Wednesday 3 April 2019

Prime Minister ~ Statement on Brexit 2 April 2019

After a seven hour session of the Cabinet held on 2 April 2019, the Prime Minister made a statement about Brexit - see No. 10 Downing Street - Statement on Brexit.

The PM remained of the view that leaving with a deal was the best solution and a further extension of Article 50 was therefore needed - "one that is as short as possible and which ends when we pass a deal."   The PM recognised that
- "Despite the best efforts of MPs, the process that the House of Commons has tried to lead has not come up with an answer."  Consequently, the PM offered to meet the Leader of the Opposition to "try to agree a plan - that we would both stick to - to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal."   Any plan would have to agree the current Withdrawal Agreement because that had "already been negotiated with the 27 other members, and the EU has repeatedly said that it cannot and will not be reopened."  The focus, and "ideal outcome",  would be to agree an approach on a Future Relationship "that delivers on the result of the Referendum, that both the Leader of the Opposition and I could put to the House for approval, and which I could then take to next week’s European Council."

If a single unified approach could not be agreed then the aim would be to agree "a number of options for the Future Relationship that we could put to the House in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue."

"Crucially, the Government stands ready to abide by the decision of the House.  The Government would then bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. We would want to agree a timetable for this Bill to ensure it is passed before 22nd May so that the United Kingdom need not take part in European Parliamentary Elections."

The PM concluded by saying - "This is a difficult time for everyone.  Passions are running high on all sides of the argument.  But we can and must find the compromises that will deliver what the British people voted for. This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands.  And it requires national unity to deliver the national interest."

It is expected that the Leader of the Opposition will engage with the PM - BBC News 3 April.

One possible political problem could arise from the makeup of the opposition in the House of Commons.  The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Jeremy Corbyn) is leader of the largest Opposition Party (i.e. Labour) but there are other opposition parties with significant numbers of MPs - e.g. the Scottish National Party (SNP) with 35, Independents 22, Liberal Democrats 11.  The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has 10.  The DUP continues, at the time of writing, to be in a confidence and supply agreement with the government.  The PM's statement did not, in terms, include such parties in the talks.  [BBC State of the Parties].

Regrettably, it cannot be said that the PM's statement was welcomed with open arms - The Guardian 2 April - but, on a fair reading, it offers an 11th hour route to avoiding the no deal Brexit feared by the bodies such as the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress.

According to The Guardian article - " ... No 10 insisted May’s statement was made on the basis of a collective cabinet agreement ..."

Update 4 April:

Talks commenced between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition - BBC News 4 April.

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