Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn introduced an allegedly binding bill in Parliament today that would have theoretically prevented a No Deal Brexit.
The cross-party bill was to let Parliament take control of the Brexit process on June 25 that supposedly would have prevented a No Deal Brexit. Conservative MP and former minister Oliver Letwin co-sponsored the bill.
Eight Labour MPs defied the Whip to vote against the bill. Another dozen abstained. 10 Tory Remainers also defied the Whip. The result was a 309-298 defeat of the measure.
Despite the measure being allegedly binding, the legal default position remained the same. Brexit happens on October 31 unless the UK asks for an extension one more time, and the EU accepts the request.
The measure supposedly would have forced the next PM to ask for another extension, but there is no way in practice to make that happen.
Let's now turn to some clips from the Guardian Live Blog.
Tory Dominic Grieve Threatens to Bring Down the Government
If we get to a point where a prime minister is intent on doing this [taking the UK out of the EU without a deal], the only way of stopping that prime minister would be to bring down that prime minister’s government.
And I simply have to say here and now I will not hesitate to do that if that is what is attempted, even if it means my resigning the whip and leaving the party. I will not allow this country to be taken out of the EU on a no-deal Brexit without the approval of this house, in my view going back to the country and asking them if that is what they want.
So me, desiring the best for my party, as a loyal member of it, as far as I’m concerned, this is probably the last opportunity to have a sensible way of influencing the outcome.
I disagree on most things with [Jeremy Corbyn], I disagree fundamentally with every tenet of his philosophical outlook. But I have to say it is the only opportunity we’ve got. And I’m not going to spend my time talking to children or grandchildren later on saying, ‘When it came to it, I just decided to give up.’ I won’t do that.
Please consider Whips.
Whips are MPs or Members of the House of Lords appointed by each party in Parliament to help organize their party's contribution to parliamentary business. One of their responsibilities is making sure the maximum number of their party members vote, and vote the way their party wants.
Every week, whips send out a circular (called 'The Whip') to their MPs or Lords detailing upcoming parliamentary business. Special attention is paid to divisions (where members vote on debates), which are ranked in order of importance by the number of times they are underlined.
Important divisions are underlined three times - a 'three-line whip' - and normally apply to major events like the second readings of significant Bills.
Defying a three-line whip is very serious, and has occasionally resulted in the whip being withdrawn from an MP or Lord. This means that the Member is effectively expelled from their party (but keeps their seat) and must sit as an independent until the whip is restored.
Defying the Whip
- Here is the Commons division list showing the MPs who backed the cross-party motion. They included 10 Conservatives who were defying the government whip: Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe), Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon), Justine Greening (Putney), Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield), Sam Gyimah (East Surrey), Phillip Lee (Bracknell), Oliver Letwin (West Dorset), Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury), Caroline Spelman (Meriden).
- And here is the list of MPs who voted against. They included eight Labour MPs who were defying the whip: Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow), Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), John Mann (Bassetlaw), Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton).
Grieve threatened to bring down the government.
Tory MPs voting against the next Prime Minister would immediately be outed from the party.
They would lose their seats in the next election. Not many will be willing to do that. Perhaps Grieve would.
However, there would likely be a number of Labour party members who also would be willing to do the same thing. It is not at all clear how a vote of Vote of No Confidence would go.
Vote of No Confidence
Corbyn might not even make a motion of No Confidence. Although Corbyn wants an election, it is not clear if he wants one now.
In addition to the eight Labour MPs who defied the Whip in today's vote, there were 10 abstentions. Total them up and you have 18 potential MPs who likely do not want to bring down the government right now.
Even assuming a no confidence motion succeeds and there are elections, the outcome is hardly certain.
Boris Johnson is far more popular than Corbyn and many in the Labour party are pro Brexit.
Prepare for No Deal
Labour is likely to get clobbered were an election to be held soon, assuming a no confidence vote succeeded.
It is possible, if not likely, that the Brexit party would win the election outright or a huge Tory/Brexit Party alliance would emerge.
A far better chance for Corbyn is to let No Deal happen, hope for a recession, then bring down the government.
For all these reasons, the odds of a No Deal Brexit is increasingly likely.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock