Conservative MP Dominic Grieve is on a mission to force a second EU referendum in the almost certain event that Theresa May's doomed Brexit deal is voted out by MPs next Tuesday.
PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW:
Tory MP and former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has now become a bit of a front man for the Remain campaign.
He is the architect of two successful amendments to legislation that has forced the PM to speed up the Brexit process and also ensured that whatever she proposes after her deal is voted down, is amendable and can be debated.
He has also called a No-Deal Brexit a form of national suicide at a rally in London today and that MPs have a duty to prevent it happening by backing a second EU referendum.
And now he is calling for the time and date that the UK leaves the EU be removed from the Withdrawal Act and for the PM to then approach the EU to extend the Article 50 negotiation phase.
The trouble is, that is not actually possible as far as I can see.
The wording of the 2018 European Union Withdrawal Act means that a Minister of the Crown may amend the Act to ensure that the 'exit day' within it reflects the actual time that the EU treaties no longer apply to the UK.
So, the UK would surely have to negotiate extending Article 50 to another date and time first, and then amend the Withdrawal Act accordingly.
Amending the act itself won't change anything as we have to get the EU to agree first with the unanimous agreement of all EU27 member states and, if just one refuses to oblige, then we will be forced out on exit day by EU law anyway – unless we revoke the Article 50 letter unilaterally before exit day and Remain in the EU. But then the Act would again be wrong as it would have a date for our leaving the EU on it and statute is to be obeyed is it not?
But bear in mind that should Article 50 be extended beyond the beginning of June 2019, then the UK will have to hold elections for new Members of the EU Parliament. And remember that the Withdrawal Act repealed the European Parliamentary Elections Act of 2002 and the European Parliament (Representation) Act of 2003 – these would need to be resurrected.
So, we'd either be going for an extension of about eight weeks to tidy things up and ensure we had left by then, or more probably the push would be a for a meaty extension of one or two years.
But either way, any extension will be followed by calls for further extensions for this excuse and that reason. But I doubt extensions would change anything of substance but the resulting uncertainty would cause untold damage to the UK as well as erode the chances of Brexit significantly.
Now, speculation that the PM might be angling for an Article 50 extension despite her constant statements that we will be leaving the EU whatever on the 29th March, have been given a boost by the news that all the Tory MEPs have been summoned to Downing Street.
Downing Street has claimed this meeting is just normal procedure and with the EU parliament due to start debating the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement next Wednesday morning, they could be there to discuss how to ensure her deal gets quickly through the EU system, if it gets approved by Parliament next Tuesday that is.
Or they could be there to be told that she is delaying the meaningful vote again and that would cause knock on delays at the Brussels or Strasbourg end, whichever they are due to be sitting in at the time. But I believe she has to have it done by the end of the week of Friday 18th January, so that delay may not be a long one should it happen.
And the Article 50 extension speculation has also been heightened by claims that ministers do not now have enough time in the parliamentary diary to get all of the legislation required to leave the EU through the system.
Even if the house sat every weekend and cancelled the February half term break, they claim a defeat of May's deal on Tuesday would make it very difficult to get the Trade Bill, the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill, the Healthcare Bill, the Financial Services Bill, and the Immigration Bill all the way to Royal Assent.
This could, of course, just be Remainer ministers trying it on, but you have to remember all of the games the Remainers, like Dominic Grieve, will be playing with those bills to try and stymie Brexit – with the added procedural nudge now and again from an anti-Brexit Speaker no doubt.
One point to note is that the EU parliament is due to end its eighth term on the 18th April 2019, so any extension that does not trigger EU MEP elections in the UK, would have to have completed its business with the EU by then.
And there has, of course been a lot of talk about parliament needing to come up with its own Brexit plan when Theresa May's deal is voted down. But there are already two main plans in the minds of MPs – apart of course from the usual Canada +++ or Norway models or derivatives of same, that have no real support base at all.
No, as I see it, the two main plans swirling around Westminster that will, in the end, have to be chosen between, are Leave on WTO terms or Remain.
That's really it. The rest I think is all window dressing.
And in depressing news, two of the big donors to the Leave campaign, Peter Hargreaves and Crispin Odey, are now saying that they fear that the UK will never leave the EU.
Talking to Reuters, Peter Hargreaves said that he had totally given up and Mr Odey said that he just couldn't see how Brexit could happen with the current configuration of parliament.
I don't personally share their pessimism, as the Remainers would still have a huge mountain to climb to prevent us slipping by default into a WTO exit once May's deal is dispatched with.