Even though it feels like it has been dragging on forever the legislative pace for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is quite compressed. Recently resigned former Downing Street Director of Legislative Affairs, Nikki da Costa, has written an eviscerating thread running through the incredibly tight timetable the Government faces.
“Supposing the deal passes, you then introduce the WAB [Withdrawal Agreement Bill] straight away. And supposing you use EU Withdrawal Act as a template for how much time for scrutiny – then you need 13 days in the Commons and close to 20 in the Lords and 4 in ping-pong. 37 days.
Not including Fridays by my count from 21 January, and if you still allow for a February recess, there are only 36 sitting days.”
The later the Government leaves the meaningful vote, the less scrutiny there will be on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. Today Andrea Leadsom confirmed that the meaningful vote will not happen until next year!
On top of this, the deadline could be squeezed even further, as 21st January is only the deadline in law if a deal has not been reached, and the Government told the House on 26 November that a deal has been reached. We are heading towards historically low scrutiny on an historically important Bill…
Guido understands that Nikki Da Costa, Downing Street’s director of legislative affairs has resigned. The position was created last year to deal with the difficulties of pushing through tricky legislation without a majority in the Commons. Her main focus was coordinating legislation in Parliament to ensure passage of both Brexit and domestic bills. When Guido contacted her this morning she was very flustered and directed questions to the PM’s press secretary. One can hardly blame Nikki for not wanting to try to navigate this deal through parliament…
UPDATE: Nikki Da Costa has issued a terse on-the-record line “It has been an honour to serve the PM and I have huge respect for her. This decision was very hard.”