The Wicked Witch prevails in the House of Commons
The Daily Telegraph has this: “Brexit vote: Theresa May wins Commons approval to trigger Article 50 as Labour’s Clive Lewis resigns“:
“It was a flawless night for Theresa May, as the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was passed by 494 votes to 122 in its original, unamended form.”
The Financial Times report is here: “Commons gives green light to Brexit process – MPs vote overwhelmingly to approve triggering of Article 50“:
“Theresa May, the prime minister, largely managed to quell a rebellion within her own Conservative party. Instead, it has been the opposition Labour party that has struggled to paper over the cracks. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn lost Clive Lewis, one of his key lieutenants as a result of his decision to order his MPs to vote with the government. A total of 52 MPs rebelled against his bid not to antagonise millions of Labour supporters who voted for Brexit last year. This included Mr Lewis, the shadow business secretary.”
The FT also has this: “Theresa May outfoxes pro-EU opponents on Brexit vote – In three months, the prime minister turned High Court defeat into victory“. But it is also worth re-reading what the FT reported on 6th February last: “Business leaders say Brexit already having negative effect“.
The Guardian has this editorial: “The Guardian view on parliament and Brexit: MPs fail their first test – The courts ruled that legislators must decide on Britain’s place in Europe. The Commons has not learned its lessons yet” which merits perusal:-
“Two thirds or more of MPs think that Brexit is the wrong course. But, as Wednesday night’s vote confirmed, too many of them felt compelled to go through the lobbies in support of a bill that they believe, correctly in our view, will damage Britain. It is not they as individuals who have been found wanting. It is parliament.”
Interestingly, the Conservative Home web site has published a letter which seems to have persuaded numbers of Tory Rebels to back off: See “The Home Secretary’s letter to Conservative MPs offering assurances on the status of EU nationals“. A copy of the letter itself is below. It may give some comfort to EU nationals in the UK.
Of course, that still does not explain why the commitment could not have gone into the bill. And, of course, British business and the public sector too, will have many problems if the UK should leave the single market. In fact, the “Brexit effect” is already hurting business – see the FT article above.
The problem is that the Wicked Witch seems to have more faith in the Donald Trump approach to international trade than she does in our European partners. Unbridled nativism seems to have infected the leadership of both sides in the Anglo-American “special relationship”.
Interestingly, the same site also has this: “Garvan Walshe: How a real leader of the Opposition would deal with Article 50“.
It is well worth reading and it is indeed the kind of thing that Jeremy Corbyn should have said – the peroration is particularly worthwhile:-
“Though we think it is right to implement the decision made in the referendum, we cannot support the Government’s attempt to invoke Article 50 at this stage. Our support is conditional on four tests. We should begin negotiations trying to stay in the Single Market, not abandon it as a negotiating goal at the beginning. We should should fight for British citizens’ rights to live and work in Europe, not give them up in advance. As the campaign was won on the basis that there would be £350 million a week more to spend on the NHS, we will not support invocation until the health budget is increased to give effect to the promise. Nor do we think we should notify our intention to leave the EU until a compromise that protects the interests of the devolved regions of the UK has been achieved.
We cannot, Mr Speaker, support the kind of Brexit the Prime Minister is proposing. Hers is an extreme Brexit, pessimistic about the kind of relationship we can have with Europe, and naive about what we can persuade the rest of the world to give us. It’s driven by ideology rather than the practical interests of the British people. If she comes back to this House with a Brexit plan that meets our four criteria, she will have shown the realism that these tough negotiations will require, and we will then provide our support. But until that is done, in the interests of the United Kingdom, the duty of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, is to oppose.”
Well said, and one hopes their Lordships in the Upper House will read it too. Because the bill now goes to the House of Lords.
About the House of Lords
The House of Lords (aka the House of Peers or the Upper House) presently consists of 805 members – which makes it the largest upper chamber of any bicameral democracy. The government does not have a majority in the House of Lords. A great number of the Members are people who have been appointed in recognition of their experience in fields such as the Sciences, the Law, Medicine, and in Commerce – with the result that House has much in-house expertise on a very wide range of subjects. Many of these Members only attend when their specialist knowledge will assist the House. Some appointments to the House are, of course political. The present political composition of the House is: Conservatives: 252, Labour: 203, Liberal Democrats: 102, Cross Benchers: 178. Non Affiliated: 30, Bishops: 26 and Others: 14.
The Lords sees itself as primarily a revising Chamber. It seeks to improve bills sent to it by the Commons by proposing amendments which go back and forth between the two houses – a process known as “Parliamentary Ping Pong”. The Lords cannot amend money bills and can only delay other bills from the Commons for about a year.
But a year of Parliamentary Ping Pong over the Brexit bill is not what the Government wants – so we heard the Brexit Secretary saying in the Commons after passage of the Bill:
“I mean, the simple thing is the Lords is a very important institution. I expect it to do its job and to do its patriotic duty and actually give us the right to go on and negotiate that new relationship (with the EU”)“
The House of Lords Order Paper for today shows that the Government is going to try to get the Bill through the Lords as quickly as possible. It will be interesting to see how that goes down with their Lordships. Hopefully the House with not abdicate its responsibilities.