WATCH: Barclay opposes “a long extension rather than No Deal”

He would accept a “short technical extension”, “but if we don’t have a deal then we should leave with No Deal”.

This Parliamentary farce reveals how much our political class has been infantilised

I expected a Leave victory to be a profound shock and challenge to politicians. They have struggled to adapt even more than I anticipated.

I expected a Leave victory to come as a severe shock, and a fundamental psychological as well as political challenge, to many people in Westminster. The prospect of millions of voters bluntly intruding on an echo chamber, to overturn what some had assumed to be a permanent consensus so obviously correct that it was mad to even question it, was never going to be easy.

So I never thought that accepting the outcome, adapting to it, implementing it and then moving beyond it would be simple or brief, particularly for the MPs who would have to actually put it into practice. It would produce grief, and rage, and at worst those emotions would be made flesh in abuse targeted at voters and attempts to obstruct Brexit. Even at best, we would still have to go through a discomforting period in which we discovered the degree to which the Parliamentary establishment had been infantilised by years of giving away Westminster’s powers.

Even I did not anticipate the severity of the problems which a Leave vote would expose, however. Just look at the state Parliament is in.

A Speaker who ignores the conventions of the House when it suits him, then refuses arbitrarily to table amendments he dislikes. Ministers who disobey three-line whips, but expect to retain office. A Secretary of State summing up in favour of a motion, then voting against it. A Prime Minister who promises the House and the nation something more than 50 times then proposes the opposite. A Commons that votes to trigger a timed and definite Article 50 process, then spends much of the period in question bemoaning the possibility of its own decision coming to pass. A House of Lords which disregards its constitutional limits to prioritise its own desires. Politicians who vote to hold a referendum, then pledge to honour its outcome, only to campaign ardently to run it all again – and who then won’t vote to do so when their own proposal comes before the Commons. The term “meaningful vote” being coined, then applied to votes which can be – and are – ignored and run repeatedly.

And that’s just the last few weeks. The wider picture of Parliamentary politics is little better. The Government’s mishandling of the EU negotiations, the Opposition’s endlessly shifting view of what it supposedly wants to happen, radical independents striking out for more democracy while refusing to hold by-elections, Eurosceptics blundering from one strategic mis-step to another…

All the while, the citizens who combined to deliver the biggest vote for anything in our nation’s history are left wondering why it is so hard simply to keep a promise.

They might, as some have suggested, take their votes elsewhere, potentially even to troubling and extreme opportunists, but the real tragedy is that many may simply give up voting. It breaks my heart to think of the people on whose doors I knocked, who told me there was no point voting – that politicians would never listen, and would never allow the electorate to get what they wanted rather than what MPs believed they needed. I argued that voting counted in our country, that if enough people voted then Westminster would have to listen. And yet now, years later, many MPs are still doing their level best to avoid doing so, and others who at least want to keep their promises are nonetheless failing to get the job done.

The more desperately politicians thrash and kick, and twist and bend, in the desperate hope of getting what they want, and damn honour, voters or consequences, the more harm they do to the fabric and reputation of our democracy. Some cannot see that, which is bad enough, but some surely can and do not care, which is far worse.

The continuity Remain response to this, of course, is that we should cancel Brexit. That due to the damage threatened by their insistence that they must get what they want at all costs, they should…get what they want. How much easier, they argue, to simply creep back under the EU’s wing, where all these troubling questions and shameful shortfalls would never have to be considered again.

That isn’t a serious or viable answer. Ignoring problems does not make them go away, it simply allows them to fester out of sight. Anyone who saw the rise of anti-politics in the decade preceding the referendum, and then the outcome of the referendum result itself, should realise that stripping Westminster of responsibilities has deepened rather than banished popular dissatisfaction with sub-par Members of Parliament. The more you treat people – MPs included – like children, the more they will act childishly..

The Leave vote was the first true increase in responsibility for British Parliamentarians in at least 40 years. It has proved to be a bigger shock to their system than many people expected, and many of our politicians – and the structures around them – have struggled to adapt to it. I suspect that few people, beyond perhaps Dominic Cummings, had realised how far things had declined.

None of this amounts to a case against democratic self-government. If anything, it shows the consequences of releasing a political class from many of the demands and challenges of proper responsibility and accountability. If you started a diet and a workout regime, but found out you weighed more and were more out of shape than you had thought, that wouldn’t be a reason to give up – it would be a reason to knuckle down and work harder. If our politics is struggling to adapt, we must find out why, and set it right.

The 187 Tory MPs, including six Cabinet Ministers, who voted against the Prime Minister’s motion to extend Article 50

Almost two thirds of the parliamentary Conservative Party opposed it, alongside the DUP and a handful of others.

Parliament has voted to extend Article 50. The ranks of the Ayes include the Prime Minister and much of her Cabinet, but by a considerable margin only a minority of the parliamentary Conservative Party.

Almost two-thirds of Tory MPs, alongside all ten Democratic Unionists and a smattering of Labour and Independent MPs, voted against extension.

So too did six Secretaries of State: Steve Barclay, Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss, and Gavin Williamson. Andrea Leadsom, who attends Cabinet in her role as Leader of the House, also voted against. Alun Cairns voted in both lobbies to register what is known as a ‘positive abstention’.

The full list is below. Not included are Peter Bone and Will Wragg, who served as tellers and bring the true total up to 189.

  • Nigel Adams
  • Adam Afriyie
  • Lucy Allan
  • David Amess
  • Stuart Andrew
  • Richard Bacon
  • Kemi Badenoch
  • Steve Baker
  • Harriet Baldwin
  • Stephen Barclay

 

  • John Baron
  • Henry Bellingham
  • Jake Berry
  • Bob Blackman
  • Crispin Blunt
  • Ben Bradley
  • Graham Brady
  • Suella Braverman
  • Jack Brereton
  • Andrew Bridgen

 

  • Fiona Bruce
  • Alex Burghart
  • Conor Burns
  • William Cash
  • Maria Caulfield
  • Rehman Chishti
  • Christopher Chope
  • Jo Churchill
  • Colin Clark
  • Simon Clarke

 

  • James Cleverly
  • Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
  • Damian Collins
  • Robert Courts
  • Tracey Crouch
  • Chris Davies
  • David TC Davies
  • Glyn Davies
  • Mims Davies
  • Philip Davies

 

  • Caroline Dinenage
  • Leo Docherty
  • Michelle Donelan
  • Nadine Dorries
  • Steve Double
  • Jackie Doyle-Price
  • James Duddridge
  • Iain Duncan Smith
  • Michael Ellis
  • Charlie Elphicke

 

  • George Eustice
  • Nigel Evans
  • David Evennett
  • Michael Fabricant
  • Michael Fallon
  • Kevin Foster
  • Liam Fox
  • Mark Francois
  • Marcus Fysh
  • Nusrat Ghani

 

  • John Glen
  • Zac Goldsmith
  • Helen Grant
  • James Gray
  • Chris Grayling
  • Chris Green
  • Andrew Griffiths
  • Kirstene Hair
  • Robert Halfon
  • Luke Hall

 

  • Mark Harper
  • Rebecca Harris
  • Trudy Harrison
  • Simon Hart
  • John Hayes
  • James Heappey
  • Chris Heaton-Harris
  • Philip Hollobone
  • Adam Holloway
  • Nigel Huddleston

 

  • Eddie Hughes
  • Ranil Jayawardena
  • Bernard Jenkin
  • Andrea Jenkyns
  • Robert Jenrick
  • Boris Johnson
  • Caroline Johnson
  • Gareth Johnson
  • David Jones
  • Marcus Jones

 

  • Daniel Kawczynski
  • Julian Knight
  • Greg Knight
  • Kwasi Kwarteng
  • John Lamont
  • Pauline Latham
  • Andrea Leadsom
  • Edward Leigh
  • Andrew Lewer
  • Julian Lewis

 

  • Ian Liddell-Grainger
  • Julia Lopez
  • Jack Lopresti
  • Jonathan Lord
  • Tim Loughton
  • Craig Mackinlay
  • Rachel Maclean
  • Anne Main
  • Alan Mak
  • Kit Malthouse

 

  • Scott Mann
  • Paul Maynard
  • Stephen McPartland
  • Esther McVey
  • Mark Menzies
  • Johnny Mercer
  • Huw Merriman
  • Stephen Metcalfe
  • Amanda Milling
  • Nigel Mills

 

  • Damien Moore
  • Penny Mordaunt
  • Anne Marie Morris
  • David Morris
  • James Morris
  • Wendy Morton
  • Sheryll Murray
  • Andrew Murrison
  • Jesse Norman
  • Neil O’Brien

 

  • Matthew Offord
  • Priti Patel
  • Owen Paterson
  • Mike Penning
  • Andrew Percy
  • Chris Philp
  • Christopher Pincher
  • Mark Pritchard
  • Tom Pursglove
  • Will Quince

 

  • Dominic Raab
  • John Redwood
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • Laurence Robertson
  • Mary Robinson
  • Andrew Rosindell
  • Douglas Ross
  • Lee Rowley
  • Paul Scully
  • Grant Shapps

 

  • Chris Skidmore
  • Chloe Smith
  • Henry Smith
  • Royston Smith
  • Mark Spencer
  • Andrew Stephenson
  • Bob Stewart
  • Iain Stewart
  • Graham Stuart
  • Julian Sturdy

 

  • Rishi Sunak
  • Desmond Swayne
  • Robert Syms
  • Derek Thomas
  • Ross Thomson
  • Maggie Throup
  • Kelly Tolhurst
  • Michael Tomlinson
  • Craig Tracey
  • Anne-Marie Trevelyan

 

  • Elizabeth Truss
  • Tom Tugendhat
  • Shailesh Vara
  • Martin Vickers
  • Theresa Villiers
  • Ben Wallace
  • David Warburton
  • Matt Warman
  • Giles Watling
  • Helen Whately

 

  • Heather Wheeler
  • Craig Whittaker
  • John Whittingdale
  • Bill Wiggin
  • Gavin Williamson
  • Mike Wood
  • Nadhim Zahawi

The Commons votes to extend Article 50. The Government no longer supports leaving the EU on March 29.

Some will say that this is the day on which Brexit died. On which the politicians failed the people – and deliberately defied the referendum result.

The Government’s extension motion passes by 412 – 202.

If it is backed up by legislation, the UK will no longer leave the EU on March 29 (assuming the EU plays ball).

Theresa May’s plan is now to get her deal through by means of a Meaningful Vote Three next week – and then seek a short extension until June 30.

That could happen.

However, it is arguably just as likely that a Brexit which is extended will turn out to be a Brexit that never happens.  Some will say that this is the day on which Brexit died.  On which the politicians failed the people – and deliberately defied the referendum result.

And they may be right.

Either way, those 202 MPs will mostly be Conservatives.  We gather that Steve Barclay, Liam Fox, Liz Truss and Gavin Williamson “plus half the whips office” opposed the Government’s motion.

Full division list of Conservatives who voted for and against extension coming.

Theresa May: Why the Commons should vote for this improved Brexit deal today

We have secured legally-binding changes which address MPs’ concerns about the need to protect the UK from being stuck in the backstop against its will.

Theresa May is Prime Minister and is MP for Maidenhead.

When MPs pass through the lobbies of the House of Commons this evening, the fundamental choice they will face is whether or not to implement the decision of the British people who voted for Brexit.

I know that many ConservativeHome readers have had concerns about some of the detail of the agreement which was reached between the United Kingdom and the EU at the end of last year. But the deal that MPs will be voting on tonight is an improved Brexit deal containing crucial hard won changes.

Since the original deal was rejected in January, I have met MPs from all sides of the House. I have listened to their concerns – and I have taken those concerns to the EU, the biggest of which was that we may become trapped in the so-called backstop indefinitely. I have held more than 40 conversations with my fellow EU leaders on the telephone and in person. Along with the Attorney General and the Brexit Secretary, I have fought hard and explored every idea and avenue to secure the changes which Parliament requested.

Last night, following a face to face meeting with Jean Claude Juncker, I was able to announce that we have secured legally-binding changes which address MPs’ concerns about the need to protect the UK from being stuck in the backstop against its will.

First, there is now a legally-binding joint instrument — with comparable legal weight to the Withdrawal Agreement – which will guarantee that the EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely. If they do, it can be challenged through arbitration and if they are found to be in breach the UK can ultimately suspend the backstop.

It also includes a legally binding commitment that both sides will work to have alternative arrangements in place to replace the backstop by December 2020, so that it never needs to be used. Furthermore, it confirms that whatever replaces the backstop doesn’t need to replicate it.

And it entrenches in legally-binding form the commitments made in the exchange of letters with Presidents Tusk and Juncker in January.

Second, alongside this new joint instrument, the United Kingdom Government will make a Unilateral Declaration that if the backstop comes into use and it does not prove possible to negotiate a subsequent agreement, it is the position of the United Kingdom that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that could ultimately dis-apply the backstop.

Third, the UK and the EU have made a joint statement in relation to the Political Declaration.

It sets out a number of commitments to enhance and expedite the process of negotiating and bringing into force the future relationship. This includes beginning the work to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements immediately. There will be a specific negotiating track on alternative arrangements from the very start of the next phase of negotiations. It will consider facilitations and technologies – both those currently ready and emerging.

The UK’s position will be informed by the three domestic groups announced last week – for technical experts, MPs, and business and trade unions. I would urge MPs now to study these changes in detail in advance of the Meaningful Vote.

Back the improved deal and we are out of the EU. We will take back control. We will regain control of our laws, by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK. For the first time in decades, we will be in control of our borders – ending free movement. The days of making vast annual payments to the EU will be over.

We will be outside of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries policy — once again becoming an independent coastal state and bringing an end to the hardship inflicted upon our fishermen.

Crucially, we will have our own independent trade policy, outside of the Customs Union and able to sign ambitious deals with friends old and new.

Reject the deal, however, and we do not know what the consequences may be. We would face delay and spend months going over the same arguments again and again. We may leave without the protections for jobs and security which the deal provides. We may never leave at all.  None of those outcomes is attractive – and they run contrary to the message that I have heard time and again from people and businesses up and down the country that what they want is for MPs to get on with the job of delivering Brexit.

Now is the time to come together, bring an end to the uncertainty and get this deal done. Tonight, there is a chance to take a decisive step towards delivering on the result of the referendum and setting this country on course for a brighter future. I urge all my colleagues to take that step – and vote for this improved Brexit deal.

Nicky Morgan: Brexit. Country before Party? It’s a false choice. The country needs the governing party to deliver.

The best outcome is for the Government and its partners to deliver the majority verdict of the referendum and of the last election.

Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.

What does the ‘national interest’ now demand of MPs?

We know that Brexit is an extraordinary political process, putting unusual strain on our party political system and our constitution. We also know that the stakes are getting higher, as March 29th gets closer.

Whatever one thinks about leaving the EU, it cannot be denied that it represents a fundamental change in relations with our nearest neighbours and our trading relationships with the world. Some people think that this change is long overdue, whilst others regret that it is happening at all. The issues are so important that the phrase ‘the national interest’ is being used more and more to argue that various matters relating to Brexit are or are not ‘in the national interest’.

I’ve no doubt that all MPs and Ministers believe that the Brexit path that they are treading is in this interest. Who goes into politics to act against it? And I’ve also no doubt that those who say they are putting Country before Party also sincerely believe that. Ultimately, I’ve no doubt that we all believe we should put country first, constituency second and party last (whatever the whips might say).

But given the very different Brexit scenarios and possible outcomes on offer, how can we all be right? Which option (or perhaps combination of options) can really be said to be in the national interest? Is this why it is easier to know what each of us is against in terms of Brexit than what each of us is in favour of? Is it easier to rule something out as being against the national interest, rather than to say confidently: ‘doing x is definitely in the national interest’?

After the first Meaningful Vote, and the inability of both main Party Leaders to seriously embrace proper cross-party talks, it became clear to me that everyone was going to have to compromise if we are to get a Withdrawal Agreement over the line. And that means we have to start to see that each of us might not have the only answer to what is in the national interest.

I’ve explained elsewhere why I agreed to be part of the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. And I’m now part of the Alternative Arrangements Working Group which spent over six hours with Steve Barclay last week, examining what the alternatives to the backstop might be, as demanded by the Brady amendment.

In the interests of finding that answer, let us then think what the national interest might demand. As Conservatives, we are surely in favour of a stable country with a well-functioning Government able to pass its Budget and its legislation. We want a system of representative democracy which retains the confidence of the electorate. We want to support businesses and entrepreneurs. We want a strong security and defence system. We want a strong economy, and a tax system which allows people to keep as much of the money they earn as possible subject to properly funding a welfare safety net and our public services. We support incremental change, not radical policy moves.

To me, all this would tend to suggest that the best outcome is that the Government remains in control of the Brexit process, and is able to deliver its biggest policy objective and necessary legislation with the support of a majority of its own MPs (and confidence and supply partners too) – thus fulfilling the majority verdict of the referendum and the last general election; implementing a policy which mitigates any economic damage caused by a big change in our trading relationships, and supporting businesses to carry on doing what they do,  and our security and defence forces to carry on doing what they do, too. This surely is what the national interest now demands of its MPs.

Hunt loses pole position in our Cabinet League Table as overall ratings languish

The Chief Whip has enjoyed something of a boost from last month’s victories on crucial votes, but the overall picture reflects a settled disenchantment.

Our last survey of 2018 revealed a Cabinet whose standing with the membership had scarcely recovered from the previous month, where we recorded our lowest-ever results since we started posing this question.

Has the New Year ushered in any re-appraisals or revivals of fortune? Alas, no.

  • Still 14 ministers with negative scores… And no change in the membership of that unhappy band, either: the Cabinet’s Remainers continue to predominate at the lower end of the table.
  • …but Smith almost breaks out. That the Chief Whip remains in the red doesn’t completely eclipse an impressive rebound, from -34.4 to just -3.8. Perhaps this is an outworking of the Government’s unexpectedly strong performance in those crucial Brexit votes – let’s see how this score fares after Valentine’s Day.
  • The rise of Leadsom continues. Last month we suggested that the Leader of the House’s big leap up the ranks might be a product of our readers’ loathing for John Bercow. If so, that well runs deep as she is up almost nine points and breaks into the top three.
  • Cox takes the top spot… But he does so whilst going backwards. Last time he was second-ranked with over 55 per cent, today he scoops the gold with less than 49.
  • Hunt loses his place on the podium. The Foreign Secretary records a serious fall, from over 60 to less than 42. We suspect this may be related to his becoming one of the most senior Cabinet members to float the idea of an Article 50 extension.
  • Javid falls into the mid-table. A loss of ten points takes the Home Secretary out of contention for the top three, reducing him to eighth place.
  • Are the non-Cabinet posts a barometer? Interestingly, both Paul Davies and Ruth Davidson have suffered some decline in their scores, despite neither featuring in any major stories and indeed the latter being on maternity leave.

WATCH: Marr asks if Barclay misled the nation over the Withdrawal Agreement vote

The Brexit Secretary insists that when he previously said it would definitely happen, “that was the Government position at the time”.

The first department to need boosting post-March. The Treasury? Business? Transport? No: Northern Ireland.

The challenge to “our precious union” will be as much constitutional as economic – Deal, No Brexit…or No Deal especially.

Liz Truss wants to merge three smaller departments into a bigger one in the wake of the spending review.  Business, Culture and Transport would be folded into a new Ministry of Infrastructure.  B.I.S.C.U.I.T.S lives!

More prosaically, there is a danger, in weighing up the idea – the Chief Secretary believes bold measures are needed to raise productivity – of confusing three different though linked aims.

The first is saving taxpayers’ money through more efficient administration.  Amalgamating departments can help to achieve this end.  But it is always possible to find savings within the present set-up.  For example, Jeremy Hunt cut staff costs in one of those departments, Culture, by the best part of half, during his term as Secretary of State under the Coalition.

The second is restructuring departments to deliver political priorities.  Again, this shouldn’t be Mission Impossible.  However, it can go wrong.  The classic example is Harold Wilson’s Department of Economic Affairs, a “department of long-term go” created to balance the Treasury, the “department of short-term stop”.  Led by George Brown, it fought the Treasury.  The Treasury fought back, under Jim Callaghan.  Short-term stop is still with us and long-term go left very quickly.

The third is signalling priorities through ministerial appointments.  Consider the department at the head of the Chief Secretary’s list, Business.  Gordon Brown galvanised it by sending in a big hitter, Peter Mandelson.  David Cameron responded by appointing another as his shadow – Ken Clarke.

In that particular case, structural changes were made.  (Mandelson’s new department gained responsibility for universities.)  But these aren’t always desirable or even necessary.  By way of illustration, we offer a post-March 29 example.

If Theresa May’s deal eventually passes the Commons, Great Britain and Northern Ireland will have different regulatory regimes, assuming the backstop eventually kicks on.  Some argue that the two parts of the UK will potentially have different customs arrangements too.  This aspect of the deal has knock-on implications for Scotland, and therefore the Union, as a whole.

In the event of No Deal, it is possible that support for Irish unity and/or Scottish independence will grow faster than would otherwise be the case.  There is no way of knowing.  But Unionists should be alive to the possibility.  Relations with Ireland would certainly be tested in these circumstances, with an obvious read-across for Northern Ireland.  Whatever happens, we have paid for neglecting them.

In short, the latter will need a senior Tory player as Secretary of State when the next Cabinet reshuffle comes.  That person will need to know the Irish political scene, be on civil terms with the DUP and have a feel for how the island ticks.

Our suggestion is David Lidington.  He won’t be top of the DUP’s Christmas card list, but the party knows him well from his time as David Cameron’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, and vice-versa.  As a former Europe Minister he is familiar with the Irish side of the political equation: indeed, he has already been operating, in effect, as Theresa May’s emissary to Dublin.

Meanwhile, it follows that his replacement in the Cabinet Office would be tasked, as Lidington now is, with establishing how the whole UK can best work post-March 29.  In the event of No Deal, the challenge will be obvious – testing the UK Governance Group, presently charged with constitutional matters, to its limits.  In the event of No Brexit, it will be more subtle, but still present.

Our reflex is to send for Michael Gove when new thinking and action are required.  Perhaps we yield to it too readily.  And in any event, he can’t be everywhere.  Who else fits the bill?  Required: energy, brains, eloquence, seriousness and a passionate attachment to the Union.  These qualities are not in long supply.

The bold solution would be to send for a rising politician who has all five.

Rory Stewart is a Scot representing an English borders seat who is across the independence issue, having campaigned against it fervently in 2015.  He would not, repeat not, be Scottish or Welsh Secretary – any more than Lidington is now.  But a feel for what happens north of the border in particular would come in very useful.

These changes could be made without any structural change at all.  Or else DexEU could be folded into a new Department of Constitutional Affairs, with Stewart in charge, Chloe Smith staying on as the junior Minister, and perhaps a Scottish MP coming in too.

In which case, Steve Barclay could run the Cabinet Office.  Or Oliver Letwin return to do so.  Or Dominic Raab, if you prefer.  What’s that, you ask? B.I.S.C.U.I.T.S?  Well, it’s a long story.  Our theme today is shorter: mind “our precious Union”, post-March 29.