Countdown to Brexit: 11 days – The week ahead - Another meaningful vote? Another plea to Europe?

The European Council has scheduled time in their 21-22 March summit to ‘consider’ Brexit.  What is unknown is just what the UK Prime Minister will be asking the remaining 27 EU countries to consider.

If the House of Commons has approved Theresa May’s ‘deal’ by Wednesday 20 March, the UK is likely request that the Council approve to "a one-off extension” - delaying Brexit to 30 June 2019.  The stated purpose to be "passing the necessary EU exit legislation."

 If MPs have not approved the deal by 20 March - the Government is likely to request an extension which is required to set out ‘a clear purpose for any extension, not least to determine its length’.  If the agreed extension goes beyond 30 June 2019, the UK would have to hold European Parliament elections on 23 May 2019.

There is still a chance that 'MV3' will take place on or before Wednesday 20 March - but this has not yet confirmed.

There is a long-standing tradition that the House of Commons should not be asked the same question twice in a single Parliamentary session - the current session is 2017-19.  It was brought to the speakers attention that the Government should not, therefore, ask the House to approve the motion to approve the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration for a third ‘meaningful vote’.  The decision on whether to allow ‘MV3’ rests solely with the Speaker and breaking news at 4pm on Monday is that he has ruled out bringing back “substantially the same” deal that Parliament has already rejected twice.

If MV3 is debated and the Government loses for a third time on or before the 20 March, it has said that it would "facilitate a process" to allow Parliament to "seek a majority on the way forward".

This could happen in the days following the European Council.  A similar course of action was proposed last week by a cross-party group of backbenchers – opposed by the Government - and defeated by only two votes.  The Government has now published a written statement setting out how it intends to proceed with the negotiations stating that the House would have a chance to debate this no later than Monday 25 March.

This week in Parliament will be dominated by consideration of the legislation that is needed for the nation to leave the EU on the default date of 29 March.

The week in Parliament  

Monday 18 March: The House of Commons considers Statutory Instruments - including two ‘EU Exit’ SIs.

Tuesday 19 March: five more ‘EU Exit’ Statutory Instruments in the Commons; the Treasury Committee will take evidence from the Office of Budget Responsibility on the Chancellor's Spring Statement; the Scottish Affairs Committee continues its inquiry into the future of Scottish agriculture post-Brexit.

Wednesday 20 March: One EU Exit Statutory Instrument in the Commons; the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee carries on taking evidence from representatives of NI political parties on the implications of the EU withdrawal agreement and the backstop for Northern Ireland; the Treasury Committee continues its examination of the Spring Statement; the International Trade Committee will be taking evidence on Continuity of trading arrangements with Turkey; the Environmental Audit Committee takes evidence from Michael Gove and Therese Coffey on the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill.

Thursday 21 March: no scheduled Brexit activity; the Business Statement at 10.30am will give an indication of what the House of Commons will be discussing in the week leading up to the 29 March 2019.

The Trade Bill continued through the House of Lords last week - and will have to come back for the Commons to consider the Bill as it was amended.  The Trade Bill is one of the bills the Government has said needs to be in place before exit day.

In case you missed it – last week’s Brexit news in brief

  • EU chief Brexit negotiator, Jean-Claude Junker, said the risk of a no-deal Brexit has “never been higher”;

  • UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said he would increase spending if a Brexit deal was agreed in the coming weeks;

  • Hammond also apologised some of the conflicting advice to citizens and business in the event of a no-deal Brexit saying that “the Government has given the civil service a very difficult task”;

  • The Bank of England told some UK banks to triple their holdings of liquid assets in the run up to Brexit in order to cope with “increased market volatility”;

  • The British Chambers of Commerce reported that anxiety among businesses is rising - and customers are being lost as uncertainty around Brexit continues;

  • US President, Donald Trump, tweeted that Theresa May had ignored his advice on how to negotiate Brexit and now “it’s tearing a country apart”;

  • The UK has announced the tariff regime that would apply under a no-deal Brexit.  13% of goods will have to pay import duty on arrival at the UK – irrespective of the originating country.  Automotive, cars and certain agricultural goods have tariffs between 3 and 60%.  No tariffs would be “payable” at the Irish border.  The EU Agricultural Commissioner suggested these were incompatible with World Trade Organisation rules - and were a “stunt”;

  • Nissan cancelled the production of two ‘Infiniti’ models at its Sunderland factory as it withdraws the brand from western Europe.

And for context – key Parliamentary Brexit events this year

16 January 2019: The Prime Minister wins a ‘vote of confidence’ in the Government.

21 January 2019: Theresa May presents the government’s Brexit ‘Plan B deal’.

29 January 2019: MPs debate the Prime Minister’s ‘Plan B deal’ - approved with the inclusion of two amendments.

14 February 2019: The government’s Brexit plan was defeated in the House of Commons in a ‘meaningful vote’ by 230 votes.

26 February 2019: The Prime Minister promised Parliament votes if she loses the second ‘meaningful vote’ in March on: ruling out a no-deal Brexit; and if she loses this vote on delaying Brexit.

12 March 2019: The Prime Minister loses the ‘Meaningful Vote 2’ by 149 votes.

13 March 2019: The Prime Minister loses the vote as MP’s look to take control and rule out a ‘no-deal Brexit’.

14 March 2019: MPs approve an amended Government’s motion instructing the Government to seek permission from the EU to extend Article 50.

Future timetable of key Brexit events

29 March 2019: the current legal date the UK is expected to leave the European Union. Following a House of Commons vote on 14 March 2019, the Government will seek permission from the EU to postpone this date. Any extension would require unanimous agreement from the other EU Member States.

15 April 2019: If the UK were to take part in European Parliament elections on 23 May 2019, this is the deadline to give public notice of elections.

18 April 2019: The deadline - according to European Commission contingency plans - for the UK to confirm whether to make its net contribution to the 2019 EU budget (approximately €7 billion).

30 April 2019: EU contribution payment is due.  Prior House of Commons approval required.

April or later: If Brexit is delayed.  The House of Lords debates and then votes on a motion on both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Outline Political Declaration.  The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is introduced in the House of Commons.  It amends the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to protect the effect of the European Communities Act 1972 during the transition/ implementation period; it implements other elements of the Withdrawal Agreement in UK law.

23-26 May 2019: This will be another opportunity for Parliament to debate and vote on the Withdrawal Agreement.

23 May 2019: European Parliament elections will take place between 23-26 May. With Thursday being the traditional polling day in the UK, there is a slight chance of the UK holding EP elections  - depending on the conditions of any extension to Article 50 – and almost certain if the extension goes beyond 30 June 2019.

30 June 2019: Delayed Brexit day?  Should the Prime Minister and EU member states agree a three-month extension to Article 50, this would be the likely date for the UK to leave the European Union.  A special summit of the EU27 is expected soon after the UK formally leaves the EU.

01 July 2019: If there is a three-month extension, the transition/implementation period begins.  Trade and future relations talks begin between the UK and EU.

02 July 2019: The first sitting of the new European Parliament.

31 December 2020: The transition period ends - unless it is by some mechanism extended past 2020.

01 January 2021: Agreement on future relations expected to enter into force.

John ShuttleworthComment