The British Parliament is voting yet again on Monday, in another attempt to try to break the Brexit impasse.
Members of Parliament (MPs) will try to see if they can agree on a new plan for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union by holding another round of “indicative votes.”
This is a follow-up to last Wednesday’s vote, when Parliament seized control of the Brexit process. Lawmakers debated and voted on eight Brexit options, from softer Brexit plans to a no-deal Brexit.
No plan won a majority in Parliament, although a few alternatives came close, including one option that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU after the breakup.
Monday’s vote in Parliament is a second attempt to agree on one of those alternative plans. The options have been whittled down to the four, and the finalists chosen for a second vote mirror the plans that got a fair amount of support last week, but failed to win outright.
The hope is that now, with fewer choices on the ballot and time running out ahead of the April 12 Brexit deadline, MPs will rally behind a particular plan and offer up a Brexit compromise that can end the political stalemate and uncertainty.
Here are the four Brexit options that members of Parliament will vote on
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow selected four measures for Monday’s vote. Parliament is voting on two types of plans. The first involve different Brexit outcomes, meaning measures that would fundamentally change the type of EU-UK divorce on offer by putting forward a softer-style Brexit.
The others focus on process. This applies to the second referendum choice, or “confirmatory public vote,” as it’s being called, which would put any deal approved by Parliament back to the people — but since Parliament hasn’t accepted any plan, it’s not clear what that would be just yet.
The results are expected to come in at about 10:30 pm London time (5:30 pm EST):
This plan would allow for the UK to retain a form of membership in the customs union post-Brexit, which means the UK would continue to follow all the EU customs rules. Parliament defeated this plan last week by a margin of eight votes, 264-272.
This is a very “soft” Brexit proposal, meaning the UK and the EU would have very close economic ties. The model for this is Norway, which is not an EU member but has access to the EU single market (which broadly means free movement of goods, capital, services, and people) through seeking membership in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) — which is made up of of Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein — and European Economic Area.
This plan would also call for negotiating membership in the customs union (which Norway doesn’t have), at least until the EU and UK could come up with a trade arrangement to guarantee an open border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (an EU member-state).
This was voted down 188-283 last week, but support for this plan has shot up since. The big reason for this change is the opposition Labour Party is now in favor of this plan and is whipping votes, trying to force members to back this measure. Labour has its own soft Brexit plan that was defeated last week, but it’s not on the ballot this time around, so Labour leaders are giving support to this plan.
This says that any Brexit deal approved by Parliament has to go back to the public for a “confirmatory” vote. To be clear, it doesn’t say exactly what will be on the ballot, just that the public gets a say in the final deal. This got the most “aye” votes last week, with 268, but 295 people still voted against it.
- If all else fails, revoke Article 50
This plan would seek an extension to Brexit, and if that doesn’t happen, requests the prime minister stop Brexit by revoking Article 50 if the Parliament can’t approve a deal before the Brexit deadline and agrees it does not want to leave the EU without a plan. (Article 50 is the mechanism in the EU’s Lisbon Treaty that the UK is using to leave the bloc.) This plan lost 184-293 last week.
So what happens after the vote?
The above options comprise Parliament’s “Final Four.” But it’s still unclear what happens if one of them — or more than one — ends up with majority support this time around.
A lot will depend on Prime Minister Theresa May, who lost another vote on her Brexit withdrawal agreement last Friday. These indicative votes are nonbinding, meaning they can’t technically force May to do anything.
The prime minister has established certain “red lines” in Brexit — meaning things she would not compromise on — such as withdrawing the UK from EU institutions like the single market and customs union. These alternative Brexit plans clash with those red lines, and agreeing to them would infuriate the hardline pro-Brexit crowd in her party. And yet — May might not really have a choice if she wants to avoid the UK crashing out of the EU on April 12 without a deal.
And the European Union also matters here. It’ll have to agree to any plan the UK puts forward and may be forced to grant the UK a much longer Brexit extension.
A useful chart by Simon Usherwood, deputy director at the independent think tank UK in a Changing Europe, shows that the EU would be amenable to most of these plans — although not all of them are free from complications.
Parliament is the closest it’s ever been to charting a new Brexit course. But there’s no guarantee that MPs will succeed, and they could easily fail once again to agree to any of these four plans.
And whatever MPs decide Monday — if they decide — still has to be implemented, for real this time. If politicians fail to come to a consensus, then the UK is facing the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on April 12, or will likely need to ask the EU for a much, much longer extension.