UK and the UN
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a guest blog, co-written by representatives from charities and NGOs, who travelled to Geneva to participate in the United Nations’ review of the UK’s record on women rights.
UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU
Philip Hammond has warned that the third vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal is MPs’ ‘final chance’ to agree the deal or they will face a long delay to the UK’s departure from the EU.
Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, who resigned in protest against the prime minister’s Brexit deal, has confirmed she now plans to vote for it this week, raising hopes that it could yet be approved. Similarly she has received a boost as Lord Trimble, who has been a strong critic of the backstop, has stated that she has secured ‘substantive changes’ to the plan. However Jim Wells, a senior Democratic Unionist, has predicted that even if the party backs Theresa May’s Brexit plan in a third Commons vote it will be defeated because of the number of Conservative rebels. Boris Johnson has urged Brexiteers to vote against the deal for the third time as he considers it does not have any ‘real’ backstop changes.
Theresa May is pinning her hopes of pushing her Brexit deal through the House of Commons in winning over the DUP in last minute talks. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s farmers have urged the DUP to back the deal.
However on Monday afternoon John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, ruled out a third vote, saying that Theresa May cannot bring her deal back to parliament without ‘substantial changes’, leading ministers to accuse the speaker of ‘sabotage’. In response, Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, has insisted the prime minister may be able to hold another vote on her Brexit deal if she agrees the terms of an art 50 extension with the EU. Meanwhile the EU has asked for clarity.
The EU is set to offer Theresa May a helping hand after her plan for a new meaningful vote was derailed, by formally agreeing on a new delayed Brexit date at this week’s summit and keeping it on offer until shortly before midnight on 29 March. Meanwhile the prime minister’s spokesman has stated that Theresa May believes the UK has slid into political crisis, and has confirmed she will be writing to EU leaders to request a delay to Brexit. Despite the EU stance hardening on this, with France ruling out an automatic extension, Theresa May has written to them on this basis, but the length of delay to be asked for has caused a split in Cabinet, also reported in the Financial Times. This has led Jean-Claude Juncker to raise the prospect of an emergency summit of EU leaders next week to decide on a Brexit delay, blaming ongoing chaos in Theresa May’s cabinet.
Parliament’s magazine, The House, has interviewed Nigel Dodds, leader of the DUP at Westminster, who has stated that his party will not waver on its red lines.
At a summit in Brussels on Thursday, EU leaders are likely to tell Theresa May that she must decide by mid-April whether to extend Brexit until 2020 or risk leaving in three months without a deal.
In a speech from Downing Street, Theresa May addressed the country, stating that the public has ‘had enough’ of the political in-fighting which has left her Brexit strategy in tatters and the UK barely a week away from leaving the bloc without a deal. This blaming of MPs for the Brexit stalemate has prompted a backlash from MPs, with Dominic Grieve stating that he has ‘never been more ashamed’ to be a Conservative. Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative1922 committee, has reportedly told Theresa May that MPs want her to stand down over her handling of Brexit.
A People’s Vote march is planned for 23rd March, with campaign organisers claiming two hundred coaches have been booked to take people to London, and that the march will exceed the size of last October’s rally, when it was claimed 700,000 turned up.
At the EU summit, the EU is planning its next move in the face of the lack of clarity over Brexit caused by the UK’s uncertainty. However it has been adopting contingency measures for a no-deal scenario.
Following the prime minister’s speech to the public and trip to Brussels, the EU has taken over the Brexit timetable, giving Theresa May until the 12th April to get her deal passed, with a third vote on the deal likely next week. If it passes the UK will stay a member state until 22nd May to allow necessary withdrawal legislation to be passed; if it does not pass the Government will be able to seek a longer extension during that period if it can both ‘indicate a way forward’ and agree to hold European elections.
Remain ministers have warned the Prime Minister that they are prepared to quit unless she gives them a free vote on a new backbench bid to stop no deal.
Officials have stated that Britain’s armed forces have set up a team in a nuclear-proof bunker underneath the Ministry of Defence as part of preparations for a no-deal Brexit, meaning they will be ready to be deployed to take on roles such as helping to transport food, fuel and other goods.