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Friday, March 15, 2019

Labour and Tory splits stand starkly exposed on Brexit

Amidst the chaos of this week in Parliament, the one thing that stands out is how deeply and irrevocably split both Labour and the Tories are over Brexit, and indeed other issues emanating from it.

Whether it is the farcical sight of eight cabinet members refusing to back Theresa May's plan to delay Brexit by three months, or Labour ordering MPs to sit on their hands rather than vote for a measure which is allegedly their own policy, only to see 24 MPs, including shadow ministers, defy that whip, the two major parties are as chaotic as Brexit itself.

The Independent reports that amongst those Tory MPs who failed to support the Prime Minister, was Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, who was joined by 187 other Conservative MPs and frontbenchers in voting against her approach. This was despite the fact that minutes before, Barclay had been arguing for the policy change at the despatch box.

None of the ministers opposing Ms May’s ultimately successful move to delay Brexit will be sacked, because she allowed a “free vote” on the issue in the face of a mass rebellion, which in itself is a sign of just how weak she is as a leader. The rebellion comes on the back of a vote the night before in which remainer cabinet ministers refused to support the government on a motion ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, Labour are not spared this disarray. As the Guardian reports, they ordered their MPs to abstain on a second referendum amendment only to see 24 MPs defy the whip to support it.  It is apparently Labour Party policy to support another plebiscite, though you would not know it by listening to the pronouncements and watching the actions of the Labour leadership.

There are of course arguments about the timing of the vote on another referendum, but the optics tell us all we need to know about Labour's tacit support for us leaving the EU and their inability to offer and effective opposition to this government.
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