What time will Brexit votes be? What are MPs voting on?

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Media captionChris Mason recaps what has happened to the Brexit deal and explains the next key vote options

MPs will find out later if their efforts to change the direction of Brexit by putting forward amendments have the backing of the House of Commons.

What is the timetable for the day?

MPs are debating Theresa May’s neutral motion designed to allow discussion of next steps on Brexit, to which MPs have been tabling their amendments.

The prime minister has opened the debate.

The crunch part of the evening will begin at 19:00 GMT when voting on the various amendments gets under way. Commons Speaker John Bercow has selected seven amendments to be debated and which could be put to the vote if those moving them want to put them to a vote.

Here are the amendments MPs will debate, in the order in which the votes will take place.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment

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Instructs the government to rule out a “disastrous No Deal” scenario (this option is supported by some Brexiteers but many MPs fear it will cause chaos at ports and disruption for businesses) and allow Parliament to consider – and vote on – options including:

  • An alternative Brexit deal involving Labour’s plan for a permanent customs union with Brussels and a version of the EU’s single market
  • Legislating to hold a public vote on either a deal or a proposition that has MPs’ support

It is thought this amendment would struggle to get the backing it needs from Conservative backbenchers to succeed in forcing the government’s hand.

SNP leader at Westminster Ian Blackford’s amendment

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  • Calls for an extension of Article 50
  • Rules out a no deal Brexit
  • Emphasises the role of the UK nations in the Brexit process

If Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment is passed then a vote will not be held on this amendment.

Conservative MP Dominic Grieve’s amendment

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Forces the government to make time for MPs to discuss a range of alternatives to the prime minister’s Brexit plan on six full days in the Commons before 26 March.

MPs would be able to table amendments to be voted on at the end of the debate, which could include alternative Brexit options such as Labour’s plan, a second referendum, no deal and the Norway-style relationship preferred by some MPs.

This has the backing of some Labour backbenchers, as well as the SNP’s Philippa Whitford, Lib Dem Tom Brake, Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards and Caroline Lucas, of the Greens.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper’s amendment

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Attempts to rule out the UK leaving the EU without a formal deal by allowing Parliament time to pass a new law.

The bill to bring in the new law would require Theresa May to seek to postpone Brexit day (currently 29 March) until 31 December, if MPs do not approve her deal by 26 February.

The prime minister would do this by asking the EU to agree to extend the two-year limit on Article 50 – the mechanism paving the way for the UK to leave the EU.

It has the backing of senior Conservative backbenchers such as Nicky Morgan and Oliver Letwin, former Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb and Plaid Cymru’s Ben Lake.

The Labour leadership has also decided to get behind this amendment and will order Labour MPs to vote for it, significantly increasing its chances of being passed.

But Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he backed limiting any extension to a “short window” of three months to allow time for renegotiation.

Labour MP Rachel Reeves’ amendment

Requires the government to ask the EU to postpone Brexit day (without specifying for how long).

If Yvette Cooper’s amendment passes, this will kill Rachel Reeves’s amendment.

Dame Caroline Spelman (Conservative) and Jack Dromey (Labour) amendment

Attempts to prevent a “No-Deal” Brexit by adding to the PM’s motion that Parliament “rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship“.

The two MPs are in neighbouring constituencies and have raised concerns over local manufacturing supply chains.

Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady’s amendment

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Calls for Parliament to require the backstop to be replaced with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border” but would otherwise support the prime minister’s deal.

Theresa May has ordered Conservative MPs to vote for this amendment.

Some Conservative rebels, who voted against the prime minister two weeks ago, have said it is too vague and does not address their other concerns about her deal.

Others, such as former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, said they would support it if Mrs May indicated that she will press the EU to re-open the withdrawal agreement to make changes to the backstop that would be legally binding – something she has told MPs that she will do.

Northern Ireland’s DUP, which keeps Mrs May in power, have also indicated they will back the Brady amendment.

What happens if they succeed?

None of these amendments, if successful, would be binding on the government, although support for any of them would put political pressure on Theresa May to follow their direction.

However, if Yvette Cooper’s amendment was successful, and she then managed to get MPs to approve her bill, it would become law and so place an obligation on the government.

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Your guide to Brexit jargon

Here are the amendments that were not selected by Speaker Bercow

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable’s amendment

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Instructs the government to take steps to rule out “No Deal” and “prepare for a People’s Vote in which the public will have the option to remain in the European Union on the ballot paper”.

It is thought this would struggle to succeed. The People’s Vote campaign for a fresh referendum on EU membership held back from tabling a similar amendment, saying it would not get the backing of a majority of MPs without Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn telling his party to back it.

Labour MP Stella Creasy’s amendment

Requires the government to ask the EU to postpone Brexit day for an unspecified period and give the public more say in the Brexit process through a 250-member “Citizens’ Assembly”.

This would:

  • comprise a “representative sample of the population” to make recommendations on the Brexit process after 10 weeks of consideration
  • be supported by an “expert advisory group”
  • require the government to respond within two weeks

Labour MP Hilary Benn’s amendment

Calls on the government to hold a series of “indicative votes”, allowing MPs to signal whether they might support the following options:

  • To vote again on Theresa May’s deal in its current form, which sets out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal – including a “transition period” aimed at minimising disruption – and outlines future relations with the EU
  • To leave with a “no-deal” exit, without any such agreements and no transition period
  • To request the government tries to renegotiate the deal by seeking to either change the Irish “backstop” arrangement, pursue a “Canada-style” deal or aim to join the EEA and remain in the EU’s customs union
  • Hold a referendum to allow British people to decide on the kind of Brexit deal they want

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake’s amendment

Creates a cross-party committee to take charge of the Brexit process.

It would have power to decide when parliamentary time should be made available for Brexit debates and legislation, including on a fresh referendum with Remain on the ballot paper, to appoint special advisers, and to travel within the UK and to Brussels.

Conservative MP John Baron’s two amendments

The first one calls for a time-limited backstop: “will not approve a Withdrawal Agreement which includes a Northern Ireland backstop lasting any longer than six months.”

The other one calls for a unilateral exit mechanism: “will not approve a Withdrawal Agreement unless it includes the right of the UK to terminate a Northern Ireland backstop without having to secure the agreement of the EU.”

Frank Field amendment

The former Labour MP proposes indicative votes on options including no deal, Canada, Norway, etc.


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