Countdown to Brexit: 31 days – Political shift towards Brexit delay and a second referendum – or is there?

With 20 days of parliamentary time until Brexit on 29 march - Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party has published the text of the amendment to the Government’s Brexit motion – looking to enshrine Labour’s five Brexit demands in law.  They are:

  1. a permanent and comprehensive customs union with the EU;

  2. close alignment with the Single Market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations;

  3. dynamic alignment on rights and protections;

  4. commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation; and

  5. unambiguous agreements on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases.

Corbyn said that: “The Prime Minister is recklessly running down the clock, in an attempt to force MPs to choose between her botched deal and a disastrous No-Deal - we cannot and will not accept it. 

“We will also be backing the Cooper-Letwin amendment to rule out a No-Deal outcome.  One way or another, we will do everything in our power to prevent No-Deal - and oppose a damaging Tory Brexit based on Theresa May’s overwhelmingly rejected deal.

“That’s why, in line with our conference policy, we are committed to also putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country.”

Labour MP, Emily Thornberry, said if the Parliamentary process ended with a choice of no-deal or the PM's deal – then the public should decide.

Labour have not yet set out the choices that would be in a proposed referendum.

The BBC's Vicky Young said it was a “highly significant development as Mr Corbyn had previously been ‘lukewarm’ about the idea of another vote”.

The Prime Minister - who is required to update MPs on the negotiations with other EU Leaders in Sharm El Sheikh today, has insisted the UK can still leave next month as planned.

A spokesperson for European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, described the latest meeting with Theresa May as "constructive" and that "good progress" has been made.

May has ruled out a definitive "meaningful vote" on her Brexit deal this week - saying it would be held by 12 March - but she will give MPs the chance to have their say on the next steps for Brexit by enables them to table amendments to a Government motion on what they think should happen next.

The debate comes as the ‘Royal United Services Institute’ went public this morning with its findings that when UK leaves the EU - without a deal in 32 days or December 2020 - it will lose access to more than 40 different and specialist security information systems and databases – unless and until a unique Treaty can be negotiated with the EU.  No other ‘third country’ has such access.

The EU wants to avoid a no-deal Brexit – but it also wants a deal by 29 March in order that it can move on with other key EU business that is presently being held up to focus on “EU Preparedness”.

The chasm between Downing Street and Brussels remains deep.   Across Europe, EU leaders are publicly warning the UK to avoid a no-deal – and they continue to speak with one voice – ‘We know the Prime Minister's script - are we are not budging from ours’.

Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, summed it up in his warning to May that the UK was "sleepwalking into a no-deal scenario" and needed to "wake up".

All of which means that Brexit is going right down to the wire.  It's a high-risk strategy - as businesses and other EU leaders have been stressing.  Without agreement in Parliament by 13 March, it may be too late to complete the process for any delay to Brexit.  Only the remaining EU27 leaders at the scheduled summit on 21 March could decide.

A ‘well-placed’ European source offered one way out: "If we're really at that stage by then, with no confirmed extension of this process in sight, then a fixed end date of 2025 might be possible - after all, if we don't manage to get a trade deal sorted with the UK by then, then the backstop will hardly be our only concern."

Somewhat at odds with Mrs May’s admission that there was "still more to do" before Parliament could vote on her final plan – but that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March, “whether it has agreed a deal or not”.

Background

The full text of Labour’s amendment reads:

“That this House instructs Ministers

a. to negotiate with the EU for changes to the Political Declaration to secure:

  1. a permanent and comprehensive customs union with the EU;

  2.   close alignment with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations;

  3. dynamic alignment on rights and protections;

  4.   commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation; and

  5. unambiguous agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases;

b. to introduce primary legislation to give statutory effect to this negotiating mandate”

References

https://www.forces.net/brexit/uk-security-could-be-significantly-weakened-no-deal-brexit

https://labour.org.uk/press/labour-table-amendment-make-credible-alternative-plan-uks-brexit-negotiating-position/

https://www.brexit-partners.com/blog/a-delay-to-brexit-is-technically-possible-but-its-complex-and-may-not-be-granted-even-if-the-uk-did-request-it

John ShuttleworthComment