Guy Verhofstadt By Claude Truong-Ngoc : Wikimedia Commons - cc-by-sa-3.0

By Claude Truong-Ngoc : Wikimedia Commons – cc-by-sa-3.0

Poor old Guy Verhofstadt, looks like Brexit is starting to play havoc with his blood pressure.


Before I start, there is speculation that another Tory MP may be about to defect to the newly formed The Independent Group (or TIG).

The Tory MP for Eddisbury in Cheshire, Antoinette Sandbach, called the PM irresponsible on the BBC Radio 4 World at One programme, for delaying the meaningful vote until the 12th March. And the Independent also reports that she has said she is sympathetic to her now Tigger colleagues. One to watch?

The Independent also points out that there were twelve briefing papers on display when the eleven Tiggers met for the first time today.

Now to the Eurocrat Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliament representative for Brexit.

With talk from both sides of a possible extension, the EU Council president, Donald Tusk, said it would be the 'rational solution' to the current stand-off.

But Mr Verhofstadt took a rather direct pop at Mrs May's decision to delay the so-called meaningful vote by calling it one of the most reckless decisions he had ever seen and also accused her of kicking the can down the road while causing crippling uncertainty for businesses and citizens alike.

The pressure is obviously getting to him. And I'm not sure how that will help to chivvy things along.

Maybe he thinks that lecturing will be a good substitute for ditching the backstop?

No matter, the more he does this the harder it is for the PM to argue in the country for her deal, or to stay associated with Verhofstadt's EU for one moment longer.

Anyway, while the PM swans about the world trying to butter up EU27 leaders and Eurocrats, there is a Remainer plot to derail Brexit cooking in Westminster.

This takes the form of the Cooper Bill that I believe is due to come before the House of Commons this Wednesday.

This bill, the "European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 4) Bill 2017-19" is a private members' bill sponsored by Yvette Cooper that had its first reading on the 13th February 2019.

This bill, if given Royal Assent, would force the government to either put a motion before the house to vote on leaving without a deal or a motion to vote for an extension of Article 50.

But if and only if Theresa May's deal fails to win the support of MPs either by the 13th of March or by the day after Cooper's Bill became law.

So, if MPs vote her deal down on March the 12th, then on the next day or the day after Cooper's bill becomes law, whichever is the later, then May would have to put down one of two motions the next day:

Either a motion to ask MPs to vote yes or no to a no-deal exit.

Or a motion to ask them to vote yes or no to an Article 50 extension.

You could see where those votes would likely lead.

Now, law lecturer Robert Craig, has written an excellent piece for where he explains in great detail what would be needed to get this through into an Act of Parliament and also, of the main stumbling block to its progress as he sees it.

And having read it, as a layman I do think he has a very strong argument. I've left a link to it in the descriptions box below.

In summary though, firstly, as a private members' bill, to give it the required legs to make it through, standing order number 14 that stipulates that the government has to agree to time being given to debate it, would have to be suspended.

But under the rules to do that she would need the help of a minister, to propose that standing order 14 was suspended.

But, says Robert Craig: "Cooper can, however, seek to amend the motion that the Government has said they will table for debate on 12 March to secure the same outcome."

So, in theory she could get her way and start the process towards making it law.

But this, says Robert Craig, is where the concept of Royal Consent comes in. This is not the same as Royal Assent.

Royal Assent is when the monarch places their signature on the finalised bill to enact it into law.

Royal Consent is something that has to be given by the Queen and then signified during the third reading of the bill, to allow an Act that would interfere with the Royal Prerogative to proceed to the next stage. No act that would interfere with the Royal Prerogative can become law without it.

And the permission has to be sought by the government, not by Mrs Cooper. So, Yvette Cooper would be relying on the government to get the permission for her – something Craig says, they are under no obligation to do.

The big question though is whether Cooper's Bill does affect the Royal Prerogative of treaty making and in Craig's well-argued view, it does.

So all government has to do is not advise the Queen of this at all and if the bill does get through to the third reading stage, then an absence of a confirmatory nod to the Speaker should force the bill to fall.

The author therefore suggests that:

"…. the Government retains the ability to insist that the only choices available to Parliament, for as long as the Government remains in office, are: 1) the Prime Minister’s deal, or 2) no deal."

But as I've put forward before, there is always the procedure of objecting to a private bill and preventing it passing without debate through second reading, report stage and third reading.

A Brexiteer MP could call out 'object' when the Clerk reads the title of the bill immediately after Prayers, which stops its progress that day. Then follow it up with a six month blocking motion for good measure.

But what does not seem to have sparked the interest of the media is that there are several Brexit motions on the order paper for debate and vote this afternoon, to do with the likes of financial services, consumer protection, pesticides, agriculture and merchant shipping.

Be interesting to see what happens to those.

Anyway, things are heating up and getting interesting.


Robert Craig: Why Royal Consent Is Required for the Proposed Article 50 Extension Bill

Comment Here!