Brexit: Meaningful Vote Amendments
As the sun rose on the Palace of Westminster, so did the hope of many in the Remainer camp, that the Lords Amendments would finally spark the change in policy direction that they have been advocating for over the last couple of months. The fragility of the Government’s majority made for several compelling thought pieces, linking a loss today, to an inevitable election in the autumn and the end of Brexit in the spring.
Early on in the day, the resignation of Minister Philip Lee fuelled the flames of Conservative discontent, rendering the result almost inevitable. For different reasons, he is the second minister to resign, citing Brexit policy as the cause. This points to two things – firstly, MPs must be anticipating an election or they wouldn’t be so concerned about representing the views of their constituents, giving up a Ministerial brief is no easy decision. Secondly, it sends an interesting signal about the internal communications within the Government and suggests, in line with popular opinion, that Brexit policy is dictatorial in the Cabinet.
The debate could have been scripted, as arguments were rehashed, and the same faces made the same claims. Notable and obvious, was the erratic behaviour of the Government Whip, darting between the benches, making promises to secure votes. All seemed to be on the side of the Remainers, until it leaked that the Prime Minister had held private meetings with 16 Conservative MPs in her Parliamentary office, offering them the assurances they wanted on a meaningful vote. The amendments went on to fail, back to the Lords they go.
Rafael Behr of the Guardian highlighted the position succinctly:
“Tory rebels didn’t trust PM, put “meaningful vote” in law. Lords make it more meaningful. PM then wanted to make it meaningless, but fearing rebellion, promised to make her meaningless version, more meaningful again. Tory rebels now saying they trust her”.
The day became yet another day in Parliament, dominated by the game of politics. No outcome has been reached and Philip Lee may find himself regretting his noble gesture, as his ministerial car is reallocated. The amendments will now go back to the Lords to be reconsidered, and it is suggested the PM will make a similar personal appeal here, to secure the meaningless meaningful vote she so desires.
Eszter Kantor our EU Expert had this to say:
"The infighting among and between the parties is only leading to further loss of precious negotiating time. This can lead to two outcomes: the UK either agreeing to all EU proposals or a new government is going to be set up which, if composed of hard line Brexiters, could still lead to a no-deal scenario. Currently I would say the likelihood of the UK government agreeing to all EU demands is significantly higher than the alternative."