*This article was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News newspaper on the 15th of January 2019*
Unless the Prime Minister can buy off around 100 MPs with peerages and pork barrel politics by 7pm tonight, her Brexit deal is going to be voted down in the House of Commons.
That leaves a no deal Brexit as probably the odds on favourite outcome as the clock runs down to the 29 March, our deadline day for leaving the European Union.
Thanks to the wily work of a few proper parliamentarians, notably Dominic Grieve and Yvette Cooper, the Government will be required to come back within three days rather than 21 days to report on what happens next.
Yet, reading the runes, there is little scope for the PM to improve the offer because of her own red lines and indeed the EU’s determination that this is the only deal on offer. There will be no further negotiations.
This is a critical point because as we obsess about the votes in the Commons, we must remember the remaining 27 EU countries all have to back the deal too and the EU’s leaders have done a far better deal of ensuring their votes are locked down.
So what happens next? Well, if the country wants to avoid a no deal Brexit, the PM really only has two further choices. Apply to extend Article 50 in the hope that extra time might throw up some solutions. Alternatively, she can revoke Article 50 altogether and halt the process.
Understanding the detail of these two is important. If she applies for extra time, the EU
Revoking Article 50 is something that the UK Government can do unilaterally, a point proven in court through the heroic work of Andy Wightman MSP and others
However, to do this means hitting the big red reset button. Some consider this a useful stalling tactic, but the reality is that this means ripping up the whole two-year negotiation and starting again from scratch, if and when the UK reapplied to leave.
Why would the EU agree a more favourable deal in these circumstances? All in all
EU leaders have said they would consider an Article 50 extension if the UK was to have a people’s vote, i.e. another referendum. I support this path.
That for me would give us a clear-cut democratic and realistic route out of
Labour favour a general election that I would welcome to remove the Tories. However, I’m concerned about what the manifesto would say on the issue of Brexit. Labour would struggle to build a majority in a general election dominated by Brexit. Attempts to appease voters in leave-voting English constituencies would result in losses in Scotland and metropolitan England. The best path to a Labour government requires a general election where Brexit isn’t the central issue. That’s why my ideal scenario would be a general election and a people’s vote on the same day.
Such a plan could produce a Tory Government with a mandate to remain, or a Labour Government with a clear instruction to leave on May’s negotiated terms, neither of which are options available now.
Sure, it’s an outlandish plan, but have you got a better one? Answers on a postcard to Mrs T May, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA.