I cannot deny there has been what might in the vernacular described as a ‘shedload’ of confusion over Article 50 and withdrawing from the EU post referendum. This is my attempt to shine some light on the situation.
There was a private members’ Bill, submitted by Peter Bone MP in November 2016- and indeed, the rules are for ANY Bill or motion that if it’s not voted through the first stage,(usually a formality) it does not get put on the table and nobody would have a say. The LP have already made a list of amendments that are NOT in the Bill, (showing how authoritarian the Bill currently is) showing there was NO due process in this Bill, which looks like it was written on the back of a fag packet in the Commons bar and probably was. This ‘motion’ submitted last week [Jan 2017] is NOT the same motion/Bill but similarly risible, and not on parliament. uk [it is now, but was not at the time of writing this beyond a title and empty page] because it is only a motion right now. This not-fit-for-purpose 137 word document was read out on Question Time in January and is even more authoritarian. Whether the amendments are to the Bill already in process or this ‘motion’ we cannot deny they are sorely needed. You can track the process and progress of the Bill here.
And this is how all Bills work, not just the WftEU Bill (that the MSM wrongly insist on calling the Brexit Bill) through Parliament from the BBC’s politics’ section of their website.
This breakdown is long overdue and may well have punctured weeks ago the foam and spit of the MSM and ‘electorate’ on how Corbyn’s ‘betraying’ them and not ‘opposing’ the ‘Tories’. Every single non-Con MP could have voted to block and it would have made no difference, with the Conservative majority.
The above graphic is taken from here.
Thus all attempts to ‘block’ anything at this point would do is delay it at best and make no difference at worst, and there’s a timeframe- the Cons have already pushed through a vote to invoke A50 by March 2018. May is off to the EU Council in Malta on March 25th to make her ‘grand withdrawal gesture’ *cough* no matter what happens with this Bill. Thus they’d do it with NO Terms of Leave Act if this is not done. The EU will not ease the process, just yesterday they had a meeting about the role of the UK and the leave process and May was not invited. Not for the first time. When she is invited, she is like a hen in a fox house. And time is running out.
A 3 line whip is an urgent demand for attendance (and so they should) and a request to vote a certain way, and is done on all Bills that affect the whole country. Parliament UK explains this quite clearly in the ‘History’ section of this page. The MSM are missing off the ‘attendance’ part and ONLY focusing in on the ‘vote this way or else part’, ignoring the fact that the Government also issued a three line whip. Nobody in living memory has been removed from the LP/ had the whip withdrawn for rebelling against such votes, though they have for breaking party rules or actually breaking the law (sex crimes, fraud etc).
Or if you’re Naz Shah, for reposting a link from an eminent Jewish historian and being catapulted into an ‘anti-semitic’ s**tstorm. You don’t even have to attend if you have a good cited reason not to, or can find a ‘pair’. And even if the whip is withdrawn, the MP is not sacked, they can remain in the seat as an Independent, till/if the whip is restored. Again, Parliament UK makes this very clear. Corbyn has even said should he come to power, he would do away with ‘whips’ as they are outdated and outmoded, back in August 2015, to much derision.
So what do people want?
The whip used or not?
For him to follow due process, or not, till he is in a position of power to find a better way to get MPs to actually attend and do their jobs?
Without the LP amendments, the Scottish Welsh and Irish assemblies will have no say at all, workers’ rights are unprotected, EU citizens here will have to go, there will be NO reports back to Parliament from the committees and more. Update: In Feb 2017 The House of Lords have reassessed the amendments and have sent the Bill back to the Commons with some re-added, terms the Cons have nixed, especially regarding the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK. And every MSM outlet from the S*n to the Financial Times is covering this development, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
ANY Bill that is of significance to the ‘nation’ is whipped, there are 105 (now 106 with this one) that are currently passing through (ahem) Parliament. Why everyone’s losing their minds over this one, when this is what happens all day every day I have no clue. Actually that’s a lie, I know exactly why- that old ghoul ‘vested interest’. ‘We’ voted for this one, thus ‘we’ feel ‘we have a say in all aspects of its enactment. Newsflash- ‘you’ don’t. One of the Leave platform’s issues was to have Parliamentary sovereignty: now it’s going through the process in Parliament, ‘the people’ have no say whatsoever. I’ve studied the development of ‘Parliament’ from the efforts of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester against Henry III in the 1260s, and Edward III’s alleged ‘model parliament’ that followed soon after to the modern day- and ‘the people’ have NEVER had an actual say in what goes on in Parliament. Unless you’re fed up of experts 😉 then feel free to ignore me.
This whipped vote is to get it on the table, so it can be pulled apart by Starmer‘s department. There are already many of the amendments the Cons won’t want to agree to but if they don’t, they will be screwed as, as it stands everyone is going to be screwed over. The LP can and will veto it later in the process if the Cons do not accept these amendments.
Here are the LP’s amendments, that are NOT in the original Bill. Makes for some thought provoking read what is not in the Bill that was submitted in November, or last week’s motion, which is a mere 137 words long.
i) Allow a meaningful vote in Parliament on the final Brexit deal. Labour’s amendment would ensure that the House of Commons has the first say on any proposed deal and that the consent of Parliament would be required before the deal is referred to the European Council and Parliament.
ii) Establish a number of key principles the Government must seek to negotiate during the process, including protecting workers’ rights, securing full tariff and impediment free access to the Single Market.
iii) Ensure there is robust and regular Parliamentary scrutiny by requiring the Secretary of State to report to the House at least every two months on the progress being made on negotiations throughout the Brexit process
iv) Guarantee legal rights for EU nationals living in the UK. Labour has repeatedly called for the Government to take this step, and this amendment would ensure EU citizens’ rights are not part of the Brexit negotiations.
v) Require the Government to consult regularly with the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland throughout Brexit negotiations. Labour’s amendment would put the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) on a statutory footing and require the UK Government to consult the JMC at least every two months.
vi) Require the Government to publish impact assessments conducted since the referendum of any new proposed trading relationship with the EU. This amendment seeks to ensure there is much greater clarity on the likely impact of the Government’s decision to exit the Single Market and seek new relationship with the Customs Union
vii) Ensure the Government must seek to retain all existing EU tax avoidance and evasion measures post-Brexit.
NONE of these very reasonable and parliamentarily lawful amendments are in the original Bill submitted by Bone that has now been withdrawn OR this new ‘motion’ as linked above.Here is a citation for the original LP amendments.
Updates on how the Act is progressing and some prognostications on voting and the Bill’s final form will be added once it is in the public domain. And another blog on the referendum itself will be forthcoming.
Here is a screenshot directly from LP HQ on the matter, in response to my email to them about Article 50 and what their plans are in this matter.
UPDATE: On 1st March the Lords voted by 358 to 256, is the first Parliamentary defeat for the Bill. So now it goes back to the Commons to be debated. Note that MPs will be able to remove their changes when the bill returns to them. (source: The Parliament Channel.)
UPDATE 2: on the 10th March, the Lords by 366 to 288 have added once more
- the idea that EU citizens have the right to stay and also added another amendment that Parliament must be able to view the leaving process (i.e. it must be transparent),
- and with a meaningful debate and an obligatory Parliamentary vote at the end of the A50 two year process (source: The Parliament Channel.)
The Commons will debate this amended Bill on Monday 13th March. Now the ball lies in the court of the Con rebels, who have been making noises all month about these two amendments especially. The non Con parties do not have enough MPs to block on their own. If the pro-remain Cons rebel now, especially if they are whipped (and yes May will whip this), then we could be in for ‘interesting times’.
And rebel they should, as these are two of the most reasonable amendments suggested by the LP in the first place, and without them there would be no pretence of democracy or rights for EU citizens who live here.
UPDATE 3: on 13th March 2017, the amendments were voted on in the House of Commons-
- How MPs voted party by party on amendment 1
Here is the party by party breakdown showing how MPs voted on amendment 1, covering EU nationals.
a) Against the amendment
Labour: 6 (Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Rob Marris, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart)
b) For the amendment
Lib Dems: 9
Plaid Cymru: 3
Conservatives: 2 (Alex Chalk and Tania Mathias)
- How MPs voted party by party on amendment 2
And here is how MPs voted party by party on amendment 2, the one that would have given parliament a veto over the outcome of the Brexit talks.
a) Against the amendment
Labour: 6 (Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Graham Stringer and Gisela Stuart)
b) For the amendment
Lib Dems: 9
Plaid Cyrmu: 3
These figures suggest that at least six Conservative MPs actively abstained on this issue. That would be the most likely explanation for the Conservative vote going down from 319 to 313 within the space of 15 minutes.
(says the Guardian commentary.)
More rolling commentary on the Lords’ reaction to this is here and will be confirmed on Hansard in the morning. For Hansard’s link specifically to the Bill (again rolling coverage, as well as finalised votes, and perhaps a better site to use) click here. What concerns me a little is
- Between 10 and 13 Labour MPs abstained on each amendment. The majority was 45. So yes their abstentions made no difference but I am not sure of their motivation any more than I get why six LP MPs voted for Parliament NOT to have any say in the post A50 legislative process. Some of those ‘abstentions’ of course were ‘paired‘ (this is common) with Conservative MPs that were forced by May to vote against. Pairings are rarely recorded. So if you’ve ever wondered why the main parties never seem to have 100% attendance or votes, that’s why 🙂
- That the suggested Con rebellion collapsed. Both parties were whipped on this but again it makes NO sense that either side of Parliament wants May and her inner circle to have sole control of the Leave process.
- The citizens of the EU now have even less security than ever before.
- And already my social media feeds are frothing at the mouth over ‘Labour’s betrayal’ by Remain voters- they do not seem capable of seeing this vote was on amendments and that the Bill has not been passed yet. Some are even threatening to ‘cut up’ their LP members’ cards, which seems a little histrionic and short-sighted to me. ALL BUT SIX LP MPs voted FOR these amendments, WHERE is the betrayal? The Con MAJORITY is just too high and not enough Con MPs rebelled to affect the result.
- Equally irritating is the ‘smuggery’ of Leave voters on my feeds, based on equally erroneous assumptions that now A50 has been invoked and we’re leaving tomorrow…er no it hasn’t passed Royal Assent yet and A50 is happening on 25th March (though some are saying 27th March, or even 30th March) whether this Bill is ready or not.
- After that the process takes TWO YEARS to finalise.
- Clearly People™ still haven’t let go of their vested interest (see above) in this when it no longer matters what they think or feel on this issue or this Bill.
UPDATE 4: The House of Lords vote to accede to the lack of amendments. The Labour peers were asked to abstain on amendment 1 (allegedly) but 25 rebelled and joined the Lib Dem peers to vote to try and reinstate it. (Then again 11 Lib Dem peers abstained too.) Now all it needs is Royal Assent. But bear in mind, there’s a long way to go! And if I come across a statement from Corbyn, or an answer to my email on why he asked the Labour Lords to abstain I shall put it here.
Is it really as simple as not wanting to ‘defy the Commons‘ a second time? The majority on the amendments in the Commons was slim as we have seen. In reality, the Lords can initiate ‘ping pong‘ as much as they wish, but this Bill is time-limited as has already been suggested.
Gina Miller, who brought the court case that led to the supreme court saying that parliament must pass the Bill in the first place, rather than May having unilateral control over the process, and who has received much racist abuse for so doing, is quoted as saying at a meeting of ‘Islington in Europe’:
“What has been done is like an act of war. It will change the course of history. They have forgotten about conscience, principle and our country. In 18 months time, when they come back from Europe with a deal or no deal, if there is no vote in parliament and an act of parliament, I will take them back to court.”