Brexit: the past seven days

As the countdown continues to the scheduled date of Brexit on March 29, here is what has been happening over the past week.

Days to go

28. Possibly.

What happened this week?

Theresa May caved in to pressure from Cabinet ministers including Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark and agreed to offer MPs the chance to vote on delaying Brexit if no deal is in place by March 29.

The Prime Minister promised to bring her Brexit deal back to the Commons for another “meaningful vote” by March 12.

If that fails, MPs will then get to vote on whether they want a no-deal Brexit and, if they do not, then they can call on Mrs May to seek an extension to Article 50.

The move may have prevented a Cabinet revolt, but more than 100 Conservatives failed to support the plan in a Commons vote and George Eustice quit as environment minister in protest at the prospect of an extension which could be a “final humiliation” for Britain.

Meanwhile Labour’s alternative Brexit plan was rejected by the Commons, meaning Jeremy Corbyn’s party will now put forward or support an amendment calling for a second referendum.

Brexit countdown
(PA Graphics)

What happens next?

The Government will continue negotiations in Brussels aimed at securing changes to the Northern Ireland backstop as it tries to get a Brexit deal that can make it through the Commons.

There will be another showdown on the deal by March 12 at the latest, as Mrs May seeks to reverse the humiliating 230-vote defeat suffered in January.

If the deal is rejected again, MPs will vote by March 13 at the latest on whether they want a no-deal departure from the EU.

Assuming they do not, then MPs will be asked if they want to seek a “short, limited extension” to Article 50. If they do, this would require the consent of the other 27 European Union states.

Mrs May stressed she did not want an extension and warned that it did not rule out the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, but would instead risk creating a “much sharper cliff edge” in a few months.

Good week

Yvette Cooper

The Labour former Cabinet minister led efforts in the Commons to give MPs a vote on extending Article 50. Her amendment, which put the Prime Minister’s commitments into a Commons resolution, was passed by a majority of 482 despite 20 Tory opponents and scores more Conservatives staying away.

Bad week

Theresa May

The Prime Minister was forced into offering MPs the chance of an extension, weakening her bargaining power with Brussels. She suffered the resignation of Mr Eustice as a result. Tory MP Alberto Costa was also forced to quit as a ministerial aide after tabling an amendment calling for the Government to seek a separate treaty on citizens’ rights if the Brexit deals falls through.

Quote of the week

“I fear that developments this week will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country,” wrote Mr Eustice in his resignation letter.

Brexit
The resignation letter from Conservative MP George Eustice (PA)

Tweet of the week

“All that’s on offer from the PM is the possibility of a short gangplank added to the cliff edge,” said ex-Tory Sarah Wollaston, now a member of the Independent Group, on the prospect of extending Article 50.

All that’s on offer from the PM is the possibility of a short gangplank added to the cliff edge.

— Sarah Wollaston MP (@sarahwollaston) February 26, 2019

Word of the week

Extension

See also delay, deferral, postponement, kicking the can down the road. The Prime Minister was forced into offering an extension even though she stressed she did not want it.

And even with extra time, there is little to suggest that the deeply divided MPs at Westminster will be able to use it to reach agreement.