Bercow selects amendments on public vote, indicative votes and blocking May’s deal

Speaker Bercow has selected four amendments (plus an amendment to an amendment) that could change tonight’s motion on extending Article 50. They were tabled by Dr Sarah Wollaston, Hilary Benn, Lucy Powell, Jeremy Corbyn and Chris Bryant.

In failing to select amendment (b) ruling out another EU referendum, which was signed by 127 MPs, Bercow infuriated Tory MPs. But anti-‘people’s vote’ Labour MPs, such as Caroline Flint, are confident that it will be defeated and have welcomed the opportunity to vote against the idea. And People’s Vote campaigners, such as Alistair Campbell, know it won’t yet pass.

Bercow has selected amendments relating to providing parliamentary time for ‘indicative votes’, but David Lidington has now announced that the government will facilitate this after the EU summit regardless. It is likely that MPs will nonetheless formally move the amendments tonight, as trust in the government’s word is low.

Quick guide to the selected amendments.

Wollaston’s amendment (h) seeks an Article 50 extension with the aim of legislating for another referendum. Very unlikely to pass. Labour will whip to abstain.

Benn’s amendment (i) makes time for ‘indicative votes’, which would allow MPs to express their view on a range of Brexit solutions and establish which alternative to Theresa May’s deal has the most support in the Commons. Good chance of passing. Unknown so far whether Labour will whip for it.

Powell’s amendment to Hilary Benn’s amendment (i) is crucial to the success of Benn’s amendment. By putting a time limit on the Article 50 extension, it would allow MPs who oppose another referendum (and only want a Brexit delay for the purposes of agreeing a deal) to vote in favour of indicative votes.

Corbyn’s amendment (e) is Labour’s official amendment. It doesn’t explicitly endorse any alternative – such as Labour’s customs union plan, Common Market 2.0 or a public vote – but simply demands “parliamentary time for this House to find a majority for a different approach”. Unlikely to pass.

Bryant’s amendment (j) aims to block the government from bringing May’s deal back for a third meaningful vote on the basis that the motion would be the same in substance. Whether to accept the motion, expected to be tabled for debate on Tuesday or Wednesday, is ultimately the decision of the Speaker. He suggested he could block ‘MV3’ yesterday, so it is interesting that he has selected this amendment.

These amendments will be taken before the main motion and voted on from 5pm tonight.

Below is the full text and sponsors of each amendment.

Amendment (h)

Dr Sarah Wollaston
Dr Philippa Whitford
Joanna Cherry
Tom Brake
Neil Coyle

Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add “instructs the Prime Minister to request an extension to the Article 50 period at the European Council in March 2019 sufficient for the purposes of legislating for and conducting a public vote in which the people of the United Kingdom may give their consent for either leaving the European Union on terms to be determined by Parliament or retaining the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.”.

Amendment (i)

Hilary Benn
Sir Oliver Letwin
Yvette Cooper
Mr Dominic Grieve
Norman Lamb
Stewart Hosie

Line 4, leave out from “Article 50 (3)” to end and add:
“to enable the House of Commons to find a way forward that can command majority support;
2. orders accordingly that on Wednesday 20 March –
(a) Standing Order No. 14(1) (which provides that government business shall have precedence at every sitting save as provided in that order) shall not apply;
(b) precedence shall be given to the motion specified in paragraph 3;
(c) the Speaker shall interrupt proceedings on any business before the motion specified in paragraph 3 at 1.30 pm and call a Member to move that motion;
(d) debate on that motion may continue until 7.00 pm at which time the Speaker shall put the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on that motion including the questions on amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved;
(e) any proceedings interrupted or superseded by this order may be resumed or (as the case may be) entered upon and proceeded with after the moment of interruption; and
3. the motion specified in this paragraph is a motion in the name of at least 25 Members, including at least five Members elected to the House as members of at least five different parties, relating to the Business of the House on a future day or days in connection with matters relating to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

As an amendment to Hilary Benn’s amendment (i)

Lucy Powell
Seema Malhotra
Robert Halfon

In line 2, at beginning insert “for a period ending on 30 June 2019”.

Amendment (e)

Jeremy Corbyn
Keir Starmer
Emily Thornberry
John McDonnell
Valerie Vaz
Mr Nicholas Brown

Leave out paragraphs (2) and (3) and add: “(2) notes that this House has decisively rejected the Withdrawal Agreement and Framework for the Future Relationship laid before the House and the proposition that the UK should leave the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship; and (3) therefore instructs the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50 in order to avoid exiting the EU on 29 March without a ratified Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship; and to provide parliamentary time for this House to find a majority for a different approach.”.

Amendment (j)

Chris Bryant
Tom Brake
Liz Saville Robert
Dr Philippa Whitfor
Alison McGovern
Stephen Doughty

At end, add “ (4) notes that Erksine May states that a motion or an amendment which is the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided in the affirmative or negative during the current session may not be brought forward again during that session; and therefore orders the Government not to move a further motion asking the House to approve the Withdrawal Agreement and framework for the future partnership that the house declined to approve on 15 January 2019 and 12 March 2019.”.

Below is the full text of the government’s motion.

That this house: (1) notes the resolutions of the house of 12 and 13 March, and accordingly agrees that the government will seek to agree with the European Union an extension of the period specified in article 50(3);
(2) agrees that, if the house has passed a resolution approving the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship for the purposes of section 13(1) (b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 by 20 March 2019, then the government will seek to agree with the European Union a one-off extension of the period specified in article 50(3) for a period ending on 30 June 2019 for the purpose of passing the necessary EU exit legislation; and
(3) notes that, if the house has not passed a resolution approving the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 by 20 March 2019, then it is highly likely that the European council at its meeting the following day would require a clear purpose for any extension, not least to determine its length, and that any extension beyond 30 June 2019 would require the United Kingdom to hold European Parliament elections in May 2019.

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