Tuesday 17 September 2019

Q&A: May's deal could yet return to Commons for a fourth vote


A view of the Palace of Westminster. Stock picture
A view of the Palace of Westminster. Stock picture
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

There's less than two weeks to the next Brexit cliff-edge deadline of April 12. The coming days will be crucial as British politicians continue to battle among themselves and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has some very important meetings with the EU superpowers.

What's happening in Brexit land today?

MPs at Westminster are set to hold a second round of 'indicative votes' on alternatives to British Prime Minister Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement. It was rejected again on Friday.

There were eight House of Commons votes last week on different Brexit options, including no deal, a second referendum and revoking Article 50. All were defeated. The proposal that came closest to passing - staying in a customs union - only failed to pass by eight votes.

There are moves to see if MPs supporting different versions of a softer Brexit could come together to get one of them over the line.

Further indicative votes may happen on Wednesday. But there's no guarantee that the EU would agree to a proposal put forward by MPs. It still backs Mrs May's deal.

Is Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement dead?

It lost by 58 votes on Friday. The British government has been chipping away at the Commons majority against the plan, which includes the controversial backstop to avoid a hard Border in Ireland.

But there's a long way to go and with Brexiteer Tory rebels and the DUP implacably opposed, it's still unlikely to pass. However, Downing Street has suggested the deal could return to Westminster for a fourth vote as early as tomorrow.

Where's the Irish Government in all this?

Irish diplomats are said to have been fielding the views of British politicians - including figures in Labour and the Scottish National Party - on where they stand as the indicative votes continue.

After Mrs May's deal was rejected again, the Taoiseach warned that it's up to the UK to say how it will avoid a no-deal Brexit. Mr Varadkar also said the EU must be open to a long extension to the Brexit departure date should the UK "decide to fundamentally reconsider its approach to Brexit".

What about those meetings with Macron and Merkel?

The Taoiseach is travelling to Paris tomorrow for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Dublin on Thursday. The issue of the Border and how to protect the EU single market in the event of a no-deal scenario will be high on the agenda as Ireland comes under increasing pressure on the issue.

The Government has sought to play down this aspect of the talks, insisting the meetings are about EU solidarity. But expect concern over the Border issue to escalate as April 12 looms.

What's next after all that?

European Council President Donald Tusk has called an emergency EU summit for April 10, two days before the deadline. A lot can happened between now and then, but it could be when EU leaders decide whether or not to grant the UK an extension to the departure date.

Irish Independent

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