by Paul Farrelly MP
It’s Brexit again, I’m afraid. I know lots by now will be totally ‘Brexited- out’. I certainly am, and we’ve yet to
start the hard bit – about future relations. But with the Tories in civil war again, I thought a few words about the lie of the land might be useful, not least because another election could be round the corner.
The EU Withdrawal Bill is now off in the House of Lords, where it will be dissected until well after Easter. What this bit of law does is repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, taking us out on ‘exit day’, now enshrined as 29th March, 2019
After this first real Tory Remainers’ rebellion before Christmas, though there’s a bit of flexibility about the date – to cater for delays with the withdrawal deal, or any ‘transition period’ after.
Theresa May had to cave in over that, after rebels finally drew a line at any changes to our laws to do with Europe, before Parliament’s had its own vote on the deal itself. The defeat, the Government’s first, was only possible, by the way, after Chief Whip Nick Brown limited Labour arch-Brexiteers trooping through the Government lobbies to just two: Frank Field and Kate Hoey.
Until then, with the DUP solid on this issue, the reality was that the PM could count on more of our lot – up to a dozen - to vote with her, than her own side to rebel.
In parallel with all of this, in March the second stage of talks with Brussels are due to begin, about the deal itself. From China, the PM’s just picked another fight – about the rights of EU nationals – that’s just going to make everything slower, and harder, again.
Why? Because with an eye on a leadership challenge, she’s buying off her hardliners once more. Having secured a name ‘exit day’, they’re now in uproar to stymie any compromise with single market or customs union – about which business is banging the drum