By Henry Bird
Continued from Part 1.
15th November 2018
MPs continue their questions, raising many similar points merely to get in Hansard. Outside the Commons, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg spoke to Dominic Raab, who claimed that the EU has been ‘blackmailing the UK’. German Chancellor Angela Merkel adds her voice to the supportive chorus currently coming from the EU, and has issued a very optimistic and diplomatic statement, saying that she is “very happy” thus far, acknowledging that ‘this is work in progress’ but that there is “an agreement on the table.”
In contrast, both Sadiq Khan and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have expressed disappointment over the deal, with Khan suggesting a second vote, and Nicola Sturgeon going as far as to question why Scottish ministers hadn’t resigned in protest, including Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.
While Mrs May continues answering in a confident and rapid-fire style in the Commons, a European Research Group (ERG) meeting has begun, but with notable guest Boris Johnson, who was very quiet during the session in the Commons. There is growing talk of a split in the ERG, as members contemplate whether to just vote down the deal or hand in letters of no confidence. Thumps of fists on desks are heard as Rees-Mogg finishes his speech to the ERG.
Ken Clarke MP, father of the House, said that this is “the most extreme situation I’ve ever seen in Parliament.”
Further resignations too, Ranil Jayawardena is gone as a Private Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, citing many of the same reasons as his counterparts. Numbness to these resignations is creeping in. This proves Ken Clarke correct; he recently said on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, that this is “the most extreme situation I’ve ever seen in Parliament.” And he’s been there for 48 years.
Michael Gove, who had been conspicuously quiet up until now, has turned down the position of Brexit Secretary. This amid rumours that the Department for Exiting the EU is being downgraded, or even dissolved.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has been giving a speech outside Parliament saying that he is not the leader of a “coup,” just minutes after he hands in his letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister. Instead, he insists he is following ‘legitimate procedures’ to oust the PM, as ‘what has happened today is not Brexit’, and that an ‘opportunity is being thrown away’. He said that he is ‘not offering [his] name as leader’, instead referring to ‘streams of talent in the Conservative Party’ and suggesting one of the following: Boris Johnson, David Davis, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey or Penny Mordaunt. Sir Alan Duncan, another long-serving Conservative MP, decried his speech as ‘absurd’ and ‘deeply destructive’.
In the meantime, tweets have flooded in from MPs with pictures of their letters of no confidence. Some of them are very edgy and photogenic. There has been a suggestion that if 48 letters go in today then an official confidence vote could happen as soon as Tuesday 20th.
On the continent, Poland’s Prime Minister said that ‘he is pleased’ with the agreement as a whole, and that he is looking forward to ‘confirming the package of agreements between Great Britain and the EU’.
However, this side of the Channel, the Bank of England governor Mark Carney has ordered all the UK’s biggest banks in for discussions regarding the day’s fluctuations of the pound and market uncertainty.
The overriding voice from MPs as they left the Commons was a prediction of some combination of the following; that Theresa May would be ousted, that the deal wouldn’t get through the Commons, that the question should be returned to the people or we should not strike a deal at all.
The Prime Minister’s press conference has begun and in a defiant tone. She echoed much of what she had already said when replying to questions in the Commons. She defended the deal staunchly, saying “I believe in my deal with every fibre of my being” and “If we do not move forward with this agreement, nobody can know for sure the consequences that will follow. It would be to take a path of deep and grave uncertainty.” She also looked to defend herself against a potential Vote of No Confidence saying “Am I going to see this through? Yes,” but she still seemed to recognise how tumultuous the day had been for her government, diplomatically saying “My colleagues must do what they believe to be right.”
With the day calming down, the Financial Times reports that the pound has begun to recover against both the dollar and the euro following Mrs May’s defiant performance in the last hour.
On the continent, prominent EU leaders were quick to draw a line under the Withdrawal Agreement and work on from there, with Merkel saying there is ‘no chance’ of restarting negotiations. Perhaps this is what triggered the Prime Minister’s refusal to let Michael Gove become the new Brexit Secretary-he wanted to scrap the proposed deal and start negotiations afresh.
As the day draws to a close, prominent MPs have been meeting in and around Parliament, hosting cross-party discussions, and popping in and out of Downing Street, but with no official announcements. Peter Bone, the MP who verbally pummelled the Prime Minister earlier in the Commons, was seen smiling as he left Downing Street, unlike Penny Mordaunt, who left apparently ‘unhappy’ according to news outlets but still in her Cabinet job, as she was not given approval for her idea of a ‘free vote’ on the Brexit deal. The only other major updates coming in now are reports of letters of no confidence trickling in. In Ken Clarke’s words, this truly was one of “the most extreme days in Parliament” the UK has ever seen.
Jacob Rees-Mogg Image: Cantab12 via Wikimedia Commons
Sadiq Khan Image: US Embassy London via Wikimedia Commons
Bank of England Image: Txllxt TxllxT via Wikimedia Commons
Penny Mordaunt Image: HM Government via Wikimedia Commons