Brexit deadlock: MPs fail to back any of the eight options aimed at solving EU divorce crisis

Brexit deadlock: MPs fail to back any of the eight options aimed at solving EU divorce crisis
Copyright REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
By Euronews with Reuters
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Back to square one?


British MPs have failed to back any of the eight options aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock.

The UK parliament held a number of non-binding, indicative votes on suggestions aimed at solving the impasse around the country's EU departure.

But none of the eight options put forward on Wednesday gained a majority.

A move to hold a public vote on PM Theresa May's Brexit deal got the most votes with 268 but ultimately fell short.

The same was the case for a plan to establish an EU-UK customs union.

A second stage of debate and voting is scheduled for next Monday, which is expected to see MPs consider a reduced shortlist of options.

The latest moves come after May has twice failed to get MPs to back her EU divorce deal. She offered to resign earlier on Wednesday if members of parliament pass it at a third attempt. However, there are question marks around whether it will ever make it back to the House of Commons: speaker John Bercow has said May cannot bring the deal back unless it is changed.

The prime minister suffered a further blow on Wednesday night when Northern Ireland's DUP, whose support is seen as crucial, said they would still not back the deal due to the backstop – the mechanism designed to guarantee an open Irish border.

Under the revised Brexit timetable, the EU has given the UK parliament until the end of this week to pass the exit deal and secure a departure date of May 22. Otherwise, the UK is set to leave the EU on April 12 unless it can come up with an acceptable way forward.

The indicative votes were aimed at allowing MPs to express their preference for how they think Brexit should go forward and potentially allowed the government to see which option could command a majority in the House of Commons.

Read more:

What are indicative votes? Euronews Answers

What's in Theresa May's Brexit deal and why is it so unpopular?

Brexit Guide: where are we now?

What were the results of the eight amendments MPs voted on?

No deal Brexit (Amendment B): Proposed by Conservative Brexiteer John Baron. It is calling for the UK to leave the EU without a deal on 12 April.

(For: 160, Against: 400)

"Common Market 2.0" (Amendment D): Proposed by Conservative Remainer Nick Boles. It calls the government to negotiate for a Norway plus style deal which would see the UK negotiating a customs arrangement, remaining part of the Single Market, to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA).

(For: 188, Against: 283)


EEA and ETFA terms; no customs union (Amendment H): Proposed by Conservative Brexiteer George Eustice. Calls for the UK to accede to the EEA and ETFA but not to remain in a customs union. It also calls for the government to ask the EU to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement to renegotiate the Irish backstop.

(For: 65, Against 300)

A customs union (Amendment J): Proposed by Conservative Remainer Ken Clarke. It calls for the government to negotiate "a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU".

(For: 264, Against 272)

Labour's alternative Brexit plan (Amendment K): Proposed by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. This lays out Labour's alternative plan for Brexit including a comprehensive customs union with the EU (with the UK having a say on future trade deals), close alignment with the Single Market, the dynamic alignment on workers' rights and environmental protections, participation in EU agencies and funding programmes as well cooperation on security matters


(For: 237, Against 307)

Article 50 or 'no deal' (Amendment L): Proposed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry. It states that if a deal is not reached the day before the scheduled department date Parliament will again vote on no deal. If it approves it the UK will leave without a deal and if it does not the government must give notice it will revoke Article 50.

(For: 184, Against 293)

Public confirmatory vote (Amendment M): Originally proposed by Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson but submitted in the name of Dame Margaret Beckett. This states MPs will vote to confirm Theresa May's deal but only on the provision that it is then subject to a public vote to confirm it.

(For: 268, Against 295)


Contingent preferential arrangements (Amendment 0): Proposed by Conservative Brexiteer Marcus Fysh. Says if the government cannot get its Withdrawal Agreement through parliament it should immediately seek a range of arrangements with the EU to manage the immediate post Brexit environment (rather than extending or revoking Article 50) and should "unilaterally guarantee" the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

(For: 139, Against 422)

What happened earlier on Wednesday?

During a meeting with the 1922 committee, which represents backbench MPs interests in parliament, May announced she would be stepping down if her Brexit deal is approved.

She said: “I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations and I won’t stand in the way of that,” May said, according to a transcript released afterwards.

“I know some people are worried that if you vote for the withdrawal agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t; I hear what you are saying. But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit.


“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.”

She did not set out a formal date for departure but it is expected she will announce her resignation on May 22 - the new Brexit date if the deal is approved - to allow for a summer leadership contest and for the next prime minister to be in place by the Autumn Conservative party conference.

What did the Conservatives say?

Immediately after her resignation, several arch Brexiteers such as former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg indicated they might now support May's deal.

Johnson, in particular, was immediately accused of hypocrisy having said they could not vote for May's deal or they risked suffering an "even greater humiliation" in the second phase of the negotiation earlier this month.

He is widely expected to run for leader after May's resignation and has been repeatedly accused of backing Brexit to bolster his chances to gain the top job.


Meanwhile, Rees-Mogg suggested he would vote for the deal provided the DUP abstained on the bill. That has now been called into question after the Northern Ireland unionists said they could still not back it.

He had already indicated he was softening on the deal and wrote in an op-ed in the Daily Mail newspaper on Wednesday morning saying that he was "ready to back May's deal" to avoid a long Brexit delay, a catastrophic no deal Brexit, or no deal at all.

"I have come to this view because the numbers in Parliament make it clear that all the other potential outcomes are worse and an awkward reality needs to be faced", he wrote.

To explain his position, he added in a Twitter post: "Half a loaf is better than no bread", meaning he would rather have a half Brexit than no Brexit at all.

What did the Northern Irish unionists say?

The ten MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) prop up Theresa May's Conservative government, without whose support it would not have a majority in parliament. Its stance on the EU withdrawal agreement is seen as highly influential on Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers.


So far the DUP has refused to back the exit deal negotiated by London and Brussels and approved by the other 27 EU governments. On Wednesday night leader Arlene Foster said the party would still not vote for it.

"We feel very fundamentally that the backstop in that Withdrawal Agreement makes it impossible for us to sign up... I regret that, because we wanted to get a deal, a deal that worked for the whole of the United Kingdom, a deal that worked for Northern Ireland. But now we're in a situation where we cannot sign up to the Withdrawal Agreement, and it's all because the prime minister decided to go for that backstop," she told the BBC.

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