Brexit: What will happen next as May battles to win over MPs? | Politics News

Theresa May has called on MPs to “hold our nerve” and give her more time to agree a revised Brexit deal with the European Union. So, how will the process play out now?

:: What is happening this week?

MPs will hold a debate on a government motion on Thursday.

They will be asked to reaffirm a Commons vote at the end of last month, which called on Theresa May to go back to Brussels and replace the Irish border backstop with “alternative arrangements”.

This is an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland if Britain and the EU cannot agree a free trade deal in time.

It is the key stumbling block preventing the prime minister getting an agreement through parliament.

Given Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party and Conservative MPs want to see the PM’s efforts to secure changes to the backstop be successful, the government winning the vote on the motion was originally seen as a foregone conclusion.

Stephen Barclay MP

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But there are suggestions that eurosceptic Tory MPs may not back it – because they think that by doing so they will endorse a policy of ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

They believe that when it comes to Thursday’s motion, the devil is in the detail.

The motion asks the Commons to reaffirm its decision in the 29 January debate, which saw MPs pass the backstop amendment but also another non-binding amendment which rejected no-deal.

So Brexiteers fear they may be railroaded into expressing supporting for something they do not want to.

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Mindful of this, Mrs May’s official spokesman has sought to calm their fears.

“What the motion reflects is the position the prime minister set out after those votes, which is the Parliament wants the UK to leave with a deal, but in order to do so it requires us to secure legally-binding changes in relation to the backstop,” the spokesman told journalists at a regular briefing in Westminster.

He added: “No-deal is an eventuality we wish to avoid, but one we continue to plan for. Does no-deal remain on the table? The answer is yes.”

:: What has Theresa May said?

The PM told the Commons on Tuesday that she would make another statement on 26 February and table an amendable motion which can be debated and voted on by MPs the following day, if she has yet to get a deal at that point.

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Before reports of eurosceptic anger, this was seen as giving Mrs May a bit of breathing space and turning Thursday’s proceedings into something of a damp squib.

That may not be the case now.

:: Will there be more amendments from MPs?

Yes. Thursday’s motion is amendable, so MPs from across Parliament will be able to put forward their own alternatives and test opinion on other ways out of the current impasse.

However, given the PM has promised to come back to Parliament on 26 February, many MPs may decide to wait until then.

Jeremy Corbyn is leading the Labour frontbench bid to force a vote on the EU divorce deal itself or let MPs come up with their own plans to change the course of Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn

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The Labour leader has tabled this amendment for a vote on Thursday.

A number of other amendments will also be voted on. These are:

:: An amendment from Tory MP Ken Clarke calling for MPs to be allowed to vote on various alternative Brexit scenarios (things like a second referendum and a closer relationship with Europe post-Brexit) and rank their preferred options

:: SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil’s call for Article 50 to be revoked, therefore cancelling Brexit

:: An amendment from a cross-party group of backbenchers – including Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry – calling for the government to publish the “most recent official briefing document” on the implications of a no-deal exit.

:: Labour MP Roger Godsiff’s attempt to extend Article 50 to allow the time to hold a second referendum. The options on the ballot paper would be to accept the deal; reject it and leave without a deal; or reject the agreement and stay in the EU.

:: What about at the end of February?

MP Yvette Cooper has teamed up with Labour colleagues and Tory rebels to try to give MPs a separate vote a fortnight before Brexit day on 29 March.

It would force Mrs May to declare whether she will take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal, or delay Brexit.

The bid, which is supported by Conservatives Oliver Letwin, Nick Boles and Dominic Grieve, is a revised amendment following the original’s defeat by 23 votes last month.

Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper is launching another bid to delay Brexit if a deal is not in place

Ms Cooper had sought to delay Brexit until the end of 2019 if there was no deal in place by the end of February, but faced defeat at the hands of Labour MPs who worried about the reaction in their Leave-voting constituencies.

Her new plan is likely to be the first of many amendments that will be tabled.

:: When is the next vote on a deal?

A new date for the second “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal agreement has not been set.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom told Sky News earlier this week that Mrs May would table a vote “just as soon as she can”.

Andrea Leadsom  wants to change the 'culture' in parliament

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The timing is very much up in the air, but events in Parliament this week could give us a better idea.

:: Remind me again, how did we get here?

Following more than 18 months of negotiations in the wake of the 2016 referendum result to leave the EU, the PM struck a withdrawal agreement with the bloc in November.

This was brought back to Parliament for MPs to vote on in January – and they overwhelmingly rejected it.

So, Mrs May has had to go back to the drawing board and decided the best way to get a deal approved was to win concessions from Brussels on the backstop.

The PM travelled to Brussels last week for talks with senior EU figures, but a breakthrough has thus far eluded her.

All the while, the clock towards Brexit day continues to tick.

Under the terms of Article 50 (the part of an EU treaty that sets out how a country leaves the bloc) Britain has two years to sort out the terms of its exit and get a deal approved by Parliament.

It was triggered by Mrs May in March 2017 and will expire at the end of next month.

Article 50 dictates that if the country that wants to leave has not managed to get a deal signed off by its parliament at the end of the two years, it exits without a deal.

Opponents of a no-deal Brexit say it would have dire consequences for Britain, with chaos and disruption certain to ensue.

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