A Week in Parliament: The Not Brexit Insights – 15 February 2019

By Euan Ryan, Senior Account Executive

 

Amidst the Brexit madness of the week – which saw Parliament reject Parliament’s own agreed direction for Brexit – there were a number of genuinely significant developments across Government, opposition and the devolved nations. Here’s a roundup of what you may have missed while all the Brexit drama was unfolding.

The economy: evolution or revolution?

It is easy to forget the significance of upcoming domestic events and this week served to remind the UK that the Government’s Spring Statement is less than month away. Though not the major fiscal event it once was, this is also to be followed by a comprehensive spending review throughout 2019. In ‘normal’ times these would be met with fervent speculation and lobbying but, mired in political risk and uncertainty, businesses are perhaps rationally preoccupied. However, never ones to let a spending commitment go unnoticed, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Treasury Select Committee (TSC) this week confronted the ambitious former promise of the Chancellor to “bring austerity to an end” with a substantial dose of reality. In the wake of lower-than-expected economic growth forecasts from the Bank of England, the IFS has seriously questioned the feasibility of the Government’s ambitions, arguing that an additional £5bn would need to be found and highlighting that the vast majority of the Government’s spending commitments are already accounted for across Health, Defence and International Aid.

In a more radical approach to the economy than the Conservatives’ next fiscal announcement, Labour this week trailed the launch of their response to America’s ‘Green New Deal’ as championed by Democratic firebrand, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC). The initiative, led by Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, sets out an ambitious plan to decarbonise the future whilst unleashing an economic revolution across the UK; reinvigorating “left behind” towns through a green revolution. Although reported on Wednesday, little further information on the planned series of regional consultations has been released. Additionally, members of the Labour leadership met with Zack Exley this week – a key architect of the ‘Green New Deal’ and adviser to AOC – demonstrating a potentially formidable and co-ordinated cross-Atlantic alliance driving forward with a left-wing economic agenda. Though often derided, the campaigning of such groups or ‘movements’ is playing a more and more significant role in defining political debates across the globe.

To regulate or not to regulate? Tech is the question

This week also saw the publication of the The Cairncross Review: a sustainable future for journalism (available here), a 157-page behemoth that seeks to provide recommendations on how to effectively oversee the role and accuracy of tech giants such as Facebook and Google as de-facto publishers. Looking back at the previous taglines of such companies to respectively ‘move fast and break things’ or, to paraphrase, ‘not be evil’, many perceive them to have both broken things and been evil. As such, they have come under significant pressure from policy-makers across the globe. The Review calls for a relatively heavy-handed response, with the creation of a new regulator in order to “nudge people towards news of high quality”. It also calls for the creation of an ‘Institute for Public Interest News’ which would help direct funding to parts of the industry deemed “worthy of support”. The balance between pragmatic and Orwellian regulatory measures in this space is a difficult line to tread, but regardless, it is clear that regulation is coming for the tech sector.

Who Governs?

Despite frequent and varied complaints over the UK Government for everything it does or does not do, it is worth being thankful that we have a (broadly) functioning Government in the first place. For over two years, Northern Ireland has been operating without an executive, deferring crucial decisions and forgoing political oversight and accountability. Though talks restarted today between the UK and Irish Governments and the five main parties in Northern Ireland in order to reinvigorate negotiations, little progress is expected. There appears to be a lack of political will on various sides to truly resolve the situation and the Government has thus far refused to rule out enforcing direct rule.

Election watch

In a dramatic turn of events following the inability of the Government to command a majority in Parliament, a snap election is due to take place. Thankfully for those of us politically drained by the last five years of referenda and elections, this is taking place in Spain. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called an election for 28th April after he failed to pass his 2019 budget proposal. In the UK, however, ‘Theresa May clings on, obviously’ (Credit: Matt Chorley, The Times).

A Week in Parliament: The Not Brexit Insights – 1 February 2019

Now that Brexit is finally done and dusted (OK, maybe not), it’s officially time to turn to turn our attention to political developments outside of our impending departure from the European Union.

As ever, this week saw some significant developments across Government, opposition and the devolved nations. Here’s a roundup of what you may have missed while all the Brexit drama was unfolding.

Labour lagging

This week saw YouGov publish particularly negative polling on Jeremy Corbyn’s favourability ratings. Reduced to a level last seen prior to the 2017 general election with a net favourability of -45, Corbyn appears to be experiencing a backlash against his ‘constructively ambiguous’ position on Brexit (sorry, even The Not Brexit Insights struggles to completely avoid the ‘B’ word). Particularly concerning to the Labour leader may have been another poll, conducted for the Higher Education Policy Institute which showed a 10% fall in Corbyn’s support among students. While Corbyn’s Labour still enjoys a healthy lead among these young voters at 52%, this time last year the figure was 62%. This is a crucial group of voters for the Labour leader, and he will be concerned at this trend, as well as his declining personal ratings.

Corbyn travels in car

The irony! Corbyn was this week forced to take a car to a discussion on cuts to bus services after his bus failed to show up. There were no well-crafted campaign videos a la ‘Traingate’ but he later stated that the experience “proved his point about private operators running buses and not doing it terribly well.”

Scotland scrapes through budget

It’s as though not a week goes by where we don’t get the threat of a snap election. This week saw the Scottish Government manage to crawl over the finish line in order pass its budget for 2019-20. Given its minority status, the SNP relies on the Scottish Green Party to attain a majority in Parliament. With the Greens initially withholding support due to disagreements over funding for local councils, Nicola Sturgeon and fellow SNP MSPs were reportedly touting the possibility of a snap election in order to break the impasse. Alas, after concessions were made, including an additional £90m settlement for local government, it appears as though we might be safe from the polls for at least another week.

Money, money, money

With the number of stories published on cash-strapped Departments and public sector salary caps, it feels as though it might be 2010 again. This week saw Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, announce that teachers’ salary increases next year would be capped at 2%, far below the 5% called for by the joint teaching unions. Elsewhere the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee reported a £7bn funding black hole at the Ministry of Defence. Fingers crossed for a Brexit dividend.

British politics in 2019: Groundhog year

As 2019 comes into focus, the entrenched fault lines of UK politics appear more prominent than ever

It’s that time of year again: commitments to resolutions and reinvention; promises to reduce negative sentiment and relish positivity; and a general feeling that, surely, 2019 will bring with it some relief from 2018’s woes. Politically, however, this appears far-fetched: shortly after being awarded a knighthood, John Redwood MP reaffirmed his opposition to the Government’s Brexit deal, stating that his “fundamental objections cannot be fixed by tweaks or reassurances”. Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his commitment to respecting the result of the Brexit referendum whilst research showed the Party membership overwhelmingly in support of a second referendum. Boris Johnson continues to lead polling amongst Conservative members on who would should be the party leader, and in a stark summation of 2019’s political uncertainty Ladbrokes now puts the odds of Theresa May being replaced at 1/2; a second referendum at 5/4; general election at 6/4; no deal Brexit at 3/1; and Corbyn being replaced as Labour leader at 2/1. As far as UK politics is concerned, plus ca change…

Government doubles down on the Brexit deal

Theresa May called for support for her Brexit deal in her New Year statement. Parliament is finally expected to vote on the deal on Tuesday 15th January. The preceding two weeks will be used to try secure assurances from EU leaders on the Irish border backstop. The European Council’s General Affairs meeting on Tuesday 8th January will be the date to watch for progress. There are significant doubts over what assurances, if any, the EU will be willing to provide, with various statements confirming that changes cannot be made to the Withdrawal Agreement itself. The level to which addendums to the deal will be able to convince Conservative opponents to the deal – a position which became gradually more entrenched in previous weeks – to fall in line remains to be seen. Navigating such Parliamentary arithmetic therefore remains a daunting prospect. Whilst the other options on the table such as the ‘Norway plus’ and so-called ‘Managed no deal’ models received significant airtime prior to Christmas, their own lack of support in Parliament, coupled with their inherent issues have seen them reduce in popularity.

With the official Brexit date of Friday 29th March fast approaching, timescales are tight for passing the required legislation through Parliament and if the deal falls in January it is difficult to envisage a scenario wherein the date is not extended in some way.

  • Do say: Didn’t we already do this in December?
  • Don’t say: No deal is better than a bad deal.

Labour struggles to square the Brexit circle

Brexit conflict isn’t solely reserved for the party of Government. Labour begins 2019 trying to marry various conflicting perspectives. Led by a long-term Eurosceptic but with 72% of the membership and 61% of 2017 Labour voters supporting a second referendum, the Party is struggling to promote a coherent strategy that will hold the broad coalition that brought it relative success at the last General Election. Whilst the Government’s own troubles have so far enabled Labour to hold an all-things-to-all-men strategy, the next few months will require Labour to make clear its position. It remains to be seen how the Party would position itself in the hypothetical election it so desires, or what steps it will take if it fails in its efforts to force such an election.

  • Do say: What actually is Labour’s position on Brexit?
  • Don’t say: Labour’s constructive ambiguity really appears to be working for them.

Domestic issues struggle to break through

Crises aside, there is little prospect of wider issues rising up the political agenda in 2019 as long as Brexit uncertainty remains. If the Brexit deal passes and we leave as planned, discussions will swiftly move onto our future relationship with the EU and the specifics of our future trade deals, both with the EU and the wider world. If we fail to come to an agreement that can pass through Parliament, we will either be dealing with the fall out of a no deal Brexit or in the limbo of an extended or revoked Article 50. And there remains the potential for support within Government and Parliament to swing behind a second referendum which would further entrench the Brexit debate through the establishment of renewed campaign organisations and sloganeering.

Labour will continue to attempt to focus on domestic economic and social justice issues in an attempt to move the debate onto more stable ground but this will achieve little cut through whilst the Party remains so conflicted on the overarching issue of Brexit. That said, debates over the cost of living, including the rail fare increases seen today; sluggish economic growth; access to justice; the health service; and regional economic disparities are likely to take place throughout the year.

  • Do say: There just doesn’t appear to be the bandwidth for domestic issues these days.
  • Don’t say: #FBPE #PeoplesVote #RemainAndReform #NowWeKnow

What to expect in 2019

So, what does 2019 have in store? As long as politicians refuse to compromise on their favoured position, the probability of a negotiated agreement continues to reduce and the probability of a no deal Brexit, second referendum or general election arguably increase. Therefore, 2019 holds the potential for any of the following outcomes: a negotiated Brexit; a no deal Brexit; no Brexit; a second Brexit referendum; a general election(s); a split in both or either the Conservative and Labour parties; a new Conservative or Labour leader; or a new Prime Minister.

Happy New Year!

Key dates in 2019

  • Tuesday 8th January: European Council meeting
  • Tuesday 15th January: UK Parliament vote on the Brexit deal
  • Monday 21st January: Deadline for meaningful vote on the Brexit deal (not legally binding)
  • February – March: European Parliament vote on the Brexit deal (if passed through UK)
  • Friday 29th March: Brexit day
  • Thursday 2nd May: Local elections: 270 English councils; six metro mayors; 11 Northern Ireland councils
  • Thursday 23rd – Sunday 26th May: European Parliament elections

In the news – Christmas roundup

Account Manager

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Vote of no confidence called by Tory MPs – What happens next?

What times we live in. Our polity appears to be disabled and functioning Government is barely doing any of that.

The decision by 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady to call a snap vote of confidence poll in the Prime Minister’s leadership undoubtedly helps Theresa May. MPs have barely 12 hours to grapple with the prospect of removing her as Tory leader – but remember not necessarily immediately as Prime Minister.

Just as Margaret Thatcher was ‘defenestrated’ by her own MPs in 1990, she stayed in office as caretaker until a new leader was elected. In those days it was just Tory MPs who had the vote – now it is also the party membership.

Early indications from my ‘WhatsApp’ reach across the Tory parliamentary party since 7:30am this morning indicate that there is strong likelihood that the Prime Minister will win today’s ballot BUT the real question is how many Tory MPs decide not to back her. Over 100 MPs will create real difficulty.

If the Prime Minister gets the backing of her fellow parliamentarians tonight there is a strong likelihood that the European Research Group (ERG) will detach themselves formally from the Conservative whip. They have been operating as a party within a party for some time and this may now be their ‘Corn Laws’ moment to permanently step outside.

Watch out for the ERG approaching Labour and the SNP overnight to support a vote of No Confidence in the entire government as soon as tomorrow. The ERG would remain happy to see the clock tick out on the Prime Minister’s deal and a no deal Brexit to ensue.

If the PM loses, it looks like there will be a long list of contenders but the ERG have agreed to meet to ensure they have ONE candidate. [Good luck with that I think!]

Until 20:00 tonight Tory MPs will be listening to what their constituency associations have to say. But one thing I can tell you is don’t look at Conservative MPs on Twitter today. I’m reliably informed by one Tory MP already that what they say will not match their actions in a secret ballot!

And all this while the Brexit clock ticks….

Cicero hosts Brexit event with ‘Norway Plus’ chief proponent Nick Boles MP

Cicero was thrilled to welcome Nick Boles MP, chief proponent of the ‘Norway Plus’ alternative Brexit plan, for an exclusive event. The session allowed Mr Boles to introduce his the proposal, which reportedly has the backing of several cabinet ministers.

The ‘Norway Plus’ approach, outlined in full in this article for the Financial Times, would see the UK joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the EFTA element of the European Economic Area (EEA), maintaining the UK’s customs union and single market access while moving outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the EU’s drive to ‘ever closer union’.

Mr Boles described the approach as the “genuinely only” option that will ensure the UK maintains ‘frictionless trade’ with the EU, with no predicted economic hit from the alternative arrangement because it would not require new customs checks.

While there would be opposition to ‘Norway Plus’s continued membership of the single market, and the commitment to free movement of people, he argued that a small majority could be achieved within Parliament for the plan. Its support would depend on all other options, including the Prime Minister’s agreed approach, a plan backed by the Labour party leadership, and a potential second referendum, all having failed first, leaving “one shot” for Norway Plus to be approved.

Mr Boles added that a second referendum would never be backed by Conservative MPs like himself. Any Tory leader would “be out by lunchtime” if they attempted to bring forward a second referendum, which would need to be enacted in an Act of Parliament, meaning it could not be forced by opposition parties uniting. He added that he could not countenance voting for a ‘No deal’ Brexit given the economic damage this would cause, rating the UK’s chances of crashing out without a deal at only 10%.

This event was chaired by Cicero Executive Chairman Iain Anderson. Please do get in touch if you would like to be invited to similar events.

Cicero named Consultancy of the Year at prestigious industry awards

The Cicero Group team is delighted to announce that we have been awarded ‘Consultancy of the Year’ at the 2018 UK Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) Public Affairs awards.

The win caps an exceptional year, following the successful acquisition of Westbourne Communications in June 2018 which created the UK’s largest independent public affairs agency. We have seen superb growth across each of our corporate communications, public affairs, digital and market research services, maintaining exceptional levels of client service, and have ambitious growth plans ahead for 2019.

The award is dedicated to our staff and our superb clients, without whom this success would not be possible.

If you would like to find out more about how Cicero can support your organisation, please do get in touch.

Cicero hosts ‘Future of tech’ panel event with Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy

Cicero was delighted to host a panel event discussing ‘What next for the future of the technology sector’.

The event welcomed Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Mivy James, Head of Consulting, National Security, BAE Systems, and India Lucas, Policy Manager, Skills and Diversity, techUK. The panel provided their insights from across politics and industry, analysing issues including the future direction of regulation, skills and diversity within the tech sector.

Crunching the numbers: Can the Brexit deal get through Parliament?

By Chris Hughes and Simon Fitzpatrick

As we wrote earlier today, Theresa May faces a major challenge in seeking to get the Withdrawal Agreement and Declaration on the Future Relationship which she has negotiated with the European Union through Parliament.  Commentators have formed a consensus that the Prime Minister does not have anything like the votes to get her deal through Parliament. However, if political events of recent years have taught us anything, it is that the consensus view is worth interrogating. Here we set out some of the possible scenarios:

The worst-case scenario for the Government: A big rebellion and a united opposition

There are at least 96 Conservative MPs who have publicly indicated that they will vote against the deal, according to Buzzfeed’s Alex Wickham. If we assume also that the 10 DUP MPs vote against it, as they are indicating they will, that would result in a 106-vote rebellion. If we assume also that the opposition parties vote unanimously against, it would deliver a massive defeat of 197 votes.

A smaller rebellion

Let’s consider a less dramatic scenario. Instead of 96 Tories voting against, we imagine that only the most vociferously opposed – the 27 that have publicly declared no confidence in the Prime Minister –vote against the deal. Let’s also assume there are at least five Labour MPs who back the deal. That would see a Government defeat of 47 votes. In that instance just 24 MPs are required to switch sides to see the Government home. If the DUP could somehow be persuaded to come back into the tent, then it could be ‘game on for the Government’ with the option to go around and try a second time.

A path to victory for the Government, with some Opposition support

The balance of probability is tilted against the deal getting through Parliament. But this Government has survived very difficult votes before. The vote is not scheduled to take place for two weeks, and a concerted operation to sell the deal is now underway.

Ministers, Government Whips and advisors are using three arguments to try to win MPs round: first, the public just wants us to get on and deliver Brexit; second, this is the only deal that is on offer and the EU is clear that there is no scope to re-open negotiations; and third (depending on the recipient of the message), if you vote this down, you run the risk of No Deal (for remainers) or No Brexit (for leavers). The PM is also trying to sell the deal directly to the public through speeches, broadcast interviews, radio phone-ins and possibly even a head-to-head debate with Jeremy Corbyn.

Even then it will be tough to reduce the number of Tory MPs against the deal below 30, even with the Whips working all their magic. The effort to grow the number of Labour MPs (or, dare we say it, even SNP ones) prepared to back the deal will be of paramount importance. It does not look promising so far, with the likes of Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell – considered potential supporters – stating that they will vote against, along with Labour Brexiteers like Kate Hoey and Dennis Skinner. Last night, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Gavin Barwell and Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington briefed Labour MPs to try to persuade them why they should back the deal.

Reports suggest they did not have much success, with one Labour MP telling the pair that if Downing St wanted to persuade them, they should have started talking to them six months ago. That may be so, but the Government doesn’t have six months now – it has two weeks. If they could somehow find a way to up the number of Labour MPs who might back the deal to say 20, win round the DUP and keep the Conservative rebellion to a minimum, there might just be a path to a narrow victory. However, these are all very big ‘ifs’.

The ‘meaningful vote’ process: What to expect in the next two weeks

By Charlotte Adamson, Account Manager

After a tumultuous few weeks in British politics, we are on the verge of a Parliamentary reckoning for Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration are scheduled for debate and a vote in December. Here is a guide to what to expect over the coming weeks.

Step 1: Commons vote on procedure

First, the Government must table a Business Motion in the Commons. This will set out the timetable for the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration (expected to be five days) and will also set out any special procedure for how MPs vote on amendments to the motion.

The way amendments are voted on is a bone of contention. While the motion is a substantive motion and is therefore amendable, usual parliamentary procedure would dictate that MPs vote on any amendments before voting on the motion itself. The Government has argued that an alternative procedure should be used in this case, whereby MPs would be asked to decide on an unamended motion first, giving Parliament a clean ‘yes or no’ vote. Amendments would only be considered in the event Parliament does not pass the motion.

The Government’s rationale for this is to avoid a scenario whereby the motion is not officially rejected but amended to the point where it is legally unclear whether the Government can proceed to ratify the deal. The Government may also feel this increases their chances of getting the deal through: it would require MPs to feel confident voting against the motion first and risk it being rejected altogether if there then proved to be no majority for any amendment.

The Commons Procedure Committee does not agree with the Government’s approach, recommending that the usual parliamentary procedure for voting on amendments applies. The Government will set out what procedure it wants Parliament to follow when it publishes its Business Motion. Ultimately however, it will be up to the House to determine the final procedure: it could amend or reject a Government business motion if there was a majority to do so. If the business motion is rejected altogether, the Government could try again with a different business motion. Otherwise the default procedure will apply.

The Business Motion could be tabled as late as the night before the first day of debate, however this is unlikely in this case. Again, the Procedure Committee have recommended a full day of debate on the Business Motion and for this to take place at least two sitting days before the full debate. This means it could be as early as tomorrow or, more likely, Thursday.

Step 2: Parliamentary debate on Brexit deal

Assuming Parliament passes the Business Motion, the Government plans for five full days of debate on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. This will run from Tuesday 4 – Thursday 6 December and commence again on Monday 10 December, concluding Tuesday 11 December.

In addition, under the EU (Withdrawal) Act, the Lords is required to debate the deal but their approval is not legally required for the Government to go ahead and ratify it. They will debate via a ‘motion to take note’, which will not necessarily trigger a vote. However, if amendments are laid these will be voted on. None of the Lords activity will be binding, however Peers may try to conclude their deliberations before the Commons vote in order to inform MPs ahead of their vote.

Step 3: Commons vote on the deal

MPs will then vote on the motion. It’s expected that the main vote will be on a single motion seeking approval of the three documents the Government has now put before the House: a statement that an agreement has been reached, the Withdrawal Agreement itself and the political declaration on the future relationship. According to our latest analysis of the numbers, the challenge in front of Theresa May is very significant with mounting cross-party criticism of the deal. We’ll be writing more later on the numbers, but it is important to bear in mind that a major operation is underway to try and sell this deal. This Government has survived tough votes before and things can change quickly in the current environment.

The deal passes: time to celebrate?

If the deal is approved by the Commons, Theresa May will first breathe a huge sigh of relief. This is the maximum moment of danger for both her and for the Brexit deal she has negotiated, and if she gets past this hurdle the remaining stages will be easier.

However, that is not to say she is over the finish line. The Government must then bring forward the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, the legislation that will put the Withdrawal Agreement (and thus the transition period) on the UK statute books. While MPs’ maximum moment of influence is during the vote on the motion, some may still look to amend this Bill. Additionally, the Lords are harder to predict and Peers that felt they did not get adequate say on the final deal through their ‘motion to take note’ may use this Bill as their mechanism of influence. Ultimately, May will have to maintain support for her deal throughout this Bill’s passage or risk a last-minute de-railing of Brexit.

The deal doesn’t pass: what next for May? 

If – as currently looks likely – Parliament votes down the deal, under the EU (Withdrawal) Act, Mrs May has 21 days to make a statement on her proposed next steps to Parliament. The Government must then bring forward a neutral motion before the Commons and a motion to take note before the Lords, both within seven sitting days.

There has been some debate over whether the motion in the Commons would be amendable. Under the Standing Orders of the Commons, where a motion is expressed “in neutral terms”, no amendments to it may be tabled. However, the judgement on whether a motion is in fact in neutral terms falls to the Speaker, and parliamentary procedure, including Standing Orders, is designed to be flexible and allow the House to achieve what it wants. The Speaker could ultimately decide to disapply the rule if he is so inclined – and given current Speaker John Bercow’s history of interpreting procedure flexibly and giving backbenchers increased ability to have their say, he may well decide to do so.

Leaving that debate aside, there are a number of ‘next steps’ the Government could propose. The first is to ask Parliament to reconsider their original rejection of the deal – similar to when the US Congress rejected the TARP bank bailout deal in 2008, only to approve a version of it after market chaos ensued. There is nothing in the EU (Withdrawal) Act that would prevent the Government from taking this course of action, however under usual parliamentary procedure Government could not table exactly the same motion twice. Any second motion would have to be re-worded to demonstrate a “substantive difference” compared to what had previously been considered by MPs. Under this scenario, the Government may hope that a change in circumstance will convince MPs to vote differently the second time around.

The second is for the Government to seek to return to the negotiating table with the EU. May could feel this is her only option, particularly if Parliament coalesces around an alternative to her deal. However, this course of action is not entirely in the UK Government’s gift and relies on EU willingness to re-open negotiations. This therefore currently seems unlikely.

A third option is for the Government to seek a second referendum on the final deal. If Parliament rejects the deal but there is no clear majority for what it wants instead, May could conclude the only option is to offer a second referendum as a way through the impasse. Given the current timeframe, it looks extremely unlikely this would take place before March 2019, and so the UK Government would need to ask the EU for an extension of Article 50. This is not guaranteed, although the EU is said to be sympathetic to an extension in these circumstances.

Clearly, there remains a great deal of uncertainty in this process and around how the Government will proceed if their deal is defeated. We should remain prepared for all eventualities.

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