James Forsyth

The two problems with Dominic Grieve’s Brexit amendment

The two problems with Dominic Grieve’s Brexit amendment
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Another day, another defeat for the government—this time on Dominic Grieve’s amendment, which requires Theresa May to set out within three sitting days what she’ll do next if the meaningful vote doesn’t pass. The significance of this is that Grieve thinks that the motion the government would put down would be amendable, so MPs would be able to tell the government what they want to happen.

But what does this mean in practise? Well, the first thing to note is that there isn’t currently a majority for anything in the Commons. This suggest that no amendment—whether it be for a second referendum or Norway Plus—would be able to pass the Commons. So, the will of parliament would not be clear. The second point is that even if the Commons did tell the government what it wanted to happen, the government wouldn’t legally be required to comply: whether it would politically is another question. If Theresa May is prepared to take the UK out if the EU without a deal, then the only way the Commons could be certain of stopping that would be to remove her in a no confidence vote and replace her with someone opposed to no deal.

The other question about the events of the last 36 hours is whether they sway Tory MPs – and particularly Brexiteer ones – to vote for May’s deal. Bercow’s behaviour combined with the evidence that there is a Commons majority against no deal suggest that it would be rash to think that if the withdrawal agreement is defeated, then Britain will simply leave the EU without a deal on March 29th.