By a crushing 412 - 202 tally, Parliament has just voted to ask the EU for an extension to the period that the UK remains in the EU.
Britain is scheduled to leave on the 29th of March. It has been for two years, but the negotiations - both between Prime Minister Theresa May's government and the EU, and then between the government and the rest of the UK's MPs - have proved near-completely impassible.
The only deal the PM has and will be able to secure with the EU, Parliament hates. So, with the 29th of March fast approaching, we're racing towards crashing out of the EU with no formal deal agreed.
Well, after Parliament voted for a second time against Theresa May's deal (again, the only one the EU has repeatedly said it will agree to), and then voted yesterday against letting the UK leave via a no-deal scenario under any circumstances, we're left with two real options:
1) Apply for an extension to Brexit.
2) Have a second national referendum.
Both of those are possible, and today was the vote for an extension. It having passed, the UK must go to the EU to ask that they agree to such an extension.
If the rest of the 27 EU leaders do not agree to an extension, we can't have one. So today's vote is only half the equation (or rather, 1/27th). The length of such an extension will also have to be agreed. The PM will ask for a third time Parliament to vote in favour of her deal, next week - if it passes, we'll ask for a three month extension to implement the deal. It won't. And in that case, we'll likely ask for a year.
The Irish foreign minister has said the extension process could go on to the end of 2020.
I think though that Europe will grant one, and indeed Donald Tusk, the current President of the European Council, has said he is open to a long extension.
Though, it's not at all certain. Next week the EU leaders will all meet to make its decision, and if so for how long an extension to give. Several EU leaders are understandably very annoyed with Britain and fatigued with the whole Brexit process. They also want to stand tough on defending the EU, to try and oust widespread nationalist efforts in many EU countries, in the upcoming May 2019 European Parliament elections.
So, it's not set, at all. But I still think it's likely.
So, what about a second referendum? Well, that's still down the road but on the cards, too - an extension of Brexit of course doesn't mean we can't also have a second referendum - which is what I'm in favour of. Indeed, an extension is necessary to give us the time to sort out a second referendum. Or any other type of real Brexit solution.
Will a second referendum actually happen, though? Well, I think yes, but it's going to take a lot of work and pressure.
The majority of Tories (including the PM, though she was a remainer for the original vote, of course) are committed to delivering Brexit. The right and far right of course being the biggest block in support of leaving.
It will take enormous political and activist pressure and the threat of no alternatives, or at least disastrous ones, to get enough Tories to change their mind. Though, if any situation is capable of delivering that these days, it seems to be Brexit 😳
So, it will take a lot of public, of activist pressure on the Tories. But it will also take a lot of political pressure that can realistically only come from Labour.
Now, the vast majority of the youth and progressive base in the UK are in favour of remain. A recent poll for example showed that the amount of young people that want to remain is a whopping 75%.
But, as I've written before, Labour is extremely unwilling to back a second amendment. This is for, I belive, two reasons:
Jeremy Corbyn is a secret-not-so-secret Brexiteer, and he and other (though not all) Labour leaders fear they could loose many thousands of votes if they move against Brexit.
To clarify - Corbyn has been opposed in many ways to Europe for many years, but decidedly not those that the far right mainly care about, e.g. too many foreigners coming into the country, etc. He has valid concerns about the neoliberal nature of the EU, but you don't fix that by walking away from the table where the decisions are made.
And Labour is wrong on how its support numbers would be affected - a chunk of its voters indeed would be pissed off if it worked for a second referendum, but it would get an enormous boost of confidence and energy from its progressive, youthful base if it backed a new people's vote. That same base will be deeply, and is deeply aggreaved with Labour and Corbyn for not pushing for vote number 2. He's hurting the chanes of the whole movement by not backing a second referendum.
Labour in fact said only recently it would back a new referendum, if all its other Brexit amendments failed - without being explicit to when it would push for it, what the wording would be, or any other specifics: it was all purposely vague.
Sounds like some good news, right? Well, Labour has walked that back today, as unfortunately expeted, to say they won't be pushing for a second referendum right now. An amendment was put forward in the House of Commons for both a delay and a second national vote. That, unforutnately yet predictably, got voted down.
Labour haven't said anything about whether they will totally walk back their promise for a future referendum, but their actions today is a strong sign they're commited to going in the wrong direction, at least for now.
So - the saga continues.
And a referendum still is by farrrr the most viable long term solution. We can't get a new deal with the EU. We don't want the one we have. What other options are there?
Put the situation to a people's vote, and let's see what they decide.
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