Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I wrote about the Queen’s Speech with all its traditions. Heather shared her appreciation for the historical British fiction books by Mimi Matthews. Tina reviewed I Found You by Lisa Jewell.
The year is 2192. The British Prime Minister visits Brussels to ask for an extension of the Brexit deadline. No one remembers where this tradition originated, but every year it attracts many tourists from all over the world.
— Julian Popov (@julianpopov) October 19, 2019
This was a confusing week for Brexit.
Saturday, October 19
Parliament met on a Saturday, for the first time in 37 years. They were expected to vote on the deal, which included debates about amendments.
Parliament passed the Letwin amendment — a requirement that the underlying legislation for an orderly Brexit pass Parliament before the deal as a whole is approved.
That delay required that Prime Minister Johnson request an extension from the EU, something he was loathe to do since he promised that he would make Brexit happen by the current deadline, October 31. He did submit the request, along with a letter saying that he personally thought that an extension was a bad idea.
Monday, October 21
PM Johnson attempted to bring the deal back for another vote by the Parliament. But the Speaker, John Bercow, rejected the bill on the grounds that it was essentially the same vote that they had taken on Saturday. The question was decided — no vote on the deal until the underlying legislation was passed.
Tuesday, October 22
On Tuesday, PM Johnson brought the underlying legislation to the House. This is called the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. Parliament was expected to vote on the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and on a Programme Motion. The Programme Motion was a sped-up process for getting the bill through Parliament much more quickly than usual, so that there would still be a possibility for Brexit on October 31.
The second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed — although many of those voting for it probably didn’t really favor it as written. After the second reading, the bill can be amended. There are all kinds of amendments that members of Parliament might propose to make this a Brexit more to their taste, although it’s unlikely that any would get support from a majority of Parliament. If an amendment did pass, it would presumably have to be re-negotiated with the EU.
The Programme Motion failed, so PM Johnson didn’t get his sped-up timetable. At that point, he “paused” the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to wait to see if the EU grants an extension and for how long.
Thursday, October 23
PM Johnson promoted a General Election on December 12. He suggested that if the current Parliament wants to be the one that takes Brexit past the finish line, they can do so by November 6. If not, then they can all start campaigning for their seats and the next Parliament will finish the Brexit legislation.
It’s by no means clear that the PM can make a snap election happen. Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011, elections are held every five years. To get one sooner than that requires a two-thirds majority of Parliament. PM Johnson already tried this and failed because the primary opposition party, Labour, wants a no-deal Brexit safely off the table first.
Julian Popov’s funny tweet seems all too real. Everything is so deadlocked in the UK, that it’s hard to see a path forward.
Debate and amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill may not result in anything that a majority of Parliament will support. Remember that Parliament went through a series of nonbinding “indicative” votes last spring to see if there was one idea that gained a majority. All of the ideas failed.
Would a General Election help? Polling of the public in Britain continues to show a near split on Brexit. There’s no reason to believe that the public will elect a new Parliament where one stance has a majority over another.
We don’t know, yet, whether the EU will grant the extension. It’s possible that question will be answered today.