March Newsletter Brexit Update


You may have already seen that I recently sent out my latest Brexit update covering recent developments in Parliament, which you can read here. Since then, we have had another tumultuous week with a lot going on in and around Parliament. On Monday, I spoke in the debate in the Commons about Brexit, and you can watch my speech here or read it here. I highlighted my concerns about a no deal Brexit, and about the current Brexit logjam in Parliament.
On Wednesday, MPs voted in a series of so-called indicative votes, designed to gauge levels of support for various Brexit options. Parliament voted on no deal, common market 2.0, membership of EFTA and EEA, membership of a customs union, Labour’s alternative plan, revoking article 50 to avoid no deal, a confirmatory people’s vote, and trying to reach a different kind of trade agreement with the EU if no withdrawal agreement is implemented. You can see how I voted in each of the votes here. This first round of indicative votes was inconclusive, with no options securing a majority of votes cast. However, there was considerable support for both a customs union and a confirmatory public vote. Following this, the next few days need to be used to look closely at last night’s votes and draw up a series of options that have a chance of securing a majority of votes in Parliament. This will not be an easy task, but we have a responsibility to work towards securing a majority of support for a way forward. The current uncertainty that is characterising the Brexit process is benefiting nobody. It is causing real frustration among the British people on all sides of the debate, and is damaging to our economy.
Also on Wednesday, Theresa May announced that she will step down as Prime Minister before the next phase of Brexit negotiations. This was followed by her publishing plans to ask the House of Commons on Friday 29th March to agree the part of her deal covered by the Withdrawal Agreement while postponing discussion of the “Political Declaration” – or other part of the deal on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. There are two problems with this. The first is that up until now both the Prime Minister and the EU have always insisted that both documents are package and that one cannot stand without the other. The other and more serious problem is that by trying to  separate the two, Theresa May is asking MPs to confirm 22nd May as Brexit day, blind to what arrangements will be in place or possible thereafter. Indeed, her decision to stand down could well mean that we will not even know who will be conducting the negotiations with the EU, other than that it will be whoever replaces her as Conservative leader. I just don’t believe this is reasonable. Our future relationship with the EU after Brexit is far too important to be framed by the internal processes of the Conservative Party. The House of Commons as a whole should have the opportunity to seriously consider and reach decisions on these matters before Brexit takes effect. As I write this report, Parliament is debating the Prime Minster’s latest proposal. By the time you read it, the results of today’s votes may well be known so you may be ahead of me!

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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