The travesty will continue for a while longer, I fear. I’m in Scotland, so this adds additional frustration, although the Scottish Government is now beginning to prepare legislation to enable another referendum on Scottish independence within the next 2-3 years. To a certain extent, the outcome of Brexit may influence opinion, although at the moment, the balance remains close to 50/50 for Scottish independence.
Now for Brexit. Alter a tumultuous week in British politics, one thing is at least clear. The UK will not be leaving the EU on 29 March. Parliament has not been able to agree anything much recently, but agreed by 413 votes to 202 that the government should request an extension of the Article 50 process. How long that extension will be and how the extra time should be used, like everything else with Brexit, is an open question. All the same outcomes are still on the table. Only four serious ones at the moment exist: accepting the existing deal (the government is having yet another vote on this next Tuesday,and some who opposed the deal this week are thinking of changing their minds to support it after all); leaving without a deal; holding a further series of indicative votes to test support for alternative deals (e.g. Norway style deal or remaining in the customs union); holding another referendum.
If I were to bet. I think the PM’s third attempt to persuade Parliament to support her current deal (Tuesday) will be very close indeed. Her hopes are pinned on the attorney-general providing fresh legal advice about the Irish backstop issue. Apparently, the UK could use the Vienna Convention to exit the Irish backstop, which might be enough to win over the Brexit hardliners and the DUP. Is so, the deal might scrape through, but it would still need a significant number of Labour votes. In the last vote on the deal, there were only 3 Labour supporters!
If the deal does not pass, the PM will still need to ask the 27 EU members to agree an extension, and they will need to agree how long the extension will be. EU leaders are now divided; some want a short extension (to 30 June); others believe there is no point to that and prefer a longer extension to 2020/21. A long delay may include a requirement for UK to hold elections for the European Parliament in May. This would leave both Conservatives and Labour open to new pro- and anti-EU parties, and the only way to break the deadlock could then result in another referendum (even though that option was rejected by a very large majority earlier this week). The probable choice would be to leave the EU with the existing deal, or remain in the EU after all!.It is estimated that the UK government has spent about a billion pounds so far negotiating the deal, preparing for no deal, etc.
The saga goes on…