Friday, December 15, 2017

A Meaningful Vote - or Meaningless?

Here’s my fortnightly column for the Oswestry and Borders Chronicle;

“Sorry but my column this week is again about Brexit. The debate in Parliament descended into a particularly bad tempered pit this last week. The major bone of contention was about what’s described as “a meaningful vote”for Parliament before the UK leaves the EU on March 29th 2019. To be frank, I’m not sure what the fuss was about - even if it did seem to raise the hopes of those who are opposed to the UK ‘leaving’ of reversing the EU Referendum decision of June 2016. That particular boat has already left the harbour. Brexit is going to happen. Parliament has already given  its full permission for the Government to ‘Leave’. And thanks to Ms Gina Miller, Article 50 was signed in March with full backing of Parliament. That vote left absolutely no wriggle room. No room for doubt. The UK will leave the EU whether there is a deal in March 2019 or not. Ironically, it was Ms Millar who ensured full moral and legal legitimacy and certainty to the UK ‘Leaving’.
And last week’s vote about “a meaningful vote” also carried irony in that it actually increased the likelihood of ‘No deal’. The very last outcome those Conservative MPs who ‘rebelled’ would have wanted.

Must admit I was not unduly bothered at all by the Govt defeat on the “meaningful vote” amendment, which caused so much excitement. Don’t think the Prime Minister was that bothered either. She seemed quite cheered as she went over to Brussels the next day to agree with all 27 Member states that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made to move on to discussions about trade. There have been about 40 amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, and the Government won them all except the ‘ Meaningful Vote’ one, which was a fairly meaningless amendment anyway. And the EU leaders seemed pretty relaxed as well, as they applauded the Prime Minister after her speech over dinner. It was another coup for Mrs May when they all agreed to move on to talk ‘trade’. While the media seem to think the success of an amendment is a big blow to the Prime Minister, most normal observers see her as doing rather well. Or “playing a blinder”as I put it.
Let’s consider where we are. Seems to me we have reached a stage where both sides accept the reality of Brexit, and want to negotiate the best deal possible for the UK and for the EU. For most sensible people, that is the preferred outcome. Like the PM, I was a bit disappointed that the ‘Meaningful Vote’ amendment was passed, simply because it makes that desirable objective a bit more difficult to achieve.

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