Given Theresa May’s largely meaningless ‘Brexit means Brexit’ refrain, any new pronouncement on Britain’s departure from the EU is treated like gold dust. But Keir Starmer fell into the trap of thinking Brexit minister David Jones’ opening remarks today had offered up a bigger morsel than they actually had. Jones confirmed, as Theresa May has already made clear, that Parliament will vote on the Brexit deal. He said, too, that the vote would cover the future trading relationship between Britain and the EU, which had not previously been known. And the Commons was also told some more details on the timing of the vote, which will come, Jones confirmed, before the European Parliament gets its say on the final Brexit plan. Here’s what Brexit Minister David Jones said:
‘We intend that the vote will cover not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union. Furthermore, I can confirm that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded, and we expect and intend that this will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.’
Starmer – who spoke of Labour’s Brexit pain last week – described the announcement as a ‘huge and very important concession’. This wasn’t quite true and as Ken Clarke, who was rather shrewder in his reaction said, MPs should be wary of ‘instantly leaping on’ a concession. In reality, Jones’ announcement was less a concession than a cover for Tory MPs to now fall back into line. In making it clear Parliament will have a full say on the final Brexit deal, the Government is hoping it can stave off a rebellion for now and ensure that the fringe of backbench MPs considering voting against the Government today might be tempted not to do so.