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The government will enjoy Commons majorities on the broad principle on leaving the EU — but the House of Lords will be tougher (Maurice CC BY 2.0)

When Theresa May announced last April that she would be seeking to call an early general election, her justification was that the Conservatives needed a larger majority to push through Brexit. Now the Conservatives have no parliamentary majority and rely on Northern Ireland’s DUP to keep them in office. Even these Unionist votes are not a boost to the government’s pro-Leave majority, as in the last Parliament the DUP’s contingent of MPs — then eight and now ten — could reliably be expected to vote for Brexit in any division. If May’s rationale had been correct in April, Brexit would now be in deep trouble — but it was not.

On the Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill last month the government secured a majority of 36, well above the effective majority of 13 the Conservative-DUP alliance enjoys. This is despite the fact that all the opposition parties whipped their MPs to vote against the bill. Seven passionately pro-Brexit Labour MPs — including Frank Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer — voted with the Tories, with a further ten or so Labour MPs, including former senior minister Caroline Flint, defying the whip by choosing to abstain. Only one Conservative MP — Kenneth Clarke — rebelled by abstaining. It is clear that the government will enjoy comfortable Commons majorities on votes on the broad principle of leaving the EU.

There will of course be MPs, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who will vote against Brexit at every opportunity, in an attempt to defeat and bring down the government, despite having a long record of support for leaving the EU. There is also a rather larger number of Tories who will support Brexit despite privately believing it to be a disastrous policy. Such political dishonesty, however, does not change the parliamentary arithmetic.

The bill now goes to committee stage. In this case, all MPs will take part in eight days of proceedings where the bill can be amended. The amendments will fall into three main categories. The first of these will be attempts to retain significant elements of EU membership after leaving the Union, such as continued membership of the single market or  the customs union. The second category will be moves to create extra hurdles, such as  a second referendum or further legislation, before the UK’s exit is finally approved. The government can rely on comfortably defeating both arguments. They will be seen by Labour pro-Brexit MPs for what they are — attempts to utterly frustrate Brexit or make Britain’s departure from the EU one in name only — and will thus be opposed by the Labour MPs who supported the government on second reading, and indeed others. Labour MPs representing strongly pro-Leave constituencies will think long and hard before doing anything to block Brexit.

Furthermore, the process of Brexit is an intergovernmental one. MPs voting to remain in the single market after we have left the EU can no more make this happen than they can turn the moon into cheese by voting for it. It could only be achieved if it is agreed between the UK government and the 27 other EU members.

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Dr David Hill
October 8th, 2017
1:10 PM
Control is important that Germany (and France) always require together with our totally trustworthy banks, but all this NON-TALK is a smoke screen. For even before the Brexit vote official figures pointed clearly to come out and JUST the single comparison BETWEEN Commonwealth trade and the EU clearly determined this with Commonwealth trade already in PPP terms outstripping the GDP of the EU. 'Commonwealth Trade v European Union (EU) Trade - The UK’s economic future resided in the ‘Commonwealth’ and not the European Union (EU), even before the Referendum vote was made' -https://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/commonwealth-trade-v-european-union-eu.html

Dr David Hill
September 27th, 2017
8:09 PM
Better out than in if Parliament would study the facts a little for Britain's long-term future. Commonwealth Trade v European Union (EU) Trade - The UK’s economic future resided in the ‘Commonwealth’ and not the European Union (EU), even before the Referendum vote was made - https://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/commonwealth-tr...

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