Brexit Plan B Vote: The Amendments To Watch Out For Tonight
28 January 2019, 10:31 | Updated: 29 January 2019, 17:24
What is the Plan B vote in Parliament tonight? LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood explains which Brexit amendments MPs are voting on and what could happen?
Tonight’s vote on Theresa May’s Plan B is more about the changes being proposed by MPs than anything else.
There are two amendments to look out for - that could pave the way either for Theresa May's deal getting through or delaying Brexit.
The Brady Amendment
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee, has proposed a change which would see the Withdrawal Agreement re-opened and the backstop removed.
It could then be replaced by a legally-binding codicil attached to the Withdrawal Agreement, or a bilateral treaty between London and Dublin, committing both to ensuring there is never a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
If it did command a majority in the Commons tomorrow, that would allow Mrs May to return to Brussels and say that while the original plan was rejected, there is an alternative she could realistically get through the Commons.
That’s important. If she can’t return with an alternative Parliament is prepared to accept, then EU leaders will wonder whether there is a point in talking any further.
The Prime Minister is now ordering her MPs to vote for this amendment, saying it would send a "clear message" to the EU to change the backstop.
The Cooper Amendment
The second amendment to look out for has been tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, and has the support of a number of Conservative MPs, including Nick Boles and Nicky Morgan.
It is about process and allows legislation put forward by MPs to be heard next Tuesday 5th February. Usually private members’ bills are heard on a Friday and are talked out by MPs so that they never make it on the statute books.
Cooper’s amendment allows her as a backbench MP to table a private members’ bill to be heard in Government time.
What we can expect (roughly):— Theo Usherwood (@theousherwood) January 29, 2019
7pm: voting starts with Corbyn amendment.
7.15: first result.
7.45-8pm: result of Cooper/Boles amendment.
If it passes, head straight to Brady - result c. 8.15pm.
Then May promises to return to Brussels.
EU says she is wasting her time.
The bill itself would be simple. It would force Theresa May to extend Article 50 until the end of the year if she doesn’t have a deal in place by 26th February.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has announced he will support this amendment and order his MPs to vote for it.
However, he will seek to shorten the nine-month extension proposed to three months.
But the danger, in the short-term at least, is much greater for the Prime Minister.
She has consistently argued that the only alternative to No Deal is her deal. Extending Article 50 vaporises that argument. If Cooper’s amendment is passed, EU negotiators could dig in, knowing Article 50 will be extended.
The other danger for the PM, is that pushing back the date of Brexit, allows the time and space needed for an election, or even a second referendum, which proponents of both argue would be the only way to break the deadlock.