News in Brief UK Politics

Friday Update: 31st January 2020

Written by Callum Williams

This week, Labour’s leadership election continued and MSPs voted to support a second independence referendum as the UK leaves the European Union, 47 years after it joined.

Britain to leave the EU

Three years and seven months ago, the United Kingdom voted by a majority of 52% to 48% to leave the European Union. Finally after two General Elections, two Supreme Court battles, three Prime Ministers and hundreds of hours of parliamentary debate and votes, the UK will leave the European Union at 11 pm tonight.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to pass the withdrawal agreement, formalising the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Nigel Farage, in his usual style, attacked the EU in his final speech while pro-EU British MEPs expressed a hope that the UK might one day rejoin. Following the vote, the MEPs sang Auld Lang Syne to symbolise the end of the UK’s membership.

However, despite the rhetoric, the Brexit drama isn’t over yet. In the next 11 months, Boris Johnson faces a difficult task and will have to negotiate a brand new trade deal with the EU or face another no-deal cliff edge when the transition arrangements expire on the 31st December 2020.

Scottish Independence

On Wednesday, MSPs backed a motion by 64 votes to 54 votes in support of a second independence referendum, following Johnson’s refusal to grant a Section 30 order which would allow the Scottish Parliament to hold a legally binding referendum on independence.

Nicola Sturgeon is in a very difficult position, with Johnson in No. 10 for the next five years refusing to grant her wish. She could try and hold a referendum without Westminster’s consent and while it may be legal it wouldn’t bind the UK Government and a potential pro-union boycott would make it a risky strategy. So despite the SNPs bombardment of pro-independence rhetoric, a second independence vote seems unlikely any time soon.

Labour Leadership Election

This week Rebecca Long-Bailey gained sufficient affiliate support to join Starmer and Nandy on the ballot. Emily Thornberry is currently the only leadership candidate not to reach the threshold with no affiliate support and only four constituency parties, making it unlikely she will reach the final ballot.

Both Angela Rayner and Richard Burgeon have made it onto the deputy leadership ballet. They will possibly be joined by Dawn Butler who has 10 constituency nominations and the support of one affiliate. However, Rossana Allin-Khan and Ian Murray are both struggling to gain affiliates and constituency parties making it unlikely either of them will get on the final ballot.

Keir Starmer is still the favourite to win with a comfortable poll lead, drawing broad support from both the left and the centre of the party. The results of the leadership election will be announced on 4th April at a special conference.

Further Reading

Follow live updates on Labour’s leadership election on their election site here.

Want to find out more about the Candidates in Labour’s leadership election? Read Fraser Innes’s analysis here.

About the author

Callum Williams

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