Brexit minus eight days (possibly)

Commons Speaker John Bercow blocks a third vote on Teresa May’s deal, but there is a workaround – if the votes exits. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

On March 18, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow announced that he would not allow a third vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal without substantial changes, citing a rule dating back to 1604 that says that the Commons cannot re-consider something in its current session once it has been decided.  A session is normally one year, but the current session is two years, expiring in June 2019.

While Bercow’s intervention was dramatic, there is a fairly simple workaround.  A “paving motion” could be used to state that the Commons wants another vote on the deal.  If there were a majority for the paving motion, there would be another vote on the deal.  May’s problem is not Bercow, it is that she does not have a majority for her deal.  May would have hoped that the Democratic Unionist Party and hard Conservative Leavers would fall in line under the threat of a long extension to Brexit, but this has not occurred in sufficient numbers to change the result of the 149-vote loss at the March 12 division on May’s deal.

On March 21-22, the European leaders’ summit will be held.  It had been suggested that May would ask for a short extension, conditional on passing her deal by mid-April, when the UK will need to commit to holding European parliamentary elections from May 23-26.  If May cannot pass her deal by mid-April, a long extension would be required.

Instead of asking for a long delay, on March 20 May asked for a delay only until June 30, regardless of whether her deal is passed.  The UK would not participate in the EU elections, so it would cease to be an EU member when the new EU parliament first sits on July 1.  However, European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU would only back a short delay if May’s deal passes – a delay needs the unanimous support of all 27 EU nations.

Late on March 20 UK time, May gave a speech in which she said that the public should blame MPs, not her, for any Brexit delay.  May has been under pressure from hard Leave Conservative MPs.  But by blaming MPs, she makes it more likely that her deal will be rejected again if put to a vote next week.  In summary, the events of March 20 make a no-deal Brexit more likely at 11pm March 29 UK time (10am March 30 Australian Eastern Daylight Time).

I think a long Brexit extension would be seen as a far greater betrayal of Leave voters than other options such as a softer Brexit with a customs union.  For the last two years, people have been told that March 29 is the day the UK leaves the EU. Many Leave voters will not care very much about the type of Brexit, but they will care a great deal about honouring the March 29 exit date.  If the UK took part in European elections, there would be no guarantee of any Brexit.

On March 14, the Commons passed a motion that would extend Brexit.  A Survation poll taken March 15 gave Labour a four-point lead over the Conservatives, the first Labour lead in any UK poll since January 30.  Two YouGov polls for different clients, both conducted March 14-15, had the Conservatives ahead by two to four points; however, the Conservative vote in both polls was down five since the last YouGov poll in early March.  I believe Labour dropped in the polls as they became perceived as an anti-Brexit party.  The Conservatives would be likely to suffer greater damage than Labour from such a perception as Leave voters make up a far larger part of their vote.

An overlooked reason for why the Conservative vote has held up well despite Brexit chaos is the economy.  On March 19, the November to January jobs report was released.  It showed that 76.1% of those aged 16 to 64 had a job, a record high.  The unemployment rate was just 3.9% (lowest since 1975), and inflation-adjusted weekly wages grew 1.4% over the year to January.  As long as these great jobs figures continue, the Conservatives have a good chance to win the next election despite Brexit.  A big question is whether the economy tanks if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

76 comments on “Brexit minus eight days (possibly)”

  1. Are these unemployment figures dropping in tge UK and world wide because the baby boomers are falling off the perch at a great rate of knots?

  2. Put me down for no deal Brexit.

    The EU27 have reached the point where they will tell the UK to pass the deal by 29 March or its no deal. The UK commentariat seem to be clutching at straws that a long extension hasn’t been ruled out, the major problems being that the UK government would need to ask for it, and EU governments would need to think that the UK would do something other than use the time bickering among themselves. Neither seems likely.

    Regarding the impact of no deal, once they get past the shock of trade barriers to the EU going back up and trying to rebuild administrative capability previously delegated to the EU, they will have a long period of below trend growth, mainly in industries exposed to the EU as trade flows weaken. So they may avoid a recession, but in a decade they will poorer than they otherwise would have been. (It goes without saying that it simply isn’t possible for UK to get compensation for markets they lose in the EU elsewhere, even presuming said markets were willing and they were competent enough to negotiate access). Sucks to be them.

    The whole saga is an indictment on the current crop of UK politicians, especially on the Tory side (the number of Cabinet ministers who are plainly incompetent is remarkable). Regrettably I doubt even a general election or two will fix their malaise.

  3. Boy, there is humiliation and then there is what the UK is experiencing now. Theresa May cannot survive embarrassing her country like this. They should throw her in the tower of london

  4. Update on the Brexit guesses…
    8d 1h until Brexit
    In your opinion, on or before 2019 March 30, Britain will decide for one of the following:
    51% (a) Hard Brexit – No Deal
    4% (b) Soft Brexit – Deal
    18% (c) Brexit Extension – Negotiations Continue
    12% (d) Brexit Extension – New Referendum
    4% (e) Withdrawn Brexit
    5% (f) Something else
    7% (g) Don’t care
    No. Of PB Respondents: 49

    (a) allan moyes
    (a) bc
    (a) Bennelong Lurker
    (d) Bert
    (b,c) Big A Adrian
    (a) billie
    (a) BK
    (a) Bonza
    (a) briefly
    (a) C@tmomma
    (c) Confessions
    (d) DaretoTread
    (c) Diogenes
    (a) DisplayName 
    (c) Douglas and Milko
    (c) Expat Follower
    (a) Fargo61
    (a) Fozzie Logic
    (f) Frednk
    (a) Gareth
    (d) Gippslander
    (a) guytaur
    (a) Hugoaugogo
    (a,d) imacca
    (a,c,d) It’s Time
    (a,g) Jack Aranda
    (e) Jaeger
    (c) John Reidy
    (f) KayJay
    (a) Late Riser
    (g) nath
    (a) pica
    (a) Player One
    (g) poroti
    (a) Puffytmd
    (a,d) Question
    (a) ratsak
    (b) Ray (UK)
    (a) Rocket Rocket
    (a) Sceptic
    (a) simon
    (c) Steve777
    (a) swamprat
    (a,d) Tom the first and best
    (c) TPOF
    (c) Tristo
    (g) Ven
    (e,f) Victoria
    (a) WeWantPaul

  5. The UK have become a laughing stock. And the most ridiculous aspect is that they did it to themselves. Beyond parody.
    Monty Python comes to mind

  6. The UK now being handed the terms of its surrender. Is this the greatest humiliation in 400 years? (I can’t think back further). I suspect the EU is giving Parliament time to dump Theresa and send back a sentient life form.

  7. Serious question here. Is this going to be the end of the 2 party system?

    Both major parties are hopelessly divided and appear to have no ideological construct to fall back on.

    The worry is that the vote will splinter to either end of the spectrum and that sensible government will be difficult.

    Who knows what the SNP will do (try to secede?) and Northern Ireland could revert to type.

    What a disaster!

  8. I still can’t see a hard brexit happening. That is the nuclear option and however dysfunctional British politics seems, I think that is the one thing it will be able to unite for to prevent.

    How they will do it though I don’t know. Most likely they will somehow end up voting for May’s deal – which may not even be May’s deal by that time (as in she won’t be PM).

  9. Big A Adrian @ #12 Friday, March 22nd, 2019 – 10:04 am

    I still can’t see a hard brexit happening. That is the nuclear option and however dysfunctional British politics seems, I think that is the one thing it will be able to unite for to prevent.

    How they will do it though I don’t know. Most likely they will somehow end up voting for May’s deal – which may not even be May’s deal by that time (as in she won’t be PM).

    I think it is a mistake to look at Hard Brexit as an option. It is the default if nothing changes. What are the options that might avoid this?

    I can think of two scenarios.
    Scenario 1: a) a paving motion, b) accept May’s deal
    Scenario 2: a) loss of confidence in the Tory government, b) Revoke article 50

    Neither scenario seems plausible at this stage.

  10. Brexit is now likely to be delayed until at least April 12. To get an extension beyond April 12, the UK must either:

    1. Pass May’s deal or a soft Brexit with a customs union, such that any outstanding legislation can be wrapped up by May 22
    2 Agree to participate in European parliamentary elections from May 23-26. So if the UK holds a 2nd referendum or a general election, they still need to participate in those elections to get an extension.

    The other way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is by revoking Article 50.

  11. Adrian B.

    OK, That’s 3 scenarios, and thank you for pointing out the option of a paving motion in your guest post.

    Scenario 1:
    a) paving motion,
    b) accept May’s deal

    Scenario 2:
    a) something (loss of confidence in government?),
    b) hold EU elections,
    c) something (referendum, general election, revoke Article 50)

    Scenario 3:
    a) something (loss of confidence in government?),
    b) Revoke Article 50

    It is still difficult for me to see anything plausible in that list. 🙁

  12. Here’s my all-encompassing scenario attempt:
    1) May’s deal gets to floor for a vote (Bercow) [yes go to 2, no go to 3]
    2) May’s deal gets passed by the Commons [yes = short technical extension, no go to 3]
    3) EU offers short non-technical extension to give more time prior to EU elections [yes go to 4, no go to 5]
    4) Commons agrees to a short extension [yes go to 1, no go to 5]
    5) May requests long extension [go to 11] or refuses to do so [go to 6]
    6) Commons succesfully legislates forced long extension request [go to 11, no go to 7]
    7) No confidence motion in May fails [go to 8] or succeeds [go to 9]
    8) No deal brexit on deadline date
    9) Interim PM can be installed prior to deadline date [yes go to 10, no go to 8]
    10) Interim PM requests long extension [yes go to 11, no go to 8]
    11) Long extension granted, entire process re-sets from scratch

    I cannot see revocation or referendum as an end point except via an entire-process re-set (11)

    The number of ways we end up at #8 no deal make me extremely jittery! As does the over-dependence on Theresa May’s unilaterial judgement.

    By holding the next vote next week, i think May might well be taking #9 off the table prior to March 29.

    I also suggest that there’s no way we can get to a No Deal without at least a confidence vote in May’s government being attempted – and no guarantee of it preventing nodeal even if it succeeds (#9)

    From a pure Game of Thrones angle its enthralling – all they are playing with is the country’s economic future…

  13. I’m sorry – that scenario map was before this breaking news:

    May agrees to Brexit delay proposal
    Donald Tusk confirms that Theresa May has agreed to the plan to delay Brexit until 22 May if she can get her deal through the Commons, or 12 April if she cannot.

    It removes #3 and #4 , sets a new deadline of 12 April instead of 29 March and a no in #2 goes straight to #5 instead. Does the Commons need to approve this deadline extension – i dont believe so.

    This is actually quite a rational outcome – extend current deadline until no rope to keep pushing (Euro elections). And May accepted it, if she really was committed to her deal or no deal she could have just declined and kept the pressure right on. Consistent with her bluffing on no deal i submit.

    What are the odds that by April 12, May will ask for a long extension and immediately resign? I think worth a bet.

  14. Revoke Article 50 is only the viable and least painful option. Tories will face humiliation in UK. Otherwise all hell will break loose

  15. Adrian Beaumont @ #23 Friday, March 22nd, 2019 – 4:55 pm

    Late Riser, I think legislation needs to be changed, so it needs to pass both Houses and be signed by the Queen. An extension this short shouldn’t have any problem passing.

    Thanks. I guess I don’t know enough. My understanding is that if:
    * Commons accepts May’s deal a Soft-Brexit will happen on May 22.
    * Commons rejects May’s deal a Hard-Brexit will happen April 12.

    But before that decision can be made, as you say, legislation needs changing, both Houses must pass it, and then the Queen must sign. That makes sense to me. But must all this happen before Saturday next? Or is it sufficient for the Commons to decide before Saturday that all this must happen, and then do the legislation, and finally decide again on May’s deal? Or (third possibility) does May as PM have the authority to decide and since she has decided, Brexit is already on the next track?

  16. Seriously, the tories need to tap May and say we can’t get the agreement passed and it is time for her to go. Then however is caretaker goes to EU and says we need to delay as we don’t have a leader. Let us have an election for leader and then sort it out…..

  17. The French Foreign Minister, Nathalie Loiseau, says she has renamed her cat “Brexit” because it meows endlessly to be let out, and when she opens the door it just stands and stares at her, and when she puts it out it glowers at her. 🙂

  18. I don’t think I understand any of it. I’m just blown away by what seems to be the near total lack of planning & direction since the referendum. As for this backstop thingy, I think that short of one side’s surrender it’s insoluble.

  19. I read that May might not present her deal for a 3rd vote, and even if she does the Speaker may still not permit it.
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/22/theresa-may-brexit-deal-mps-eu-no-deal

    So what happens if there is no 3rd vote on May’s deal? It is one thing for the EU to say, “OK, if you do this, then you have until X. Or if you you do that, then you have until Y.” But does not the UK then have to say, “OK, we agree with those terms.” And then of course explicitly do one of those two things.

    To put it another way, April 12 is the date the EU set and is conditional on the UK rejecting May’s deal, again. What if the UK simply refuses to decide, thereby neither rejecting nor accepting May’s deal?

    This is how I see the dates deriving from the Common’s decision on May’s deal.
    Accept -> Soft Brexit, May 22
    Reject -> Hard Brexit, April 12
    Don’t know -> Hard Brexit, March 29

    Help..?

  20. OK. I think it now makes more sense.

    Separately, No 10 said the EU’s agreement to extend article 50 was contingent on holding the vote next week. The exact date has not been set, but it is likely to be on Tuesday or Wednesday, to give MPs and peers time to pass legislation to change the exit date before 29 March.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/22/third-meaningful-brexit-vote-likely-next-week-mps-told

    So it looks like this.
    Decide to Accept -> Soft Brexit, May 22
    Decide to Reject -> Hard Brexit, April 12
    Don’t Decide -> Hard Brexit, March 29

    The UK is still staring at a Hard Brexit at the end of next week.

  21. Parliament to consider 7 different deals next week to see what has majority support.

    Number 10 is understood to be considering allowing parliament to vote on seven alternative options next week amid growing fears that Theresa May will not get her Brexit plan through the House of Commons.

    A senior minister in the government told Sky News that plans are being drawn up to give MPs a choice between revoking Article 50, a second referendum, the prime minister’s deal, her deal plus a customs union, the deal plus a customs union and single market access, a standard free-trade agreement, or a no-deal Brexit.

    Another source confirmed to Sky News that senior figures within government had been speaking openly about getting behind the idea.

    https://news.sky.com/story/plan-for-mps-to-get-votes-on-seven-brexit-options-if-theresa-mays-deal-defeated-again-11672593

  22. Holden Hillbilly

    Thanks for that. Interesting. A glimmer of sense, perhaps.

    Number 10 is understood to be considering allowing parliament to vote on seven alternative options next week amid growing fears that Theresa May will not get her Brexit plan through the House of Commons.

    Given how most (all?) parliamentary votes are of a Yes/No type, I suppose they would set up for 7 separate votes, and run down the list.

    (a) the PM’s deal
    (b) PM’s deal plus a customs union
    (c) PM’s deal plus a customs union and single market access
    (d) a standard free-trade agreement
    (e) a second referendum
    (f) revoking Article 50
    (g) a no-deal Brexit

    So to give themselves time they need to vote on May’s Deal first, to get any extension. Even if they vote against May’s deal then at least they have secured an extension. Then they need to run through the others and apart from the last two, ask the EU to ratify the decision and for a second extension so they can legislate the decision.

    Progress?

  23. Brexit referendum was devised to stop UKIPers deserting the Conservatives.

    The Conservatives are propped up by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s mob ERG and the Ulster-based DUP who absolutely want a ‘No Deal’ Brexit because they will profit from the disruption.

    I understand that Theresa May is so embattled that she continues her (failing) strategies and is unable to change direction. You sometimes see students tune out when they experience information overload and that’s what May is doing now

    Clearly I think that any Brexit is a disaster on the scale of the English Civil War which threw up cruel monsters in Ireland like Cromwell, changed Sedition laws, changed the way English people speak. English people do not speak directly, the import of their message is often in what is not stated

    Re the Brexit cat,we should buy the French Minister a moggy, after all Brexit is a petulant child

  24. It seems like a lot of energy is going into clinging to power, May to her job and the Tories to government.

    “It is being said that the only way she could stay on as prime minister is if she backed no-deal,” said a cabinet source. “That is where the party is – anything else would cause a huge division.”

    While accepting that May faces a terminal loss of support, some senior ministers are also warning that toppling her now would unleash a general election and a leadership fight that would be “toxic” for the Tories. “It is much better that one person is held responsible for all this mess,” said one senior minister.“If you get shot of her this week, you can almost guarantee an election and a whole set of problems.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/23/tory-remainers-brexiters-say-theresa-may-in-end-days

    There is open examination of what tactics might be available to delay the crucial vote needed to extend the Brexit process beyond March 29. The purpose is to delay the crucial vote until the very last day in order to sustain their power.

    The exclamation mark is worn out. The plot is lost. Power for its own sake is sterile self-aggrandisement. At best merely useless for the nation. It is hard to fathom.

    But, could it be that this entire image of secret plotting and scheming is not accurate at all, but the outcome of a journalistic attempt to weave a narrative where none exists? Otherwise, where is the outrage at the selfish bastards? Maybe this story merely reflects journalistic opinion and imagination.

    Hope dies last.

  25. I think there’s only one way to oust May if she won’t resign voluntarily (fat chance of that). That one way is to join Labour in voting no-confidence in May’s govt. But I don’t think these Tories are anywhere near that point yet.

  26. Adrian Beaumont @ #40 Sunday, March 24th, 2019 – 11:07 am

    I think there’s only one way to oust May if she won’t resign voluntarily (fat chance of that). That one way is to join Labour in voting no-confidence in May’s govt. But I don’t think these Tories are anywhere near that point yet.

    Not yet, I suppose. But even that wouldn’t get their deputy into the PM spot, would it? Does PM ship need the Monarch’s approval? Does the PM have to belong to a governing political party? Is it nuts that I am even asking these sorts of questions.

  27. After a successful no-confidence vote, there’s a 14-day period in which a new govt can be formed by having the Commons assert confidence in it. So the Commons could assert confidence in a govt led by May’s deputy after ousting May.

    If no govt can be formed at the end of those 14 days, a new election is required.

  28. Adrian Beaumont @ #42 Sunday, March 24th, 2019 – 4:55 pm

    After a successful no-confidence vote, there’s a 14-day period in which a new govt can be formed by having the Commons assert confidence in it. So the Commons could assert confidence in a govt led by May’s deputy after ousting May.

    If no govt can be formed at the end of those 14 days, a new election is required.

    Thank you. 🙏

    Thinking about it that allows a weird situation where where the government consists of the Conservative party lead by May (with a smattering of others) but the Prime Minister is May’s deputy. I suppose May might be humiliated into stepping down voluntarily. And they don’t have 14 days.

    (I caught the Channel 7 coverage tonight about May’s time running out, but no mention that the Tories can’t do this by themselves.)

  29. I am re-writing

    But, could it be that this entire image of secret plotting and scheming is not accurate at all, but the outcome of a journalistic attempt to weave a narrative where none exists? Otherwise, where is the outrage at the selfish bastards? Maybe this story merely reflects journalistic opinion and imagination.

    But, could it be that this entire image of secret plotting and scheming is not accurate at all, but the outcome of MPs attempting to weave a narrative where none exists? Its purpose is to deflect the outrage at the selfish bastards. Maybe this story merely reflects backbench and cabinet desperation to cling to power.

    “May is the problem. We tried to fix it.”

    Hope is very ill.

  30. This seems to be the current situation, acknowledged by the PM’s office.

    No 10 said the EU’s agreement to extend article 50 was contingent on holding the vote next week.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/22/third-meaningful-brexit-vote-likely-next-week-mps-told

    But then I read this, published by sky news about 3 hours ago.
    https://twitter.com/YvetteCooperMP/status/1109102718793195521/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1109102718793195521&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fnews.sky.com%2Fstory%2Fbrexit-whats-happening-in-the-house-of-commons-this-week-11674222
    https://news.sky.com/story/brexit-whats-happening-in-the-house-of-commons-this-week-11674222
    The jarring sentence is

    … If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 12 April 2019…

    This misses the crucial bit that unless a vote is held on the Withdrawal Agreement the date is still 29 March 2019. Rejecting the agreement shifts the date to April 12, and accepting the agreement shifts the date to May 22.

    People are acting as if the date has already been shifted to April 12. Am I reading it wrong?

  31. Late Riser, I think you are reading it wrong, and it will be April 12 whether or not a Meaningful Vote is held this week.

    One complication: the Brexit date needs to be changed in UK domestic law this week. If that doesn’t happen, we could get a “Schroedinger’s Brexit”, where the UK has left in domestic law while still being part of the EU in European law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *