The Brexit Diary: Monday’s “meaningful vote” in the House of Commons

By Hashim Ahmed

After three years and four months of toing and froing, is the Brexit saga finally coming to an end? Prime Minister Johnson is expected to hold a ‘meaningful vote’ in the House of Commons on Monday 21st, October, with view to ratifying his re-negotiated deal with the European Union. It will be the fourth time such a vote has been attempted in the commons with the previous three, held under the government of Theresa May, failing to achieve the required majority. 

Is the Brexit saga coming to an end?

The subject of the UK’s membership of the European Union has been at the centre of political debate in the UK for decades but it was only when the government of David Cameron stood for election in 2015 on the platform of holding an in-out referendum that it truly became an issue that could change the future of this country. Worried that his right wing Conservative Party was losing votes to UKIP, the Cameron government finally held the referendum in June 2016, resulting in over 17 million people (52%) voting to leave (71% of participation). 

After David Cameron, Theresay May came but things did not change

That we are now, more than three years later, still debating the issue exemplifies the divisions in the UK. Theresa May’s government called an early general election in 2017, believing the polls which showed the Conservatives up to 20 points ahead in some cases, hoping that a landslide victory would give her the necessary numbers in parliament to push through her deal. However, May underestimated the people pulling power of Jeremy Corbyn, with the Labour party making gains and the Conservatives losing their majority in parliament. 

Without the required numbers in parliament as well as a deeply divided party, May failed three times to pass a Brexit deal – each time having to contend with right wing ‘no deal’ supporters within her own party as well as ‘soft Brexit’ or ‘second referendum’ supporters in the opposition parties. Her humiliation finally culminated in her resignation in July of this year. 

Boris Johnson talks the talk

Since then, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has talked the talk – promising that the UK will leave the European Union on October 31st, with or without a deal. His right wing populist rhetoric, modelled on Donald Trump, has sent pulses up and down the country racing. Despite suffering defeat after defeat in the commons, Johnson’s deal, first offered by the European Union to Theresa May in 2017, now looks as though it may have the required numbers to pass. 

However the opposition parties, led by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, will not make it easy for him either. Labour plans to table at least two amendments to the bill – one calling for a confirmatory or second referendum and one calling for a customs union. Other parties, such as the DUP, are also unhappy with the status of Northern Ireland being treated separately from the rest of the UK. 

What can we expect from this Monday?

Whether the bill passes or not, it is difficult to see how Monday will be the end of the saga. Already Boris Johnson is legally required to request another extension to Article 50 and his government is significantly short of a majority, winning just one vote in three months. Furthermore, he suffered the humiliation of the UK’s Supreme Court ruling his action to prorogue parliament unlawful. With a government unable to function, common sense dictates that a general election is coming sooner rather than later, with late November or early December touted as potential dates. That Brexit will be a key theme in that election is a given. 


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