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Ian Dunt @IanDunt
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It's going to be a massive day in parliament. Your amuse-bouche, in which govt might be found in contempt of parliament, is kicking off now…
Starmer: "It's no longer for the govt to judge. It is for parliament, which is a higher authority."
Near silence in Chamber while Starmer is speaking.
"For months the govt has ignored opposition day motions and now that tactic has got them in very deep water indeed."
There really is not enough popcorn in the world for the shit that is going to go down in parliament today.
The attorney general looks like he is taking this very seriously indeed.
Starmer: "This House passed a binding order. The govt is wilfully refusing to comply with that order. That is contempt of parliament."
And up against that very effective and damning statement from Starmer we have.... Andrea Leadsom. Not sure that appointment looking like such a smart call from the PM right now.
Ken Clarke proposes a compromise: Opposition to be sent the legal advice on Privey Council terms, shown bits by AG which need to be kept secret in national interest, and agree to redact them.
Leadsom chugs on.
Can a lawyer/constitutional type explain to me why the govt is wrong btw? Can parliament really demand to see any information, no matter how sensitive? Ie surely it can't demand that info disclosing British secret agents is published.
I mean, in this case I presume the national interest is 'we're fucked for trade deal and have no leverage under the backstop'. But presumably this principle would apply in cases where it is not being used quite so disingenuously.
Honestly thought for a moment there Cox was going to cry. Looked like his bottom lip was failing.
Impossible not to feel sorry for him. The content of his statement and answers yesterday was far more mature, nuanced, intelligent and intelligible than what we get from the PM. And this was not his call, it was No.10's.
Nigel Dodds now attacking govt's actions. "That cannot be allowed to stand. The government must respect the will of parliament." Looks like DUP will vote against the government. Not clear they can get through this.
Attacking Leadsom for not taking Clarke up on his compromise proposal.
I don't say this lightly, and I do not enjoy it, but Jacob Rees-Mogg is doing very well.
Urgh dios mio.
Ah - but he's going to support the govt amendment. That didn't last long.
Tory MP tried to make mischief for Mogg by saying Erskine May discourages humble addresses on bills before House. Mogg makes small work of him, saying it is a motion, not a bill. Gave him what parliamentary nerds like to call a 'proper twatting'.
Ken Clarke says there are two important but contradictory principles here: One that parliament can instruct govt in what it wants to do. The other is that govts need confidential legal advice so they can get honest opinions.
Clarke says in the past this would have been dealt with through "usual channels". But that's the thing: The govt has closed up shop.
They won't fight opposition day motions or humble addresses, they won't communicate with opposition. They act with no transparency or decency. And this situation is the consequence.
Bercow wants a little more speed. "People may want to bear in mind that their own enthusiasm to speak is not always matched by an enthusiasm of everyone else to listen."
Chris Bryant quotes the AG from yesterday. "The House has at its disposal the means to enforce its will." And that, he says, is what is happening today.
Bercow seems to be losing confidence in his ability to speed things along. "It is perhaps more in hope that expectation that I reiterate the plea for brevity."
Peter Bone: "I do have to leave the Chamber sir, as the chief whip would like to have a word with me."
It's getting dark. The contempt debate is still happening. They haven't even started their 7-hour debate on the Brexit deal yet.
Maybe it'll never start. Maybe we've all died and this is what purgatory looks like.
Ah, yes. Eight. Eight hours.
Division. MPs are voting now on the contempt motion.
Ok here we go.
Ayes 307 no 311
The govt amendment has been defeated.
The govt amendment was basically a delaying gambit. Fact it has been shot down suggests they are about to lose (probably maybe). MPs will now vote on the main contempt motion.
You can find the wording of the amendment and the main motion on page 8 of this…
You can also use that paper to look at what the amendments are to the business of the House - basically, the way it is going to debate Brexit over the next few days.
Most are on time extension, for instance by extending debates to ten hours a day (dear God). The crucial Grieve one, is D.
Extraordinary moment, really. MPs are voting on whether the government is in contempt of parliament. That's a bad sentence right there.
The government has been in contempt of parliament. Ayes: 311 Noes: 293.
Starmer up. Says it is unprecedented. Demands full legal advice now published in full. Asks what he can do if they fail to respond.
Leadsom responds: "In light of the expressed will of the House we will publish the final and full advice provided by the AG to Cabinet."
But she is passing to Privileges Committee to consider the ramifications.
Starmer asks what steps they can take to make sure it is published by time MPs vote. Bercow says it is "Unimaginable" it would not be. Leadsom says govt will respond tomorrow.
This is a historic moment of humiliation for a British government. May has tried to use secrecy and a bullying opposition to parliament to force her interpretation of Brexit through. That process seems to have now been halted.
It is not, in my opinion, the most important vote we'll see today. That's Amendment D, which would allow MPs to grapple back control of Brexit.
But it is a stark sign of the abject state of the government and suggests parliament is finding its spine.
Also, in terms of sheer political poetry: Theresa May is going to stand up to present her Brexit deal to the Commons later, right after her government was found in contempt of parliament.
The history books will write themselves.
Grieve reminds House of how May bought him off on meaningful vote on no-deal. There is currently no protection. "The opportunity exists this afternoon to cure that anomaly."
Says it is disrespectful to this House to have unamendable motions when parliament needs all means possible to resolve all issues in these hectic circumstances.
If you want to read what the hell this amendment stuff is all about (it's very important and might define how Brexit works out) read this explainer…
Oliver Letwin: Hasn't always agreed with Grieve on Brexit stuff. But says that he agrees the effects of Section 13 (which means no MP control on no-deal) are unacceptable.
Letwin says 13(8) specifies what happens in event of May's deal being voted down. You can read the Act here…
The reference to a neutral motion relies on Standing order 24B, which he says is "closest thing we have to a constitution. It says they can't be amended. Lewtin explains that his amendment would mean it doesn't apply.
Letwin trying to rally the anti-no-deal majority of the House. Says an amendable vote would allow the Commons to "crystallise and express" an alternative to no-deal should the need arise.
Joanna Cheery, SNP, says the advisory statements in Europe suggesting UK can unilaterally stop Article 50 are pertinent to these proceedings. She says the vote should be put off until that full decision is in (won't happen).
Hilary Benn now (he's also a signatory to the Grieve amendment and has his own one doing roughly the same thing if it fails).
"This whole process has shown the govt's marked reluctance to listen to the House and I suspect that what the govt has sown it shall reap."
"It is essential" the House is able to have a voice on this issue he says.
Right, division - they're off to vote.
It is had to overstate how important this moment is, I think. It would create a final last-defence against no-deal Brexit. It would show MPs finally starting to wrestle control of Brexit.
Most importantly, it would show MPs were finally getting over the anxiety attack they'd been given by the referendum. They would be giving themselves the power to direct government on something they should manifestly be directing govt on.
This feels like the moment for that to happen, esp right after the contempt motion, but dynamics here are different, esp with Brexit supporting Labour MPs and the DUP.
I've been burned before. Refuse to get my hopes up.
If I had to put money on it, I'd say govt will win. I've lost my confidence on MPs really. If they win I'm going to break open some wine and have it during the Brexit debate.
OK here we go.
Ayes 321 Noes 299
Holy shit
Grieve amendment passed. Govt loses.
And by a really quite significant margin.
This feels like a very significant moment. And not just because the prime minister is standing up to defend her deal after losing three - count 'em, three - votes in a row.
Something has fundamentally changed here. Parliament is taking back control.
May is no longer mocking or dismissing People's Vote. Asks supporters to think how another referendum would be felt by the 52%. She just hasn't ever reached out to Remainers enough to be persuasive in that.
She is trying hard to present herself as the moderate centre. But the reality is this is not a moderate or centrist deal. It is insane.
Even May doesn't confident about her arguments.
Yvette Cooper giving May a drubbing in the Commons. Bercow asks her to make clear she is not saying May is lying. Cooper does and then asks her questions again. May of course evades.
Utter hypocrisy from May, saying second referendum would drag on the Brexit debate - her deal will stretch it forever - and divide the country. This from the 'citizens of nowhere' PM.
I have seen countless Europeans feel they didn't belong here anymore, countless Brits look around them and think this is no longer a country for them. And then she has the gall to accuse others of dividing the country.
She tried to channel division for her own political advantage. She had opponents libelled as enemies of the people. And now that she is weak, she wants to pretend she's some kind of unifying PM. No-one is dumb enough to buy that shit.
Corbyn up. Says it is one of the most important debates in his entire time in the Commons. About time he recognised that.
Right have a piece on what's happened tonight
May crushed as parliament humbles her before Brexit vote…
In no way did I really rather enjoy writing that.
Right, it's happening. The live coverage may go downhill from here.
That was a genuinely good statement from Corbyn. Best I've seen him do on Brexit.
I promise I'm not pissed yet.
Johnson typically pitiful. EU would keep us as "an example to the rest of the world as a reminder of what happens when you try to leave the EU".
There is a strong case to be made that the backstop is democratically intolerable. But putting in these hysterical, conspiracy-theory terms is just embarrassing.
"We're responsible for forging our own manacles." Man pisses himself and thinks it's poetry.
Now goes full conspiracy theory, saying Brexit secretary was kept in the dark.
"This isn't Brexit." The real Brexit is presumably like the perfect partner to a serial monogamist - always the next one along.
This is an interesting moment. Johnson trying his usual hogwash. But it's not washing with Tory MPs. Loud cheers when he is challenged or mocked.
"In Brussels they think they've got us beat." He has nothing. Just these sad tawdry little war-like metaphors. He is a human dribble, blathering itself out.
He's going to say Super-Canada in a bit
Johnson's big idea, his grand alternative, is to hold back half of the divorce bill. "I hope that answers your question." Not so much mate.
Ken Clarke: "What he is suggesting is we reject the withdrawal agreement now, go back and say we're not gong t pay our contribution or guarantee an open border in Ireland. Does he think there's the faintest chance of that being taken seriously by any member government?"
Johnson asked about cancer treatment outside of Euratom. Says it is "scaremongering".
"That is what we should have been doing for the last two years"

(Johnson was in government for most of that time.)
The giant bellend finally said it.
He then goes on to suggest that there will be popular uprising if the people don't get Super-Canada. Seriously.
Warnings of popular uprisings are the new 'will of the people'. They used to project the contents of their head to the public. Now they project them onto imaginary riots.
It feels like Johnson has been talking for 5,000 years.
This is a man with no ideas, no plan, no principles, and no real skills, beyond a shallow bluffery. He stands quite thoroughly revealed.
Johnson sits down. I have aged at twice the usual rate.
Blackford, SNP: "To learn from the rich diversity that Europe has to offer.. the right to live and work across the EU is to be ended for the next generation."
He has a friend in the gallery he first met in Amsterdam. It's a touching speech. "Opportunities to benefit from an inclusive Europe swapped for the constraints of an inward looking United Kingdom."
"Stop and enshrine the benefits of free movement of people that has enriched so many of us." It was really a terribly good speech.
Fellow SNP MP: "Can I commend the open nature of the speeches given in stark contrast to the capricious and solipsistic nonsense from the former foreign secretary."
We've got some solid parliamentary quality going on here tonight. More like this please.
It's a shame the Chamber has largely emptied out.
Bloody blimey though it's going on a while.
This speech has gone on a bit too long and gone a bit panto. I preferred his early work.
"The only way to protect Scotland's interests is to be an independent nation." And then he falls off a cliff.
That speech ended about 15 minutes after it should have. It's Graham Brady next, God help us all. Least I agreed with the last one.
Starts with the most tiresome fucking claptrap, saying democracy and the rule of law are "strongest" here in England.
Quite apart from the idiocy of some kind of quantitative competition on rule of law, he is historically wrong.
I presume he's in a good position to talk about the tolerant policies in the Netherlands in the 17th Century, when we were imprisoning heretics and branding critics of the king as 'seditious libellers'.
The English Civil War and Glorious Revolution were v.proud moments that did a lot of good for us & the world, but there is nothing there to compare with the Rights of Man after the French Revolution.
You can be proud of English history without getting lost in this kind of ahistorical little-island dreadfulness.
Mercifully short though. Credit for that.
Margaret Beckett: "I voted to trigger Article 50. But frankly since then it's been downhill all the way. Those who clamoured for us to leave the EU had no idea what to do next."
Beckett complains about Brexit in the same tone that someone complains about a package holiday on You and Yours.
"If anyone had said that we would reach the end of the two-year window without reaching any deal at all I wouldn't have believed it." Tbf we did send you the boom Margaret.
Anna Soubry being brilliant. "The great failing of my own govt was from the outset, when instead of reaching out across this House and country, to heal divisions, the exact opposite was done."
"The 48% was tossed aside. We were abused, We were sidelined. If we had the temerity to question almost anything, we were called Remoaners."
She points out that the reason they are having a proper debate is being Remainers in parliament stood up bravely, against the abuse, to ensure it.
Hilary Benn Brexit committee chair) is up. Reminds us of David Davis nonsense. "We hold all the cards". "This will be the easiest trade deal in history."
Ben rightly says that May;s red lines were a historic mistake: They created the problem of the border in Ireland.
Benn has had a good Brexit. Knowledgeable throughout, well judged, pressing on sensitive areas. Continues that trend here.
"No-deal has to be kept alive as the bogeyman to frighten the House of Commons into voting for this deal."
Roger Gale does his best interpretation of a sane Brexiter. Think - wine starting to hit home now - this is the first pro-deal voice since May.
He's very good on hard Brexit. "That shutter will come down, there will be controls. The traffic backs up at about a mile an hour."
"That's out of the port of Dover, up the M20, up the M26, onto the M25 and then we're stuffed. The M25 comes to grinding halt, south London comes to a grinding halt and soon Birmingham comes to a grinding halt."
Vince Cable is making a speech but I am afraid I am finding it very tedious indeed.
He's right about everything etc etc, but still.
Dominic Grieve is up.
Gonna bring the Grieving.
"The reality is not the PM's red lines but the rather harsher truth that the decision that underpinned Brexit was built upon fantasy."
"A fantasy about the nature of the UK, about its apparent lack of interdependence with other states...
... and about our ability to get a deal from the EU which seemed to presuppose that we were separating ourselves from a sovereign entity and not, as we were in reality, trying to detach ourselves from an international treat organisation with a complicated rule book."
The Grieving: His sentences are so long they do not fit in a single tweet. But also they are really very brilliant indeed.
They have the considerable advantage of being correct.
"There is enough there of a challenge that ought to give this House real pause for thought."
"Far from bringing this debate to an end we are only just embarking upon it. And it will destroy this country."
"Over years of sterile debate about a future relationship with the very real possibility that at the end of it we are still left in a relationship of dependency, because that comes from our geography."
"I do not consider - that I can look my sons in the eye - that I am simply prepared to sign this off."
"As for no-deal, a moment's look at the economic projections show that it would be plunging this country into chaos for the sake of satisfying the ideological fixations of a tiny minority of this House. And I will not let happen."
Applause on this shit. Obvs I am partial to the argument, but as simple parliamentary performance, I wish more MPs were capable of it. Structured argument, confidently delivered, eloquently phrased.
Nigel Dodds, dreadful little man, nevertheless giving it proper welly.
"On customs arrangements, it's simply untrue to say we are all in one big customs union together N.Ireland is in the EU customs Union. That is to me as a Unionist something that is unacceptable."
"We were told by the PM in her six declarations to the people of N.Ireland that she would ensure N.Ireland left the EU with the UK. These commitments and pledges were made and they are now being broken."
Owen Paterson, the people's moron, is up.
The content is only slightly less dreadful than his manner.
He sounds like a madman shouting at imaginary enemies in the night.
Which is literally what he is, I suppose.
"The people will have been thwarted and deprived by the establishment. We've seen it this evening: The political establishment hates Brexit." An MP in the House of Commons is saying this.
"I've spent a lot of time on this Mr Speaker. I've written a paper with the ERG." There's a classic for the ages.
Now Steve Baker getting stuck in. A circus of dimwits.
Paterson talks like a man who got his dick caught in his fly and trying to explain things to the emergency services.
"We're going to make preparations for what Project Fear calls no-deal." Like bingo played with Leaver cliches.
Oh, now he's on the GATT slashfic.
The General Agreement on Tariff and Trade: an endless cauldron of imaginary laws the Leavers can use to miraculously heal their bullshit.
If you are struggling to stay awake I would strongly advise you do not watch Roger Godsiff's speech.
Maria Miller starts off with the most astonishingly stupid argument. "If the contents of this withdrawal agreement had been secured by David Cameron in 2016 it would have been heralded as a great success."
Seriously though. If he had come back having trashed our services exports, introduced checks on goods exports, carved up UK territorial integrity, and eliminated any British influence in the rules we'd anyway have to follow... we would have called it a success?
What would failure have looked like? 'I've got a great deal with the EU but you're all going to have to give up your first born."
Daniel Kawczynski is up, God help us all. Towering mediocrity hovering over proceedings like some terrible memory from childhood.
He bangs on about having to enter the eurozone. Then admits we have an opt-out. And then says that in 30 years we might not.
"I take my daughter Alexis to the Polish-Russia border every summer holiday."
I promise I'm not making this up.
Poor Alexis.
This is bad.
But it's ok, we have a cure.
I know it;s dreadful American wanktoxin, btw - but it's what's available.
It's no Auchentoshan, that's for sure.
Edward Vaizey points out that when the debate concludes the Speaker will have been in the chair for 13.5 hours.
Vaizey says he was trolled recently by Remainers quoting Burke. He definitely gets a better class of troll than I do.
"All you Brexiteers will complain. You'll complain about the withdrawal agreement, that's not good enough. If we crash out with no-deal you'll say no-one ever prepared for it. Nothing is ever the Brexiteers' fault. No solution is ever put forward by the Brexiteers."
"I would have thought... international trade, the Foreign Office and the Brexit department - three pretty big departments, aside from the prime minister the Brexiteers elected by the way, to allow you to deliver the Brexit that you pretend you anted."
He's good is Vaizey, shame he's decided to support the bill.
"The citizens of nowhere language, the queue-jumper language. Too often, the PM has only spoken for the 52%. I was delighted earlier today when she spoke a bit about the 48% but there was no attempt to heal the divisions of the referendum which leaves me hugely disappointed."
That was a great speech. I have no idea how he got from those points to supporting the deal, but whatever.
Lilian Greenwood delivers speeches like she's reading children a story.
Ben Bradley, tiresome in the extreme, clucking out a series of unexamined ideas he read somewhere once, robbing us all of crucial minutes in our lives.
"No deal is better than a bad deal, rather than being held over a barrel". The whole speech has been like this. Words are just bridges between cloches for him.
"Customs has moved on and we have to embrace that and the EU has to embrace that too." What on earth is he talking about.
Thank God that's over. Finally a proper MP. Caroline Lucas is up.
"This debate goes to the very essence of what we want to be as a country: Confident, compassionate, outward facing or fearful, inward-looking and isolated."
"Those who voted to leave because they thought the status-quo was intolerable were right. It is."
Rachel Maclean just said "I support Brexit" three times in the space of a minute. At first I was convinced but now I'm not so sure.
"I never said it would be easy to leave the EU having spent 30 years in business as I said."
I know a few people who have been successful in business and none of them ever say things like 'after 30 years in business'.
They just call it 'working'.
"All scenarios now mean chaos, political chaos, and terminal division." I'm still not sure she supports Brexit.
Yep, gonna put that in the top three shittest speeches of the night.
David Lammy: "The audacious idea of European integration was motivated by fear, but it was made possible by shared ideals: democracy, human rights, quality, freedom, and a refusal to submit to the tyranny of fascism ever again."
"Be honest with the country. Total independence is a fantasy. It's the same motivation that leads an angry teenager to run away from their country."
"Britain did not become great in total isolation. Britain thrived by becoming the biggest treaty-signing power in the world. Britain thrived by sharing our sovereignty, not stockpiling it."
This is an exceptional, informed, wise and passionate speech.
Although he indicated individualism is a bad thing, whereas it is in fact the great stimulus of all moral political thought - but this is probably not the right time for that.
"Europe gave post-imperial Britain a chance to regain some wealth and dignity."
Really very good indeed. Ferocious, like a machine gun of pent up rhetoric and sustained outrage.
"What does it say about the UK when the UN sends rapporteur to warn us of increased racism in our country, when our politicians play to fear of racists, when Nigel Farage stood in front of a Nazi inspired poster of refugees?"
"What I am about to say is not fashionable. Our country's story of renewal through Europe is a story of immigration."
"We grew as a nation because of free movement. European migrants are not citizens of nowhere or queue-jumpers as the PM would have us believe. EU citizens have given us so much. They have don the jobs our own would not do."
"The contribution of European migrants has not been just financial: Our culture, our art, our music , our food have been permanently improved."
"I cannot vote for any form of Brexit, because every form of Brexit is worse for my constituents."
"This country is crying out for a second chance. They are asking for one thing: an opportunity to right the wrong of 2016. Another shot at the imperfect but audacious European dream."
Blimey. Look, you can raise objections about some of Lammy's points (I don't think the nation as one is rising up to demand a People's Vote), but there are very few people in the Chamber who can deliver a speech like that.
The passion, the pace, the narrative, and still pegged down by reasoned argument and facts. Really, really impressive.
Right I'm going to end on a high note and leave it there. No way am I doing this for another four hours, or however long there is to go, I'd be proper shitted. Goodnight you masochists.
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