Even the government’s own MPs don’t trust it on Brexit
Senior Tory MPs plan to go over the prime minister’s head by seeking direct talks with the EU.
With less than a year and a half to go before the UK’s expected withdrawal date, a group of senior Tory MPs are seeking direct talks with Brussels on what the UK’s options are for Brexit. The Evening Standard reports they plan to bypass the prime minister in a bid to find out whether Brexit can be postponed should Parliament want changes made to any deal reached in negotiations.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, a former minister said: “By talking directly to Europe we can assess whether parliament has other options available, including the option to instruct the prime minister to go back to the negotiating table and seek new terms.”
As it stands, the government has said that parliament should get a vote on any deal reached ahead of it going to the European parliament. However, the government maintains that the choice for MPs will be to accept the deal or leave the EU with ‘no deal’. Any final agreement on the withdrawal deal will require the approval of MEPs and also be ratified by the remaining 27 member states. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said this will mean that a deal will need to be reached by October 2018 to allow time for ratification by the UK’s planned withdrawal date of March 2019.
The Evening Standard’s report suggests that some of the government’s own MPs believe other options are available beyond the government’s “take it or leave it” vote. And by going over the prime minister’s head to seek talks directly with the EU, it suggests the MPs believe the government is misleading parliament about the options available.
It seems the fight for a meaningful vote for MPs on Brexit continues. And as the clock ticks on, the possibility of the UK leaving with ‘no deal’ rises whilst the absurdity of it becomes clearer. Political commentator Ian Dunt points out in his politics blog that even if the UK was happy to leave the EU with no deal on trade and no transition, it would still need to secure a deal with the EU on issues including the management of nuclear materials and aviation. Walking away with ‘no deal’ also means the issues of citizens’ rights, the Irish border and financial settlement still require resolution. For the EU, this is still the deal that needs to be secured in negotiations. Indeed, Michel Barnier said that even if they were to reach a similar trade deal to that of the Canada-EU deal, it could take “several years” to negotiate. It is perhaps discussion of what ‘no deal’ is that David Davis’ ‘constructive ambiguity’ least serves.
It’s also likely the UK will simply not be ready to leave the EU with ‘no deal’ by March 2019. This week, HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson told MPs that it would need up to £450m in additional funding as well as between 3,000 and 5,000 extra staff to prepare for a ‘no deal’ outcome. ‘No deal’ isn’t an option worth considering so you can see why MPs don’t believe it to hold much meaning. Even more so should you believe Brexit secretary David Davis’ comments that a vote in parliament on the deal could come after March 2019.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that Brexit talks appear to have stalled with a date for the next round of negotiations yet to be confirmed. This is despite Theresa May and the EU’s Jean Claude-Juncker’s joint statement to “accelerate” talks.