Brexit weekly: Jeanne D’arc needs a rebranding in her artillery

Ladies and Gentlemen rest assured, the show goes on. Turn off your Netflix and follow Brexit as the most entertaining show you’ve ever seen.

Note: This is REAL (and it’s a bit sad).

The deal is dead, and the political division is getting deeper

So, the day arrived. Theresa May was defeated in a catastrophic vote by record margins on 15th January, losing the vote 432 to 202, a loss of 230 votes which appears also to be ‘the largest defeat for a sitting government in history’. Two years of work were blown up in a few minutes.

There is a myriad of reasons why the deal was rejected. What came as a big surprise for the general public was the number of ‘pro leave’ Conservative MPs voting against the deal. Basically, they reasoned that the actual deal is not a good a deal aka ‘taking back control’ would be only a mirage. The Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has also faced an insurrection inside his party, with some Labour MPs backing up the deal. If you would like to check how every MP voted, the Guardian has created an interesting map for you.

It was no surprise that, immediately after the vote, Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion of non-confidence against Theresa May. The vote took place on 16th January and Jeanne D’arc survived thanks to the support of the DUP and Conservative MPs. Their position was that even if they voted against the deal, they still support the PM as being the one chosen to further ‘manage Brexit’.

Leave means Leave vs We want a people’s vote

The day after the meaningful vote, 72 Labour MPs signed a letter declaring themselves in favour of a second referendum arguing that this is the only “logical option” if the chance to have general elections was missed with May surviving the non-confidence vote.

At the same time, those Brexiteers who believe ‘leave means leave’ are adamant that no deal means no sweat.

What happens next

Theresa May has until Monday 20th January to come up with an alternative plan and save the country from the no deal disaster, and other scenarios such as general elections, or a second referendum. She has also started talks with the leaders of parliamentary parties to try to find a compromise that could be negotiated with the EU, with the exception of Jeremy Corbyn who will only meet May if the no deal option is definitely off table. And that seems impossible to happen.

Theresa May could also ask Brussels to extend the article 50 deadline in the event a compromise is not found. To this option, EU leaders will need concrete reasons to consider this and will not give way merely to save the UK from political crisis. On Wednesday, the European Parliament debated the topic in Strasbourg. EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier clearly stated that the already negotiated agreement is the most viable option, however the EU is well prepared for all the existent options, including a no deal one. Apparently, the ball is in the British court.

Nick Boles’ alternative – a play for time?

The Tory rebel Nick Boles came up with a new plan to save the country by proposing to take power away from the government and place it in an alternative opposition, the House of Commons Liaison Committee. According to the plan, his amendment needs to pass through both Houses by 11th February – with only one day on the floor of the House and if it passes, the committee would need to come up with a Brexit plan by 5th March. The purpose of the Boles law is to oblige the Ministers to look for an extension of the Article 50 in case a compromise with Brussels is not found.

However, things are moving fast. On Thursday evening, the labour MP Yvette Cooper, came up with a new bill being supported by the same group of MPs. The new bill takes out the provisions relating to the Liaison Committee. Boles/Cooper’s initiative might be a play for time, but it can also open a Pandora’s Box. We’ll have to wait and see.

Back to business

As the no deal option is more real than ever, businesses must develop contingency plans as a priority. With the high concentration of confusion persisting around Brexit, they must plan for a range of possible scenarios.

In the meantime, France announced on Thursday that it will invest €50 million to protect French fishermen in the event of no deal. Germany is also preparing for the no deal scenario by introducing a bill to transpose the EU’s transition period into the national legislation.

Cogito ergo sum: In an interview for Politico Europe,  Sabine Lautenschläger, vice-chair of the European Central Bank’s supervisory arm said that several banks such as Barclays, HSBC and UBS from the UK are planning on moving over €1 trillion in assets to the eurozone over the next two years in order to retain their access to the EU single market after Brexit.

On a side note, to all my British friends from Brussels being concerned of ‘deportation’, please rest assured, Alison Rose, the UK’s Ambassador in Brussels, explains everything here. Continue enjoying the Belgian fries and café Belga’s late nights!