Theresa May faces Tuesday a vote in the House of Commons that could radically alter the entire Brexit process. It is a neutral government motion, which parliamentarians will have to vote along with the amendments of different deputies. These amendments, although they are not binding, will serve to show where the parliamentary majority resides and to define the next steps.
Will the Brexit finally be delayed? Will Theresa May ask for new concessions to the EU for a new agreement? Will the British be one step closer to having a Brexit without an agreement?
Unfortunately, the only thing that is known at the moment is that the British are already fed up with Brexit (before there has been Brexit). Specifically, 62% declare themselves “unhappy” with the process of leaving the United Kingdom of the European Union, according to a YouGov poll for channel 5 News released on Monday.
To unblock the blockade (for its own sake and that of all Europeans), these are the scenarios that may occur as a result of the vote of the Commons on Tuesday.
The amendments: how the system works
Several deputies have presented their proposals to solve the chaos of the Brexit, but not all the amendments presented will be put to a vote. The selection will be made by the president of the House of Commons, John Bercow, this same Tuesday morning.
He is expected to choose about six, considering how many parliamentarians have expressed support for each proposal. The selected amendments will have to be voted on in the House of Commons and, even if they are not legally binding, politically it would be very difficult for May to ignore them.
What amendments have more possibilities and what would be their effect
Delay the Brexit
As the British edition of the HuffPost progressed, the Labor MP Yvette Cooper wants to present the most radical amendment, which is to force the Government to allow the Parliament to debate a proposal of law elaborated by it to avoid a Brexit without agreement.
His bill proposes that if a Brexit agreement has not been approved by February 26, the government should delay the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union for a few months. It could be until June 30 or until December 31, 2019.
This option has the support of some former ministers of the Conservative Party of May, as well as many Labor sectors.
Give the floor to Parliament
Labor MP Hilary Benn has drafted an amendment asking the government to hold a series of indicative ballots to see which option would have the most support from the chamber.
These would include voting on a Brexit without an agreement, a second referendum or a renegotiation with Brussels.
For his part, the conservative Dominic Grieve has submitted another amendment that would force the Government to grant six days to the deputies, in February and March, to debate and vote on different options. The last of those dates would be March 26, that is, three days before the scheduled date for Brexit.
Grieve hopes that in those days the deputies have time to agree on a plan – be it a second referendum, a commercial agreement with the EU in the style of Norway or another plan – that can achieve a parliamentary majority.
Like Cooper’s amendment, if selected by Bercow and supported by Labor, it could win the support of enough rebel Tories to guarantee its approval, according to political journalist Arj Singh in the British edition of HuffPost.
The renegotiation on the border with Ireland
An amendment supported by Tory Graham Grady calls for the controversial clause on the Irish border to be removed and replaced by an alternative, while his colleague Andrew Murrison claims that such a safeguard, aimed at protecting the Northern Irish peace process, expires in December. 2021
None of these plans would have a practical effect – since the agreement is subject to negotiation with the EU – but May could ask its deputies to support one of them in the hope that, if approved, it will strengthen its negotiation in Brussels. This would indicate to the EU what its concession needs to be in order to allow the agreement to be approved in Parliament, says HuffPost United Kingdom.
However, these amendments have two key obstacles: that Bercow decides (or not) to select them for a later vote and then receive sufficient support. Opposition parties oppose them, as well as that they would need all the conservatives (including the defenders of a hard Brexit) to give their support.
Avoid a non-agreement
An amendment presented by conservative Caroline Spelman with widespread support rejects leaving the bloc without a bilateral treaty, something the prime minister does not want to compromise on.
It has possibilities to be approved (if selected by Bercow), but it would have no legal effect, since the date of March 29 is marked by law.
However, he would exert a lot of political pressure on May to rule out a non-agreement, potentially forcing him to delay Brexit and rewrite his strategy.
What happens if none of the amendments is approved?
Both the prime minister and the parliament would remain stagnant, as up until now. For now, they have already rejected May’s initial agreement with the EU (for a historic majority against it) and a motion of confidence to the prime minister a few hours later (in a close vote).
If the blockade persists, Theresa May could present her resignation or call new elections in an attempt to reinforce her fragile position, according to AFP.
In any case, the deputies would have failed to take control and May would have little hope of convincing the EU to make new concessions on the agreement, something to which European leaders are reluctant unless London changes its lines red
In short: the United Kingdom would be doomed to a Brexit without agreement – the scenario most feared by the British economic media -, unless 1) the prime minister changes course, 2) the Commons find a way to stop the countdown or change the government’s plan, 3) the EU make concessions on Ireland or 4) the deputies change their opinion and support the May agreement.