Week ahead in Parliament

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It's the last two days before the summer recess - and the agenda looks pretty light as the parliamentarians coast towards their holiday break, so light, indeed, that the government attempted to cancel this week's sitting altogether.

But as readers of this blog will know, the agenda available the week before may not flag up unexpected dramas, and after the turmoil of the last couple of weeks, it is far from impossible that there may be a grand operatic finale to a turbulent couple of months.

One point of interest will be whether the government Chief Whip, Julian Smith, is forced to the dispatch box to make an unprecedented statement about the "pairing" row, which has rumbled on since last week's close votes on the customs and trade bills.

This may seem a very internal issue, but it's worth remembering that the system of allowing pairing, where one side's MPs don't take part in a vote so that MPs on the other side, with medical issues, don't have to, is a sacrosanct part of Commons life.

And - because on less vital votes, it is extended to allow MPs to get away for other reasons - it is one which is vital to MPs quality of life, leaving aside the toxic allegation of cheating. Which is a long winded way of saying there will be hell to pay if it breaks down, because the Opposition decides it can't trust the government to honour those arrangements.

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Image caption James Callaghan's government lost its majority - and the pairing arrangement in the Commons broke down

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Week ahead in Parliament

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Does the Government have a Commons majority anymore?

Next week we will see the first post-Chequers test of whether disgruntled Brexiteer Tories, deeply unhappy with what they see as the PM's soft-boiled version of leaving the EU, will still toe the party line.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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The outcome of the government's Chequers meeting on Brexit will shape the political and parliamentary week ahead.

If the discussions produce a white paper on future customs arrangements which Conservative MPs can unite around, then the febrile atmosphere of the last few weeks should evaporate.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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For once this week's Commons agenda is focused not on Brexit but on the detail of government spending.

Monday and Tuesday are taken up with Estimates day debates which will allow MPs the rare opportunity of probing ministers' spending plans - and with vast pressure on public spending, and the announcement that, having found £20bn for health and social care, the government had no money for anything else, these debates will offer a chance for MPs to highlight the funding problems across public services.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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A quieter, but not rebellion free, week awaits the denizens of Westminster, as MPs take a break from Brexit battles, to vote on allowing an extra runway at London's Heathrow Airport instead.

I had wondered if, fresh from their triumph this week, the Conservatives whips would seize the moment and bring forward the long-postponed report stage consideration of the Trade Bill, where the Conservative Anna Soubry has been poised to push an amendment to require the government to seek "A" customs union with the EU.

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Game playing in Westminster infuriates viewers

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Image caption Sir Christopher Chope's objection to the progress of the bill has caused a storm

I wonder if the problem is that some MPs, indeed some in positions of power, have simply not cottoned onto the fact that many more people now watch their debates?

Once upon a time the joke was that in the Commons Chamber, no-one can hear you scream.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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Image caption Conservative MP Dominic Grieve (left) is one of the leading rebels

It's back to Brexit again in both Houses of Parliament, after the issue of a "meaningful vote" unexpectedly detonated.

Soft Brexit/Remainer Tory MPs, led by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, thought they had a deal with the prime minister on the issue. They had drawn back from rebelling on Tuesday on the promise of a compromise - but then discovered that the government was not offering them what they thought had been conceded.

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The government blinks first

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Image caption Intervening to make an offer: it looks as though the government concessions appealed to the rebels

Maybe it was the moment when the former education secretary, Justine Greening, intervened on her former ministerial colleague, Dominic Grieve, that the government realised the game was up.

She was so supportive towards the former attorney general, as he argued for Parliament to have a "meaningful vote" on the terms of the Brexit deal, that it seemed probable she would join the Euro-rebels in voting for it….

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EU bill: what are the consequences of today's votes?

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All aboard for another spin of the Brexit hamster wheel!

As MPs embark on the first of what promises to be a long series of votes on Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, here are a few thoughts on the events ahead:

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Week ahead in Parliament

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After a tumultuous Westminster week laid bare the government's Brexit divisions, next week's important votes on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill cold rub salt into raw wounds.

The government has now published its response to the 15 amendments on which it lost votes in the Lords - and they vary from flat rejection (on the European Economic Area and the Customs Union) to watering-down (on the meaningful vote) to embracing with a bit of tweaking (the Northern Ireland amendment and the Dubs amendment on child refugees) to outright acceptance (on the continuing relationship with the EU, post-Brexit).

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