How bright is Theresa May’s latest Brexit idea? Not very

Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament
Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

Theresa May’s latest bright idea is to hold another vote on her deal – but only one part of it. She wants to separate the withdrawal agreement (the legally-binding text on our actual divorce) from the political declaration (the non-binding text on the future relationship between the UK and the EU). This is not a third meaningful vote, but has been dubbed ‘MV2.5’ or ‘WA1’. A cunning plan? Well, it gets around the Speaker’s ruling about not being able to hold a vote on the same deal. And today is the last chance to meet the EU-imposed deadline for passing May’s deal that would see us exit on 22nd May.

The government reckons there is symbolic value in holding a vote on the original Brexit Day, 29th March. There is also pressure on any MP who wants to avoid a long extension. The deal was defeated by 230 in January, by 149 earlier this month, and the ‘WA’ will get better numbers today. But it will still be decisively defeated, thanks to the DUP, those Brexiteers who are more hardline than Jacob Rees-Mogg and almost every opposition MP. The only Labour MPs set to vote in favour are Kevin Barron, Caroline Flint, John Mann and Jim Fitzpatrick, as I understand it.

The idea of splitting the deal in two was raised by the Prime Minister in her meeting with Jeremy Corbyn a few days ago – and promptly rejected. There is some logic in the move: although Labour has often pointed to the backstop as a major problem with the deal, Keir Starmer now says it would have to be included. Frontbenchers may still highlight the backstop issue in interviews, but that’s largely to exploit DUP opposition to the deal.

Labour now – most of the time – acknowledges that its concerns largely relate to the political declaration. So why not approve the part we’re alright with and leave the PD vote until later? The answer is that the separation makes this “the blindest of blindfold Brexits”. Particularly now that May has promised to quit once her deal has passed, the future relationship will be defined by a Tory leadership contest that would likely put a no-dealer in charge of the next stage of Brexit.

The interesting potential spanner in the works today is an amendment (b) laid down by Labour ‘inbetweeners’ Gareth Snell and Lisa Nandy that would give parliament significant control over the future relationship. If selected (and it may not be, with few signatories and low cross-party backing), it could make a difference to the result – though still wouldn’t get the deal over the line.

A general election looks more likely than ever. But, for now, if you care about climate change and have nothing to do this weekend, Momentum has a suggestion. As explained in a piece for LabourList today, the group is coordinating rolling pickets at 40 Barclays branches across the UK. John McDonnell has called the ‘Bankrupt Climate Change’ campaign a “vital, urgent initiative” and urged all Labour members to join the action tomorrow.

Update, 9.35am: No amendments have been selected.

Sienna @siennamarla

Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

More from LabourList