On 10 December, Jeremy Corbyn called an emergency debate in parliament after Theresa May ‘deferred’ the meaningful vote on her Brexit deal. By 11 December, he also led four opposition parties in a call to place May in contempt of parliament for her actions. And this came less than a week after the Conservative government was found in contempt of parliament. Just hours after this, other signatories have called on Corbyn to issue a vote of no confidence in May.
A pack of cards…
On 11 December – the day parliament was due to have the meaningful vote on Brexit – MPs from five parties sent a letter stating that May ran away “from a heavy defeat” in the Commons.
Signed by Corbyn, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, the SNP’s Ian Blackford, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts, the letter accuses May of “robbing Parliament of the opportunity to express its view”. Tellingly, the DUP didn’t sign.
Referring to the way May delayed the meaningful vote, the letter says:
We believe that this deferral shows a contempt for parliament.
Breaking: Opposition parties have accused the PM of showing contempt for Parliament over the postponed Brexit vote, & set out five Qs for the PM to answer, inc calling on Theresa May to confirm that her deal is dead and that the revised proposal will be substantially different pic.twitter.com/ng3lITlrS1
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— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) December 11, 2018
The Commons was also granted permission for an emergency debate over the “government’s management of the meaningful vote”:
Here is the text of today’s emergency debate. As per standing orders it is a “motion that the House has considered the specified matter”.
The House doesn’t vote on the motion. pic.twitter.com/wlhAFDV7kw
— PARLY (@ParlyApp) December 11, 2018
These measures are set to damage May’s fragile position even further. However, the outcome of an emergency debate isn’t binding:
Update: MPs don’t usually vote on these motions but CAN do so if it is pushed to a division. The vote has no effect.
— PARLY (@ParlyApp) December 11, 2018
Yet despite a momentary show of unity from opposition parties, it only took a few hours for things to crumble.
Shortly after signing this letter, the other signatories issued a letter to Corbyn insisting he placed a vote of no confidence in May:
— Plaid Cymru (@Plaid_Cymru) December 11, 2018
The letter calls on Corbyn to join a vote of no confidence in May. It also states:
We note recent comments from members of your shadow cabinet that it is impossible to table more than one motion of confidence in a calendar year. This is incorrect because it is a misunderstanding of parliamentary procedure.
This move is backed by Lucas:
Today we've written to @jeremycorbyn – a friend, & we share long-standing commitment to tackling inequality
For sake of UK security, wellbeing & prosperity, Labour must table no confidence motion in this failing Govt.
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) December 11, 2018
The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon had already called on Corbyn to make this move:
So @jeremycorbyn – if Labour, as official opposition, lodges motion of no confidence in this incompetent government tomorrow, @theSNP will support & we can then work together to give people the chance to stop Brexit in another vote. This shambles can’t go on – so how about it?
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 10, 2018
However, as some Labour MPs pointed out, a vote of no confidence at this point may not succeed:
People asking why @UKLabour not supporting an immediate no-confidence in govt. Watching the Tories rally around May this aft you can see why. We’d lose and she’d be emboldened. You get one shot at this.
— Clive Lewis (@labourlewis) December 10, 2018
Anna Soubry highlighting exactly why @UKLabour should wait until it has the numbers to win a vote of no confidence before tabling the motion. We have one chance and we need to be smart. I would love to table and win the vote tomorrow but unfortunately that's not realistic atm
— (((Dawn Butler MP))) (@DawnButlerBrent) December 10, 2018
Meanwhile, after May scuttled to Brussels, claiming she was going to seek a better deal that she’d previously said was impossible to secure, EU leaders spoke out. According to French outlet the Local, Nathalie Loiseau, France’s minister for European affairs, said:
“The withdrawal agreement is the only one possible,“… echoing previous warnings from EU leaders Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, presidents of the European Commission and European Council.
Similarly, Ann Linde, the Swedish Europe minister, said “there will be no renegotiation”. So as the UK descends further into chaos, things don’t look great for May’s deal – or leadership – anywhere.
Tick tock May
As The Canary reported, on 5 December, Labour Party chair Ian Lavery said “we’re not sure what will happen in the next day or so never mind the next week”. A “week’s a long time in politics”, he went on, but right now, even “half an hour’s a long time”.
Only a week later, and Lavery’s words have come true. Half an hour is a very, very long time in the current political shambles.
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