It passed the House of Commons by only one vote and is now on its way to the Lords. But what is the Cooper-Letwin amendment—and what happens next?by Prospect Team / April 4, 2019 / Leave a comment
Having passed by only one vote, the Cooper bill—which seeks to legally rule out a no-deal Brexit and force Theresa May to further extend Article 50—is now on its way to the House of Lords.
Backed by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and former Tory minister Oliver Letwin, the bill has cross-party support from various MPs—although there are doubts from others as to both its validity and its efficiency.
What does it propose?
The bill requires the Prime Minister to seek MPs approval for an extension of Article 50 to a future date. Cooper and her colleagues hope to prevent a no-deal Brexit by having May propose a date beyond April 12—the date the UK is currently scheduled to leave.
May has already suggested she would be seeking a further extension, but Cooper says the legislation would provide “more clarity.”
And if May does that, what then?
If the bill passes the Lords—where it will likely face some opposition from Eurosceptics—May would go to Europe to ask the EU27 for an extension. It would be up to them to decide whether or not to grant it.
So it wouldn’t necessarily prevent no deal…
No. To do that, there would need to be a bill passed that said Article 50 would be revoked if the UK reaches the leave date without a deal (this is what Joanna Cherry’s original indicate vote motion suggested, for instance).
Right. So what does the result tell us?
The bill passed the Commons on its third reading by 313-312. Yet even that close result is a relatively successful one—bear in mind that none of the indicative votes has been able to secure a majority in the House.
That the vote came so close on something which the Prime Minister had already suggested she would do—and which falls short of introducing the necessary infrastructure to firmly rule out no deal—speaks more to Parliament’s continuing divisions than anything else.
Going back to what happens next…
The main thing is that nobody can agree on much aside from delaying the point at which an agreement has to be reached.
The electorate is now waiting for something to shift: whether it be support towards May’s deal, towards another option, or a General Election.