A historic defeat. A no confidence motion. Talks and the refusal of talks. Natalie Mauchline explains what happened this week.
It has been a historic week in Westminster. Following the anticipated defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement and a narrowly won no-confidence vote, Theresa May is at a crossroads. Each party has its own set of demands which may force the Government to shift its red lines, which include ending free movement and leaving the EU customs union. So far, Jeremy Corbyn is refusing to take part in the Government’s cross-party talks unless a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table but his call for a total boycott has not been heeded by the entire Labour party. The Greens, Liberal Democrats and the SNP continue to argue that the next step should be to give the electorate the choice on the way forward. The Conservative party and its partner, the DUP, are no closer to agreeing on a way forward. To add to the chaos, several UK Government ministers have hinted they could resign if the Prime Minister shifts her position too much. In order to break the deadlock, it seems the Prime Minister will have to upset one of the many factions at Westminster, the question is – which one will it be? There will be a second vote on the Government’s Brexit plans on Tuesday 29 January, giving the Prime Minister ten days to turn the situation around.
Brexit Resistance Continues in Scotland
The SNP’s opposition to Brexit continues, with an announcement on a second independence referendum appearing imminent. During a visit to London on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon argued that Scotland’s best interests would be served through independence. The Conservatives accused the First Minister of “grandstanding” to “distract” from the ongoing controversy surrounding Alex Salmond. Both the Conservatives and Labour continued to attack the First Minister’s handling of the Salmond investigation during First Minister’s Questions. On Wednesday, Michael Russell made a statement to Holyrood, outlining the Scottish Government’s preparations for Brexit but urged the Prime Minister to extend Article 50 to ensure the UK would not crash out of the EU, again making the argument that independence was the only way out for Scotland. In a recent survey, more than 56% of readers said they believe a second referendum should be held as a result of Brexit. Independence seems destined to become a topic of hot discussion once again.
The Final Countdown
With 70 days until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, attention has turned to its level of preparedness. Distressingly, a civil service memo has indicated that the UK Government has failed to secure the trade deals needed to replace the EU’s existing arrangements with the rest of the world. The UK Government had previously pledged to replicate the EU’s current trade arrangements with other countries, but it seems these deals could lapse during the Brexit transition period. There are also growing fears that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the rights and protections of EU citizens may not be guaranteed. This week, UK MEPs wrote to EU leaders to request a unilateral guarantee that the rights of UK citizens in Europe would be protected. They hope such a move would encourage the UK Government to do likewise.