Brexit 'plan B': What happens next in parliament?

Last Updated 29 January 2019, 14:37 IST

Lawmakers on Tuesday will debate and vote on British Prime Minister Theresa May's response to the overwhelming rejection of her Brexit plan earlier this month.

It is not a re-run of the Jan. 15 "meaningful vote" on whether to approve the exit deal she negotiated with the European Union, which she lost by 432 to 202.

Instead, Tuesday is a chance to discover what sort of changes to her strategy would be required to win the support of parliament, so that May can try to renegotiate the deal in Brussels and then ask lawmakers to approve it.

May has said she wants to secure concessions relating to the border with Northern Ireland in order to win the support of pro-Brexit lawmakers in her own party and the small Northern Irish party which props up her government, who voted against her deal.

Some lawmakers want to shift control of the process away from government and give parliament 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.

Other lawmakers have proposed alternatives to May's deal to gauge support for them and persuade the prime minister to change course by seeking closer EU ties or holding a second referendum.


Lawmakers are officially discussing a bland statement saying they have debated May's next steps. But, using a parliamentary device known as an amendment, some hope to turn it into something that will persuade or force May into taking a different path.

The Speaker, John Bercow, announced on Tuesday he had selected seven amendments for debate and vote.

Voting on them will take place one by one from 1900 GMT, in the order, they are listed below. Each vote takes around 15 minutes and the result is read out in parliament.

Once voting on all amendments has taken place, a vote is held to give final approval to the wording of the statement. This final statement does not automatically dictate government policy.


AMENDMENT A - Signed by 67 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.

AMENDMENT O - Signed by 39 lawmakers

Put forward by the Westminster leader of the Scottish National Party, Ian Blackford, it calls on the government to seek an extension to Article 50 and rule out a no-deal Brexit. It also demands that Scotland, which voted in favour of remaining in the EU, should not be taken out of the bloc against its will.

If Amendment A passes, Amendment O will not be voted on.

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 B - Signed by 139 lawmakers

Put forward by Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper, this 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 makes time for a piece of legislation giving May until Feb. 26 to get a deal approved by parliament.

If not, 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.

This plan has a strong chance of succeeding as the opposition Labour Party has said it will back it and it is supported by several of May's Conservatives.

AMENDMENT J - Signed by 120 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.

If Amendment B passes, Amendment J will not be voted on.

AMENDMENT I - Signed by 158 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 N - Signed by 71 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 in Ireland and says parliament would support May's Brexit deal if this change were made.

On Monday, May asked her lawmakers to support this amendment. It is potentially useful to the government if passed because it would show the EU there is popular support in parliament for her attempt to renegotiate.

(Published 29 January 2019, 14:24 IST)

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