Another day, another series of chaotic scenes from the Commons as Theresa May slowly, but surely, loses her grip on her party, Government, and her flagship cause - the departure of the UK from the European Union. Despite this erosion of authority, it is possible that our alleged Prime Minister will once again try and bring her twice-rejected deal back to Parliament. And today brings another vote, this time on extending Article 50.
But this is just so much messing around. As the BBC has reported, “There could be a short extension - or a much longer one - depending on whether MPs backed the prime minister's existing withdrawal deal that has been agreed with the EU by 20 March, the government says”. She’s not going to get her deal through Parliament. The hardline Tory ERG is mainly sticking to its guns, and the DUP will also vote it down. It’s dead. Morte.
And so we come to extending Article 50. Here’s what the Guardian says about that: “Extending Brexit is a job for EU leaders, say numerous diplomatic sources. The EU’s 27 heads of state and government would have to decide unanimously at an EU summit on Thursday 21 March. But first the UK has to ask. The EU cannot consider the question until the British government makes a formal request to extend article 50”.
They have to unanimously agree. All 27 heads of Government. The Guardian again: “While any single country has the right to block a Brexit extension, most diplomats think the EU would agree, although this cannot be taken for granted … [also] the UK must be able to show ‘a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration’, a spokesman for the European council president, Donald Tusk, has said”.
An extension, whatever its length, is not a gimme. For instance, one critical but usually friendly voice in the European Parliament is playing hardball: “The European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has said he opposes ‘any extension of article 50, even just for 24 hours, if it is not based on a clear majority from the House of Commons in favour of something’”. And that something is not just an agreement to extend Article 50.
Moreover, many in the European Parliament and in the national Governments of other EU member states may just be tiring of the incessant arguments and splits at Westminster. They have their own lives to be getting on with. Worse, the time when an Article 50 extension would be discussed would be just eight days before the nominal Brexit day.
But there is one course of action which Theresa May could take, and that is to Revoke Article 50. She can do that with one stroke of her pen. Signed. Done. Dusted. That would enable all concerned to sit back, cool down, and figure out just what on earth they all want.
The only problem for Ms May, of course, is that signing a revocation of Article 50 would be an act of personal political suicide. The Tories would have her out of 10 Downing Street so fast, her feet would hardly touch the ground. But she’s going soon anyway. So does she cling on for the sheer hell of it, or does she do the right thing for once?
Stop the messing around, Prime Minister, and Revoke Article 50. That is all.
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