James Forsyth

One vote in it as Yvette Cooper’s bill passes

One vote in it as Yvette Cooper's bill passes
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Yvette Cooper’s bill, requiring the Prime Minister to seek an Article 50 extension to avoid no deal, has passed by 1 vote—going through all its Common stages in a single evening.  The passage of this bill at such speed even though Theresa May has said she’ll ask for an extension, is another demonstration of how committed the anti no-deal majority in parliament is.

But before these anti no-deal MPs pat themselves on the back, they should realise the limits to their action. Parliament is sovereign, but it isn’t sovereign over the EU27; and it is they who’ll decide whether to grant the UK an extension to the Article 50 process. If you wanted to be certain of avoiding no deal, you really did have to vote for the withdrawal agreement—which Yvette Cooper did not.

It is also hard not to feel uneasy about the process. As Charles Walker, the chair of the procedure committee, pointed out, if the government was rushing a bill through in an evening the House would be outraged at the lack of time for scrutiny and reflection. But because this is being done by the cross-party, backbench committee, it is being accepted. That, though, doesn’t make it right.