Parliament will get a vote on the final draft Brexit deal before it goes to European Parliament. That may sound like an important concession – except that saying “no” in such circumstances will just mean crashing out of the EU with no deal.

Potential Tory rebels such as Nicky Morgan seem to have been bought off by the statement (go to 14:40). Labour’s Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer also accepted that the government had made a big concession in offering an early vote on the final deal. 

But this was too quick. David Jones, the Brexit minister, admitted under cross-questioning (go to 14:53) that the choice parliament would actually get was between any deal the government negotiated and “no deal”. 

If Theresa May produces a bad deal, such a choice would be between the devil and driving off a cliff into the deep blue sea. After all, if there was no deal, we would have to rely on third-rate World Trade Organisation terms to govern commerce with a market that accounts for half our trade.

The government’s “concession” isn’t totally useless. The promise to bring a draft deal to parliament before it goes to the European Parliament could give MPs and peers up to six monthsto figure something out if May produces a dreadful deal before the two-year Article 50 process runs its course. 

Despite the fact that the government is now saying the alternative would be “no deal”, parliament could still tell May, in say October 2018, to go back to the negotiating table. It could even conclude that the deal was so awful that the voters should be asked in another referendum whether they still really wanted to leave.

That said, given the way the government has framed its “concession”, it will be harder to escape the binary choice between deal and “no deal” when the negotiations have run their course. It would therefore be better if the bill now going through parliament was amended to make it clear that other options were possible.

The government has made a crafty statement which looked at first glance like an important concession. It’s a shame so many MPs seem to have fallen for it.

by Hugo Dixon | 07.02.2017

From time to time we'll share exclusive interview clips (including never-seen-before footage), the most incisive blog posts and the most interesting dispatches from our event organisers as they take the europe debate to the furthest, biggest, smallest, weirdest, most unusual places around europe and beyond.

Sign up to the Newsletter

Share this

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
Stay in touch Get our Newsletter


Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3GA


The Wake up Foundation is a registered charity no. 1152894

Donate now

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or email.

Created with NationBuilder

X Close

Join Wake Up Europe!

Wake Up Europe is a campaign brought to you by the Wake Up Foundation. It was sparked by the themes explored in The Great European Disaster Movie by Annalisa Piras and Bill Emmott.

We believe in the values that inspired the European project but that this project isn't working. Europe is sleep-walking towards disaster. We must wake up Europe so that we can save Europe from itself.

This job is too important to be left to the elites, the media, the political parties alone: ordinary people must be encouraged to discuss what Europe they want to see.

Or support us another way

Donate Host an event