal Bill) is the wrong thing to get excited about as it focusses purely on the process of leaving. The substance will come with the other Bills that will be debated before Recess, notably those on Customs and Trade. Remember the obvious. No customs union = hard border in Ireland. Members will also read with interest today’s statements from Airbus about their future in the UK. Many of the concerns they lay out, you have expressed to us and we have passed on to officials. Both of these issues will likely feature significantly in next week’s meeting of the European Council, although do not expect much clarity as a result. I also understand that the PM is far more concerned about next month’s NATO summit at the moment, and where the President’s head might actually be at!

Away from the legislative rough and tumble, Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has laid out “simple requirements” for EU citizens to stay in the UK and has called on the EU27 to reciprocate. Now that sounds as if we might be getting close to detail in at least some areas of negotiation. Hopefully more to follow for you soon.

Thanking the many of you who took the time to say kind things about last week’s missive and wishing you a great weekend.