The Week That Almost Ended May

In what has been an exceptional week in British politics, here is the rundown of everything you need to know

Copyright: BBC

Chaos in British politics is nothing new for the British people, but this week has shown to be the most chaotic in recent years. 

Starting the week off with a bang, Theresa May called off the crucial vote on her Brexit deal so that she could go back to Brussels and try to renegotiate the heavily disliked deal. With what had been a planned 5 days of debate, before a vote on whether the house approves the deal, Parliamentarians were outraged to see her seemingly pull the vote last minute as it looked likely she was set to lose. As of yet, we are unsure when this vote will take place. In the chamber the government has said that the vote will take place ‘tomorrow’, however, this does not actually mean tomorrow. On the same day, tensions in the house brought Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle to grab the mace from the dispatch box, before being excluded from the chamber. Why is this in any way significant? Without the mace, Parliament cannot lawfully meet, debate or pass laws. 

Describing it as a “spur of the moment” act, the MP for Brighton Kemptown said he was protesting because the Tories were riding “roughshod over the principle of parliamentary democracy” by pulling the “meaningful vote”.

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Brexit Vote Explained:
To begin the next stage of the Brexit process, Theresa May has to get Parliament’s approval on the negotiated deal she had achieved with the EU. The ‘meaningful vote’ was set to take place on the 11th December following 5 days of debate, the 5 days ensured that all MPs from across the House would be able to have their say in the process. During this time it was clear that Theresa May could not find support within the DUP, the party she relies on in a confidence and supply deal to prop up her minority government, to help pass anything through Parliament. The Prime Minister also lacked support from her own party, and after days of debate and countless MPs telling the Prime Minister to go back to Brussels, instead of having a vote she was sure to lose, Theresa May, as instructed by many in the previous days debating, went back to Brussels to begin her attempts to renegotiate elements of the deal. 

Wednesday: The big day.
The total number of letters required to enact a confidence vote in Theresa May hit 48, and so began a very tough and uneasy time for the Prime Minister. With the PM facing the commons and Corbyn at PMQs, this was the time we would all have understood if she had sent Amber Rudd instead. But being the strong woman she is, she stood at the dispatch box and shone through the testing environment. Corbyn, in the face of the situation, missed an open goal, as usual. The Prime Minister ended the debate with a strong grin on her face, despite deafening calls that she wouldn’t be PM  by the end of the day. By 6pm Conservative MPs placed their votes on whether they had confidence in their leader to continue and at 9pm, the votes were in and Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, declared that Theresa May had won the vote 200-117. It is worth noting that her majority in support has increased, but this has, nevertheless, not ended calls for her resignation. Key Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg argued that night that she had not secured a majority. For him, it would seem 52% gives a mandate to govern, whereas 63% does not. 

What does this mean for Brexit?
The pulling of the vote means that the Prime Minister will take the only negotiated deal we currently have with the EU back to Brussels in an attempt to re-negotiate aspects that have left MPs from across the house unhappy with the deal. The leadership vote, however, does little to affect Brexit and the situation we see ourselves in. It shows that if we are to move forward in any way with the process of leaving the European Union Theresa May must win support from her own backbenchers, and those on the opposition. Like the country, Parliament is just as divided. 

What does this mean for Theresa May?
Although she did indeed win the vote of confidence, she is no way in a more comfortable situation than Monday. Thursday she confirmed that she would not lead the Conservative party into another election, having heard clearly the calls from her party. Staunch Brexiteer and backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg argued that this is, “a terrible result” and “she should meet with the Queen and resign immediately”. He believes that a majority of 63% isn’t a mandate, whereas a majority of 52% is. 160 of the MPs are on the government payroll, meaning that they will have some support or loyalty to the Prime Minister, and therefore JRM argues that she only achieved less than 1/3rd of support from her backbenchers. She may have won the vote,  therefore removing any more challenges to her leadership from her party over the next year, but this does not make her ride over the next few months any easier, without a majority in Parliament and many of her own MPs deeply unhappy with the deal, we aren’t likely to see any progress anytime soon. 

The Prime Minister has today returned to Brussels to seek clarifications with the EU on the nature of aspects in the deal. It is hoped that these clarifications will help win over MPs sceptical of the deal. Footage of a tense exchange between the Prime Minister and the European Union President from the EU’s summit is said to be of Mrs May confronting Junker about comments he recently made in the press. One thing the summit has brought is some clarity. The EU27 has welcomed commitments to get a new trade deal completed quickly so that the backstop would need be needed.  The meaningful vote will be brought to Parliament before 21st Jan, still, nevertheless, there is confusion. May has seemingly gone home empty-handed and there is a clear negative tone and tension between the UK and EU. 

So, what now?
Now that the Conservative party has finished their squabble over their leadership and is forced to put such ideas to bed, the Prime Minister has returned to Brussels to attend an EU summit. Seeking legally binding pledges from EU leaders on the “backstop” – the plan to avoid a return to a manned Northern Ireland border, it would seem that she hasn’t achieved absolute clarity for all, but is that ever to be expected? Opposers of the backstop argue that ‘the plan will keep the UK tied to EU rules indefinitely and curb its ability to strike trade deals’. It is unlikely that the EU will renegotiate the backstop, however, they have agreed to greater assurances on its temporary nature. MPs will, at some point most likely in the new year, vote on the deal proposed.

A week is a long time in politics, and it would now seem a day is even 

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