David Davis and his ministers have already promised a vote on the deal the government strikes with the EU, ages ago now in Brexit terms. Only, it was never much of a concession: it’s take it or leave it, in the words of Steve Baker, meaning either parliament would accept the deal – or Britain would crash out with no deal. Dominic Grieve is pushing ahead with an amendment to the Withdrawal Bill this evening that would require the government to make the vote “meaningful” – although I’m still not entirely sure what that means. It will be put to a vote in the House of Commons tonight unless either the “rebels” or the government back down.
What is the Grieve amendment looking to achieve? The only thing that would make sense is that it trying to establish that either parliament accepts the final deal, or the government are forced to try and get a better deal from the EU – or failing that, we remain in the EU, possibly via a second referendum. No one wants to say this, least of all those on the Tory benches who are supporting Grieve’s amendment, so this is somewhat grey. Only, like I say, that’s the only thing that makes sense. Either the vote is actually meaningful – MPs can reject the deal without it meaning no deal – or it is just what the government has already promised with mere semantics clouding the issue.
Either way, the vote this evening will be one to watch. Interestingly, both sides think they have the numbers; it is that close. The government feels it can rely on Labour Brexiters, like Hoey et al; the “rebels” think they have the numbers on their side to more than make up for Labour MPs siding with the government. Labour have supposedly three line whipped their MPs to vote it through. I have to say, I wouldn’t get my hopes up if you’re on the Remain side of things – any attempt to force the government to change tack during the Brexit process, at least from within the UK I hasten to add, has been a failure. Corbyn’s latent Euroscepticism combined with Tory MP’s fear of bringing down the government and issuing in John McDonnell’s revolución has stalled most efforts.
However, if the amendment does go through, it will be a huge moment. It will allow parliament one last thought about what to do before Brexit happens. Subject to the European Commission going along with any idea of halting Brexit, of course, but that’s been the case since Article 50 was triggered, giving the term “take back control” added irony.