Wide shot of House of Commons chamber

A Brexit update: Negotiation troubles and party division

Wide shot of House of Commons chamber
By UK Parliament – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENIW7i48xHA, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62228373

It doesn’t seem like long ago this article was published explaining the key issues in Brexit so far. This week, lots has gone on, so once again, let us delve back into the depths of Brexit to sort out what you need to know.

The first thing that happened this week was a bit of a kerfuffle at Downing Street with the UK’s chief negotiator, and Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, threatening to resign over how the UK would handle the current crisis with the custom union (if you don’t know what that is,  here’s an article on it). Essentially, David Davis was opposed to the idea that the UK would remain in the customs union until a solution to the Irish border was found. The catch? No end date was included, and that’s what he found disagreeable. However, this is around the fifth time Davis has threatened to resign, so it might not be super serious.

Nevertheless, when the UK did publish it’s ‘backstop’ plan, which is the jargon for: ‘how we avoid a physical border at Northern Ireland, if we don’t negotiate a trade deal before the end of 2020’. Basically, this ‘backstop’ plan is the last resort if all else fails for the island of Ireland. However, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has rejected this saying that it would lead to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. So right now, it’s another case of ‘watch this space’, but it’s also highly probable that it’ll get sorted eventually. Bear in mind, the EU does have a history of negotiating up to the last minute.

This isn’t the only big thing happening in Brexit right now. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the EU withdrawal bill was once again put to the House of Commons. It’s just been to the House of Lords where it gained 15 amendments, much to the dismay of the Tories. There was much speculation about whether the government would win every vote—they wanted to get rid of almost all the Lords’ amendments, and replace some of them. Surprisingly, in the end, the government won every vote quite comfortably. It is clear that the Tory whips did their jobs well; the only worry is that they might have made a promise they can’t keep.

Labour also saw some revolt, with 90 MPs disobeying orders on one vote, and some shadow cabinet ministers resigning just to do it. It’s the biggest revolt Jeremy Corbyn has seen so far, but this isn’t surprising. Brexit divides MPs just as much as it divides the country, so it isn’t surprising that any MP disregarded their party’s instructions. Essentially, all parties came out relatively unscathed, and Theresa May can breathe a sigh of relief—for now.