Brexit Debate & Vote, What to expect
Written by Cool FM 97.4 on January 9, 2019
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Article Written & Published By: The Guardian
What to expect from Brexit debate and final vote in the Commons
Nothing has changed since May pulled December’s vote – but there may be drama ahead
MPs will begin debating Theresa May’s Brexit deal again this week, though materially very little has changed since the prime minister pulled the vote last month. Here’s what to expect in the coming days and the aftermath of the vote.
What will happen in parliament?
The debate is scheduled to last for five more days, with a final vote on 15 January. Brexit secretary Steve Barclay will open the debate on Wednesday 9 January, when it will be closed by May’s de-facto deputy David Lidington, and other cabinet ministers will open and close the debate on the subsequent days, including Michael Gove, Greg Clark, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt. On the final day, the prime minister will close the debate, just before the vote.
Previously the government had “themes” for the different days of debate, including the economy and the union.
More than 100 MPs spoke in the debate before the vote was pulled last month and many had been concerned they would not be permitted to speak again. The government has said however that it intends for the MPs to be able to make contributions again.
What has changed since the vote was pulled?
Nothing, though Downing Street says negotiations are ongoing with the European Union. MPs are now in the strange position of having a new debate while they are still unclear about the outcome of those talks.
No 10 said restarting the debate before a conclusion had been reached was because of a commitment to hold the vote before 21 January.
May told Andrew Marr on Sunday that MPs could expect reassurances in the next few days in three areas: on Northern Ireland; on the role of parliament in future negotiations; and from the EU27 member states.
What is Theresa May still seeking?
The prime minister is seeking legally binding reassurances on the backstop, to ensure those customs arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland would be temporary.
It is still unclear what form that assurance could take – though EU sources have suggested an “exchange of letters “– or if that will be enough to reassure enough hardline Brexiters and her supply-and-confidence partners, the DUP.
No 10 have said the sought-after clarification will only be published just before next week’s final vote, and would not emerge before the long-awaited five-day Brexit debate begins on Wednesday afternoon.
Brussels is willing to repeat that the target for achieving a free-trade deal is the end of 2020, which if achieved would avoid the need for the unpopular Irish backstop to come into force, but the UK is sceptical that deadline can be achieved. The EU will not give ground on any adjustment to the withdrawal agreement itself.
The UK wants the EU to commit to a legally binding target to finalise trade talks by the end of 2021. The UK believes this would allow a realistic amount of time to conclude the free-trade deal and limit the Irish backstop to a year.
Will MPs get a chance to debate those changes?
Downing Street said it is the intention that MPs have some time to discuss what, if anything, the prime minister has achieved in her discussions with Brussels, rather than springing it on MPs just before they vote.
What happens if the vote is lost?
More than 100 MPs have so far committed to voting against this deal and few seemed to have been pacified over the Christmas break. Cabinet sources said May had acknowledged she may lose the vote and said things would “move quickly” if that happens.
If the margin of defeat is less than predicted, May could try putting the same deal again to the Commons if she manages to get another concession from the EU, enough to argue the new motion is substantially different.
Labour could also then table a vote of no confidence in the government, though it is unclear whether the party could win it, especially without the backing of the DUP, who have said they will support the government unless May’s deal passes.