Brexit votes in House of Commons (April 1 2019)

Steve Brine posts a short explainer on tonight’s votes in Parliament...

This evening the House of Commons held day two of the process known as “indicative votes”.

After the failure of the House to agree any Brexit ‘deal’, including three times rejecting the draft Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the UK Government and the EU, MPs are attempting to see if there is any alternative we CAN unite around.

I wholeheartedly support this process and, in-part, stepped down from my Ministerial role to ensure it happened. I am clear it should have happened two years ago before we triggered Article 50 following the 2017 General Election which produced a Parliament where neither party has an overall majority.

To be clear, the indicative votes process is all about the political declaration which will steer UK negotiators as we discuss the future relationship with the European Union.

All options require a withdrawal agreement which is how we leave and comprises the transition period (rightly) asked for by British business. It is the WA which also guarantees citizens rights, the divorce bill and cooperation on important issues such as security and trade.

Last week we debated eight motions from EFTA membership to a customs union, a second referendum and revocation of Article 50.

That first day of the process produced no majority for any option but the closest to achieving such was Ken Clarke’s proposed customs union and a confirmatory vote put forward by Dame Margaret Beckett.

Day two - today’s knock out stage to last week’s group phase to follow a football analogy - saw four motions selected for debate.

I sat through (and took part several times) the entire debate and voted the following ways:



Motion C (Ken Clarke): Customs Union

Motion D (Nick Boles): Common Market 2.0

Motion E (Peter Kyle): Confirmatory public vote 


Abstain/Did not vote:

Motion G (Joanna Cherry): Parliamentary supremacy revocation of Article 50


You can see the full text of all motions on today’s Commons Order Paper here:

The results, announced just after 10pm, were as follows:

Motion C: Aye 273 No 276

Motion D: Aye 261 No 282

Motion E: Aye 280 No 292

Motion G: Aye 191 No 292

I have voted three times for the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and still think, when you look at the alternatives, it is a good deal that compares well and delivers on the referendum result. In short, it takes us from being part of a constitutional arrangement with the EU to a Treaty arrangement.

However, Parliament has refused (as recently as Friday) to back it so it is right - especially if like me you think it essential we avoid a no deal scenario- we look for a Plan B.

Indicative votes are about just that, indicative of what you can live with. They are not a perfect world solution and, as I said in the House today, no way forward is without consequence.

So I supported Ken Clarke’s customs union motion because it is a workable (we’re already in the EU’s customs union of course) proposal and commands wide support in Parliament cross-party.

I supported Nick Boles Common Market 2.0 proposal which has much going for it - and is closest to what the British people voted for in the first place when we entered the Common Market - but would not allow us to wholly end free movement.

Thirdly, I supported the motion which calls for a confirmatory public vote on any withdrawal agreement and framework for the future relationship agreed by Parliament.

I have consistently said, if Parliament cannot settle this or come to any conclusion, ALL options must remain on the table so it would not be right to vote to take it off the table at this stage.

We should be very clear, tonight’s vote does not legislate for another public vote. It merely keeps it in play, as an insurance policy, and because it was defeated (along with any deal to put to a confirmatory vote) will have to come back to Commons again and be proposed by the Government if it were to become a reality.

That could, for-instance, involve the Prime Minister’s deal being put to a confirmatory vote given Parliament cannot agree it. What any such poll would look like in reality is still totally unclear and questions remain around the question, the options, the franchise, the winning threshold etc.

Going back to the public would be a failure of Parliament and, I repeat, come with significant consequences.

The long and short of it continues to be that Parliament has clearly said it doesn’t want no deal so it must continue to seek compromise and settle on A deal.

I will continue to work day and night in that pursuit.