It looks like Theresa May is planning to blackmail Parliament into supporting her disastrous Brexit deal with a false promise now – and hard facts later.
She came to Parliament yesterday (February 12) with a claim that she needs more time to secure a deal on exiting the European Union that a majority of MPs in the House of Commons could support, and that would win the backing of the other 27 EU nations.
The delay she is proposing means that she would not normally be able to pass all the legislation that needs to be in place by March 29 (what did This Writer tell you?) – so she said she would lift a requirement for a 21-day-period to pass before any vote to approve an international treaty of this nature.
Under the Constitutional Reform and Government Act 2010 (CRAG), Mrs May must allow this period of time for consideration of her deal.
She was challenged on her decision to lift the CRAG requirement by Luciana Berger. Here’s her question – and the scripted reply:
— Luciana Berger (@lucianaberger) February 12, 2019
Commentators – like Paul Waugh of the Huffington Post, below – have taken this as proof that Mrs May wants to hold back a vote on any deal she fudges together until the week before March 29 (Brexit day), in an attempt to deal Parliament a fait accompli: Accept her Brexit or face a lengthy delay. This would panic extremists like the European Research Group of Brextremists led by Jacob Rees-Mogg who fear a delay could lead to Brexit’s cancellation.
Ooh that was signif. May just announced if there looks like 'insufficient time" to pass legislation on Brexit she will amend the bill to let her fast track it.
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) February 12, 2019
Normally I wouldn’t trust Waugh but it seems there is corroboration for this – from the most senior civil servant working on Brexit.
According to The Guardian, “Theresa May’s … chief negotiator Olly Robbins was overheard in a Brussels bar saying MPs will be given a last-minute choice between her deal and a lengthy delay.
“Robbins, the most senior civil servant involved in the Brexit process, was overheard by a reporter from ITV, holding a late-night conversation in which he appeared to suggest she would wait until March – and then give MPs the choice between backing her, or accepting a long extension to article 50.
“According to the broadcaster, Robbins said the government had ‘got to make them believe that the week beginning end of March … extension is possible, but if they don’t vote for the deal then the extension is a long one.’”
If a panicked ERG supports Mrs May, her deal might get through Parliament – no matter how dire it may be.
So it seems Mrs May is doing exactly what some of us predicted months ago – running down the clock to make it seem MPs have no choice other than to accept her diabolical Brexit.
But they do have a choice.
And while Mrs May has been spouting a lot of rhetoric that “we need to hold our nerve”, it is MPs who want a better deal who need to hold theirs.
If she really does delay a Parliamentary vote until the last week of March – and her proposal is rejected – then her bluff will have been called and she will have nowhere to go.
That is the moment Parliament will be able to demand an exit deal they can support, rather than one that is forced onto them.
The first test of Mrs May’s strategy will come in less than two weeks – on February 26. That is when Mrs May has vowed to return with a further statement – triggering another debate and votes the following day – if a deal has not been secured by then.
If she fails to offer Parliament a vote, we’ll know her plan. We’ll know she has been lying to us. We’ll know Olly Robbins was right. And our MPs will know that any vote in support of her deal is a betrayal of the people. Right?
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