Division, Derision, Diversions, & Delay

As promised, last week was a big one for Brexit. In my last column, I outlined what was planned, in this one I’ll recount what actually happened. The first of three important votes this week was on Tuesday, parliament was set to vote on May’s proposed Brexit deal…again. After the last time MPs voted it down, she was sent off to the EU to make changes to the Irish backstop element to ensure that the UK would not end up in a strange limbo between being fully out and partly in. By Monday there was no sign of any changes and MPs prepared to vote down exactly the same deal they had voted down in January…but then, at the very last moment, around 11pm on Monday evening, May announced she’d done it. The EU had agreed to some changes.

Illustration by Rhiannon Powell

This left many MPs with sleepless nights, desperately trying to make sense of the new deal before the vote in less than 24 hours’ time. As Tuesday dawned it became increasingly clear that all May had achieved in two months of negotiations was vague assurances from the EU that the Backstop scenario wouldn’t last forever and that it would probably come to an end at some point in the next five years…or so… -ish. (If you’re wondering what exactly the Irish Backstop is, then I’d recommend popping over to my column from the 3rdFeb or alternatively, BBC News have a very useful Brexit jargon buster that explains all.) So, with this established, it was easy to see the way the vote would go. As predicted the deal was rejected…again. Which means May and her government lost a major parliamentary vote…again. The final result, 242 in favour of the deal, 391 against. This triggered part two of the plan for this week. The vote on no-deal.

As I made clear in my