Brexit Five Things: A Week in the Life of Brexit – Here, There and Everywhere (Beatles Special)
‘We Can Work It Out’
The UK has been urged by EU officials to submit fresh proposals in order to break the current impasse over a Brexit deal that works for everyone. EU mandarins have offered to work ‘a hard day’s night’, giving up evenings and weekends to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop and produce a proposal which can pass the House of Commons. In Brussels, Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC, is leading the UK’s negotiating team on the backstop and hopes to ‘get back’ as much sovereignty as possible on this stalling block, so as to make the agreement more palatable to MPs. Meanwhile, back home, arch-remain Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has warned Brexiteers that they should vote for the Prime Minister’s deal or risk facing a delay on Brexit.
Whilst the PM is hoping she can ‘get by with a little help from her friends‘, one Minister in her Government did not ‘imagine‘ that Cox et al. will be able to secure enough tangible changes to ensure the deal passes, with George Eustice resigning from his post as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to be replaced by veteran Minister, Robert Goodwill. Eustice said that delaying Article 50, as suggested by the Prime Minister last week, would be “the final humiliation of our country”.
‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’
Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has had a tumultuous few weeks, with accusations of anti-Semitism rife in the Labour Party, allegations of cover ups by his core team and former Labour MPs, Chuka Umunna and fellow Independent Group rebels talking about a political ‘revolution‘ and taking credit for Corbyn’s Damascene Conversion from Eurosceptic to supporting a ‘People’s Vote’.
Corbyn doesn’t seem to be able to strike a chord with either Brexiteers or Remainers within his own party, with some of his colleagues saying his move towards a second referendum is too little, too late, and others saying he has betrayed Labour Leavers in changing his position. So this week, the Leader of the Opposition reached out to two former Conservative Ministers, Nick Boles and Sir Oliver Letwin, in an attempt to cobble together support for a Norway Plus deal, essentially a super-soft Brexit, which would see the UK remain a member of both the Single Market and the Customs Union.
Meanwhile, former Labour MP, Fiona Onasanya, is now ‘free as a bird‘, having been released from prison, but faces the potential of recall, with both her former Labour Party colleagues and the Conservatives supporting a recall petition to force a by-election in her Peterborough seat. Onasanya is one of 16 MPs to have either left of their own accord, or been suspended from, the Labour Party since the General Election less than two years ago, which puts Corbyn in an increasingly weakened position. As The Beatles said: ‘If you go on carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow’.
‘Can’t Buy Me Love’
Theresa May invited her MP colleagues to ‘come together’ and support her Brexit deal on 12th March, but, for those who have thus far refused to ‘please, please‘ the Prime Minister, she offered a sweetener in the form of a £1.6 billion package of funding for ‘left-behind towns’, with much of this cash being promised to leave-voting communities in the North of England and the Midlands.
Labour MPs, such as Wigan MP, Lisa Nandy and Stoke-on-Trent Central MP, Gareth Snell, criticised the PM, saying that their constituencies had been “shamefully ignored for decades” and suggest that the additional funding would not even cover the cuts made by their local councils in recent years. May-ally and Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, responded saying the funds would have a “transformative impact” and would be given with “no conditionality…regardless of the outcome” of the Brexit vote.
‘Ticket to Ride’
However bad your week has been, it has almost certainly been better than Chris Grayling’s. The Transport Secretary came under fire this week for what Opposition MPs branded ‘Failing Grayling’s Ferry Fiasco’, whereby it came to light that an out-of-court settlement meant that Government would be forced to pay £33 million to Eurotunnel over contracts to ferry companies – one of which had no ships – regardless of whether the Government secures a deal with the EU, or leaves on World Trade Organisation terms.
Further to Graylings woes, he was accused by MPs of evading scrutiny over his Department’s handling of the matter, after ‘help!’ was on hand from Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, who took his place to answer questions in the House of Commons on the matter.
Grayling defended the move, saying the payment had secured the unhindered supply of medicines and medical devices if the country faced a ‘no deal’ Brexit this month, so it was entirely appropriate for his Cabinet colleague to take questions on this matter. However, The Labour Party responded by saying that Mr. Grayling had become an “international embarrassment”.
‘The Long and Winding Road’
Looking ahead to next week, the Prime Minister will be hoping MPs will ‘let it be‘ on her Brexit deal, with the meaningful vote scheduled for Tuesday 12th. She will be hoping that her EU woes will be resigned to ‘yesterday‘, if she can convince enough MPs to back her deal, in fear that if they do not, we may end up with ‘no deal’, or even no Brexit!
As ‘the long and winding road‘ of Brexit potentially reaches a pinnacle next week, will Theresa May emerge with ‘something‘, or will it be ‘hello, goodbye‘ to her Brexit deal?