Different but the Same

15 May 2019


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Withdrawal Agreement Bill for Brexit Vote Set for Early June


Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the House of Commons will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill [WAB] the week of June 3. While this looks like a fourth vote on the same thing, the first three votes on Brexit were to ratify the agreement between London and Brussels on the future relationship of the UK and EU. Following the ratification, the WAB would enshrine Brexit in British law. Since the PM can't get a fourth vote on the same thing, she is opting for this new approach to the problem. In practical terms, it is the same thing again. Again, it will probably fail.

For now, the Conservative minority government is in talks with the main opposition Labour Party trying to find a way to get a majority to vote in favor of some form of Brexit. The talks have not produced much for a few reasons. First, the Tory government isn't making any compromises. Second, Labour is divided on Brexit. Getting the Shadow Cabinet to back any motion does not necessarily mean the rest of the party, or even a majority of it, would follow suit. Third, the Irish backstop issue continues to complicate matters because the Irish government has a say over the border problems it addresses. The Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland has kept Ms. May in office so far, and they demand that Ulster is treated no differently from the rest of the UK. That almost certainly makes the problem insoluable.

That said, the talks continue because everyone is getting desperate. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said, "It is now time for Parliament to make a decision, reflecting the manifestos of both the Conservative and Labour parties at the last general election and to deliver Brexit in the way that the public were promised."

Yet the leader of Northern Irelands Democratic Unionist Party at Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said, "If the prime minister brings the withdrawal bill to the Commons for a vote, the question will be, 'What has changed?'. Unless she can demonstrate something new that addresses the problem of the backstop, then it is highly likely her deal will go down to defeat once again."

Liam Fox, who serves as the International Trade Secretary in cabinet, explained that if the WAB does not pass next month, that failure will "take us to either the potential of revocation of Article 50 or leaving without a deal." He added that Commons had finally reached the stage where MPs will have to decide "if they want to vote for Brexit or not."

The European Parliamentary elections are set in the UK for May 23. At first glance, the exercise may appear pointless since the UK is supposed to leave the EU by October 31 -- not much point in even taking the seats. However, there is a Brexit Party standing against the Change UK and Liberal Democrats (remain parties). The Tories and Labour will not finish in the top two, and the SNP north of the border is a strong remain force. If the Brexiteers are out voted, there may be pressure to either pass the WAB or revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU. While everything about Brexit has served to muddy the waters, the European elections just might clarify which way the wind is blowing. A general election or a second referendum would be preferable, but one takes what one can get.

One still expects the WAB to fail, and no resolution is possible until September when the summer recess for Parliament ends.

© Copyright 2019 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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