MPs face three Brexit choices tonight

When they start voting at 7pm tonight at the end of the ‘no deal’ motion debate, MPs face three choices. They will vote either for or against amendment (a), amendment (f) and finally the government’s motion on ‘no deal’. Here’s a quick guide to what that means…

Amendment (a)

Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add “rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship.”.

The Spelman/Dromey amendment, which has cross-party support, would decisively rule out a no deal outcome – without the caveats included in the Prime Minister’s original motion. It is intended to make the final vote tonight more straight-forward. If passed, the rejection of ‘no deal’ would not be restricted to March and would not slyly ‘note’ that – as the PM likes to say – the best way to avoid no deal is to vote for her deal. Reasonable chance of passing, but Tories are being whipped to vote against.

Amendment (f)

At end, add “; notes the steps taken by the Government, the EU and its Member States to minimise any disruption that may occur should the UK leave the EU without an agreed Withdrawal Agreement and proposes that the Government should build on this work as follows:

1. That the Government should publish the UK’s Day One Tariff Schedules immediately;

2. To allow businesses to prepare for the operation of those tariffs, that the Government should seek an extension of the Article 50 process to 10.59pm on 22 May 2019, at which point the UK would leave the EU;

3. Thereafter, in a spirit of co-operation and in order to begin discussions on the Future Relationship, the Government should offer a further set of mutual standstill agreements with the EU and Member States for an agreed period ending no later than 30 December 2021, during which period the UK would pay an agreed sum equivalent to its net EU contributions and satisfy its other public international law obligations; and

4. The Government should unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.”

This amendment has the support of both Brexiteers – e.g. Jacob Rees-Mogg – and former Remainers  –e.g. Nicky Morgan – in the Conservative Party. Its proposal is otherwise known as the Malthouse Compromise. At PMQs today, the PM said the government had already agree to most of the plan but cannot agree to point 3. It will nonetheless be a free vote for Tories. Unlikely to pass.

The Prime Minister’s motion

That this House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship on 29 March 2019; and notes that leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this House and the EU ratify an agreement.

May’s own motion on ‘no deal’ rejects the outcome. But it also specifies that the rejection applies only to the current exit date of 29th March, and emphasises the need to vote for a deal. This will be a free vote for Tories. Certain to pass.

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