This Week In British Politics: 14th-19th October 2019

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It’s been another a hectic week in British politics. Despite the unlikeliness of a Brexit deal at the beginning of the week, a deal was struck following a breakthrough in negotiations. The question is: will this deal meet Parliament’s approval before the deadline?

On Monday, even Downing Street admitted that there was little hope of the UK reaching a deal, despite the restatement of the Government’s intention to leave by the 31st of October, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech. Hidden in the Queen’s Speech were Government plans to force voters to show ID before they could vote. This controversial proposal is likely to exclude marginalised voters and further alienate people from politics.

 

On Tuesday, there still seemed to be little cause for optimism, with the sticking point in negotiations being the Northern Irish backstop. Another point of contention is how to give the people of Northern Ireland a say in the new arrangements.

Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, confirmed that if Johnson failed to strike a deal this week he would request a delay to Brexit. This contradicted the ‘do or die‘ slogan that Boris Johnson has espoused since becoming Prime Minister; that is, ensuring that the UK would leave the EU on the 31st of October. However, if the negotiations fail, he would not have a choice. He would have to obey the Benn Act, which Parliament passed several weeks ago, designed to ensure that we do not leave the EU without a deal.

A deal was announced, but Johnson faced an uphill battle to get it through the Saturday sitting of Parliament, as the DUP refused to support it. This is due to the proposed custom checks at the Northern Irish border and the lack of veto power that the Irish have over it. In principle, most of the new deal is the same as Theresa May’s unpopular deal, as the rights of EU citizens and UK citizens in the EU are still guaranteed. The UK will still have to abide by EU laws until the end of 2020, or possibly longer, with a divorce bill of £33 billion.

The pressure was on for the Prime Minister, as he required 320 MPs to pass his new deal through Parliament on Saturday. Since he expelled 23 MPs for disobeying the party whip over the Benn Act, the Conservatives have just 287 MPs, meaning that he needed them, alongside MPs from the opposition to support his deal, in order to get it through.

On Saturday, possibly the most important day for Brexit since the referendum three years ago, Johnson put his deal before Parliament. A motion was tabled by Sir Oliver Letwin that withheld approval for Johnson’s deal until legislation enforcing it had been passed. This motion was supported 322-306 in a humiliating defeat for the government.

Amongst the supporters of Letwin’s motion was Labour’s MP for Southampton Test Alan Whitehead. Meanwhile, Winchester’s Independent MP Steve Brine, Romsey and Southampton North’s Independent MP Caroline Nokes and Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, Royston Smith, voted against Letwin’s motion.
Whilst the fate of the UK’s future relationship with the EU was being decided, over one million people marched in support of a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal. When they heard about the success of the Letwin amendment, there was widespread applause.

The Prime Minister is not giving up on his deal just yet though, as he plans to hold another “meaningful vote” on the issue on Monday. The question now is whether the Speaker, John Bercow, will allow him to do this, as he has said that he will refuse to let Parliament be asked the same question again. So, what is the future of Brexit now?

More articles in This Week in British Politics
  1. The Week in British Politics: 3rd-9th December
  2. This Week in British Politics: 8th-14th October
  3. This Week in British Politics: 17th-23rd September
  4. This Week In British Politics: 8th-15th July
  5. This Week in British Politics: 5 March – 11 March 2018
  6. This Week in British Politics 19-25 February 2018
  7. This Week in British Politics: 1-7 January 2018
  8. This Week in British Politics: 15-21 January 2018
  9. The Week in British Politics: 12 March – 18 March 2018
  10. This Week in British Politics: 2nd – 9th September 2018
  11. This Week in British Politics: 10th – 16th September
  12. This Week in British Politics: 1st – 7th October
  13. This Week in British Politics: 15th-21st October
  14. This Week in British Politics: 26th November-2nd December
  15. The Week in British Politics: 11th-17th February 2019
  16. This Week In British Politics: 14th-19th October 2019
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