Thursday, 28 March 2019

What sort of Brexit DO MPs want?

The backbench plot to snatch control of Brexit hit a wall last night as none of the alternatives to Theresa May's deal secured a majority - but MPs still showed Britain they favour a softer Brexit or a second referendum - and will never deliver No Deal.  

Last night, in an unprecedented move, politicians seized control of the Commons timetable from Theresa May to hold so-called indicative votes.

The poll showed Parliament is close to agreeing on a soft Brexit with a plan for the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU defeated by 272 votes to 264, while a second referendum was rejected by 295 votes to 268. 

MPs were handed green ballot papers on which they voted Yes or No to eight options, ranging from No Deal to cancelling Brexit altogether. However, the votes descended into shambles as MPs rejected each and every one of the proposals - although its architect Sir Oliver Letwin always warned there wouldn't be a winner first time.

Ten Tories – including ministers Sir Alan Duncan, Mark Field and Stephen Hammond – supported an SNP plan to give MPs the chance to revoke Article 50 if a deal has not been agreed two days before Brexit. Some 60 Tory MPs backed the option of remaining in the single market.

The results of Wednesday's votes, in order of preference, were: 

  • Confirmatory public vote (second referendum) - defeated by 295 voted to 268, majority 27. 
  • Customs union - defeated by 272 votes to 264, majority eight. 
  • Labour's alternative plan - defeated by 307 votes to 237, majority 70. 
  • Revocation to avoid no-deal - defeated by 293 votes to 184, majority 109. 
  • Common market 2.0: defeated by 283 votes to 188, majority 95. 
  • No Deal: defeated by 400 votes to 160, majority 240. 
  • Contingent preferential arrangements - defeated by 422 votes to 139, majority 283.
  • Efta and EEA: defeated by 377 votes to 65, majority 312. 
  • Shadow housing minister Melanie Onn resigned after Jeremy Corbyn ordered his MPs to back a raft of soft Brexit plans, as well as a second referendum.

Some 27 Labour MPs defied the whip to reject a so-called 'confirmatory vote' on any Brexit deal. The party had instructed them to support the plan just hours after one of its senior frontbenchers publicly warned that it would be a mistake.

Sir Oliver Letwin, the architect of the Commons move, today insisted the indicative votes were not intended to give a precise answer right away - and will hold another round of votes on Monday. 

MPs are due to hold a second round of votes - unless Mrs May can get her deal through first - after none of the eight options debated on Wednesday was able to command a majority. It could be that the eight options are cut down to the most popular.

Sir Oliver told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: 'At some point or other we either have to get her deal across the line or accept that we have to find some alternative if we want to avoid no deal on the 12th, which I think at the moment is the most likely thing to happen.

'At the moment we are heading for a situation where, under the law, we leave without a deal on the 12th, which many of us think is not a good solution, and the question is 'Is Parliament on Monday willing to come to any view in the majority about that way forward that doesn't involve that result?''

MPs will take control of the Commons order paper again on Monday, so they can narrow down the options if Mrs May's deal has not been agreed by then – or pass legislation to try and impose their choice on her. Speaking in the Commons after the results, Sir Oliver said: 'It is of course a great disappointment that the House has not chosen to find a majority for any proposition.

'However, those of us who put this proposal forward as a way of proceeding predicted that we would not even reach a majority and for that very reason put forward a ... motion designed to reconsider these matters on Monday.'


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