Natalie Mauchline has the latest on this week’s complex Brexit developments.
A Way Forward?
It has been a tumultuous week at Westminster. On Tuesday, the House of Commons once again rejected the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, by a majority of 149. On Wednesday, as expected, MPs voted to take no-deal off the table permanently, though the legal default of Friday 29 March remains the same. Last night, MPs voted on whether to have Theresa May ask the European Union for an extension to Article 50. They backed an extension, 413 to 202, but voted decisively against holding another public vote, 85 to 334. The length of the extension is now up for consideration, with the Prime Minister advocating for a three month delay to Brexit if MPs decide to back her deal next week. If the Commons reject it again, a longer extension would be likely, meaning the UK would need to put forward candidates for the European Parliament elections. Theresa May will seek to get the DUP and Tory MPs onside before the third meaningful vote, which is likely to take place next week.
The EU’s Reaction
The way forward seems to hang on the EU’s reaction to the extension request. Leo Varadkar welcomed the vote to extend Article 50, calling for the EU “to be open to any request” from the UK. On Tuesday, the Malthouse Compromise re-emerged as an amendment, which had called for more negotiations with the EU on the backstop. The European Commission reiterated the time for negotiations was over and that the deal on the table was not up for any more discussion. The EU 27 must agree unanimously to extend Article 50, but it is uncertain if an agreement is inevitable. Many leaders, including Mark Rutte, have said an extension would only be granted if there was a well-reasoned, credible justification. Donald Tusk called for EU leaders to be open to a lengthy extension, as this would be the only way to allow the UK to “rethink its Brexit strategy”. The outcome of the third meaningful vote will have repercussions for the type of the extension the EU is willing to grant.
The Mood in Scotland
Meanwhile in Scotland, Brexit was the main topic of discussion at FMQs this week. Jackson Carlaw raised a tweet by Michael Russell calling supporters of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal “traitors to Scotland”. He asked the First Minister to disassociate herself from the remark but Nicola Sturgeon claimed the MPs who voted for the PM’s deal had “chosen to put loyalty ahead of the interests of the Scottish people”. Richard Leonard joined with the First Minister in imploring Theresa May to seek an extension to Article 50 to allow a majority to be formed which favoured “a different approach”. Nicola Sturgeon was especially critical of Jeremy Corbyn for not publicly supporting a second referendum and for his failure to demonstrate “any degree of leadership”. The SNP later insisted Westminster was “incapable of serving Scotland’s interests”, and added that “Theresa May’s intransigence knows no bounds”. Nicola Sturgeon also tweeted that an extension was the best course of action to get Scotland “out of this mess”.