The inside track: December 2018

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities includes more on the parliamentary Brexit deadlock and a new first minister in Wales.

Parliament

Parliament is awaiting an opportunity to vote on the deal agreed between the government and the EU after the 11 December vote was cancelled. Theresa May has said this will be held by 21 January, which was the original date by which the government would have to present a course of action to parliament under the EU Withdrawal Act, but which arguably no longer applies as the UK has reached agreement with the EU in principle.

Parliament rises for recess on 20 December and returns on 7 January.

Update – 18 December

Following pressure to announce a date for the meaningful vote, Theresa May announced yesterday that this would take place in the week commencing 14 January. However, Jeremy Corbyn argued that this was too long for MPs to wait, and indicated he would table a motion of no confidence in the prime minister. Because this motion refers to the prime minister rather than the government, it doesn’t meet the wording required to trigger the process set out by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA). This in turn means the government does not have to give up time to debate the motion. It now looks likely that a vote on a similar motion will be held on a future opposition day, when other parties have the right to choose the business, or that Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government, and attempt to force a general election, after the meaningful vote.

Some are asking why Labour have chosen this particular route. Partly this is because they only want to table a motion of no confidence in the government if they think they can win. There is no limit on the number of attempts you can make to trigger the FTPA process, but politically there are dangers in pushing for repeated votes. Crucially, Labour has set out that they will only pursue other options – including a referendum – if they fail to secure a general election. If they do fail to win a motion of no confidence in the government it will increase pressure from some in the party to adopt a second referendum as policy, something which they have so far resisted.

People news

After last month’s rush of post-deal resignations this month has been quieter on that front. However universities minister Sam Gyimah followed Jo Johnson in resigning from his post to call for a second referendum. He has been replaced by former cabinet office minister Chris Skidmore.

New First Minister

Mark Drakeford has been formally confirmed as the new first minister of Wales after winning the Welsh Labour leadership contest. He beat fellow AM Vaughan Gething in the second round, after Eluned Morgan was eliminated in the first round. He is considered to be broadly on the left of the Labour party.

Can the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit be broken?

As Christmas approaches, we are still no closer to knowing what parliament will eventually decide to do about Brexit. Theresa May has promised a vote on her deal in January, which still looks likely to be defeated.

The Cabinet is said to be offering a number of alternatives, including a new referendum. Some are now calling for an ‘indicative vote’ in which a range of options would be put to parliament, with no clear sense that any of these would currently command a parliamentary majority.

Even if May’s deal or a referendum secure the support of a majority in parliament, there are parliamentary mechanisms that might prevent these from being followed through, in particular a motion of no confidence under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which would either require a new government (or an old government securing a new majority through concessions) or an election.

Whichever way things go, it seems increasingly unlikely that this question will be resolved in January, and parliament may end up taking this decision down to the wire. And as it stands the default is for no deal, so barring any concrete action towards agreeing a deal or stopping Brexit, no-deal will become an ever more likely outcome.

NCVO can help you to navigate Westminster and Whitehall

Make sure your voice is heard by those making the decisions. We can provide a range of advice, support and training, contact chris.walker@ncvo.org.uk for details.

Our next Influencing Parliament course will be on 8 March. As Brexit continues to limit parliamentary and government time for other matters, it’s even more important that you make effective use of the tactics available to influence through parliament.

Brexit updates

NCVO is a member of the Brexit Civil Society Alliance, a UK wide alliance of charities, voluntary and campaigning organisations, all working together to ensure that the voices of civil society are heard in the Brexit process.

As Brexit continues to dominate the political and parliamentary process it’s worth signing up to the Alliance’s weekly newsletter to keep on top of the latest goings on. You can sign up on their website.

If you really want to keep on top of the latest Brexit news, other useful regular updates worth subscribing to include the House of Commons Library Brexit Digest and UK in a Changing Europe’s weekly newsletter.

We’ve also produced a factsheet for charities to help them prepare for the impact of Brexit.

Feedback

Please do get in touch with me at chris.walker@ncvo.org.uk if there’s anything you’d like to see included, or you have any other comments.

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Chris Walker Chris is a Senior External Relations Officer at NCVO, focusing on parliamentary work. He started his career working for several MPs in Parliament, and has also worked in public affairs and policy roles for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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