2019-01-29 22:13:23 BdST
British MPs to vote on moves wrestling control of Brexit
British lawmakers will vote on Tuesday on whether to try to take control of the Brexit process in a series of crunch votes that threaten to pile more pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May.
With the Brexit deadline only 60 days away, MPs will vote on May’s “Plan
B”, which she presented to parliament last week after her initial deal was
comprehensively rejected on January 15.
They will also vote on amendments that will indicate whether lawmakers have
the numbers to instigate a legally-binding parliamentary takeover of the
One amendment would open the door for the Remain-dominated House of Commons
to bring in legislation preventing Britain leaving the European Union without
an official deal on March 29.
It would force May to delay Brexit for nine months if her deal is not
approved before February 26, and give lawmakers the ability to indefinitely
extend the deadline.
Increasing numbers of government ministers have warned they will not accept
the prospect of Britain leaving without a deal, which would immediately sever
all ties with its largest trading partner.
Conservative leader May is seeking to salvage her agreement, and hopes to
win over MPs in another future ballot, despite losing the last by 230 votes.
The government said that this second “meaningful vote” would also be
amendable, possibly convincing some MPs not to take any drastic action on
Tuesday, knowing they will have another chance.
– Internal divisions –
Parliamentary experts also warned that MPs’ efforts may be
“The Commons… cannot legally compel the government to negotiate an
arrangement to which it is opposed,” King’s College London professor Vernon
Bogdanor wrote in The Times, adding their plans would constitutionally
require a change in government.
Amid the bitter wrangling Queen Elizabeth II appeared to make a rare foray
into politics last week, emphasising in a speech the need for Britons to come
together to “seek out the common ground”.
May’s plan B hinges almost entirely on convincing the EU to reexamine the
existing deal’s so-called backstop proposal, which could see Britain tied to
the bloc’s trade rules to keep open the border with Ireland.
An amendment potentially up for a vote on Tuesday would call for her to go
back to Brussels and secure changes to the backstop.
May reportedly told Tory MPs at a Monday meeting the government will
support the measure and would order them to follow suit.
But an ardently pro-Brexit group of Conservative lawmakers led by
backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg said they would not back the move because it does
not force the reopening of the withdrawal agreement.
– No deal ‘by accident’ –
If passed, the amendment could put pressure on Brussels to reopen the deal
by offering a clear path through the current impasse.
But the EU has consistently said there will be no major changes to the deal
and on Monday accused Britain of risking a no-deal Brexit “by accident”.
In some of her toughest remarks to date Sabine Weyand, deputy to EU
negotiator Michel Barnier, criticised May’s handling of divorce talks,
arguing she had kept colleagues too in the dark during the 18 months of
Meanwhile MPs in favour of another referendum pulled their amendment after
it crucially failed to win the support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn,
although the idea will remain on the backburner if Brexit is delayed.
Not all amendments will be put to a vote, with Commons Speaker John Bercow
to make the selection on Tuesday morning, with votes cast from 7:00 pm (1900
The speaker sparked outrage when he ignored convention and the advice of
his clerks to approve the initial move forcing May to reveal her revised
plan, which also gave MPs a motion on which to tag their amendments.
Leave supporting MPs have accused the speaker, who publicly declared that
he voted for Remain, of using his position, which is traditionally impartial,
to try to scupper Brexit, and will be keeping a close eye on his actions on
May’s office has said it was considering extending House of Commons hours
and cancelling MPs’ week-long February holiday to make time to pass all the
laws needed to prepare for Brexit.
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