LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May is aiming to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit by proposing to seek further concessions from the European Union on a plan to prevent customs checks on the Irish border.
On Tuesday, Parliament will debate May’s proposed next steps as well as alternative plans put forward by lawmakers, including some that seek to delay Britain’s March 29 exit by requesting an extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiation period.
Others seek to shift control of the process away from government and give Parliament itself the chance to define Brexit. If successful, this could have a profound effect, giving lawmakers who want to block, delay or renegotiate Brexit a possible legal route to do so.
Tuesday’s proceedings are not a rerun of a debate earlier this month, after which Parliament hugely rejected May’s deal. Instead, they are designed to discover what sort of changes would be required to win the support of Parliament.
If an option is approved by a majority of lawmakers, May could go back to the EU and seek changes to her Brexit deal. Parliament will ultimately need to vote on any revised deal.
Below is what is due to happen next:
Jan. 21-29: Lawmakers propose alternatives
Lawmakers are proposing alternatives to May’s next steps through a parliamentary device known as an amendment. Amendments will be selected Tuesday by Speaker John Bercow and can then be put to a vote.
Below are the amendments that have been put forward so far:
Amendment A — Signed by 52 lawmakers
Proposed by opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, it calls for Parliament to consider alternative options to prevent Britain leaving without a deal, including seeking a permanent customs union with the EU and holding a second referendum.
This is unlikely to be approved as pro-EU lawmakers in May’s Conservative Party have indicated they will not rebel against their leader by supporting it.
Several Labour lawmakers and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats have proposed changes to this amendment so that it will call only for Parliament to vote on holding a second referendum and that remaining in the EU should be an option in that referendum.
Amendment B — Signed by 103 lawmakers
Put forward by Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper, this one has a strong chance of succeeding as Labour’s finance policy chief has said it is “highly likely” the party will back it. It is also supported by several of May’s Conservatives.
It seeks to shift control of Brexit from May’s government to Parliament by demanding that on Feb. 5, the rule that government business takes precedence in Parliament is overturned.
Providing it has the support of 10 lawmakers from at least four political parties, it then makes time for a piece of legislation Cooper has proposed, which gives May until Feb. 26 to get a deal approved by Parliament.
If the government fails to get a deal through by that date, Parliament would be given a vote on asking the EU for a postponement of the Article 50 deadline to prevent Britain leaving without a deal on March 29. It proposes a nine-month extension, to Dec. 31.
Amendment C — Signed by 11 lawmakers
Proposed by Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and his lawmakers, it calls on the government to rule out a no-deal exit and prepare for a second referendum in which the option to remain in the EU would be on the ballot paper.
Amendment D — Signed by 11 lawmakers
Proposed by Liberal Democrat lawmaker Tom Brake, it demands that a committee of no more than 17 lawmakers from across political parties be created and given control of the parliamentary Brexit process.
Amendment E — Signed by 33 lawmakers
Proposed by Conservative lawmaker Andrew Murrison and supported by many Conservatives, it calls for Britain’s exit deal with Brussels to be changed to add an expiry date to the Northern Irish backstop of Dec. 31, 2021.
Amendment F — Signed by 17 lawmakers
This has been put forward by Labour lawmaker Hilary Benn, who chairs Parliament’s Brexit select committee. It calls on the government to hold indicative votes on the following options:
Holding another vote in Parliament on May’s deal
Leaving with no deal on March 29
Calling on the government to renegotiate May’s deal
Holding a second referendum
Amendment G — Signed by 74 lawmakers
This has been proposed by Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve and has a chance of succeeding as it is supported by lawmakers from several parties.
It demands that, one day a week in February and March, the rule that government business takes precedence in Parliament is overturned, giving lawmakers the opportunity to propose their own debates on Brexit. Any proposals approved by Parliament on those days would not be binding on the government but would be politically difficult to ignore.
Amendment H — Signed by 37 lawmakers
Put forward by a group of Labour lawmakers, this calls on the government to request an extension to the Article 50 deadline so that a ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ of 250 people can be created to consider the way forward and make recommendations to Parliament within 10 weeks of being set up.
Amendment I — Signed by 129 lawmakers
Put forward by Conservative lawmaker Caroline Spelman and supported by lawmakers from most political parties, it seeks to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Amendment J — Signed by 78 lawmakers
Proposed by lawmakers from Labour, May’s Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, this calls on the government to request an extension to the Article 50 deadline if a deal has not been approved by Feb. 26.
Amendment K — Signed by 17 lawmakers
This amendment, put forward by Conservative lawmaker John Baron, calls on Parliament to reject any Brexit deal which includes a Northern Ireland backstop.
Amendment L — Signed by 17 lawmakers
Also proposed by Baron, it states that Parliament will not approve a Brexit deal which includes a Northern Ireland backstop lasting any longer than six months.
Amendment M — Signed by 18 lawmakers
Also put forward by Baron, it calls for Parliament to reject any Brexit deal that does not give Britain a unilateral right to terminate the Northern Ireland backstop.
Amendment N — Signed by 8 lawmakers
Supported by Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers, it calls for the backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border and says Parliament would support May’s Brexit deal if this change were made.
Jan. 29: Parliament debates and votes on next steps
Parliament will hold a day of debate on May’s proposed next steps and the amendments.
A vote in favor of changing parliamentary rules will change the long-held principle of the British Parliament that the government has control of what has the chance to become law.
Votes on alternative types of deal proposed by lawmakers should give an indication of whether there is any way forward supported by a majority in Parliament.
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