My article for the Herald on the Government’s Brexit defeat in the House of Commons. You can also read the article on the Herald website here.
The Tory Government seems to be making a habit of humiliating defeats.
In the last few weeks it has gained the accolade of being the first Government in history to be held in contempt of Parliament and, on Tuesday, lost a vote by the largest majority in parliamentary history.
That prompted Jeremy Corbyn to table a no confidence motion in the Government, which I was proud to support.
But it was always going to be near impossible for it to be successful, as the parliamentary mathematics are in the Government’s favour, with its Democratic Unionist Party colleagues supporting the Prime Minister.
What is clear is that after the historic and humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister, there is absolutely no confidence in her Brexit ‘deal’.
The Prime Minister must not come back and try to pass her deal again in an attempt to continue to run down the clock. It is as dead as a Monty Python parrot. It has ceased to exist.
We also know there is a consensus of MPs to prevent a no deal scenario, which would be calamitous for the country. It’s a scenario that the Government should now take off the table.
So, what happens next?
Following another Government defeat last week, Parliament decided that the Government had to come back within three sitting days with the way forward (it was 21 days previously). There are only 35 scheduled parliamentary sitting days until the UK is due to leave the EU so Monday now becomes the key day.
A series of backbench MP victories late last year also means that whatever the Prime Minister brings back on Monday will be both amendable and voteable. That gives other propositions for the House to take a view on.
The continuing problem, of course, is that there is no majority for any form of Brexit amongst MPs. The options seem to be an altered PM’s ‘deal’, the so called ‘Norway+’ model which includes single market membership, no deal, or a public vote.
Rumours are that the PM’s deal may be brought back with some amendments to the controversial backstop proposal but overturning a majority of 230 against it will surely be impossible.
The Norway+ model is something I have long since championed as a director of the Labour for the Single market campaign, but I think a renegotiation of this magnitude will no longer be allowable by the EU in time. It was always the least-worst Brexit option, and it is legitimate to ask what would be the point of leaving to stay when it effectively keeps you in the EU in all but name whilst giving up your say?
No deal has been ruled out by Parliament so that leaves the option of a public vote.
It may be the case that, as the clock ticks down, we end up with one of two possible scenarios.
The first, which I think is most likely, is that the Prime Minister or Parliament decides that the people must break the deadlock, or, second, she brings back an amended proposition at the 11th hour with the Hobsons’ choice that it is her deal or no deal.
We know that any deal can’t be as good as the one we currently enjoy as a member of the European Union, so the Prime Minister should put her deal to the people in a public vote with the ballot paper offering the option of remaining in the EU – and that’s something which Labour should get fully behind as unanimously agreed by Labour Party members.
And, as a footnote, let’s not compound this Brexit shambles with more nationalist ideology who drive for Scexit.