MPs trigger ‘indicative votes’ to find way forward on Brexit

The House of Commons has voted to hold a series of ‘indicative votes’ on Wednesday, when MPs will take control of parliamentary business and try to establish which Brexit option has the most support. 

Jeremy Corbyn chose not to move his amendment (d), which called on the government to “provide sufficient parliamentary time this week for this House to find a majority for a different approach”. It was a loose demand for indicative votes.

But the Commons approved cross-party amendment (a), proposed by Oliver Letwin, which sets out a plan for holding ‘indicative votes’ on Wednesday. It passed by 27 votes, with 329 MPs in favour and 302 against.

Labour whipped in favour of the change championed by a Tory backbencher, while the government opposed it. The result represents another significant defeat for Theresa May.

Eight Labour MPs defied the whip to vote against the Letwin amendment, plus one abstained, while 30 Tories rebelled to vote in favour of it – including Steve Brine, Alistair Burt and Richard Harrington, who resigned from their ministerial posts to do so.

MPs also narrowly defeated Margaret Beckett’s amendment, (f), which instructed the government – if the UK came within seven days of leaving the EU without a deal – to offer Commons votes on ‘no deal’ and whether to request a longer Article 50 extension.

The Prime Minister confirmed earlier today that she would allow parliamentary time for indicative votes, but suggested she would not be bound by the results. It is unclear as yet whether the votes will be ‘free’, i.e. unwhipped.

Responding to the results at the despatch box tonight, Corbyn paid tribute to Oliver Letwin and Hilary Benn. The Labour leader said: “Mr Speaker, I would like to congratulate the House for taking control. 

“The government’s approach has been an abject failure and this House must now find a solution. So I pay tribute to the Hon member for West Dorset, and the member for Leeds Central, and others, who have worked to achieve tonight’s result. 

“The government must take this process seriously. We do not know what the House will decide on Wednesday. But I know there are many members of this House who have been working for alternative solutions, and we must debate those to find a consensus. 

“And this House must also consider whether any deal should be put to the people for a confirmatory vote. Where this government has failed, this House must, and I believe will, succeed.”

Vote results

Oliver Letwin’s amendment (a): Ayes 329 – Noes 302

Margaret Beckett’s amendment (f): Ayes 311 – Noes 314

The Brexit motion as amended: Ayes 327 – Noes 300

Labour rebels

Oliver Letwin’s amendment (a)

AGAINST (8): Kevin Barron, Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper, Caroline Flint, Stephen Hepburn, Kate Hoey, John Mann, Graham Stringer

ABSTAINED (1): Gareth Snell

Margaret Beckett’s amendment (f)

AGAINST (8): Kevin Barron, Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper, Caroline Flint, Stephen Hepburn, Kate Hoey, Gareth Snell, Graham Stringer

ABSTAINED (5): Mike Hill, John Mann, Grahame Morris, Melanie Onn, Ruth Smeeth

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