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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the debates and votes and deals of May.
My soul can reach, when other business takes place,
For the ends of an orderly exit or no deal’s grace.
Ahem. Apologies. I think I’ve destroyed Elizabeth Browning’s most famous work enough. The point is that next week is, in theory, almost entirely Brexit free. Us lovers of the cut and thrust of Brexit debate will just have to speculate as to what’s going on during these talks.
Here’s where we are: Parliament was supposed to be on holiday. I’ve been over this before but I think it bears repeating. You may feel little sympathy for the MPs having to stay an extra week, but it’s not just them. It’s the security staff, the catering staff, the cleaning staff, the clerks, the interns, the journalists, the camera people and everyone else who don’t get the time off that they want.
Sometimes you’ve got to put your shoulder to the wheel, I hear you say. Get on top of Brexit. But the issues are that the timetable that’s been announced doesn’t have a single vote on how we leave the EU.
No, MPs voted down (well, OK, they didn’t vote down, it was a tie and the Speaker voted it down because the Speaker always has to vote to maintain the status quo) another day of votes on Monday.
The entire week is packed with filler. As I say, nothing on Brexit in either House, but also no Bills to debate at all. I’m not sure the ‘our pick of the government Bills’ section of this email has ever been completely blank before. Not in a normal(ish) week.
I’m not even going to discuss the business of the House in this section. I’ve vaguely mapped it out below.
Talks are ongoing between Corbyn and May. They’ve been ‘constructive’ so far (which means they haven’t fallen out, but haven’t got anywhere either). If they come to an agreement, they could swoop down on Parliament and get a vote through. On the domestic front that’s pretty much all we’ve got. The PM has chosen to try to get a deal through with Labour votes. In doing so, she’s alienated some of her Brexiteers, but her logic is that she tried to work with them and it didn’t go too well. Three times. Thrice bitten four-times shy. Or something.
Of course, the biggest moment of the week will happen far from this sceptred isle. No, the most important events of the week will happen in Brussels on Wednesday.
Theresa May has asked for an extension until 30th June – just in time for us to duck out when the new European Parliament sit after elections at the end of May. So, her plan is still to hammer out something that the Commons will agree to. This time with added Corbyn. If we can have got the Withdrawal Agreement passed by some point soon, we won’t need to have EU elections. This is a very tight deadline.
However, she is now conceding that we may need to ready candidates for these elections. A friend of mine who hopes to run is involved in primary style elections to make it onto the ballot. There are many people who think this is quite clearly going to happen.
Donald Tusk (one of the EU’s Big Beasts) in the other hand is talking about a much longer extension. He has suggested a flexible year delay until March 31st 2020. It’s flexible because, as soon as we agree a withdrawal agreement, we can leave. We’re not forced to use the whole extension period. We would definitely have to have EU elections.
Don’t forget, though, that all 27 leaders of the other 27 member states have to agree to any extension. These will be interesting times. Expect leaks to be coming out all day and then a (probably late night) statement to the press.
Whatever the length of extension agreed (or maybe nothing agreed and we leave on Friday with no deal???) expect a statement from the Prime Minister in the Commons on Thursday. It should be pretty intense.
The Week Ahead.
Once again, this timetable can change very quickly. Here’s what’s scheduled.
Monday – A couple of Brexit technical changes to existing law (called Statutory Instruments, or SIs) and then a debate about eliminating racial discrimination.
Tuesday – Some interesting debate today, the UK has economic sanctions on various countries to encourage them to behave a bit better. These sanctions on Burma, Venezuela, Iran and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau are being confirmed to run for another year today. There’s also a general debate on housing.
Wednesday – PMQs was a bit odd this week. The PM and Corbyn were just about to go off and have a meeting with each other and try to collaborate. So, the usual finger pointing and sneering that they do at each other seemed slightly staged. The PM herself will presumably in Brussels, so we’ll have Thornberry and Lidington in charge.
The highlight of the afternoon should be a debate about Trident. People tend to either really really like Trident, or really really really hate it.
All eyes will be on the EU summit and examining any extensions being offered.
Thursday– The day after the night before. Theresa May will almost certainly come to the House and make a statement. I can’t see any way in which this statement will be met with universal acclaim. It seems like anything that happens will irritate/infuriate some.
Friday – No Parliament today. Unless there needs to be. MPs have been warned that they might need to sit on Friday.
NEXT WEEK – Still supposed to be recess. There is talk of sitting on Monday and Tuesday only.
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