Wednesday 22 May 2019

Brexit latest: MPs to vote on eight Brexit options in Commons indicative votes

  • May to meet Conservative lawmakers at 5pm
  • Parliament tries indicative votes, results due at 9pm
  • Speaker John Bercow selected just eight out of the 16 Brexit options
  • May is likely to face calls from Tory MPs for her to name a date for her departure
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire
Speaker John Bercow. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) talks with European Council President Donald Tusk ahead of a debate on the outcome of the latest European Summit on Brexit, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Andrew Woodcock and Gavin Cordon

Theresa May has moved to prevent possible ministerial resignations by allowing Conservative MPs a free vote when the House of Commons passes its judgment on different Brexit options on Wednesday evening.

But the British Prime Minister herself, along with her Cabinet ministers, will abstain in the "indicative votes", whips have indicated.

Mrs May was warned she could face "north of a dozen" resignations if she tried to force ministers to toe her line when the Commons votes on eight options, ranging from no-deal to a second referendum, a customs union or revocation of the Article 50 letter triggering Brexit.

Meanwhile, Labour MPs have been told to back a motion tabled by former foreign secretary Dame Margaret Beckett, which would require any Brexit deal passed during this Parliament to be confirmed in a public referendum before ratification.

Jeremy Corbyn's party is also whipping its MPs to back its own alternative Brexit plan as well as a customs union proposals tabled by veteran Tory europhile Ken Clarke.

And they are being encouraged to back Nick Boles's "Common Market 2.0" proposal for single market membership and a close customs arrangement, which Mr Corbyn himself will support.

Speaker John Bercow selected just eight out of the 16 Brexit options tabled by MPs for a vote, turning down proposals to demand a unilateral right to leave the Northern Irish "backstop" or to require automatic revocation of Article 50 if no deal is reached.

The motions selected by Mr Bercow as part of the indicative vote process are:

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire
  • B) No deal - moved by Tory MP John Baron.
  • D) Common market 2.0 - moved by Tory MP Nick Boles
  • H) Efta and EEA - moved by Tory MP George Eustice.
  • J) Customs union - moved by Tory MP Ken Clarke.
  • K) Labour's alternative plan - moved by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
  • L) Revocation to avoid no-deal - moved by SNP MP Joanna Cherry.
  • M) Confirmatory public vote - moved by Labour MP Dame Margaret Beckett.
  • O) Contingent preferential arrangements - moved by Tory MP Marcus Fysh.

He did not select the Malthouse Compromise Plan A drawn up by backbenchers from Leave and Remain wings of the Tory Party, which would have implemented Mrs May's deal with the backstop replaced by alternative arrangements.

Mrs May has said she will not regard the results of Wednesday's votes - and a follow-up session next Monday designed to find a consensus solution - as binding.

But Mr Clarke told BBC Radio 5 Live's Emma Barnett that the Prime Minister "would obviously have to be removed" if she ignored a consensus emerging from the indicative votes process.

Mrs May is likely to face calls from Tory MPs for her to name a date for her departure as a price for their support for her deal, when she addresses the backbench 1922 Committee before Wednesday's votes.

Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom has said there is a "real possibility" there would be sufficient support for the Government to stage a third "meaningful vote", either on Thursday or Friday this week.

She said ministers were continuing to talk to MPs - including those in the DUP, who prop up the Government at Westminster and whose votes may be crucial in determining the outcome.

DUP Leader Arlene Foster. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
DUP Leader Arlene Foster. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Mrs Leadsom told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think that there is a real possibility that it does (come back).

"We are completely determined to make sure that we can get enough support to bring it back."

Securing a "meaningful vote" this week would mean the Government had met the deadline set by the EU for an extension of the Article 50 withdrawal process to May 22 to allow it to complete the preparations for leaving.

Otherwise the Prime Minister will have to come forward with an alternative approach by April 12, which would involve either a lengthy delay or Britain leaving with no deal at all.

Her comments came as a number of leading Conservative Brexiteers signalled they were ready to fall into line amid fears Brexit could be lost altogether if it does not get through.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group, told Today: "I think that we have got to the point where legally leaving is better than not leaving at all.

"Half a loaf is better than no bread."

He said his only condition for supporting the deal was that Mrs May wins round the DUP, who continue to hold out against the plan.

"I won't abandon the DUP because I think they are the guardians of the union of the United Kingdom," he said.

His comments came after Brexit figurehead Boris Johnson hinted on Tuesday he might be ready to swing behind the deal.

"If we vote it down again, for the third time, there is now, I think, an appreciable risk that we will not leave at all," he told an audience of Daily Telegraph readers.

But the former foreign secretary stressed he was "not there yet" and indicated a change at the top of the party may be required to win him over.

"If people like me are to support this deal... then we need to see the proof that the second phase of negotiations will be different from the first," he said.

Wednesday's votes are taking place after MPs seized control of the Commons agenda allowing them to consider a range of alternatives.

In a highly unusual change to normal procedures, MPs will take part in a paper ballot voting Yes or No to each of the options selected by Speaker John Bercow.

Mrs Leadsom again warned the Government would not necessarily be bound by the outcome as some of the options were "undeliverable".

"We will look very carefully at it but the reality is that it may not be negotiable and certainly not within the time frame," she said.

The architect of the cross-party plan, Tory former minister Sir Oliver Letwin, warned MPs could force the Government to act if it tried to ignore the results.

"Those who I am working with across the parties will move to legislate to mandate the Government - if we can obtain majorities in the House of Commons and House of Lords for that - to carry that forward," he told the Today programme.

Press Association

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