Theresa May’s Brexit battle: what is going on in the Commons?
PUBLISHED: 08:53 22 January 2019
Theresa May is facing yet more challenges in her battle to get Commons approval for her unloved Brexit deal.
A “neutral motion” tabled by the prime minister yesterday was slapped with a series of amendments, including one from Labour that keeps open the option of a second referendum.
Here is a look at the amendments which are due to be voted on by MPs on January 29.
Labour’s amendment: A second referendum on the cards?
It is possible, but not guaranteed. Labour wants Parliament to be given the option to back a national poll when MPs vote on ay’s “Plan B” next week. The party’s amendment calls for a vote on Labour’s plan for a customs union with the EU, and whether to legislate “to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition” that is supported by a Commons majority.
Jeremy Corbyn said the amendment would allow MPs to vote on options to end the Brexit deadlock and “prevent the chaos of a no-deal” while “keeping all options on the table”. Corbynsceptic Labour MP Chris Leslie called it a “prevarication”, but his fellow People’s Vote advocate David Lammy said it was a “big step forward”.
Benn amendment: A way through the morass?
Labour’s Hilary Benn, chairman of the Brexit Select Committee, tabled an amendment calling for a range of indicative votes on various Brexit options. MPs would hold another vote on May’s deal (even though the outcome would almost certainly be the same as the historic rejection last Tuesday), vote on whether the government should seek to renegotiate the deal on specified terms, vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal on March 29, and vote on whether to have another referendum.
Withdrawal Bill No 3
Labour former minister Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, published a Bill that would give MPs a vote to prevent a no-deal Brexit scenario. The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 3) Bill, which has cross-party backing, gives the PM until February 26 to get parliamentary approval for a withdrawal agreement. If the government fails, then Parliament would be given a vote on whether to extend Article 50 by nine months to avoid no deal.
Are backbenchers trying to seize control of Brexit?
Benn has dismissed reports that MPs and Commons clerks were “plotting” to block Brexit. He said backbenchers were “trying to sort out the mess the prime minister has created”. On the other hand, international trade secretary Liam Fox accused some MPs of trying to “steal” the result of the referendum from the people. Downing Street said it was “extremely concerned” by the backbenchers’ moves.
What does the government think of another referendum?
The PM said she had “deep concerns” about a second referendum and warned it could “damage social cohesion”. She also said it would require extending Article 50, which would mean scrapping March 29 as the day Britain left the EU.
Cabinet ‘exodus’ threat
It is understood that work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has urged Downing Street to allow Tory MPs a free vote on moves aimed at preventing a no deal. Today it was reported that dozens of ministers could otherwise resign.