If you’re reading about a Brexit vote today you might be a little confused. Didn’t they already settle that? Well… sort of. The people voted in favor of splitting with the EU, but their High Court ruled last month that an act of Parliament might be required to formally kick things off and begin the transition. Their Supreme Court is still wrestling with precisely what that means (more on that below) but for now the first, non-binding vote has taken place and it seems that the people’s elected representatives listened to them. Brexit won in a landslide. (BBC)
MPs have voted to back the government’s plan to start formal talks on Brexit by the end of March next year.
They also supported a Labour motion calling for Parliament to “properly scrutinise” the government in its proposals for leaving the EU…
MPs backed Labour’s motion, saying the government should publish a plan and it was “Parliament’s responsibility to properly scrutinise the government” over Brexit, by 448 votes to 75 – a margin of 373.
This followed another vote over the government’s amendment to the motion, which added the proviso that its timetable for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, getting formal talks with the EU under way, should be respected.
MPs backed this by 461 votes to 89 – a margin of 372.
This is still being described as a “non-binding” vote in the House of Commons, but it essentially formalizes what was already going on. The new Prime Minister forced the move in what the British press was calling an effort to call the bluff of the Remain (or “Europhile”) MPs in a vote asking if they would “respect the will of the British people.” It also sets a date for the Article 50 process to being… March 31st of next year. That’s barely three months from now, so they’ll want to get the plain to “scrutinize” the effects of the plan on Great Britain in place pretty quickly.
So what happens next? A long drawn out process from the sound of it. There’s a Supreme Court case being heard at the same time that the vote was held which deals entirely with the Prime Minister. They are considering whether Theresa May can ignore the non-binding vote and trigger Article 50 using what’s called the Royal Prerogative. They may also determine that she can (or perhaps even must) call for yet another vote – this time a binding one – to begin the proceedings. (The Telegraph)
The Supreme Court will rule on whether or not Mrs May must seek a binding vote in Parliament before she tells Brussels that she has formally triggered Article 50 and that negotiations have started.
If the Supreme Court rules against her, that vote would give MPs an opportunity to block Brexit by voting against the Government.
It means that Mrs May will need an Article 50 Act of Parliament, which will also have to be passed by the House of Lords.
It all still looks inevitable, but much like in the United States, the politics may wind up throwing sand in the gears as far as the timing goes. If the court rules in favor of the Royal Prerogative then the Prime Minister can simply declare a date for the triggering of Article 50. If they go the other way she will need yet another vote in Parliament. But given the huge margin they just received in the non-binding vote, the result should be a foregone conclusion, delayed only by the usual round of speeches by grandstanding politicians.
The odd part is that all of this sound and fury doesn’t really accomplish anything official. All the trigger date does is formally notify the EU of the UK’s intentions and begin the negotiations. That will likely run well into 2018 so this ride has a long way to go before it’s over.