Brexit vote: What are MPs doing on Friday?

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Flags and Parliament


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Friday should have been the day the UK officially left the EU.

But Parliament still hasn’t come to an agreement on the best way forward for Brexit.

On Thursday, the Leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, revealed the government would be putting a motion forward about the issue on Friday.

But the details around it remain foggy.

Here is what we know…

What is the plan?

The government is expected to table a motion to be debated in the Commons on Friday about Brexit.

But unlike previous occasions, where MPs have been talking about the entirety of Theresa May’s deal, this time it may be just the one of two elements.

Part one is the withdrawal agreement – the legally binding document that sets out the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. This includes a settlement, details of a transition period for after we leave and protections for citizens’ rights. It also includes the controversial backstop, or the insurance policy that aims to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.

Part two is the political declaration – non-legally binding document that outlines plans for the future relationship between the UK and the bloc after exit day.

It is thought the government will only put part one – the withdrawal agreement – to the Commons for a vote.

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Why has this plan come about now?

Mrs May has put her whole deal to Parliament twice in what were called “meaningful votes” to secure her deal, but both times her plan has been voted down by historic margins.

After it became clear the government would not be able to pass the deal and complete all the legislation by the original Brexit date of 29 March – this Friday – Mrs May asked the EU for an extension.

They said that if the withdrawal agreement was agreed by MPs by 29 March, the UK could then have until 22 May to sort out the paperwork.

If not, the UK would only have until 12 April to come up with an alternative or face leaving the EU without a deal.

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AFP/Getty Images

Image caption

Theresa May has put her deal to Parliament twice – and lost

Then the Speaker, John Bercow, warned the government they could not bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote unless it had changed substantially – seen by some as torpedoing a quick return to the Commons.

Ministers have been trying to win MPs over to back the deal and this culminated in Mrs May offering to resign to allow someone else to lead the next set of negotiations with the EU – on the proviso they voted for it when it came back to the House.

How would the day in Parliament work?

MPs only sit on a Friday to debate private members’ bills – but they more usually use the day to carry out work in their constituencies.

But the government tabled a motion to ask MPs to sit for the extra day.

If they approve it, the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, has said the day would run between 09:30 GMT and 14:30 GMT.

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Reuters

Image caption

Andrea Leadsom announced plans for Friday in the Commons

If the government decides to go ahead they will then table a motion on the withdrawal agreement allowing MPs to debate it.

It may be an amendable motion, which could allow MPs to put forward their own changes to it.

But it would again be up to the Speaker if he accepts any of the amendments, and he would announce this at the start of the debate.

Once the debate is finished, MPs would then get a chance to vote on any amendments and then the motion itself.

What could be the outcome?

If MPs approve the withdrawal agreement on Friday, they will have met the requirements to push exit day back to 22 May.

But under current law, it would not be enough to ratify the deal because only one part would be approved.

The government would either have to pass part two of the deal – the political declaration on the future relationship – at a later date, or change the law so that it is not needed to ratify the treaty.

It is still possible the Speaker could say the motion is not sufficiently different to the last meaningful vote.

This would rule out Friday’s debate and send the government back to the drawing board.



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