THE PROSPECT of Parliament cancelling its February break because of Brexit is certainly beginning to concentrate minds after Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, warned that Britain’s departure from the European Union could have to be delayed if MPs and peers are to have time to pass the necessary laws.
This, of course, is assuming a degree of unanimity can be reached after Theresa May was effectively given the authority this week to return to Brussels to re-negotiate the Northern Irish backstop. It is still unclear whether the EU will acquiesce to any haggling over the Withdrawal Agreement.
Yet there does appear to be some belated urgency on the Government’s part. Having previously rebuffed the likes of Melanie Onn, the Great Grimsby MP, over her attempt in 2017 to strengthen workers’ rights, Ministers have now met her to see if her ideas are now acceptable. What’s changed?.
Business Secretary Greg Clark went further, stressing the need to reach out across the political divide to ensure that any agreement receives a large mandate from MPs. “I don’t think we should aim for this deal to pass by a majority of one or two. I would like to a substantial majority for a deal,” he said.
And now Mrs May is raising the prospect of a cash injection for deprived areas that predominantly voted Leave. The objective is two-fold: to replace regeneration funding that has been distributed, until now, by the EU and to entice the more malleable Labour MPs in the North to back a modified agreement.
However why is the Government only considering these matters now? Pertinent and self-evident on the day that Mrs May succeeded David Cameron, they are even more relevant now. The question is whether the Prime Minister and her team, poor strategists and tacticians at the best of times, have left it too late?