Brexit path ahead to be determined by Tuesday meeting
Amendments to include article 50 extension, customs union, new vote and backstop limit
When MPs debate Brexit next Tuesday, they will not have a “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s deal, which they rejected last week by a margin of 230 votes.
The motion will simply note the prime minister’s statement on Brexit last Monday but the amendments to it that MPs will vote on will determine what happens between now and March 29th.
The most important amendments are those tabled by former Labour minister Yvette Cooper and former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve. Cooper’s amendment would suspend for one day – February 5th – the House of Commons standing order that gives government business precedence over all other legislation.
This would allow MPs to debate and vote on a Bill Cooper has published that would instruct the government to extend the article 50 negotiating period until the end of the year if the prime minister fails to win parliamentary approval for a withdrawal Bill by February 26th. The amendment has the support of pro-European MPs from all parties and if the speaker selects it and Labour supports it, it will almost certainly be approved.
Cooper and her allies, who include a number of former Conservative ministers, want to block a no-deal Brexit by postponing the March 29th deadline if May fails to get a deal through parliament.
Grieve’s amendment has the same purpose but it would give MPs a number of opportunities to act before the deadline. Standing Order 14 (1) which gives the government control of the Commons timetable would be suspended on February 5th and 12th and March 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th. This would allow for a series of debates and “indicative votes” on alternative courses of action on Brexit. It has a good chance of success if Labour tells its MPs to vote for it.
Labour’s Hillary Benn has tabled an amendment calling for a series of indicative votes and Jeremy Corbyn has put forward an amendment that would allow MPs to vote on his proposal for a permanent customs union with labour rights protection and on a second referendum. Neither has much hope of success.
Conservative Andrew Murrison has re-tabled an amendment he tabled ahead of last week’s vote on May’s deal but which the Speaker did not call. It calls for the prime minister’s Brexit deal to be approved on condition that a time limit is imposed on the backstop and is likely to be accepted by the government.