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Mon Mar 25, 2019, 07:45 PM

Finally: Parliament takes control of Brexit

It was a historic moment. Tonight the constitutional battle over Brexit took a decisive turn. MPs finally took control.

It had been a long time coming. Dominic Grieve first tried to wrestle control from the government in January. Then Hilary Benn tried again the week before last, only to lose by two votes.

Tonight's successful attempt came from Oliver Letwin. It wasn't even that close. It passed by 329 votes to 302. In the process, the government lost three ministers, who resigned to vote against the government: health minister Steve Brine, business minister Richard Harrington and the widely-admired Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, who only yesterday was sat with Theresa May in Chequers.

In each case, the amendments had used the same mechanism: Standing order 14.1, which gives government the power to control parliamentary business. This was MPs setting their own timetable and deciding what they would debate and how.


Maybe nearly three years too late, but this confirms May's lame duckness.

She and her cabinet haven't been up to the job, in the EU or the UK. May's red lines on freedom of movement and the nonsensical "Brexit means Brexit" and The Will of The People™, along with the government's downright lies about how much research they'd carried out into the impact of the various Brexit options, have stifled proper explorations of the options that face the country, culminating in a deal that in the end only she and a few sycophants support, and even then only with reservations. Now, their plain shiftiness about how they'd run the order paper in the days to come finally overtaxed the majority of MPs' patience.

So some degree of control has finally been wrested back by Parliament. There will follow a series of debates and indicative votes on various options later this week - non-binding, just like the referendum. Whether the government will pay their results any attention, we'll have to wait and see.

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