Top 3 developments
- MPs attempt to oust May
- Cross-party talks between Labour and Conservatives remain deadlocked
- Preparations for European Elections step up, despite growing opposition from the UK and EU.
1922 reasons to get rid of the Prime Minister
Senior Conservative backbenchers have rejected calls to change Party rules to be able to oust Theresa May as Prime Minister. Under current Conservative Party rules, if the Party leader survives a vote of no-confidence, they cannot be challenged for another 12 months. May won a vote of no-confidence in December 2018, but since then her Brexit deal has been rejected three times by Parliament, the first vote being the biggest defeat of a Government motion in Parliamentary history.
Conservative MPs this week sought to change the Party rules to allow another vote of no-confidence to be called in six months instead of twelve. This would have brought forward an opportunity to get the PM out of Number 10 in June, instead of December. However, in a tight contest of 9 votes to 7, senior Conservative backbenchers of the 1922 Committee rejected this proposal. This will allow the PM to breathe easy… for now.
However, the Committee acknowledged the frustration felt by their fellow backbenchers that the PM had not outlined any timeline for her departure. The PM promised to step down once a Brexit deal has been passed, to allow a new PM to lead the second stage of negotiations with the EU. But as no Brexit deal has been passed, there is no clarity about when the PM will leave office. The 1922 Committee recognised this, and urged the PM to set a ‘clear roadmap’ and deadline for her departure. Number 10 has not yet responded to this demand, but it is unlikely they will be happy about having to roadmap the PM’s departure when they have not yet been able to get a Brexit deal over the line.
Go Our Own Way
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stated that Scotland should hold a referendum on Scottish independence if the UK leaves the EU. Addressing the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon highlighted that 64% of the Scottish public voted to remain in the 2016 EU referendum and that the Brexit process has revealed “the limits of Scotland’s influence within the UK”, therefore strengthening the need for independence.
As the current Scottish Parliament term ends in May 2021, Sturgeon has called for this referendum to be held before 2021, to allow Scotland to remain in the EU as an independent country. However, a poll by Survation revealed that only 21% of the Scottish public support Sturgeon’s timeframe to hold this referendum within two years. Additionally, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson has announced that May has not changed her position on accepting Sturgeon’s application for a legally-binding independence vote. Nevertheless, Sturgeon has stated that it is necessary to start the preparation for this process before launching a formal request, highlighting that the current UK Government “may soon be out of office”.
However, the SNP has stated that they will withdraw this request should the UK Government revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU. As little progress has been made since the return from Easter recess, revoking Article 50 still remains an option, but an unlikely one, which may see the SNP launch a renewed bid for Scottish for independence.
Breaking News: Labour and Conservatives Do Not Agree
With MPs returning from Easter recess, Brexit cross-party talks between Conservatives and Labour resumed this week. In unsurprising news, the talks remain deadlocked after previous disagreement over deregulation, as both sides appear to be more concerned with avoiding blame for failure as opposed to receiving praise for success of reaching a consensus over the Brexit dilemma.
In the political sense both sides are discouraged to find an agreement. May has frequently denied the possibility of a customs union and second referendum, especially if the alternative is her deal which has already failed to pass through Parliament three times. Additionally, Labour are unwilling to offer any assistance to the Conservative Party when they are continuing to lose ground on every domestic policy, not just Brexit. If Labour were to assist Conservatives and resolve the Brexit deadlock, it would give the Conservatives an opportunity to build up support again, something that Labour actively does not want.
Therefore, it is unlikely that either side is willing to find a consensus to this dilemma and that the talks will remain deadlocked until another alternative is found. Neither side will wish to end the talks either, as this causes them to be viewed as the Party that gave up on solving the Brexit dilemma.
IEA are not Singham prignham praises about customs union
New damaging analysis has surfaced surrounding the potential customs union option, potentially hindering support for this compromise. The Institute of Economic Affairs has warned that whilst the customs union may have some positives for the UK in the short-term, its long-term effects will be far too negative and outweigh any positive. The research has outlined that while a customs union may help preserve supply chains and reduce disruption initially after Brexit, it would leave the UK unable to strike deals with other markets and to develop policies in key areas such as agriculture and state aid.
The Labour Party currently supports a custom union as they believe that it would eliminate tariffs on goods, leading to minimal disruption and therefore protecting jobs. However, Shanker Singham, Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs’ international and trade competition unit, stated that such an option would limit the UK as their interests would be ranked behind that of the EU, citing Turkey as an example which cannot negotiate with other countries on tariffs due to its customs union with the EU. He also said that a customs union would not ensure “frictionless” trade for companies after Brexit because it “would likely still involve documentary checks”.
Lynton & B Johnson
Although Conservative MPs failed in their plot to oust the Prime Minister before December 2019, behind the scenes there has still been a lot of manoeuvring from those angling to replace the Prime Minister.
It emerged this week that Boris Johnson, a favourite of the Tory base, has officially brought in Sir Lynton Crosby as a strategist for his leadership bid. Crosby is a veteran of UK elections, having successfully led Boris’ London Mayoral campaigns in 2012 and 2012, as well as the Conservative General Election campaign in 2015. Although Boris has not formally announced his candidacy for the leadership, this move will quash any doubt that he has his eyes firmly set on Number 10. Johnson’s opponents will certainly be unnerved by having such a proficient ally joining his team.
The main contenders for the leadership will be Dominic Raab, the darling of Conservative Brexiteers, Sajid Javid, who has seen his profile raised extensively since his appointment as Home Secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary who is not hated by the majority of Tory MPs (an underreported and underrated quality that other candidates do not share) and is seen as the ‘safe pair of hands’ candidate. Conservative leadership elections work by candidates being whittled down to a final two via MP votes, before the Party membership votes on the final two candidates. But with dwindling membership, this could mean that a mere 124,000 people would decide who the next Prime Minister of the UK will be.
Man on a (Electoral Com)mission
In February 2018, the EU Parliament decided to cut the number of MEPs from 751 to 705, giving the 27 seats that had been allocated to the UK to 14 “under-represented” member states. Now that Brexit has been delayed and the UK is expected to participate in the EU elections, this has thrown a spanner in the works for the reshuffle and rebalance. The 14 members states have been given no official position on how to respond to the UK’s participation in these elections; some may hold elections in May, with the elected MEP taking their seat upon the UK’s departure, others may hold mini-elections on this date…if it happens at all.
Adding more disruption to the EU Parliament complexion, is the temporary status of the British MEPs, which would upset the delicate balance of power between Parliament’s major political groups. The Parliament’s first few months form the coalitions that will control the policy discussions for the next few years. There has been extensive backlash about the British involvement in this ‘game of thrones’ process, especially if the expectation is for them to leave come Halloween.
Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, has outlined that “the last thing our European partners want are 50 disruptive and resentful UK MEPs” that will inevitably change the direction and complexion of the Parliament and Commission, only for it to have to change again upon their departure. The Electoral Commission, the election watchdog, has also called the UK’s participation in these elections as a “threat to democracy”, increasing the heavy criticism of Theresa May for agreeing to participate in these elections. The pressure is now on for the UK to agree on a Withdrawal Agreement ahead of 22nd May, in order to leave the EU without participating in the EU elections.
Upcoming Key Dates
- 22nd May: Deadline to pass a Withdrawal Agreement without participating in the EU elections.
- 23rd May: European Parliamentary elections
- 23rd June: Three year anniversary of Referendum
- 30th June: Brexit review if the UK is still a member of the EU.
- 31st October: Current Brexit Deadline
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