Brexit: New talks, same outcome?

30 January 2019

Oxford Farming Conference

CLA Director of External Affairs Tom Bartošák-Harlow provides an analysis of the latest Brexit negotiations following this week’s votes in Westminster.

Tom Bartosak-Harlow

One political commentator sought to sum up this week’s Brexit events in a single sentence “MPs have said we don’t want the car to hit the wall (no deal Brexit) but we aren’t prepared to change direction, reverse or turn the engine off.”  To put it simply this week MPs voted, in a non-legally binding vote, in favour of the UK not leaving the EU without a deal but at the same time sent the Prime Minister back to the negotiating table with a mandate to seek changes to the withdrawal agreement that the EU are saying is not open to renegotiation.

Clearly, time will tell whether the EU’s stance stands firm, especially as the threat of a no deal Brexit increases, but right now the Prime Minister while having successfully kicked the issue down the road for a couple of weeks is not significantly nearer securing a majority for her deal. Without any changes and more specifically to the Irish backstop her deal seems destined to fail.

Back in the UK, the Labour Party has declared that they would support a three-month extension to the Brexit negotiations. The official line is that this is to allow time for negotiations to be concluded, however, three months is also just about enough time to organise a General Election, which remains the number one goal of Jeremy Corbyn and the labour leadership. Another key development within Labour circles this week was that the Government only won a number of votes on issues such as an extension to Article 50 because of Labour rebels representing constituencies that voted to leave the EU not supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s call for an extension of Article 50 – without these rebels the Prime Minister would be facing a completely different scenario.

Time will tell whether the Prime Minister can find an agreement that secures the support of MPs or whether in a couple of weeks’ time MPs are looking for the brake pedal but right now it’s back to the negotiating table but only if the EU will sit down.