- The UK House of Commons will this evening vote on a series of amendments to Theresa May’s Brexit plan.
- Backbench MPs from across the House have brought forward amendments which could force May to delay Brexit, or rule out no-deal.
- Rebel Conservative MPs propose new compromise plan in last ditch bid to unite the party.
- Voting is expected to begin at 19:00 GMT.
LONDON — Westminster is bracing itself for another historic day with Members of Parliament preparing to vote on amendments which, if passed, would effectively re-write Theresa May’s Brexit plan.
MPs will vote on amendments that could have huge ramifications, including delaying the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, or forcing the prime minister to ask Brussels for major changes to the Brexit deal.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes MPs from all sides of the Brexit divide are working on alternatives to May’s deal after it was rejected by a record-breaking House of Commons majority earlier this month.
Voting on the amendments is set to get underway at 19:00 with results expected later in the evening.
Scroll down for the latest developments. All times are in GMT.
09:31: What’s the „Malthouse Compromise“ everyone is talking about?
Late on Monday evening news broke of a Brexit plan secretly drawn up by Conservative MPs from rival wings of the party. Dubbed the „Malthouse Plan“ in tribute to one of its designers, Kit Malthouse MP, it is backed by arch Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker as well as Remain-voting MPs like minister Stephen Hammond and Nicky Morgan.
But what is it? Take a deep breath…
The plan is in two stages.
The first — plan A — calls on UK and EU negotiators to scrap the current backstop measure for avoiding a hard Irish border and replace it with other arrangements like those described by a by hard Brexiteers in a report called A Better Deal published in December. The report makes the disputed claim that the current backstop — in which the UK would remain in a customs union with the EU while Northern Ireland would effectively stay in the single market — is not necessary because there is technology that can ensure that the Irish border remains frictionless.
However, the EU has been clear that neither the backstop or anything else in the Withdrawal Agreement can be negotiated. So, onto part B…
If part A fails, then the UK government should pursue what the Malthouse Plan describes as a „basic transition agreement.“ Under this arrangement, the UK would leave the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement on March 29 but there would be a transition period up to no later than December 2021 to give both the UK and EU time to prepare for trading with each other on basic World Trade Organisation rules. Both sides would also uphold commitments on citizens rights, financial commitments and other areas of the Withdrawal Agreement. It’s basically bits of the Withdrawal Agreement that the UK is happy with — without the official Without Agreement.
Pro-Brexit MPs seem to really like it. One member of the European Research Group told Business Insider: „[It] shows how various factions of Tory Party despite strongly held opposing views going the extra mile to find equitable solution which could get through Commons. I welcome this initiative and hope it gains traction today. Malthouse has played a blinder.“
However, the EU is almost certainly to hate it. After all, it does contradict things that the EU has said publicly numerous times.
Quoting a source in Brussels, ITV’s Robert Peston tweets: „Zero chance. Have just discussed over here. Viewed as both extraordinarily funny and tragic.“
09:04: Why Theresa May is facing a Brexiteer mutiny entirely of her own making
There were farcical scenes in parliament last night after Theresa May addressed colleagues at the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, and the prime minister found herself facing a mutiny entirely of her own making.
The 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs meets regularly but it is at its fullest and rowdiest on occasions like last night where the prime minister attends to address colleagues.
The main topic of discussion was a series of amendments that MPs have tabled to the prime minister’s Brexit motion this evening which will allow MPs to vote on alternative outcomes for Brexit.
One amendment, tabled 1922 Committee Chairman Graham Brady — who voted against the prime minister’s deal — calls on the government to replace the Irish backstop measure in the Withdrawal Agreement. That idea is popular with many Tory MPs who fervently oppose the backstop.
But the EU has repeatedly made clear that it would never consider removing the backstop from the Brexit deal, and many moderate MPs consider the amendment an indulgent fantasy.
Arriving at the 1922, Jacob Rees-Mogg announced that he and his colleagues in the hardline European Research Group of MPs were in „no mood to support“ the Brady amendment amid fears it was too vague.
But Theresa May then told MPs in the 1922 that she would be whipping MPs to support the amendment. One Tory MP told Business Insider that she said she wanted to demonstrate that she had a „serious chance“ of „demonstrating“ to Brussels that the backstop wouldn’t be included as part of the withdrawal agreement.
When arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson challenged the prime minister on how the vaguely worded Brady amendment would help May secure substantive change on the backstop, she told him: „We won’t know unless you support it, Boris!“ to loud cheers.
But the prime minister refused to discuss the actual substance of her proposals in any more detail, according to MPs in the room.
Negotiators in the EU believe that May is reluctant to discuss alternative proposals because they don’t exist, and point out that the backstop was shaped by UK negotiators in the first place.
It sets up a very bizarre situation: The government is planning to whip Tory MPs to vote for a rebel amendment to its own motion tomorrow.
But Brexiteer MPs plan to vote against the amendment, which means the government’s plan to make MPs vote for a rebel amendment to its own motion is likely to fail.
Emerging from the meeting said: „I would hope the ERG, when they look at this and actually look through the detail of what this gives the PM tomorrow, see it is about giving a message to Europe about what can go through Parliament in terms of dealing with the backstop issue and why that matters.“
First things first: House of Commons John Bercow may not even select the amendment. If it is selected, the ERG will be heavily pressured to support it. Whether they crack will be an interesting test.
If it is successful, Theresa May appears to think she will have an ace in her hand when she travels to Brussels, proving to them that there is a Commons majority for a deal without the backstop.
In reality, the EU — frustrated by a complete lack of alternative suggestions to the backstop — is likely to offer her plan a resounding rejection.
„We’re not going to reopen the Agreement,“ said the EU’s deputy chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels yesterday.
„The result of the negotiation has been very much shaped by the UK negotiators, much more than they actually get credit for.“
„This is a bit like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.“
08:40: Another historic day awaits
Good morning from Westminster!
What will today bring for Theresa May? Later tonight MPs will vote on amendments which if passed would basically re-write her Brexit plan.
Remember: This is happening after MPs voted down the prime minister’s deal earlier this month by a record-breaking margin of 230 votes.
We won’t know which amendments will be voted until House of Commons Speaker John Bercow chooses them at around lunchtime today.
However, it is widely expected that Bercow will select the plan put forward by Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles to delay Brexit if there is no approved deal by the end of February, and the government-backed amendment put forward by Conservative Brexiteer Graham Brady to replace the controversial backstop for Northern Ireland with another set of arrangements.
With 11 hours or so to go until these votes take place, many MPs are yet to decide how they’ll vote. They could be crucial in what are shaping up to really close votes.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Source: Business insider