Labour has fallen headlong into a Government trap to tie it, and the rest of Parliament’s hands on on Article 50.
The Government has accepted a Labour motion to publish and debate their plans for Brexit before triggering Article 50. The Government has accepted the motion with its own amendment. Labour is hailing this as a great victory for opposition and Parliament, and some of the press is painting this as a Government climb-down (e.g. The Guardian). But it is not a victory for Labour or Parliament. It is a trap that Labour have willingly plunged themselves into.
Here is Labour’s motion:
The Government accepted this with the following amendment:
It really isn’t a victory at all. Quite the opposite.
The Government amendment clearly commits Parliament, politically at least, to agreeing to invoking Article 50 whatever the terms. It also commits Parliament to accepting and facilitating the PM’s own March 2017 deadline for invoking Article 50 whatever happens.
My prediction is that the Private Members’ Bill on Art.50, which has a second reading on Friday 16th December, will either miraculously shoot up the order paper with tacit government support so that the government can dare MPs to vote against it, or that there will be attempts to slip it through without debate. The Government can then claim, just after the SC rules, that, since Parliament has ordered them to invoke Article 50 by the end of March, the only way to do that will be to use this handy Private Members’ Bill that is only 3 lines long (see: Article 50 Private Members’ Bill tabled).
If this does not happen, expect to see a Government tabled, 3-line Article 50 bill the day after the Supreme Court rules in January, and articles in the press about MPs who dare to dissent, or even try to amend it, being enemies of the people for going back on Parliament’s promise.