02 Apr

ABCC Brexit Update – 2 April 2019 - Parliament Again Fails to Back Alternative Brexit Plan

  • In a second series of ‘indicative votes’ on 1 April, the House of Commons again failed to reach an agreement on an alternative Brexit proposal following PM May’s inability to pass her own Brexit Deal.
  • The House of Commons voted on four motions, none of which reached a majority:
    • Confirmatory Referendum on any withdrawal agreement (Kyle-Wilson):  For 280 / Against 292
    • Remain in EU Customs Union (Clarke):  For 273 / Against 276
    • Common Market 2.0 – Membership of the Single Market and Customs Union (Boles): For 261 / Against 282
    • Parliamentary Supremacy – enabling MPs to block no-deal outcome by revoking Article 50 and cancelling Brexit (Cherry):  For 191 / Against 292
  • The votes were not binding on the Government.  Cabinet ministers did not participate in the votes.
  • Brexiteers were incensed that the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow failed to allow a vote on a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
  • Speaking in the House of Commons immediately after the vote, the Conservative MP Nick Boles – who had tabled the Common Market 2.0 motion – criticised his party’s ‘refus[al] to compromise’ and resigned from the Conservative Party.  Labour and the SNP whipped in favour of Boles’ motion, but 228 Conservatives voted against. 
  • MPs are expected to hold a third series of ‘indicative votes’ on Wednesday 3 April.  Most commentators do not foresee any meaningful shift in voting intentions.
  • Following the votes, Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary reminded MPs that their inability to find a consensus could lead to the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 12 April.
  • Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay also indicated that PM May could hold another meaningful vote on her Brexit Deal later this week.  Such a vote still runs into the difficulty of the Speaker of the House’s insistence that the motion must be substantially different to previous meaningful votes.
  • Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith and leader of the influential pro-Leave European Research Group (ERG) Jacob Rees Mogg have now agreed to back May’s Deal. Importantly, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) continues to refuse to back May. Without their support, May is unable to pass her Deal through Parliament.
  • With no consensus on how to move forward, commentators note that the result of the 1 April indicative votes have boosted both Brexiteers who are pushing for a ‘no deal’ outcome and Remainers who are calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ or revocation of Article 50 to cancel Brexit. 
  • All eyes now turn to tomorrow’s five-hour long cabinet meeting. PM May still faces a divided cabinet with both sides threatening to resign if they are not satisfied with May’s plan forward.
  • An emergency summit of EU leaders has been called for 10 April – May will be expected to inform EU leaders on her plan going forward.
  • If the UK Government fails to propose a different way forward, it faces leaving the EU without a deal on 12 April.
  • If May is able to pass her Deal, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 22 May.

The ABCC and Brexit

The ABCC will continue to follow these developments closely in the coming weeks.  We look forward to keeping members up to date with the very latest from London and what it possibly means for the Australian-British business community.   Earlier ABCC Brexit updates can be found on the ABCC Blog.

If you would like to receive more frequent Brexit updates or have any questions, please feel free to contact our office on abcc@britishchamber.com.

By Paul O’Hagan

Paul O’Hagan is the ABCC’s General Manager in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.  Prior to joining the ABCC, Paul was Senior Political and Economic Advisor to the U.S. Government in London, covering Brexit.

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