This afternoon the Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons in which she said “we intend to return to the Meaningful Vote debate in the week commencing 7th January and hold the vote the following week”. As is usual procedure the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, will set out the exact dates and the time allowed for the debate on Thursday morning.
As you will know the vote was originally scheduled for last Tuesday but was postponed by the Prime Minister at the last moment as she knew she was facing a massive defeat for her Brexit deal.
As things stand today I predict that if the vote were to be held tomorrow the PM would lose by 419 votes to 220.
Now if you are reading carefully you will notice I bolded the words “intend to” from the PM’s quote. One has to wonder why that particular wording was used instead of “will”? While I was live Tweeting during her statement I was of the mind that given what has gone before that the vote would have to take place no matter what but having researched further I’m of the opinion that this may not be the case (more on that later).
But let’s start with the assumption that the vote will indeed go ahead, what will happen if Parliament as expected votes to reject May’s deal?
Legislation as laid down in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 states that a Government Minister must issue a written statement, within 21 calendar days of the defeat of the motion, “setting out how Her Majesty’s Government proposes to proceed in relation to negotiations for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union”. (Section 13(4)).
For examples sake let’s say that the vote is scheduled for Tuesday 15th January, the statement could be issued as late as February 5th.
Now as alluded to earlier the PM could actually cancel the vote altogether by making a statement to the house “to the effect that no political agreement to the deal could be reached”, basically admitting that a vote on her deal has no chance of passing. She has up until Monday 21st January to make this statement.
In this instance, again as laid down in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, a Government Minister must issue a written statement, this time within 14 calendar days of her announcement to the house, “setting out how Her Majesty’s Government proposes to proceed”. (Section 13(8)).
Depending on the PM’s statement date this deadline could be anytime up to February 4th (but possibly sooner).
Following either of these written statement the Minister must then table a motion in both the Commons and the Lords within 7 sitting days.
The Commons motion should be that “in neutral terms, to the effect that the House of Commons has considered the matter of the statement ” and the Lords motion should be “to take note of the statement”.
It’s important to note that the Common’s vote on either of these motions are non binding and simply serve to state whether or not it supports the Governments stated contingency plan following the rejection of, or lack of Parliamentary appetite for, a deal. But at this point we could be anywhere up to February 14th.
Where we go from there is not clear but would essentially boil down to three options:
- Leave the EU on March 29th with no deal.
- Extend Article 50 either to allow for further negotiations with the EU, or to hold a second referendum (Would require the approval of the other 27 States).
- Withdraw Article 50 and remain in the EU.
Just think folks that if we had voted Yes in September 2014 we would likely be watching on with amusement at this clusterburach instead of being sat here worried about the effect this is going to have on us.
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