There is now barely enough time left for the required parliamentary processesby Maddy Thimont Jack / October 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
We really are now reaching the crunch point in the Brexit negotiations: the Irish backstop is the last outstanding issue in the withdrawal agreement. While this remains a major hurdle, reaching agreement with the EU is only one side of the Brexit coin. If Theresa May manages to agree a deal in Brussels, she still has to get it through parliament. What obstacles lie in her way?
There are the familiar political difficulties. Brexit divides both the Conservatives and Labour which would make this process a challenge in any circumstance. But it is a task made much harder with a minority government. The DUP agreed to support the government on Brexit votes last year but its MPs are now threatening to vote against the deal and are sabre rattling over the Budget and the rest of the government’s legislative programme.
On the Conservative backbenches, members of the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG), led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, have also said they will oppose the prime minister’s deal. Of the around 80 members, Steve Baker, vice chair of the ERG and former DExEU minister, has said he believes at least 40 would be willing to vote against the government. On the Remainer side, a number of Conservative MPs have come out in support of a second referendum; they may be willing to vote against the government if they believe this would be a possible outcome.
There are reports the prime minister is courting around 30 Labour MPs to get the deal through, on the basis that her deal is a better alternative to no-deal. But if the scale of the revolt on the government benches is as big as it seems, she will need as many of them as she can get.
Needless to say this is not a happy situation. Rarely has parliament been so divided on such an issue of such fundamental constitutional importance.
Yet these political challenges are aggravated by the extremely tight timeframe. The government has promised parliament a “meaningful vote” on the final deal before it introduces a new bill to implement the withdrawal agreement, the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB). Only once the WAB has received Royal Assent can the government then ratify the withdrawal agreement. And that is only what needs to happen in the UK: the European Parliament also needs to approve the deal before it can be ratified. This all needs…