MPs have voted to give themselves considerably more control of the Brexit process, starting more or less immediately. They passed by a comfortable 329 to 302 margin an amendment led by the Conservative former minister Sir Oliver Letwin which sets aside Commons business on Wednesday for a series of so-called indicative votes on finding a consensus Brexit solution.
Is this a big deal?
Potentially. Amid an ever-greater sense of drift and gridlock in Theresa May’s government, MPs have acted to take control of the timetable – and possibly the actual process of departure. Earlier this month, they passed up the chance when they voted down a similar amendment, defeating it by just two votes.
So what happens now?
On Wednesday, MPs will hold a series of votes on a variety of possible Brexit solutions, for example leaving with May’s deal; leaving with membership of a customs union and/or single market; a no-deal departure; a second referendum. The various possible options and the form of voting are yet to be confirmed.
Will May have to do what the MPs say?
No. These are indicative votes – that is, not binding – and speaking in the Commons earlier, May indicated that it would be hard for the government to implement a plan which went against the Conservative manifesto, which ruled out a customs union or single market membership. Cabinet ministers have previously made the same point.
While there has been talk of MPs trying to seize further control of the Commons and push through an agreed plan via statute, this would appear constitutionally very tricky; it is the executive which is supposed to push laws, not the legislature, and so the main lever on May would thus be political pressure. [Continue reading…]