Over the weekend, John McDonnell said that Labour MPs would work with rogue Tory MPs in order to block a “no deal” Brexit whilst on the Andrew Marr show. Marr followed up this declaration with the counter-point, “But there is no vote on that in the House of Commons”, to which McDonnell replied:
“When we amend the legislation as I think we will – I think there’s a majority to do that – we’ll have a meaningful vote. We’ll be able to say to the government ‘whatever you’re negotiating, it will not be on the basis of no deal’, because the damage to this economy would be so great.”
What McDonnell means is that Labour MPs will gang up with Conservative MPs to block the passage of the Repeal Bill unless it contains an amendment ruling out a “no deal” scenario unless a further vote is put to parliament on the subject. The problem with this is that it won’t block a “no deal” scenario from happening, even if there are the numbers in the House of Commons for this amendment to carry.
Chris Grayling was on the programme after McDonnell. When asked about McDonnell’s bid to prevent a “no deal” scenario from unfolding, Grayling described it as “complete nonsense” and then said this:
“Parliament has already voted for leaving the European Union overwhelmingly.”
Thing is, Grayling is right. Blocking the Repeal Bill would be annoying for the government, but would not be terminal for a “no deal” to unfold. That’s because Labour blew its one chance to influence this procedure – its one chance to stop “no deal” from happening – when it voted through the Article 50 Bill with no amendments whatsoever. This is because by having the House authorise the triggering of Article 50, it allowed the government to give two years notice to the EU we were off – which means that although not having passed the Repeal Bill will make a “no deal” scenario even messier than it would be otherwise (think about that for a moment), it won’t change the fact that as of March 31st, 2019, Britain is out of the European Union come what may and that if we don’t have a deal, then we don’t have a deal. And we have then a “no deal” scenario on our hands, whatever the official opposition and some stray Tory MPs try and do between now and then.
In other words, this is all in the government’s hands – and Labour waving through the Article 50 Bill with nary a tiny amendment being carried made that so. It is up to Theresa May and those around her to get a deal with the European Union in the time left available – or to not, as the case may be. Labour surrendered their ability to affect the process earlier this year when they voted in droves for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19. This is simply more posturing by McDonnell – the desire to seem Remainery to that end of the electorate while not doing anything to change Brexit in any material way.