MPs were told on Thursday that their February recess — a scheduled week away from Westminster — would be cancelled so Parliament could focus on Brexit.
The news had some politicians scrambling to cancel holidays they had booked for that week.
Is the decision to cancel recess proof that MPs are taking Brexit seriously and trying to get a deal through in time for the March 29 deadline?
Possibly not. There is no Brexit business in the House of Commons next week, but MPs have instead found time to have a “general debate on sport”.
The government has a lot of Brexit legislation to get through before the UK leaves the EU, but there is one problem: It can’t get on with it until a deal is agreed.
As things stand, there is no sign any significant Brexit business will be taking place during the cancelled recess week starting Feb. 18, and MPs are expecting to be on a one-line whip, meaning they are not required to attend Parliament.
In an email leaked to BuzzFeed News, Conservative chief whip Julian Smith told MPs they didn’t have to turn up if they had scheduled “time with their families” that week. Which sounds a lot like letting them have a holiday...
MPs suspect Theresa May is looking for easy headlines about “cancelling holidays to get on with Brexit,” when in reality it’s a PR exercise.
Labour’s Jess Phillips told BuzzFeed News: “We are either needed for important legislation or we aren’t. If we are then we should be there. People’s trust in politicians is so low, such stunts do nothing for faith.”
Commenting on the leaked email, shadow minister Justin Madders added: “What a joke, if there’s business to do then let’s do it.”
And a Labour source said: “This is written confirmation that this is nothing other [than] a Downing Street PR stunt. Instead of bringing forward necessary Brexit legislation, it looks like business as usual with Ministers running away from Parliament.”
This guy has a fun idea for how Labour could take advantage of Tory MPs going on holiday:
Or maybe it’s the prime minister who could take advantage of Brexiteers sloping off:
Whether MPs will actually be spending February recess working on Brexit in Westminster will likely come down to whether May has secured a deal by then. Which, at the moment, seems less than likely.
Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alex Wickham at email@example.com.
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