The House of Commons has voted on a series of amendments to a Government motion, allowing Remain MPs to take control of the Brexit process from the Prime Minister.
This came after Theresa May postponed a third vote on her Withdrawal Agreement — which might never be held at all now.
The Government whipped Tory MPs to oppose the proposed power grabs, which they believe would set a dangerous and disruptive constitutional precedent — but the one tabled by Oliver Letwin MP, a Tory Remainer, was passed successfully, with the aid of a number of Remain-supporting ministers who rebelled against the Prime Minister to back them.
Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage warned the country was “witnessing the death of British democracy in slow motion”, while a spokesman for the Brexit department lamented the “dangerous, unpredictable precedent” the new, possibly unprecedented arrangements set.
This article now closed. Live updates and the initial report explaining the amendments and their background can be viewed below.
UPDATE: 10:55 p.m. — A spokesman for the Brexit department has expressed the Government’s dismay at the “dangerous, unpredictable precedent” set by the success of the Letwin amendment (see below), which allows the Remain-dominated House of Commons to take over the direction of the Brexit process from the executive in many respects.
It is disappointing to see this amendment pass, as the Government made a clear commitment to provide a process to find a majority in Parliament for a way forward this week.
This amendment instead upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future.
While it is now up to Parliament to set out next steps in respect of this amendment, the Government will continue to call for realism – any options considered must be deliverable in negotiations with the EU. Parliament should take account of how long these negotiations would take, and if they’d require a longer extension which would mean holding European parliamentary elections.
UPDATE: 10:50 p.m. — MPs have backed the main motion by 327 to 300 — effectively a simple confirmation of the Oliver amendment, already backed in the first vote of the night.
UPDATE, 10:35 p.m. — Dame Margaret Beckett’s Amendment F, described below, has been narrowly defeated, 314 votes to 311 — although this may be small consolation to Mrs May, given the success of Oliver Letwin’s Amendment A.
UPDATE, 10:15 p.m. — Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pulled his amendment, described below, allowing MPs to move directly to Remain-supporting Tory MP Oliver Letwin’s Amendment A, also described below.
Letwin’s amendment passed by 329 votes to 302, apparently with the help of at three Remain-supporting Government ministers, Richard Harrington, Alistair Burt, and Steve Brine, the first of whom is known to have formally resigned his position.
UPDATE, 10 p.m. — As voting on the amendments get underway, Remain-supporting business minister Richard Harrington — who openly dared the Prime Minister to sack him if she intended to deliver a No Deal Brexit — has resigned, likely in order to vote against the Government.
Original story continues below:
The announcement came after Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up the minority Tory government in Parliament, indicated that it could not support her deal.
Mrs May told the House of Commons this afternoon that, while she regrets that Britain will not be leaving the EU on March 29th, as she promised 108 times, “unless this House agrees to it, ‘No Deal’ will not happen.”
The House of Commons has already voted in principle against leaving without a deal in any circumstances.
Amendment A — Oliver Letwin
The amendment would to a great extent allow Parliament to seize power from the Government on Brexit, allowing MPs to put forward business motions relating to Brexit in a series of indicative (non-binding) votes. The amendment does not specify which options will be voted on.
Mr Letwin, a Tory Remainer, said “The purpose of this cross-party amendment is to enable the House of Commons to debate and vote on alternative ways forward if the PM’s Brexit deal is not approved by Wednesday.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has warned however that handing over the Commons agenda — normally controlled by Government — to Parliament would set an “unwelcome” constitutional precedent.
Amendment D — Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party
This calls on the Government “to provide sufficient parliamentary time this week for this house to find a majority for a different approach” in a series of indicative votes. The votes would be intended to gauge what options command a majority amongst parliamentarians.
The Labour leader has indicated that alternatives could include his party’s Brexit plan, a customs union, or a second referendum.
Amendment F — Dame Margaret Beckett
Dame Margaret’s amendment states that in the case of a No Deal scenario, seven days before the United Kingdom leaves the EU the House of Commons should be recalled to consider a motion on whether MPs approve the move, in indicative votes, or back requesting an extension to Article 50, the legal mechanism for leaving the bloc.