- The UK House of Commons will on Tuesday vote on a series of Brexit amendments designed to either delay Brexit, rule out no-deal, or re-write her defeated Brexit deal.
- One amendment, backed by Labour MP Yvette Cooper seeks to pass a new law designed to delay Brexit.
- Other amendments seek to seize the power from government to control the Brexit process.
- The UK is due to leave the EU in just over two months time.
LONDON – Theresa May is preparing for another major defeat on Tuesday evening when MPs vote on a series of Brexit amendments that are designed to force May to delay Britain’s exit from the EU and rule-out leaving without a deal.
The amendments, which have been brought by MPs from across the House of Commons, were raised following the prime minister’s historic defeat on her Brexit deal this month by a 230 vote majority.
One of the amendments, brought forward by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, seeks to help pass a binding piece of legislation that would force May to delay Brexit rather than accept a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile Theresa May is backing an alternative amendment which would compel her to renegotiate a key element of her Brexit deal with the EU.
So what are the key amendments, what do they mean, and how likely are they to pass? Here are the most important ones explained.
Stop no-deal by delaying Brexit
The UK is currently set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, whether it has secured an exit deal or not. May has also insisted that the UK will leave by that date with or without a deal. However, an amendment brought by Labour MP Yvette Cooper is designed to prevent this.
Cooper’s amendment would allow parliamentary time for a bill – also tabled by Cooper – which would allow MPs to vote on delaying Brexit if parliament has not approved a deal by the last week of February.
If passed, the bill would be legally binding on May’s government. However, it would not automatically require the government to seek an Article 50 extension. Instead, it would give the government until February 26 to secure a deal which is accepted by parliament.
Here’s the key section of the bill:
If, before 26 February 2019, the House of Commons has not passed a resolution approving the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union 5 (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (“the 2018 Act”), the Prime Minister must, not later than
26 February, move a motion in the House of Commons in the form set out in subsection (2).
That means that MPs could vote on an extension of the two-year Article 50 process should the bill pass.
However, as Business Insider reported on Sunday, some supporters of the bill believe it would be difficult to bring into law because legislation has to pass between the House of Lords and House of Commons several times before it enters statute books and there is not much time for this to happen.
Downing Street have signalled that while Cooper’s bill would force them to change course, they could potentially just ignore the other amendments.
As May’s spokesman told Business Insider on Monday: “The amendments tomorrow do different things. Some of them are not legally binding on the government.”
However, despite these doubts, Cooper’s bill has the backing of high-profile Conservative and Labour Remainers. Nick Boles, Nicky Morgan, Stephen Kinnock, and Hillary Benn have all put their name to the Cooper amendment which will be voted on on Tuesday January 29.
The amendment’s chances of passing were boosted after Cooper indicated on Sunday that she would be prepared to amend her bill so that any Brexit delay could be limited to as few as three months, meaning Britain would still leave the EU in July.
The Labour leadership have also signalled that they will whip Labour MPs to back Cooper’s amendments.
Two alternative amendments, brought forward by Labour MP Rachel Reeves and Conservative MP Caroline Spelman have also been selected by the Commons Speaker John Bercow. If passed, these would also call for a delay of Article 50 and the ruling-out of no-deal.
A parliamentary coup
Another amendment which has gathered significant support is one tabled by Conservative Remainer Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general.
The government usually controls the agenda in the Commons, which prevents backbenchers from tabling bills and dictating parliamentary business. Grieve’s amendment would allow MPs to table different Brexit motions for six full days of debate before the UK’s EU exit date.
Grieve said it would allow MPs to vote on alternatives to May’s defeated deal.
Grieve’s amendment will struggle to be accepted because Labour is unlikely to back the plan plan. The leadership fears that it could hamstring a future Labour government.
Give MPs a vote on a new deal or a referendum
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour frontbench has brought forward a less radical amendment which states parliament should have a vote on all possible Brexit options, including a second referendum.
At the top of the list of options would be Labour’s own Brexit policy – permanent membership of the customs union combined with “strong” ties with the single market. The Labour leadership believes the amendment is in line with the party’s conference motion, which called for Labour to keep all options, including a second referendum, on the table.
However, Tory Remainers don’t back the plan, because they are unlikely to hand an easy victory to Corbyn in any circumstances. Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, who backs a second referendum, told Business Insider: “The Labour amendment is not a People’s Vote amendment. The front bench is continuing to use creative language to duck the decision about backing a people’s vote.”
Re-write the backstop
Two amendments being backed by Conservative MPs call on the prime minister to seek to alter the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, contained with May’s Brexit deal with the EU, so that it would either be time-limited, or replaced with “alternative arrangements” to avoid a hard border.
The latter of these amendments is being backed by the prime minister with the idea that, if passed, Downing Street would use it to go back to the EU and demand concessions on the backstop. May on Tuesday committed to re-opening negotiations with the EU on the subject of the Northern Ireland backstop.
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