Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Lords Vote for Parliament to have a Say on Brexit Deal has made a Snap General Election More Likely

The House of Lords tonight voted by a majority of 98 for Parliament to have a final veto over whatever deal the government agrees with the EU, for the country’s post Brexit relationship with Europe.

MPs in the House of Commons will now vote on this amendment, and the one the Lords passed last week to unilaterally allow resident EU citizens the right to stay in the UK. Tonight’s vote in the Lords causes potentially more problems for the government, in that it strikes at the heart of the government’s Brexit strategy.

This strategy, if we can call it that, is to demand everything from the EU and if we don’t get it, to make no deal at tall. If this amendment is passed by the House of Commons, MPs will effectively be able to send the government back to the negotiating table, to try and get something better.

Of course, whether the House of Commons will vote for the amendment is another matter, as it will require perhaps 20 or 30 of the pro-EU Tory MPs to vote for it. It could be that the government makes some kind of compromise offer, if they fear losing the vote, but this government has shown no signs on compromising over its Brexit stance.

If the vote is passed in the House of Commons, I suspect the government will be amenable to calling a snap general election. If the Tories won the election, which looks highly likely at this stage, it would give it an extra authority over Parliament in terms of a mandate for its Brexit position. Risky maybe, but it would give the government the opportunity to get its way, if it won.

The 2011 Fixed Parliament Act, would have to be got around, but the potential rewards of a snap election for the government are huge. The 2011 Act allows for two ways an election can be called, other than the 5 year fixed term.

The first is for a vote for an election by two thirds of MPs in Parliament, so opposition parties, particularly Labour, would largely need to vote for it. The other way is that a no confidence vote is passed against the government, and after 14 days, another government that did command the confidence of a majority of MPs, could not be formed.

The first option is probably easier, although Labour may block it, despite what its leader Jeremy Corbyn has said about wanting an early election, not all Labour MPs may want this. There are two other possibilities, the 2011 Act could be repealed by a majority in the House of Commons, or it could be bypassed as an exception to the Act, as a one off. Again a simple majority of MPs is required for this.

The former Tory leader Lord Hague has thrown his weight behind the government calling an early election, by one of the means available, as he thinks the government would win easily and so increase its authority over Parliament on Brexit.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said all along that she is not in favour of an early election, as there is no need for it, and no desire from the public for it, but if her Brexit plan is knocked sideways by the Lords vote tonight, and if enough Tory MP rebels can be found to support the Lords, she may have little choice.

It would be a major humiliation for May, if her whole strategy was rejected in this way, and it would leave her vulnerable at the next scheduled general election in 2020, if she made it as far as still being Prime Minister in 2020, which is doubtful. The Tories are ruthless at ditching leaders, and she would be a sitting duck.

It is time her enemies in the Tory put down a marker, Nicky Morgan, George Osborne et al, that they start the process of getting revenge on May for the way she treated them when she became Prime Minister. Will they do it? The odds are still against, but maybe, just maybe.

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