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How parliament plans to take control of Brexit from Theresa May

Jan 22 2019 21:35
Robert Hutton, Bloomberg
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves from t

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves from the rear of 10 Downing Street in central London on January 18, 2019. (BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

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With Prime Minister Theresa May refusing to budge from her Brexit position, a series of amendments have been proposed by different members of Parliament demanding various changes of direction.

Some overlap and some complement each other - but the chances of any passing depend on whether May orders her MPs to vote against them or, as some are demanding, allows a free vote.

Here’s a summary of the options proposed so far. It’s up to the speaker to pick which amendments go to a vote.

Labour’s customs union - or second referendum

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is demanding Parliament hold a vote on different options. His amendment specifies two: staying in a customs union with the European Union (the model Labour favours), and a second referendum.

Chance of passing: Low. Even Conservative politicians who back a second referendum are unlikely to support something with Corbyn’s name on it. And the Labour leader still looks more wedded to trying to force a general election.

Indicative votes

Labour’s Hilary Benn, who chairs Parliament’s Brexit Committee, wants a series of free-standing votes on the Brexit options, as recommended by his committee. They include a customs union, though not Labour’s exact model.

Chance of passing: Medium to high, depending on whether Labour swings in behind it.

Article 50 extension

Labour’s Rachel Reeves, chair of Parliament’s Business Committee, calls on May to seek an extension to the Article 50 exit process if she hasn’t got a deal through Parliament by February 26.

Chance of passing: Medium to high, depending - again - on Labour’s position.

Article 50 extension - with teeth

While Reeves’s amendment only instructs the government on Article 50, Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Conservative Nick Boles want to make it law. They’re asking Parliament to vote to change its own rules so that, for one day, it can debate a bill which would require May to seek from the EU an extension of Article 50 until the end of the year.

Chance of passing: High, if Labour supports it. It’s been signed by several Tories who have recently joined the ranks of rebels, and are determined to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Give parliament control

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, a Conservative and leading campaigner for a second referendum is asking for six days of Brexit debate - spread over February and March - when backbench members of Parliament are in control. The last of those is March 26 - just three days before Britain’s scheduled departure.

Like the Cooper-Boles plan, this is designed give rank-and-file politicians power to direct next steps, and could provide for a last-ditch attempt to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Chance of passing: Medium, if Labour supports it. It’s backed by those Tories who want a second referendum, but would only pass if other Conservative rebels also joined.

Rule out no deal

Former Conservative minister Caroline Spelman has teamed up with Labour’s Jack Dromey to propose an amendment that rules out a no-deal Brexit.

Chances of Passing: High, if selected. The House of Commons already indicated in a vote on a Finance Bill amendment earlier this month that a majority of lawmakers oppose a no deal Brexit.

Time limit the backstop

Conservative backbencher Andrew Murrison said on Twitter he’s submitted an amendment that "insists on an expiry date to the backstop." It’s a rejigged version of an amendment he submitted on May’s deal last week - but it wasn’t selected for a vote.

Chance of passing: Low - unless the government backs it. Adding a time limit to the backstop would make May’s deal more palatable to a swathe of opponents in her own party. Of course whether the EU would accede to the demand is another matter: they’ve been adamant they won’t.

Citizens’ assembly

Labour’s Stella Creasy and Lisa Nandy want an extension of Article 50 to allow a 250-member so-called citizens’ assembly - selected to be electorally representative - to consider Brexit and make recommendations. Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has backed the idea in the media.

Chance of passing: Very low. It’s not supported by either May’s Tories or the Labour Party, and its conclusions would likely immediately be challenged by people who disagreed. Still, the model was adopted by Ireland ahead of its referendum on legalising abortion.

eu  |  theresa may  |  uk  |  brexit  |  economy


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