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Analysis

Davis either content with chaos or utterly clueless

by Luke Lythgoe | 25.10.2017

David Davis has claimed Parliament’s vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal “could be” held after the Article 50 deadline in March 2019. This not only shows contempt for Parliament by denying it a say on the Brexit deal before we leave the EU, it also risks havoc as we crash out without a deal. Either that, or our chief negotiator doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.

Theresa May later reassured MPs she was “confident” a vote would happen before the deadline. This contradicted Davis’ view that in EU negotiations a decision “tends to be at the 59th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day” and this was “precisely” what he expected to happen.

If this happened, it would cause chaos. Article 50 says that the EU cannot conclude an agreement without first “obtaining the consent of the European Parliament”. It also says EU membership ceases to apply to the departing state either when the withdrawal agreement enters into force or two years after Article 50 was triggered.

If Davis was still negotiating up to the deadline, there would be no time for the European Parliament to ratify the agreement. On midnight of March 29 the UK would crash out of the EU without a deal, which would be madness.

Thankfully the EU seems to realise this is not an option. Both the European Parliament and Commission have demanded that a deal be agreed by October 2018 in order to give enough time for its ratification. If the European Parliament has enough time to do this, so does the Westminster Parliament.

Is the Brexit secretary simply clueless about the whole process? If so, we should be very worried. He also seems to believe – along with our prime minister – that our future trade deal with the EU can be agreed by 2019, even though it will likely take years. Was Vote Leave chief Dominic Cumming’s description of Davis as “thick as mince” so unfair after all?

What is clear is that the government’s promise to give our MPs a “meaningful vote” on the deal ahead of the European Parliament is in tatters. A vote after Brexit would curtail Parliament’s options, amounting to little more than rubber-stamping. Then again, the “meaningful vote” promise was never a good one, since it only offered the choice between the deal the government got and no deal at all – rather than a third option to stay in the EU. It also didn’t give Parliament a vote if the government deliberately decided to crash out without any deal.

Davis’ comments give all the more reason to amended the government’s monstrous Withdrawal Bill. MPs need to secure a cast-iron commitment that Parliament will get a vote to approve any deal the government gets, as well as a vote if there’s no deal at all. This should include the option to scrap Brexit altogether.

The Bill has already been swamped by amendments, forcing the government to delay it. The Brexit secretary’s latest snub to parliamentary sovereignty should have angered enough MPs – both leavers and remainers – to see many of these amendments passed.

The Brexit referendum was won on an argument for sovereignty and “taking back control”. That’s exactly what Parliament needs to do now, before the government makes an even bigger mess of Brexit.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

5 Responses to “Davis either content with chaos or utterly clueless”

  • Davis has been described by people who have worked with him as not very bright, idle and a heavy drinker. I can quite believe these descriptions.

  • David Davis has completely mis-read the whole negotiating process, despite his claims to be very experienced from the days when he was a Europe Minister. On the key central issue of Citizens’ Rights his decision to completely ignore the proposal from the EU to guarantee all existing rights for all EUinUK, and UKinEU Citizens, he made proposals which immediately created problems, and has caused the deadlock. He does not seem to understand that by deliberately choosing a different starting point, and then offering so-called concessions, he has in some way forced the EU to adopt a harder line than would otherwise have been the case.

    • Agree completely. I’ve never understood what the risk was of guaranteeing a complete retention of all rights for non-British EU citizens in the UK. This could have been done unilaterally a year ago.

      The negotiations have polarised, us against them, which is unfortunate. It is not a poker game, bluffing is inappropriate and ineffectual (since it’s transparent), and the opportunity to present a coherent wish with honesty has been completely missed. This has lead to protracted negotiations – entirely the fault of the attitude of UK negotiators.

  • Davis has now backtracked. Presumably someone has yet again had to brief him on the facts.

    It is not just the European Parliament that has to approve the deal but 27 national and some regional parliaments before member states can ratify. Which is why negotiations need to concluded by this time next year, also leaving ample time for our Houses of Parliament to vote and, if necessary, another referendum.

  • We have always known davis was not up to the job, but in his defence I don’t believe anyone else in this Muppet show cabinet could have done anything better. We do not have a negotiating position, any idiot, even davis, must know once we said we are leaving, there is no reason whatsoever for the negotiators to give us anything…