Parliament fails to truly take back control
This week the House of Commons voted to endorse an amendment by senior Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin which resulted in parliament taking control of the order paper. With the Government effectively losing control over its ability to set its own business, MPs moved on Wednesday to vote on a range of proposals aimed at breaking the impasse in the Brexit process. However, all 8 indicative votes including a proposal put forward by Conservative veteran Ken Clarke for the UK to stay in a permanent customs union, failed to achieve a majority. One proposal to support a Withdrawal Agreement on the condition it was put to a confirmatory public vote, received more support than the Prime Minister did in her attempts to get her deal through. As things currently stand MPs will now move to interpret the highest awarded votes for further debate on Monday which could see parliament voting again on a smaller range of options.
Meanwhile, in a dramatic move the Prime Minister offered to fall on her own sword as the ultimate price for securing the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement. The announcement by the PM on Wednesday was followed by a wave of support from members of the hard line European Research Group (ERG) who had previously opposed her deal. However, within hours of her speech to the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, the DUP, on whom the Government relies for its slim working majority, confirmed they would once again vote against the Prime Minister’s deal should it return to the Commons. With the DUP wedded to their view that the Withdrawal Agreement threatens the integrity of the Union, it appears only legally binding changes from the EU would see their position change. However, there is no appetite in the EU to offer any such concessions amid growing frustration in Brussels and across EU capitals.
On Thursday Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom announced that parliament would sit today, Friday, to hold a non-meaningful vote on the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement only. The vote seeks to give MPs a final opportunity to seek an extension to May 22nd under the terms agreed with the EU. In a week where parliament took historical control of the Commons, we’re no closer to knowing what it is that the UK wants.