Fragile unity of Brexit Committee dissolves

Brexit Committee Image copyright HoC

Oh dear. For a while the Commons super-select committee on Brexit has managed to defy predictions (mine included) that it would struggle to unite around strong conclusions and hard hitting reports.

Thanks to Hilary Benn's skilful chairing, it produced two tough reports on the status of EU citizens in the UK and of British residents in the EU, and on the government's negotiating objectives, with its Remain majority and Leave minority both signing up.

But 24 hours before the triggering of Article 50, this fragile unity dissolved, as the Brexiteer contingent - a minority on the committee - left the meeting, rather than fight what they regarded as an unduly gloomy report, by putting down line by line amendments to lighten that gloom.

It was not, incidentally, a coordinated walkout but a process of "drifting away".

There is an argument about process - with the Brexiteers complaining that they were presented with a fully worked-up 155 page draft report, which they regarded as unacceptably pessimistic, without being given an opportunity to shape the basic principles and arguments within it.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Theresa May Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Theresa May remembered the victims of the attack, and expressed MPs' thanks to those who work to keep Parliament safe

After a traumatic week, it is likely that some of the most significant events in Parliament next week will be statements and questions following up Wednesday's terrorist attack.

The prime minister, of course, made a statement to MPs the day after the attack, and expressed MPs' gratitude to the staff and security teams who guard the Palace of Westminster. There will be many acts of remembrance in the days ahead, while parliamentarians get on with the day-to-day business of democracy.

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Week ahead in Parliament

John Bercow Image copyright PA

After the sound and fury of the Brexit Bill, the Westminster agenda seems rather more quiet in the coming week, with much of the most significant action taking place on the committee corridor.

The exception may come on Wednesday, when the Lib Dem Leader, Tim Farron, takes the unusual step for a party boss, of presenting a 10-minute rule bill calling for a referendum on the terms of the UK's divorce deal with the EU....

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Labour lords open a new front in the Brexit battle

Peers in the House of Lords during a debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill Image copyright AFP

The story so far - this week the government's bill to trigger the process of leaving the EU cleared Parliament un-amended.

But the government did give MPs and peers assurances on two key issues.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Protests outside Parliament Image copyright European Photpress Agency

After six weeks of debate across both Houses of Parliament it looks like the Brexit Bill, the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which gives the prime minister the power to begin the UK's divorce from the EU, is about to complete its passage through Parliament.

It looks pretty certain that MPs will strike down the two amendments made to the bill in the House of Lords, on Monday afternoon, and that peers will then concede on both points later that evening - at which point the bill can be sent off to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

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Farewell to Tarzan's advice

Lord Heseltine Image copyright HoL

So. Farewell. Then. Michael Heseltine.

After voting against the government on Lords amendments to the Article 50 Bill, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, has been ousted from his job as an advisor in the Department of Communities and Local Government.

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The week ahead in Parliament: Budget and Brexit

Peers in the House of Lords during a debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill Image copyright AFP
Image caption Peers will get their teeth into the Brexit bill again

Having amended the government's Brexit Bill by a thumping majority this week, the big question for next week in Westminster is whether peers will do it again, potentially more than once.

It looks pretty likely that the cross-party amendment on giving Parliament a final vote on the Brexit deal will be pushed to a division.

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Brexit: When will we see a real parliamentary clash?

Article 50 Bill Image copyright PA

Apocalypse when? So far every parliamentary event touted as a major Brexit confrontation has fizzled out.

Would remainers block the Article 50 Bill in the Commons? No.

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Week ahead

Lords

After last week's marathon (drone-athon?) in the Lords, peers will next week get on to the really crucial section of the debate on the Brexit Bill, aka the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

Two days of committee stage debate are scheduled, with more opportunities to press amendments at the ensuing report stage. And there are plenty of amendments down. The question is whether any of them will attract a critical mass of peers, capable of voting through an amendment.

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Lucky escape, but for how long?

Scaffolding Image copyright PA

On 10 June last year at 4.20pm, Parliament might have burned down.

Workmen spotted a fire in plant room Q on the roof of the Victorian Palace of Westminster.

Read full article Lucky escape, but for how long?