A first attempt by MPs to find a consensus route forward for Brexit has ended in deadlock and confusion after the Commons rejected every option put forward, albeit with a near-even split on the idea of joining a customs union.
Theresa May has gambled her premiership on a last-gasp attempt to win support for her Brexit deal, telling an emotional meeting with Tory MPs on Wednesday night that she will quit in the summer if they vote for her plan to take Britain out of the EU.
The FT reports that May hoped to make a third attempt to pass her Brexit deal on Friday but she suffered a serious setback after the Democratic Unionist party said it would continue to vote against her plan. The DUP, whose votes give Mrs May her majority in parliament, said on Wednesday that her Brexit deal posed “an unacceptable threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom” because it could impose new barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The Guardian reports that Oliver Letwin, the veteran Conservative MP who led the process which allowed backbenchers to seize control of the order paper to hold a series of indicative votes, said the results were “disappointing” but he hoped a new round of votes would be held on Monday.
Sky News Political Correspondent said that a general election might be what is needed in order to get a parliament which, one way or the other, is not quite so undecided.
Commenting on yesterday’s events, Lewis Goodall writes “Government or opposition, ayes or noes, Tory or Labour – it’s not a place where you can have a bit of everything. But on Wednesday for once, MPs could. Instead of having to choose between one lobby or the other they could vote for everything they liked; they were able to choose their ideal Brexit outcome and, if they so wished, everything else they could live with from eight different options ranging from no deal to full-blown revocation of Article 50. And the answer was…they couldn’t live with anything.”
The British Print Media highlighted May’s sacrifice, the lack of decisiveness from the Parliamentarians, the End of May and its uselessness.
Sky says that for two hours the playing of the Prime ministerial trump card appeared to be working. Boris Johnson had declared his support for the deal. A regular trickle of switchers were going the PM’s way. Her 1922 Committee address confirming a faster “Trexit” (Theresa’s exit) timetable provided the deal passed had unlocked around a couple of dozen votes. And yet it was an illusion. In Belfast the DUP said no, Arlene Foster saying that preservation of the Union and avoidance of the backstop was more important than Brexit, with the backstop presenting an “unacceptable threat to the integrity of the UK”.
On the lack of a majority for any of the eight alternatives put to the vote on Wednesday, he said: “It demonstrates that there is not easy option here, that there is no easy way forward”, The Guardian reports.
Groups of MPs had suggested 15 ideas, of which eight were selected by Bercow for votes. The closest result was a commitment for the government to negotiate a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” in any Brexit deal. Put forward by the pro-EU Tory veteran Ken Clarke and others, it was voted down by 272 votes to 264. The only other relatively close vote was on a plan drawn up by the Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, and tabled by the former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, to require a referendum to confirm any Brexit deal. This was lost by 268 votes to 295.
Other softer Brexit options sustained heavier defeats. A plan for “common market 2.0”, involving UK membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and European Economic Area (EEA), had 188 votes in support and 283 against. The Labour frontbench plan for a softer Brexit was defeated by 237 to 307, while a motion tabled by the Conservative MP George Eustice, which proposed staying in Efta and the EEA without a customs union, only gained 65 votes, with 377 against.
The final three votes were also decisive, and concerned other areas of Brexit. A Conservative Brexiter plan to propose leaving the EU without a deal on 12 April lost by 160 votes to 400; a Scottish National party plan to revoke article 50 lost by 184 to 293; and another Brexiter plan seeking preferential trade arrangements with the EU if there is no withdrawal agreement lost by 139 to 422.
Via Sky, Guardian, The Telegraph, I, BBC, FT