What’s Going On With Brexit?
A lot of stuff went down these last couple of weeks, and every other week, in Westminster, and particularly a lot of stuff regarding our exit from the EU. You want specifics? I got them right here.
Boris has come back from the EU brandishing a shiny new deal with one particularly crucial rearrangement: the backstop, which gave Theresa May such a headache, has been removed. Instead, Boris’ deal will have a customs border between the UK and Northern Ireland. Goods moving into Northern Ireland from the UK will pay import taxes, and those taxes will be refunded if the goods remain in Northern Ireland. There’s also some stuff about the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and how much we’ll pay the EU on leaving, but the headline is that the backstop is gone.
This deal was presented to Parliament on the 19th of October – the first time Parliament has worked on a Saturday since the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 – and in something of a wild-card move, Parliament did not approve or reject it. Instead, they voted to postpone voting on it until the legislation turning the deal into UK law was complete. They also voted to force Boris to send a letter to the EU requesting an extension to Brexit until the 31st of January 2020 – he did that, but he didn’t sign it, and he sent a second letter immediately after telling the EU that it was a terrible idea.
What next? The Government published the Withdrawal Bill and tried to convince Parliament to only spend three days debating it. Parliament rejected that as well. The Bill is now paused whilst EU leaders consider the extension request.
On the 24th, Boris announced that he wanted to hold an early general election on December 12th – this would be good for him because he would have a chance to restore the Conservative majority in Parliament (severely hurt by his booting several members from his own party). Unfortunately MPs rejected this, as they have rejected every attempt to hold an early election. Boris is undeterred – he will try again, this time with a motion that requires a simple majority rather than the two-thirds the last three votes have required.
The EU has announced that it will accept the extension until the 31st of January. So, what happens now? Boris is going to try again for an election. Parliament needs to pass the Withdrawal Bill at some point, and it is entirely possible that we will leave before the end of the extension. However, the Treasury has put on hold plans to give out Brexit commemorative coins with the date of 31st October…so it looks like that’s not going to happen.
Caitlin Flavell, Political Editor
Photograph: by Sangavi Sugumar.