Brexit: What happens after MP’s seize control and what does it actually mean?

The Government has lost control of the Commons timetable and MPs will set out rival visions for Brexit. But what on earth does this actually mean, and how will the next stages work?


MPs have voted for an amendment enabling them to take control of Commons business and stage a series of “indicative” votes on the way forward for Brexit.

How will that work?

Under the plan put forward by Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, at 2pm on Wednesday normal proceedings in the House will stop and MPs will then consider a series of motions setting out alternatives to Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

MPs with plans were given until the rise of the Commons on Tuesday to set them out so they can be included in the order paper on Wednesday.

Commons Speaker John Bercow will decide which proposals will be put to a vote.

Oliver Lewin

How long will that take?

MPs will be presented with a ballot paper listing all the selected proposals and will vote “aye” or “noe” to whichever ones they choose.

There will be half an hour set aside for MPs to cast their votes, from just after 7pm.

The results will then be announced after around 9pm.

Will MPs decide on what they want on Wednesday?

Probably not. Because they can vote for any of their preferred options a clear winner is unlikely to emerge.

A second round of voting has been pencilled in for April 1, when MPs will again take charge of the Commons agenda.

Which options are likely to be considered?

It will be up to the Speaker, but Sir Oliver said he believed all “serious” proposals that were put forward should have a chance to be debated.

At one end of the spectrum, that could include a second referendum or revoking the Article 50 withdrawal process altogether. At the other, it could include a no-deal Brexit, leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation terms.

In between, there could be proposals for a “softer” Norway-style Brexit – sometimes called Common Market 2.0 – the customs union plan favoured by Labour, and a “harder” Canada-style free trade deal.

Result of the House of Commons vote on Oliver Letwin’s amendment to hold indicative votes on alternatives to the government’s Brexit deal. Infographic from PA Graphics.

What is the Government’s response?

Ministers have warned it sets a “dangerous, unpredictable precedent”, while Theresa May has said she will not necessarily be bound by the results – particularly if they are “undeliverable” by the EU.

That prompted Tory former minister Nick Boles to warn that MPs could bring forward legislation forcing the Government to act if ministers try to ignore the wishes of Parliament.

How long have they got to sort this out?

The clock is ticking. Last week, the EU gave Mrs May until April 12 to come forward with an alternative plan if she cannot finally get her twice-rejected Brexit deal through the Commons in a “meaningful vote” this week.

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