House of Commons By UK Parliament 2 (CC-BY-3.0)

Image by UK Parliament (CC-BY-3.0)

As we watch our MPs flail about in the House of Commons claiming they are looking for some sort of Brexit 'compromise', while they really play their anti-Brexit and party political games, please bear the following in mind!


One of the points that may have passed people by, is that there are certain criteria to be met prior to the Prime Minister being legally able to ratify her Withdrawal Agreement by signing it.

The first is that it has to be approved by the House of Commons, which it hasn't. In fact it's received two thumping defeats.

The second is that if it does get agreed to by MPs, it has to then be debated by the House of Lords. And they get up to five house of Lords sitting days to do so.

Then most importantly, under section 13 (1) (d) of the Withdrawal Act that covers this procedure, another act of parliament has to be passed, "…which contains provision for the implementation of the withdrawal agreement".

And the Institute for Government says on its website that:

"Under the EU (Withdrawal) Act, Parliament must pass a further Act before the UK is allowed to ratify the treaty" – note they are calling the Withdrawal Agreement a treaty.

And this Bill is already standing in the wings, ready to go but as yet unpublished and is called the Withdrawal Agreement Bill or WAB.

This Bill is full of contentious issues and could take some time to get through to Royal Assent.

So, this new bill has to go through both Houses of Parliament and to the Queen for signature, before Theresa May can toddle off to Brussels with her fountain pen to physically sign the Withdrawal Agreement and therefore ratify it.

If this new bill has not become law prior to 11pm on the 29th March 2019 then we are out on the default position of WTO terms – UNLESS Article 50 is extended. Then she would have until the new date agreed by the EU.

According to the Institute for Government, EU treaties usually take ten to forty sitting days to get through Parliament and we are already at the minimum end of that without an Article 50 extension.

And please note they say the following:

"If the Government cannot get the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through Parliament, then the default legal position is that the UK cannot ratify the deal and leaves the EU without a deal."

And it goes on to say that the only way out of that would be to extend our membership beyond the 29th March.

And to put further emphasis on this, there is an article about this very thing on the Lexington Communications website that was written well prior to Christmas 2018, which even back then said "time is running out to enact a Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Brexit".

It also says that the original plan had been to take this through the system in six months and it also says: "The bill must be passed and have received Royal Assent by 29 March in order for any Withdrawal Agreement to take effect."

And how about this that the author of the piece wrote months ago:

"Negotiations now look certain to drag on past October, with December being talked about as a more likely ‘last-chance-saloon’ for a deal. That significantly narrows the window for parliamentary ratification to three months and means the process is highly vulnerable to political challenge. Given the controversy surrounding many of the bill’s key provisions the scope for guerrilla warfare from all sides is wide."

And we have only 16 actual full days to go and only ten are scheduled Commons sitting days, she hasn't got six or three months to get this one bill through!

All in all this tells me what I've long suspected, that her Withdrawal Agreement is a legislative dead duck within the current timescale. And on that basis any attempt to reverse Brexit would also probably be in that same boat.

And if parliament tries to wrest control of the agenda from the government, with no clear agreed plan, then the resulting chaos would mean the UK would almost certainly leave on WTO terms in 16 days time.

Now, it would take an Article 50 extension for Theresa May to have even the remotest chance of getting all that through. But an Article 50 extension would only be viable if she had a cast iron route to getting her deal agreed, because the EU will not agree to an extension willy-nilly, or so they've said so far.

But Theresa May and her team know this, so why are they not already asking for an Article 50 extension?

Maybe it's because she wants to take the MPs to the wire to force them to agree to her deal in the face of a relentless no-deal Brexit Project Fear, then apply for an Article 50 extension.

And bear in mind Theresa may has just this afternoon ordered her MPs to vote today against one of the amendments that rules out a no deal Brexit.

After that she could pass her deal up to the House of Lords for the five days and then have 8 or so weeks to get the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through to Royal Assent. Then sign and ratify the deal with the EU and it's all done.

But even that is extremely tight and definitely puts all her eggs in the one basket.

So I'm a bit surprised that the ERG Brexiteers, in the pursuit of their Malthouse Compromise, have given the PM a lifeline by also calling for an extension to Article 50 until the 22nd May.

She would gladly take that and use it for her own Withdrawal Agreement purposes.

Looking at how difficult it would be to get the Withdrawal Agreement through even with loads of the legislation already being in place or going through parliament, illustrates the mountain the Remainers would have to climb to reverse Brexit.

They would possibly have to get EU agreement in the next two weeks for an immediate Article 50 extension to the 22nd May. That may then give them sufficient time to push through legislation and get further agreement to either extend it again by say two years or even to revoke it completely.

But still a tough call even if all the ducks were in a row and they had no Brexiteers to contend with.

Oh, and they'd also have to have new EU MEP parliamentary election legislation in place well before mid-April, i.e. in four weeks time, to allow for those elections to be properly called in good time and be conducted in a democratically safe manner, which would be a legal necessity.

I have to say that, given all of this, as far as I can see the only thing that could now stop a full WTO Brexit is an Article 50 extension – and even that would not be a certainty given the timescales involved.

Without an Article 50 extension, her deal and no Brexit are gone the way of the dodo.

So it's great see Michel Barnier, the EU Chief Brexit negotiator saying "Why would we extend Article 50 when negotiations are over?".

And Gerard Batten the UKIP Leader saying "Exactement Monsieur Barnier".


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