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Theresa May hopes to hold new Brexit vote on Friday

The first key ‘if’ is linked to speaker John Bercow, who ruled last week – and reminded May on Wednesday – that unless the agreement is ‘fundamentally different’ from the one that was voted down twice by large margins, it cannot be re-introduced.

world Updated: Mar 29, 2019 00:11 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Brexit,Theresa May,Buckingham palace
May and her team again sought support for the agreement on Wednesday night after the house rejected all eight options in a unique vote to decide which option has the most support among MPs.(REUTERS)

Politically hobbled by Brexit exigencies, Prime Minister Theresa May plans to hold another vote on the withdrawal agreement on Friday, the deadline by which the House of Commons needs to pass it to meet the May 22 deadline set by the European Council.

The council last week set two dates before the May government: to secure support for the agreement and leave on May 22; if not, let Brussels know by April 12 how it would like to proceed with the objective to leave the European Union.

As with previous occasions, uncertainty continued on the wording of the motion that May intends to table on Friday: focussing on the withdrawal agreement alone or the overall package of the agreement as well as the related political agreement on future relations with EU.

Tabling a motion on the agreement alone could be a way to circumvent speaker John Bercow’s ruling that the same motion defeated twice cannot be brought in the same session until it has undergone a fundamental change. But Labour insisted the two cannot be delinked.

Questions remained about the motion’s admissibility and also whether it would have enough support to ensure its passage, with Conservative rebels and the Democratic Unionist Party remaining opposed to supporting it.

May offering on Wednesday to resign in exchange for rebel MPs in her party supporting the agreement predictably hit the headlines, but there are several ‘ifs’ before it can happen and she embarks on the short journey to Buckingham Palace to resign.

First, the speaker has to agree to admit the motion. Secondly, a big ‘if’ continues to hang over the level of support it can get the third time it is brought before the house. There is little evidence of a large number of MPs changing minds.

Most of the rebel Conservative MPs, coalesced in the European Research Group, remain opposed to it. Some have come to believe that the agreement is better than Brexit not happening at all, could support it, but the numbers are nowhere near enough to ensure its passage.

May and her team again sought support for the agreement on Wednesday night after the house rejected all eight options in a unique vote to decide which option has the most support among MPs. Its outcome was anyway not binding.

The vote reinforced ennui and worse in Brussels, among business leaders and others that it is again the case that MPs know what they don’t want, but not what they want, setting the stage for another round of uncertainty.

First Published: Mar 28, 2019 16:23 IST