Lancaster House Speech; similar to May’s party conference speech the previous October – what to achieve with Brexit and in the negotiations with the EU: Global Britain, free trade, blah blah. All neatly wrapped up in 12 bullet points. Including a time table – all done by the end of the two years after triggering Art 50. And the first mentioning of what was to become the Brexiteers’ mantra: “No deal is better than a bad deal.”
R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (UKSC) (Miller I) This was the government’s appeal to November’s High Court ruling. However, it had the foreseeable same result: The UKSC decided with a majority of 8 to 3 that an Act of Parliament was required to trigger Article 50.
PM Theresa May agrees to publish a Brexit White Paper, setting out government policy on how to achieve Brexit and what to expect in the negotiations with the EU.
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill; the shortest Bill ever: 137 words, two paragraphs. Government had prepped this after the High Court ruling because it was basically clear that they would lose on appeal as well. And they didn’t lose time; the Bill was introduced 48 hours after the UKSC ruling with de facto two days set aside for debate.
Brexit White Paper published; it’s basically the Lancaster House Speech, all 12 points, in a bit more elaborate style. You need to get from a 4-page speech script to a 77-page White Paper somehow.
The EU Withdrawal Bill passes in the House of Commons with 326 to 293 votes and no amendments to the original text. One concession was made to Parliament: That MPs would get to vote on the final deal in the end before it went to Brussels for ratification. However, “meaningful” a vote it wasn’t to be – one MP described it as Hobson’s Choice: Either take the deal in front of you, or crash out without one.
House of Lords votes 358 to 256 to amend the Withdrawal Bill to include the rights of EU citizens, something PM and Cabinet were keen to avoid. Turns out there is more brains among the unelected Lords than their is in the Commons; this was only the first time the Peers did actually something to help protect rights. Unfortunately, the process is somewhat skewed – MPs can either alter Lords’ amendments and send the bill back to the Upper House (risking an endless game of ping-pong), or the government can use its majority to decide a final vote and end the amendments process to get the bill passed. Guess what happened here.
The issue of Gibraltar causes a bit of a fuss after it is taken out of the Brexit negotiations. President of the European Council Donald Tusk had just published negotiations guidelines stating that Spain would have a veto over anything concerning Gibraltar. Most people saw this for what it was – take the Rock out of the equation, i.e. strike a separate deal for the Crown colony so as to not complicate things further. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon only saw “Spain” and then saw red, declaring that the UK would go “all the way” to protect Gibraltar instead. Which in turn prompted former Tory leader Lord Michael Howard to compare the situation with the Falklands and “another Spanish-speaking country.” Never mind that Spain is a NATO ally. (I said they had more brains among them, not that all of them were very clever.)