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British MPs to vote on amendments on influencing course of UK's exit

While the votes on Wednesday will not be on May's withdrawal agreement, which is scheduled by March 12, they could influence some aspects of the Brexit process


Illustration by Ajay Mohanty

Press Trust of India London
British MPs will vote on a series of important amendments in Parliament on Wednesday in an attempt to influence the course of UK's exit from the European Union.
The votes come a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May buckled under pressure from within her own Cabinet to allow the House of Commons to vote on a possible delay to the March 29 Brexit deadline if her own deal fails to clear Parliament next month.
While the votes on Wednesday will not be on May's withdrawal agreement, which is scheduled by March 12, they could influence some aspects of the Brexit process.
Out of a total 12 amendments for alternative Brexit plans tabled by cross-party MPs, Speaker John Bercow selected five for voting to take place on Wednesday evening.
It includes an amendment tabled by Conservative Party MP Alberto Costa which seeks to protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU, and vice versa, regardless of the outcome of UK-EU negotiations.
Costa resigned as an aide to Scottish Secretary David Mundell in line with a convention that members of the government should not table amendments to government motions.
UK home secretary Sajid Javid informed Parliament that the government would back that particular motion.
Among the other amendments is one tabled by the Opposition Labour Party to support its alternative Brexit plan, which would include a "comprehensive customs union" and close alignment with the EU in the future.
This would mean no customs checks or charges would be imposed on goods moving between the UK and the rest of Europe.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had announced earlier this week that if that motion fails to find the backing of Parliament, his party would move to formally back a second EU referendum "in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit" or no-deal outcome.
Prime minister May, who has insisted that the March 29 deadline can still be met after she wins assurances from the EU on the current withdrawal agreement, criticised the Labour Party's strategy as a cynical political game which would take the UK "back to square one".
"Instead, Parliament should do its duty so that our country can move forward," she said.
Some pressure on May has been taken off Wednesday's amendments after she promised to hold another "meaningful vote" on her Brexit deal on March 12 and if that fails to pass, MPs will be given a vote on leaving with no deal and, if that also fails, on extending Article 50 beyond the March 29 departure deadline.
This prevents an all-out revolt within her own Conservative Party ranks, divided along pro and anti Brexit lines.
The other amendments include one tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper calling on the government to bring forward a motion on whether Parliament wants to seek a "short limited extension" to Article 50 if the British Prime Minister's deal is rejected and if the Parliament then rejects leaving without a deal.
Cooper says her amendment would "pin down and confirm the commitment made by the Prime Minister" to hold the series of votes.
A fourth amendment, tabled by Tory MP Caroline Spelman, aims to hand over the parliamentary schedule to MPs for a day so they can endorse the process Theresa May laid out to the Commons this week.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) and Wales' Plaid Cymru have tabled a final amendment suggesting the UK should not leave without a deal at any time, even if Article 50 is extended.
Some hard Brexiteer Tory MPs are particularly worried about an extension to the Brexit deadline, as they fear this could end with May reaching out to Labour to work on a softer Brexit deal they could vote for, a second referendum or General Election resulting in a Labour victory.
Theresa May's critics have accused her of "kicking the can down the road" with her latest strategy but she insists her efforts to persuade the EU to make concessions had "already begun to bear fruit".

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First Published: Feb 27 2019 | 9:40 PM IST

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