- A new bill forces the government to seek an extension of article 50
- The bill was passed in record time
- Passage of the bill is a significant blow to May’s authority and ability to negotiate
The House of Commons has voted in favour of a bill by Cooper Letwin that seeks to force Prime Minister Theresa May to seek an extension of Article 50. The bill forces the government to extend negotiations with the European Union after April 12, 2019, to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
MPs take control of parliamentary business
According to The Guardian, the historic legislation that was passed by backbench MPs now forces the government to set out a clear timetable for the length of the Brexit delay to ensure UK doesn’t exit the EU with no deal. The bill that was prepared by Labour Party’s Yvette Cooper and Conservative’s Oliver Letwin passed the final stages in the House of Lords on Monday night before being approved by the House of Commons in the same evening, in spite of the ongoing May-Corbin talks.
The bill was passed swiftly, taking only three days to go through as a result of the success of unprecedented amendment that enabled MPs to take control of the parliamentary process, thereby denying the government the ability to stop its progress. Cooper said:
“The bill would prevent a chaotic no deal in four days, hitting jobs, manufacturing, medicine supplies, policing and security […] members responded to the gravity and urgency of the situation by passing the legislation in time.”
The bill gives the MPs the chance to make legally binding changes to the Prime Minister’s requested departure date. The Prime Minister would, however, retain some freedom to set a different date with the European Union. This has happened when May was scheduled to travel to Paris and Berlin on Tuesday to press her request for a short delay before the proposal can be formally discussed by the European Union leaders at their special summit on Wednesday.
Serious blow to the prime minister’s authority
The passage of this bill gives a serious blow to the Prime Minister’s Authority as it overturns the long-standing convention that gave the government the sole authority to control the agenda in parliament thereby enabling it to control what laws see the light of day. The bill has also created a new flashpoint in the deeply divided parliament, something that undermines the Prime Minister’s attempt to persuade the EU so she can’t get parliament to back a Brexit deal should the EU give her more time.
While May plans to convince Berlin and Paris, Germany, through its EU minister Michael Roth has said that nothing has been done on the ground to make matters easier for the British Prime Minister a day before the leaders meet to discuss a Brexit delay. Roth told The Guardian that cross-party talks had borne no fruit in the way of offering any hope for an imminent Brexit breakthrough, which leaves the UK facing a no-deal or a long extension for its EU membership.