In a bid to stop Parliament seizing control of the Brexit process, Theresa May is expected to unveil plans to offer MPs a series of ‘indicative votes’ that would enable them to vote for a number of different Brexit options.
The PM’s cabinet has been called in for a special meeting this morning. The Daily Telegraph’s Steven Swinford reports they’ll be shown a plan for indicative votes on seven Brexit options: the PM’s deal; no deal; a second referendum; a revoking of Article 50; a Canada-style free trade agreement; a customs union; and joining the single market. The consequences of these could be “seismic” for Britain’s exit from the EU, says Politico.
May’s decision to relent follows the tabling of seven amendments to her withdrawal bill for this evening. The most closely scrutinised is the one led by backbench Tory MPs Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve which creates time for their own indicative votes on Wednesday. Signed by a cross-party selection of more than 120 MPs, it seems “certain to be selected by the Speaker”, says The Guardian.
Should the Letwin/Grieve amendment pass, as expected, it will “set the clock ticking for an explosive day in parliament on Wednesday in which a majority might, for the first time, be assembled in favour of one form of Brexit, rather than simply against the prime minister’s”, says Politico.
But these votes (either May’s version or Letwin’s) are not binding. Should parliament agree to take no deal off the table, or agree on an alternative way forward other than the PM’s deal, it would be impossible for the Conservative government to implement it, according to the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay.
“The vote itself would potentially collide with fundamental commitments the government has given in their manifesto,” Barclay told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
In this scenario, Barclay said, a general election might be necessary to break the impasse.
“Ultimately at its logical conclusion, the risk of a general election increases because you potentially have a situation where parliament is instructing the executive to do something that is counter to what it was elected to do,” he said.
Other amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement being tabled tonight include a similar if less prescriptive version of the Letwin/Grieve amendment by the Labour frontbench. Others are seeking to rule out a no-deal Brexit on 12 April or to reaffirm the government’s commitment to Brexit.
But it’s the Letwin/Grieve amendment that has the best chance of passing as last time round Hilary Benn’s amendment to take control of the order paper lost by just two votes.
Ahead of today’s cabinet meeting, May summoned six of her ministers plus seven backbenchers – mostly from the Brexiteer wing of the party – to her Chequers country residence. The attendees included former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab, as well as arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.
May told the Brexiteers she would quit if they voted for her deal, “including the backstop they hate”, says The Spectator’s Robert Peston.
But she gave “no specifics” so there’s “not a lot of trust she would actually quit”, he adds.
A No. 10 source told The Telegraph that the PM only refused to set out a timetable for her departure at this stage for fear of looking weak. The source said May would be willing to do so if she “knows she has the numbers” to win the vote.