Meaningful Vote: What Exactly Are MPs Voting on?

UPDATE: The speaker has announced that Amendments a, k, b & f will provisionally be voted on tonight (you can find the text of these in the article below). The procedure will be as follows:

  1. Amendment (a) in the name of Jeremy Corbyn will be voted on and if passed the original motion as amended by Amendment (a) will be voted on. If Corbyn’s amendment is defeated we move on to step 2…
  2.  Amendment (k) in the name of Ian Blackford will be voted on and if passed the original motion as amended by Amendment (k) will be voted on. If this amendment is defeated we move on to step 3…
  3. Amendment (b) in the name of Sir Edward Leigh will be voted on and if passed the original motion as amended by Amendment (b) will be voted on. If this amendment is defeated we move on to step 4…
  4. Amendment (f) in the name of John Baron will be voted on and if passed the original motion as amended by Amendment (f) will be voted on. If this amendment is defeated we move on to step 5…
  5. The original PM’s motion as is will be voted upon.

Original Article Below:

Finally the historic day of the “Meaningful Vote” is upon us, but what are MPs actually going to be voting on tonight?

The original motion as laid down by the Prime Minister reads:

“That this House approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Political Declaration
setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’.”

However in today’s Parliamentary Order Paper there are 13 amendments tabled to the Prime Minister’s motion and I will detail them below. How many of these get to be voted on is a decision for the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, to decide. He is free to choose as many of them as he likes and will announce his decision at the beginning of the debate this afternoon.

First up we have Amendment (a) from the Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn and signed by 13 other MPs which would amend the PM’s motion to read:

“That this House declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship because it fails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal and would therefore lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services, would
not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, allows for the diminution of the United Kingdom’s internal and external security and is likely to lead to the implementation of a backstop provision in Northern Ireland that is neither politically nor economically sustainable; declines to approve the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement; and therefore resolves to pursue every option that prevents the United Kingdom’s either leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement or leaving on the basis of the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House.”

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Vince Cable along with 10 other MPs seek to further amend Corbyn’s amendment to read:

“That this House declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship because it fails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal and would therefore lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services, would
not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, allows for the diminution of the United Kingdom’s internal and external security and is likely to lead to the implementation of a backstop provision in Northern Ireland that is neither politically nor economically sustainable; declines to approve the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement; and therefore resolves to pursue every option, including a public vote as endorsed by the Labour Party Conference 2018, that prevents the United Kingdom’s either leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement or leaving on the basis of the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House.”

Amendment (k) tabled by SNP Westminster group leader Ian Blackford and signed by all the SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs seeks to amend the PM’s motion to read:

“That this House declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship in line with the views of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly that they would be damaging for Scotland, Wales and the nations and regions of the UK as a whole;
notes the legal opinion of the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice that the United Kingdom has the right to unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, until such time as the Withdrawal Agreement is formally concluded; therefore calls on the UK Government to request an extension to the period of negotiation under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union so that
the UK does not leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement or on the basis of the negotiated agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018; and calls on the UK Government to respect the will of the Scottish Parliament in its vote on 5 December 2018 and the Welsh Assembly in its vote on 4 December 2018, which both rejected the withdrawal agreement as it now stands.”

Amendment (b) from Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh, signed by a further 12 MPs, seeks to add the following paragraph to the end of the PM’s original motion:

“notes that the Northern Ireland backstop is intended to be temporary; notes that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties makes it absolutely clear that a sovereign state can abrogate any part of a treaty with an international body in case of a fundamental change of circumstances since the Treaty was agreed; notes that making the Northern Ireland backstop permanent would constitute such a fundamental change of circumstances; and therefore calls for an assurance from the Government that, if it becomes clear by the end of 2021 that the European Union will not agree to remove the Northern Ireland backstop, the United Kingdom will treat the indefinite continuation of the backstop as a fundamental change of circumstances and will accordingly give notice on 1 January 2022 to terminate the Withdrawal
Treaty so that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland shall become an independent country once again.”

Independent MP Frank Field tables Amendment (e), signed by a further 5 MPs, which would add the following text to the end of the PM’s motion:

“subject to revision of Article 182 of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and paragraph 19 of the framework, in order to guarantee the sovereign right of the UK ultimately to terminate the Northern Ireland backstop if it is not possible to reach agreement with the EU on establishing alternative arrangements for ensuring the permanent absence of a hard border on
the island of Ireland; and mandates the Government to negotiate within the future framework a free trade relationship with the EU along the lines of the Canada/European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.”

Next up is Amendment (f) from Tory MP John Baron, signed by 11 other MPs, which would add the following text to the end of the PM’s motion:

“subject to changes being made in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol so that the UK has the right to terminate the Protocol without having to secure the agreement of the EU.”

Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski has tabled 2 amendments in his name alone, firstly Amendment (g) which would add the following to the end of the MPs motion:

“subject to reaching a financial settlement which requires the UK to pay the EU no more than £19.5 billion when the withdrawal agreement comes into force, with no further payments to the EU authorised to be made by the UK until a free trade agreement with the EU has been ratified.”

And Amendment (h) which would add:

“and urges the Government to vigorously contest any breach of the spirit of the negotiated withdrawal agreement’s requirements of good faith and best endeavours by any Member State of the EU seeking to pursue its narrow national interest in relation to fishing rights or any other matters requiring the UK and the EU to reach agreement.”

A second amendment from Sir Vince Cable, and 10 other MPs, Amendment (l) would add the following to the end of the PMs motion:

“and instructs the Government to take all necessary steps to prepare for a People’s Vote in which the public may give their informed consent on leaving the EU or retaining the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.”

Amendment (n) is another one from Frank Field, in his name only, would add the following to the end of the PM’s motion:

“but no Minister of the Crown may move the Third Reading of any Bill to fulfil the ratification condition in section 13(1)(d) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 before the Attorney General has laid before both Houses of Parliament a statement of advice that sufficient assurance has been given in the European Council that no requirement in the negotiated withdrawal agreement to use best endeavours to conclude an agreement or any obligation to abide by an arbitration decision will prevent the United Kingdom from terminating the backstop arrangement once it is no longer needed as a necessary and proportionate step towards the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.”

Next up is Amendment (o) from Tory MP Sir Hugo Swire, signed by another 6 MPs, seeks to add the following to the PM’s motion:

“subject to
1. legislation making provision that requires:
a. the Government
i. to report in March 2020 on the status of arrangements to supersede the
Northern Ireland backstop,
ii. to consider the views of the devolved Administrations, in particular the
Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, and
iii. to enable this House to approve the Government’s proposed approach,
including whether or not an extension to the implementation period
should be pursued;
b. parliamentary approval of the commencement of the powers implementing
the Northern Ireland backstop; and
c. the Government to have a duty to have an agreed future relationship or
alternative arrangements one year after the Northern Ireland backstop coming
into force, consistent with the framework for the future relationship as laid
before the House, so that the Northern Ireland backstop ceases to apply; and
2. the Government obtaining further assurance from the European Union that the
Northern Ireland backstop would only be a temporary arrangement and that, in the
event that it comes into force, both parties intend to agree a future relationship or
alternative arrangements consistent with the Political Declaration one year after the
end of the Implementation Period.”

Labour MP John Mann brings us Amendment (p), signed by a further 5 MPs, which would add the following to the end of the PM’s motion:

“agrees with paragraph 79 of the Political Declaration that the future relationship must ensure open and fair competition and that provisions to ensure this should cover state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change, and relevant tax matters, building on the level playing field arrangements provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement and commensurate
with the overall economic relationship; and determines not to allow the UK leaving the EU to result in any lowering after exit day of common EU UK standards provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement in relation to employment, environmental protection and health and safety which will continue to protect the wellbeing of every person in this country; and determines that the Government should invite the House to consider any measure approved by EU institutions after exit day which
strengthens any of these protections.”

Tory MP Dr Andrew Murrison has tabled Amendment (q) signed by an additional 29 MPs which would add the following to the end of the PM’s motion:

“subject to the Withdrawal Agreement treaty being amended to specify that the backstop solution shall expire on 31 December 2021.”

Finally we come to Amendment (r), another one from Sir Edward Leigh and signed by 1 further MP, would add the following somewhat lengthy text to the PM’s original motion:

“notes that the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, the backstop, is intended to be temporary; notes that making the backstop permanent would constitute a violation of the territorial integrity, political independence and sovereignty of the United Kingdom; notes that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations provides for each State to make reservations as a unilateral statement, when ratifying a treaty, whereby it excludes or modifies the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that State; and notes therefore that the approval of this House is subject to the Government submitting to the depository of the Agreement the following reservation, as part of its written notification of the completion of the necessary internal procedures by the United Kingdom:

“Given that the Preamble to the Withdrawal Agreement states the United Kingdom and the
European Union should negotiate “one or several agreements governing their future relationship with a view to ensuring that, to the extent possible, those agreements apply from the end of the transition period”; given that Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement states “The Union and the United Kingdom shall use their best endeavours, in good faith and in full respect of their respective legal orders, to take the necessary steps to negotiate expeditiously the agreements governing their future
relationship”; given that, in accordance with Article 126, the transition period will end on 31 December 2020, or may be extended by “one or two years” (under a joint decision before 1 July 2020) in accordance with Article 132; given that the Preamble to the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland states

“the Withdrawal Agreement …
does not aim at establishing a permanent future relationship”, asserts the intention “to replace the backstop solution on Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing” and affirms the “common objective of a close future relationship … in full respect of their respective legal orders”; given that Article 1(4) of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland states the “objective of the Withdrawal Agreement is not to establish a permanent relationship between the
Union and the United Kingdom. The provisions of this Protocol are therefore intended to apply only temporarily”; given that Article 2(1) of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland states “The Union and the United Kingdom shall use their best endeavours to conclude, by 31 December 2020, an agreement which supersedes this Protocol in whole or in part”; if the “subsequent agreement” referred to in Articles 1(4) and 2(1) of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland has not been concluded by 31 December 2022, the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and the “single customs territory” shall
cease to apply thereafter, to the United Kingdom as a whole, including to Northern Ireland.”; and also notes that the approval of this House is subject to the Government not withdrawing its reservation to the Agreement, unless such a withdrawal has been approved by a motion of this House.”

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