Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
13 November 2017

David Davis is still denying MPs a “meaningful vote” on Brexit

By forcing parliament to choose between the Conservatives' deal or no deal, the government is putting a gun to MPs' heads. 

By George Eaton

David Davis gave the appearance of a concession when he announced that MPs would vote on the government’s final Brexit deal in the form of a parliamentary bill. Labour’s Keir Starmer hailed a “significant climbdown from a weak government on the verge of defeat”. The new bill will be amendable by MPs and will receive greater parliamentary scrutiny than secondary legislation. 

But it swiftly became clear that the concession is less significant than it appears. To gasps from MPs, Davis confirmed that the UK would still leave the EU without a deal if the Commons voted against the government’s agreement. With this declaration, the Brexit Secretary is holding a gun to MPs’ heads. Were Britain to leave with no deal, the UK would face punitive tariffs, chaos at ports and even grounded flights. But to avoid this outcome, MPs would be forced to accept the Conservatives’ “hard Brexit”, including withdrawal from the single market and the customs union. To adapt Theresa May, “no deal” would not be better than a bad deal – but neither is desirable. 

By enshrining the UK’s scheduled departure date in law (29 March 2019), the government is also seeking to close down the possibility of an extension in the negotiations (during which time a new election or new referendum could be held). Davis also refused to guarantee that the vote would be held before the UK leaves (merely stating that this was a “principal policy aim”), and confirmed that MPs would have no right to veto a “no deal” scenario. In short, as May once remarked, nothing has changed. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Content from our partners
High streets remain vitally important to local communities
The future of gas
Taxing non-doms fairly would raise billions