- Members of Parliament will on Wednesday evening seize control of the agenda and stage a series of “indicative votes” on Brexit.
- Options likely to be considered by MPs are to leave Britain without a deal, revoke Article 50, or hold a second referendum.
- It is possible none of the options will gather majority support.
- Victory for any could push Britain in a very different Brexit direction.
LONDON – Members of Parliament will on Wednesday evening seize control of the House of Commons agenda in order to take part in a series of “indicative votes” designed to direct Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
The House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has selected the options to be voted on from a selection of 16 put forward by MPs on Tuesday.
Bercow has selected the following options for a vote:
- No-deal Brexit
- Norway option / Common Market 2.0
- Norway without customs union
- Customs Union
- Labour’s Brexit plan.
- Revoke Article 50
- Second referendum
- Standstill transition
MPs will this evening select one, or more, of the options they are in favour of on a ballot paper, with results expected at some point after 21.15 GMT.
The votes are technically non-binding, but could put huge pressure on May to change course. If there is a majority for any option, MPs could also choose to legislate for it to force the prime minister to act.
So how will MPs likely vote?
Brexiteers have put forward a series of motions calling for Britain to leave the European Union without a deal, after May’s deal was twice voted down by the House of Commons.
Even if selected by Bercow, this option is highly unlikely to be successful given that MPs have repeatedly passed previous motions ruling out a no-deal exit.
Chance of passing today: 0%
Revoke Article 50
One option put forward yesterday is to make revoking Article 50 the default option for if MPs refuse to back a deal by the time Britain is due to leave the EU. Until recently this was a fringe position in British politics. However, the recent petition, which has been signed by more than 5 million voters, pushed this issue into the mainstream. While there is almost no chance of a majority of MPs backing the option today, it cannot be ruled out as a future option if MPs fail to find an alternative course before Britain’s exit date from the EU. One to watch for the future.
Chance of passing today: 5%
A ‘confirmatory’ second referendum
Another option that has gained ground in recent weeks has been for MPs to back May’s Withdrawal Agreement, but only in exchange for the prime minister agreeing to hold a “confirmatory” referendum on the deal. This option, pushed by Labour MP Peter Kyle, is being supported by the Labour leadership who will tell the party’s MPs to back it. However, while this option has some logic to it, it is likely to fall at the first hurdle both among MPs who are opposed to backing May’s deal no matter what and among those who are opposed to a second referendum no matter what. As a result, this is unlikely to pass today. However, as with several of the other options on the table, they could gather more support if Parliament remains gridlocked over the coming weeks.
Chance of passing today: 20%
Staying in the Customs Union
There are two proposals on the order paper today for Britain to remain in the customs union. This is an interesting one. Labour officially supports staying in some form of customs union, albeit a reformed one, and there are significant numbers of Conservative MPs who would be happy to back it as well. There is therefore a hypothetical majority for this option. However, while choosing a customs union would go a long way to solving the controversial Northern Ireland border issue raised by the current Withdrawal Agreement, it would not eliminate it altogether as Britain would still be outside of the European Single Market. However, the Labour leadership is whipping in favour of this motion, so there is a decent chance that this passes with the help of Tory MPs.
Chance of passing 40%
A very soft Brexit
There is a very good chance that today ends without a majority of MPs backing any of the options on offer. However, of all the alternative plans put forward yesterday, the one most likely to pass is for a softer Brexit in which Britain remains inside the Customs Union and stays closely aligned to the Single Market.
The Labour leadership’s own motion is broadly in line with this and a spokesperson for the party said on Wednesday that they would be “encouraging support” for the option of a “Common Market 2.0” or “Norway Plus” relationship with the EU. This option would leave Britain very closely tied to the EU and could potentially command a majority of MPs.
However, with most Conservative MPs opposing and Labour deeply split between those in Leave seats who object to the plan as a betrayal of the referendum result and Remainers who are holding out for a second referendum, this option is likely to fail to win a majority – at least at the first time of asking.
However, if plans go ahead for another run-off series of indicative votes next week in which the best losers from today’s votes are voted on again then it could potentially squeak by, particularly if it is judged as the best option for preventing a no-deal Brexit.
Chance of passing: 50%
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