Deadlock: Parliament fails to back any alternatives to Theresa May's Brexit deal

UK Parliament / Jessica TaylorMPs during a debate on indicative votes on Brexit in the House of Commons, 27 March 2019.
  • Members of Parliament failed to find a majority consensus on an alternative to the prime minister’s Brexit deal.
  • The House of Commons took part in a series of “indicative votes” on Wednesday night after twice rejecting the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May.
  • None won the support of a majority of MPs.
  • However, two options received significant amounts of support.
  • An amendment calling for the UK to stay in a customs union with the European Union lost by just 8 votes – 272 to 264.
  • And the push for a referendum on the final deal got more support than May’s deal has ever received; 268 MPs voted for it, and 295 voted against it.
  • Another round of votes is set to take place next week.

LONDON – Members of Parliament have failed to find a majority for any of the alternatives to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, throwing the future of Brexit into doubt with just two weeks to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave.

The House of Commons cast their ballots in a series of non-binding indicative votes designed to test if there was a majority for any alternatives to the prime minister’s own Brexit deal, which they have rejected twice before.

May would not have been legally bound to commit to implementing the result but would have been under huge political pressure to pursue a new Brexit plan, had MPs voted for it.

MPs failed to produce majority support for any of the options put forward on Wednesday evening.

However, calls for a new Brexit referendum and for the UK to negotiate a permanent customs union with the European Union both received significant levels of support ahead of another round of indicative votes next week.

The House voted on eight different Brexit options after backbench MPs moved on Monday to wrestle control of the House of Commons agenda from the government.

Options that were considered on Wednesday night were a no-deal Brexit, a Norway-style “soft” Brexit, customs-union membership, single-market membership, Labour’s alternative Brexit plan, the revocation of Article 50, and a confirmatory referendum on May’s Brexit deal.

Here is how MPs voted:

  • No-deal Brexit – 160 yes, 400 no
  • A Common Market 2.0 “soft” Brexit – 188 yes, 283 no
  • Single-market membership via the European Economic Area – 65 yes, 377 no
  • Customs-union membership – 264 yes, 272 no
  • Labour’s alternative plan – 237 yes, 307 no
  • Revoke Article 50 to avoid no-deal – 184 yes, 293 no
  • A new referendum – 268 yes, 295 no
  • A “managed” no-deal – 139 yes, 422 no.

How is Westminster reacting?

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said that the failure of MPs to agree on a plan proved that May’s deal was the “best” available. The government is considering putting it to another meaningful vote either today or Friday.

However, opposition MPs pointed out that the prime minister’s deal has never received as many votes as calls for a confirmatory referendum and for a permanent customs union did on Wednesday evening.

MPs who support a referendum, or what campaigners call a “People’s Vote,” were very happy after following the votes.

“A very strong showing,” one Labour MP who supports a referendum on the final deal told Business Insider.

“It shows a confirmatory referendum is the way forward for any deal.”

Labour MP and supporter of pro-referendum campaign Best For Britain Jo Stevens, said they showed “the growing realisation among MPs that the people can provide a solution to the current Brexit mess.”

However, it was a less successful night for supporters of the the Common Market 2.0 “soft” Brexit plan, with just 188 MPs voting for their proposal following suggestions that it would be the most popular.

There was annoyance among Common Market 2.0 MPs that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn didn’t whip his MPs to back the plan after weeks of constructive talks between them.

“Labour whip plus Tory free votes and we would have done some serious damage today,” one MP who backs Common Market 2.0 told BI.

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