The government side will be pleased with itself that it has managed to get its motion through unscathed tonight.


Theresa May and her whips have managed to steer the government motion through the house, to only extend Article 50 if her deal gets accepted by the Commons.

Although there were a couple of close shaves. Especially the near call when the amendment calling for Parliament to wrest control of the process from the government was defeated by a squeaky two votes!

But significantly, the amendment calling for a second referendum was defeated, with Jacob Rees-Mogg claiming it is now therefore off the table. And why? Because it was a huge loss by the Independent Group led second EU referendumers of 85 votes for and 334 votes against!

And to be clear, as nothing has yet changed in statute law, then the default position is still that the UK leaves the EU on WTO terms at 11pm on the 29th March.

And this position will persist until, as I understand it, either a short extension to Article 50 is sought by the government using the Royal Prerogative – and agreed by the EU27, or statute law is passed and enacted that makes a long Article 50 extension including EU MEP elections possible, which would also need the permission of every EU27 nation state.

Now, under today's government amendment, which by the way won by a margin of 412 votes to 202, – a majority of 220, the PM will now get until the 20th March, which is next Wednesday, to try and get her deal through the House of Commons and if she is able to do that then Brussels will be approached for a one-off extension of article 50 until the 30th June.

That would give the government just over 14 weeks to get all the legislation in place to make her deal work.

This though would be fought every step of the way and if crucial legislation is not passed we would still leave on WTO terms when the new Article 50 date was stepped over.

For example, we heard during the debate that the House of Lords has amended the Trade Bill to try and stop a no deal Brexit. That bill will eventually come back to the House of Commons to have that debated, which will consume more time.

One of the main points in the government amendment is this reference to the extension date of the 30th June.

In the amendment the government says that "…any extension beyond the 30th of June 2019 would require the United Kingdom to hold European Parliament elections in May 2019."

Now this is at odds with the letter that the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, recently sent to his counterpart in the EU Commission, Donald Tusk, where he said that:

"Finally, I would like to stress, that the United Kingdom's withdrawal should be complete before the European elections that will take place between the 23rd and 26th of May this year. If the United Kingdom has not left the European Union by then, it will be legally required to hold these elections, in line with the rights and obligations of all Member States as set out in the Treaties."

And possibly as a result of that Donald Tusk, has been busy telling us that we can have a lengthy extension to Article 50.

Now, if we end up stupidly extending Article 50, then we will still be in the EU and still have to abide by EU law totally – so who would you bet on winning that particular little spat – Theresa May or the Eurocrats. Unless she's angling to be forced to hold them of course?

But I was amazed to hear, unless I'm mistaken, the barrister and shadow Brexit Secretary and former Director of Public Prosecutions and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer, suggesting that the UK could somehow get around that election requirement.

We really are ruled by those who would like to see us living in the post democratic age, aren't we?

But I'm coming round to a different view. One that is completely unsupported by any law that I've seen, but I think is the most sensible approach.

If Article 50 is extended beyond the last date on which an EU election must be called to be legal in the UK, using the previous now repealed legislation as a guide, then we should plan to hold EU elections just in case it gets further delayed.

That would give them only four weeks to sort it all out. Another tight timeline for the Remainers to fight – what d'you reckon?

Actually don't tell anyone! As, once they've past that date without calling the elections, they can't be held and we can't say in the EU!

Anyway, all is not lost for Brexiteers. The government still has control, just, and no-deal is still on the table and the default position is, for another week at least, that we leave without a deal, or more precisely on WTO terms at 11 pm on the 29th March 2019.

And there is already talk that Theresa May could well wheel out the coffin clad deal again after the 20th, or even leave it to Monday the 25th March.

That really would be her deal or no deal time!

We now need to let the dust settle tonight and, after all that, I need a drink!

So, please let us all know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Thank you for watching.


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