Three Years After UK Voted to Leave EU, Parliament Votes on What Kind of Brexit it Wants

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Having persistently failed to deliver Brexit almost three years after the 2016 vote, members of the British Parliament are voting on a series of potential Brexit options to determine how they want to take Brexit forwards.

The so-called indicative votes, which are not binding on the government, come over 1,000 days after the 2016 referendum returned the greatest democratic mandate for change in British political history, and very nearly two years after the government triggered the Article 50 process to take Britain out of the EU. The original date for Brexit is just two days away, but the government has now agreed with the European Union to extend that into April.

The last-minute votes, therefore, come at the end of the first stage of the Brexit process and as the UK government is all but paralysed by a so-called Brexit ‘deal’ negotiated by the Prime Minister with the European Union. While Parliament has been unwilling on two occasions to accept May’s deal, the European Union is unwilling to revisit it to make changes, and the Prime Minister will not accept any other course of action.

While the Westminster political-media bubble are treating tonight’s votes as holding some importance, the government Cabinet is boycotting them, and concentrating their energy on getting the deal — described as the worst in history by key Brexiteer Nigel Farage — through Parliament later this week.

UPDATE 2200 — Final thoughts

Politicians are uniquely unable to made a decision on Brexit. Thankfully for them, the British people already did so in 2016. They might very well reflect on that after this evening. Goodnight.

UPDATE 2150 — What does this mean

Despite the great noise Parliament made about taking control of proceedings from the government to give their own view, Parliament has now failed to support any single proposition — voting against every single of the eight options.

This rather confirms the view held by some critics of indicative votes that they have a somewhat farcical quality and are inclined to create or enforce stalemates — something similar happened in the Tony Blair years when looking at options for House of Lords reform.

We are returned to square one, in some regards, therefore. The government goes back to trying to push Theresa May’s treaty with the European Union onto a Commons which doesn’t want it — or apparently anything else — in face of resistance from both Brexiteer Tories and the Ulster DUP (see update 2050).

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the House after the vote:

The deal the government has negotiated is a compromise both with the EU and with members across this House. That is the nature of complex negotiation.

The results of the process this House has gone through today strengthens our view that the deal the government has negotiated is the best option. Furthermore, although this was not a significant feature of today’s debate, any deal must include a withdrawal agreement.

It is the government’s firm wish to get the agreement approved by this House and I urge all members… if you believe in delivering on the referendum result with a deal then its necessary to back the Withdrawal Agreement. If we do not do that there are no guarantees about where this process will end. I call on all members in the national interested to back the prime minister’s deal.

UPDATE 2145 — Parliament votes against everything!

The results are in:

Option B — John Baron MP
Leave the EU without a deal in a clean break on April 12
YES: 160
NO: 400
Majority: 240

Option D — Nick Boles MP
Norway option (Remain in the Single Market, a customs union, and EFTA)
YES: 188
NO: 283
Majority: 95

Option H — George Eustice MP
Norway model without customs union (EEA plus EFTA)
YES: 65
NO: 377
MAj 312

Option J – Ken Clarke MP
Leave the EU with a UK-wide customs union
YES 264
NO 272
Maj 8

Option K –
Permanent customs union including alignment with single market on future EU rights and regulation
YES 237
NO 307
Maj 70

Option L – Joanna Cherry, SNP
Revoke Article 50 if no-deal Brexit is not explicitly approved a day before we are due to lead
YES 184
NO 293
Maj 109

Option M – Dame Margret Becket
Any withdrawal agreement must be put to the public in a confirmatory second referendum
YES 268
NO 295
Maj 27

Option O – Marcus Fysh
If no withdrawal agreement agreed, seek standstill agreement with the EU while negotiating trade deal
YES 139
NO 422
Maj 283

See below, the update for 1500 for more information on these motions…

UPDATE 2135 — Parliament excited by ceremonial mace

The counting process for the indicative votes had proven sufficiently complex that it has, several hours after the vote took place, not yet been completed yet.

Speaker Bercow has suspended the sitting briefly while we wait for the numbers to come in, vacating the chair, but the fact the ceremonial mace that symbolises the authority of the Monarch in Parliament remains in place. This is causing considerable excitement among MPs because it is supposed to be removed when the House is suspended, apparently even if only briefly.

Tory MPs are highlighting the situation by raising points of orders to the speaker — who is not present — effectively addressing an empty chair.

For more information on the mace, you can read our December 2018 report which followed a Labour MP seizing the mace in protest against the Brexit process.

UPDATE 2120 — Brexit officially delayed

British law has now been brought in line with the agreement Theresa May struck with the European Union, that Brexit day not be March 29th.

There is now no hope whatsoever that the country could leave the European Union this week — that possibility has been thoroughly stitched up by Theresa May and the predominantly remain-supporting Parliament, voting 441 to 105 in favour of the change.

Remarkably as many as 105 voted against the change, likely all Conservative Eurosceptics.

STATUTORY INSTRUMENT: Move EU exit day to 22 May if deal approved by 29 March, or 12 April of no deal approved.
YES: 441
NO: 105
Majority: 336

UPDATE 2050 — DUP won’t back May’s deal

Bad news for the Prime Minister as her confidence and supply partners the Ulster-based Democratic Unionist Party still refuse to back her deal which, being honest, dooms it to fail once again.

Many Conservative rebels watch the DUP as gatekeepers of the deal, suggesting they would vote for May’s Brexit deal if the DUP do. Jacob Rees-Mogg, surprising some, is now among that number. No DUP, no Tory rebels — meaning the Prime Minister may choose to once again delay the vote on her deal until she can get enough support.

But how long can she go on delaying? With Brexit delayed until April, the number of Parliamentary days left to vote again are extremely limited. And where does this leave the Prime Minister’s promise to Conservative backbenchers that she would leave office after getting her deal through?

UPDATE 2015 — Parliament has voted on the eight options

The votes are now being counted — with eight binary options per ballot paper and roughly 650 members eligible to vote, this may take some time — likely beyond 2100. Stay tuned, folks.

In the meanwhile, Parliament is debating changing the Brexit date from March 29th — this Friday — to April. While the government has already agreed to do this over the head of Parliament with the European Union, this vote is needed to harmonise the British legal position with its international position. Given both the government and the opposition Labour party support delaying Brexit, this is all but certain to pass.

The day’s events so far:

1800 — Theresa May offers her resignation to get her deal through

Evidently, getting Theresa May’s deal — which she has spent the two years negotiating with the European Union to achieve — is the Prime Minister’s primary concern, and she has now gone so far as promising to step down in return for getting it through Parliament.

This in particular means the country will have a new leader during phase two of the Brexit process. During this time, the country — presuming May’s deal passes — will have technically left the European Union while remaining in, in all important respects. The country will then negotiate the future relationship with Europe, a task which will almost certainly be more difficult and fraught with danger than what we’ve already experienced, hard to believe as it is.

The job is made much harder, in many respects, by Theresa May’s deeply controversial deal which will have paid out tens of billions of pounds sterling to the European Union for little to nothing in return, and locked the nation into the so-called Northern Ireland backstop. With hands bound by these and other conditions, a new leader must then negotiate their way into the free world. Little wonder Mrs May won’t be doing it herself.

Michael Gove presently leads the pack according to the bookies. Read the full story on Breitbart London:

1500 — Bercow sets amendments 

16 voting options were put to the pro-Remain speaker of the House of Commons for consideration today, of which he picked eight — six remain, one status-quo, and one pro-Remain.

Remarkably, the voting position that called on Parliament to affirm it would be honouring the vote of the British people was ignored. Read into that what you will.

From our update earlier today, those selected amendments we will be hearing more of soon:

  • ‘B’ — No Deal
    • A simply worded option brought by Tory Brexiteer John Baron, which you can pretty much guarantee won’t get much support from the overwhelmingly anti-Brexit Parliament. The text of this is simply: “That this House agrees that the UK shall leave the EU on 12 April 2019 without a deal.”
  • ‘D’ — Calling for a Common Market ‘2.0’
    • Brought by a group of Conservative and Labour Europhiles including Nick Boles, this would call upon the government to revise the present political declaration to ensure the United Kingdom is a member of the European Free Trade Association and later the European Economic Area. Has the impact of keeping the UK in the European single market — breaking a key test of whether Britain has actually left the European Union or not.
  • ‘H’ — Almost the same again
    • Also calls, like the above, for the country to go with EFTA and the EEA but not remain within the single market. As the UK will leave the EEA on Brexit day (should that day ever come), it would have to negotiate, presumably, to be let back in.
  • ‘J’ — Ken Clarke’s Customs Union proposal
    • Mr Ken Clarke is one of the most recognisable veterans of the Conservative benches — he has been serving within and without the Cabinet since the 1970s and was a key figure in getting Britain to join the forerunner of the European Union in the first place. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that, he’s worked tirelessly against Brexit. His proposal would ensure that “as a minimum, [Britain should have] a commitment to negotiate a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU.”
  • ‘K’ — Labour’s plan
    • Brought in the name of Jeremy Corbyn, this is the opposition’s idea of what Brexit should be — bearing in mind their 2017 election manifesto said they would respect the 2016 referendum vote to leave. They are calling for a permanent customs union with the EU, a “close alignment with the single market” complete with shared institutions, obligations, and “dynamic alignment”, participation in EU agencies and funding, and cooperation on security arrangements and the much-criticised European Arrest Warrant. In other words, staying in the European Union in all but name.
  • ‘L’ — Cancel Brexit
    • If the house doesn’t pass Theresa May’s deal, which we can fairly certainly say it will not — having already declined it twice — this vote calls on the government to cancel Brexit altogether. This is so Britain avoids the outcome Parliament wants least, a full Brexit.
  • ‘M’ — A Second Referendum
    • Referred to in the vote brought by Dame Margaret Beckett as a ‘confirmatory vote’, meaning that whatever deal the house agrees would be then voted on by the public before actually going ahead, this appears to be a call for a second referendum by another name.
  • ‘O’ — Calling on the govt to seek preferential trade arrangements with the EU
    • Does what it says on the tin, it seems. In case of no deal being struck with the EU before the nation leaves, the house calls on the government to agree trade arrangements with the EU, essentially to keep things exactly as they are in the short term.

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