It’s the final (Brexit) countdown, diddle oooh dooo…
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And so it begins. The end game. The final showdown. The Big One. This has been years in the making. The meaningful vote. Well, OK. Not the actual meaningful vote. Obviously. You’ll have to wait a little bit longer for that. But the debate about the meaningful vote. That’s happening this week. Three full days of it. Some of it will be gripping, scintillating and gorgeously absorbing. Much of it will be, well, less so.
Next week we’ll run the numbers with you. It’s not looking brilliant for the Prime Minister, to be honest. There are roughly 630 MPs who vote, so Theresa May needs 316 to be sure. But there are going to be some abstentions (when people don’t vote either way), so that number could be lower. Around 100 Conservative MPs have suggested they will vote against, as have the DUP, so for now, it’s looking like May has 215 votes, plus whatever from other parties. Like I say, I’ll go through the numbers in much more detail next week.
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For now, though, I’ll leave you in peace to try to build up enthusiasm for 40 hours of pure Brexit debate. Have a good week and, if you find yourself flagging, remember: you are witnessing history. And next week will be more fun.
Sunday – Can’t wait till Tuesday for some squabbling about Brexit? Good news. We’ve got Ridge and Marr to get us through.
Monday – Have you enjoyed the past few weeks of very little action and a few technical Bills? YOu’re going to love the main business in the chamber today. It’s the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]. Woop. Woop. Woop.
Don’t worry though, there is plenty to whet your appetite for the rest of the week today. First up it’s the Brexit Select Committee. They’ve got the two big guns. One, the new Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay and, two, Oliver Robbins. Now it was Ollie Robins that did a whole lot of the actual negotiations for this deal. He was Theresa May’s main man in Brussels. In fact, when Stephen Barclay was announced as the new Brexit Secretary, his Wikipedia page briefly described his role as chief bag carrier for Mr Robbins. Both of them are up in front of the committee to defend and promote the deal. That’s a 1.30pm start.
Then, at 3.30 (depending on whether the Speaker allows an Urgent Question), the Prime Minister will make a statement to the Commons, officially reporting back from the G20 in Argentina, from which she will have recently returned. The reality, surely, will be that plenty of Brexit chat will be had. It’ll be like an overture to the main debate, with the key familiar refrains being hinted at before the full 5 act show beings tomorrow.
Tuesday – And it begins! Day one of five with 8 hours of debate per day. That’s 40 hours of debate. Like a Jerry Bruckheimer film, this debate will be good and exciting at the beginning and the end, but may well subside into confusing, boring and meandering posturing in the middle. Presumably, most MPs will want to have their say in this debate. There are a few over 630 MPs who are eligible to vote and speak. That would be just under 4 minutes each spread over the 5 days. In reality, frontbenchers will talk for much longer and backbenchers may well be limited to 3 minutes or so each.
Wednesday – MPs will take a brief holiday from debating Brexit with each other to ask the Prime Minister about Brexit in PMQs. A change is as good as a rest, right?
A few MPs will be in committee looking at Fisheries, Healthcare and Courts (separately, in different committees, obvs), but the rest will file back into the chamber to stand up and give their take on the Brexit deal.
Thursday– In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of Brexit blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
(It’s day three of the Brexit debate)
Friday – No Parliament. Why not recreate your highlights from the first 24 hours of Brexit debate with your chosen loved ones around the kitchen table?
Sunday – TV debate! At the time of writing the exact format for the TV debate hasn’t been finalised, but I think it’s a safe bet that Corbyn and May will both be involved. 8pm on the BBC. Of course, we’ll have bingo cards for you. And maybe a couple of games that definitely don’t encourage drinking. We’ll be all over this. Honestly, we can’t wait.