Brexit amendments vote: no-deal ruled out, backstop removed

Brexit amendments vote
© iStock/amesy

MPs in the UK’s House of Commons have voted on a range of amendments to Prime Minister Theresa May’s acknowledgement of her historic loss two weeks ago.

Around 20 amendments and amendments-to-amendments were tabled, calling variously for the option to rule out a no-deal Brexit; delaying Brexit by extending Article 50; cancelling Brexit altogether; establishing a “citizens’ assembly” to oversee the UK’s exit from the EU; a second referendum; and an assortment of adjustments to the backstop agreement, which could see Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union.

The Brexit amendments chosen by Speaker John Bercow to go to a full parliamentary vote are as follows:

  • The Corbyn amendment, tabled by Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, instructing the government to rule out a no-deal Brexit, allow MPs to vote on Labour’s proposed Brexit plan, which would see the UK remain in the customs union and single market; and legislate for a public vote over a final Brexit deal – this amendment was defeated by 327 to 296 votes;
  • The SNP/Plaid Cymru amendment, drafted by the main parties of Scotland and Wales and tabled by the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, which would extend Article 50, rule out a no-deal Brexit and allow Scotland, which swung strongly towards Remain in the 2016 referendum, the option to remain in the EU – this lost by 327 votes to 39;
  • The Grieve amendment, tabled by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, would force the government to allow MPs an indicative vote on a range of alternatives to May’s Brexit deal, including Labour’s plan, a second referendum and no-deal Brexit – this failed by 321 to 301 votes;
  • The Cooper amendment, drafted by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, which aims to prevent a no-deal Brexit by passing control of the Brexit process to parliament if May fails to pass a deal through the House by 26 February. Under this amendment, if May cannot gain a majority for her deal by the deadline, MPs would be allowed to vote on extending Article 50 for up to nine months – this amendment lost by 321 to 298;
  • The Reeves amendment, tabled by Labour MP Rachel Reeves, which would commit the government to request an extension to Article 50 from the EU – this failed by 322 to 290;
  • The Spelman no-deal Brexit amendment, tabled by Conservative MP Caroline Spelman and Labour MP Jack Dromey, which rules out the option of a no-deal Brexit – this amendment, which will not be legally binding, passed by 318 votes to 310; and
  • The Brady amendment, tabled by chair of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady, which would replace the current planned backstop deal with unspecified “alternative arrangements”. The backstop has been a sticking point for many Brexit-supporting MPs, who see it as an unnecessary concession to the EU. This amendment passed by 317 to 301 votes with the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party and the European Research Group, a strongly Brexiteer contingent of the Conservative party.

The remaining 27 EU Member States, along with the European Commission, have issued a statement in response to the Brady amendment, saying they will not enter into renegotiations over the withdrawal agreement. A plan floated by a coalition of Conservative and Labour MPs earlier today which would see the UK paying its £39 billion divorce bill, reconsidering the terms of the backstop and extending the implementation period of Brexit by a year was similarly dismissed out of hand by representatives of the EU, who pointed out that the proposal failed to suggest any measures to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

May encouraged her MPs to vote for the Brady amendment, despite the fact that it invalidates the backstop established in her own proposed Brexit deal. The Prime Minister is expected to present her “Plan B” revised withdrawal agreement to the House by 13 February. As the EU has stated categorically and often that the agreement – particularly the backstop – are not up for renegotiation, Plan B is projected to look remarkably similar to Plan A, the withdrawal deal which was defeated in Parliament on 15 January this year by a record breaking 230 votes.


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