Magazine
Latest Issue

Everything you need to know about today’s Indicative Votes on Brexit

How will the indicative votes work? What are the proposed amendments? And what happens if there's (still) no clear outcome? We explain all...

By Prospect Team  

When will there be a general election? Photo: PA

First things first: what are these indicative votes?

To understand this, we need to go back to last week, when a cross-party group of MPs—including Hilary Benn and Oliver Letwin—proposed that MPs should be allowed to take charge of Parliament’s timetable, which is normally controlled by the government.

The proposal received backing from MPs who voted for it 329 to 302.

They submitted a series of Brexit proposals to the speaker, John Bercow. He then selected the motions to be debated, and MPs voted that evening.

No option came out with a majority, so MPs are now voting again.

What we learned from the first round of indicative votes—the five things you need to know about the results

And the government is fine with this? 

It was a little bit controversial.

 

And they can vote for as many as they like? 

Yes, the idea is they vote for as many as they can live with in an attempt to find an option with broad parliamentary support (even if it’s not necessarily MPs’ first choice).

Demonstrators for a second vote gather in Parliament Square in London, UK on March 23, 2019. Photo: PA

So what are the options?

For this second round of votes, MPs have eight options to choose from.

Amendment A (John Baron, Conservative)

This proposal would amend the Northern Irish backstop so that the UK could unilatireally exit it.

Amendment B: No deal  (John Baron, Conservative)

This proposal says that the UK should leave on April 12th without a deal if they have not agreed to support the Withdrawal Agreement by then.

Amendment C (Ken Clarke, Conservative)

This one calls on the government to negotiate a customs union, and to legislate to that end.

Amendment D: Common Market 2.0 (Nick Boles, Conservative)

This one aims for single market membership and a customs union.

Amendment E: Confirmatory Public Vote (Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, Labour)

This one aims to put any deal to a public vote.

Read: Why a “People’s Veto” on the deal makes more
sense than the June 2016 referendum ever did

Amendment F: Public Vote to Avoid No Deal (Graham Jones, Labour, and Dominic Grieve, Conservative)

This also proffers a public vote, but only if otherwise the UK would be heading for no deal.

Amendment G (Joanna Cherry, SNP)

A version of Joanna Cherry’s proposal from last week, this one offers of steps to prevent no deal. It asks the government to seek an extention if a deal has not been agreed; if not, it then asks MPs to chose between no deal and revoking Article 50.

Amendment H (George Eustice, Conservative)

This one pushes for EFTA and EEA membership, with a specific set of negotiations over the border on the island of Ireland.

It’s quite a long list…

Yes—and MPs are going to vote in a different way to how they usually do. They’ll be invited to enter the division lobbies and be given a paper ballot with the options on. They can then vote “yes” or “no” to each one.

Demonstrators protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. Photo: PA

What if we still have no clear outcome?

What gave you the idea that Brexit votes could create confusion?

But yes, there are certainly risks to the approach. If no clear result comes out ahead this evening—and there is a very real chance this will happen—there will likely be more votes on Wednesday.

What’s the most likely one to get through?

Probably Amendment C, Ken Clarke’s. This came closest to passing last week and has cross-party support, although there are still Labour and Conservative MPs who won’t back it, aside from opposition from MPs in anti-Brexit parties.

If it can’t get through, it’s a pretty good sign that Parliament is going to struggle to find an approach they can build consensus around. If it does, it will be a blow for Conservative unity.

And that means… an election?

Possibly! Although some Conservative MPs have asked May not to call one.

Bit exhausting, isn’t it?

Yes.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect