How Parliament can take back control of Brexit

How Parliament can take back control: After Dominic Grieve and Tory rebels defeated the Government this is how MPs can try and shape Brexit if May’s deal is defeated

  • Dominic Grieve changed the rules on what happens if May’s deal is defeated 
  • He and 25 other Tory rebels defeated the Government 321 to 299 last night 
  • A statement on what happens after May’s deal is defeated can now be amended
  • Remain supporters believe it gives them a chance to force a second referendum

Tory rebels took a major step toward giving Parliament control over Brexit by inflicting a huge defeat on the Prime Minister last night.

Remainer Dominic Grieve was joined by 25 Tory rebels to re-write the rules on what happens if and when Theresa May’s deal is defeated in the Commons next week.

It means the Commons now has the chance to vote for alternatives – including possible a second referendum, a new election or extending the Article 50 process.  

Remainer Dominic Grieve (pictured yesterday in the Commons) was joined by 25 Tory rebels to re-write the rules on what happens if and when Theresa May’s deal is defeated in the Commons next week

What happened last night? 

Tory Remain rebel Dominic Grieve defeated the Government to change what happens next if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is defeated in the Commons next week.

His amendment was carried by 321 to 299 after 26 Conservative MPs defied orders to vote in favour of it.

What does Dominic Grieve’s amendment do? 

The amendment changes the rules on what happens next if Mrs May’s Brexit deal is defeated next Tuesday night.

By law, following a defeat the Government must make a statement on what it will do and then holding a Commons vote on it. Before last night, this would have been a simple motion noting the statement that could not be amended.

Now MPs will be able to try and re-write it with amendments.  


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What can the new amendments be about? 

Amendments to the motion could try to give instructions to the Government on what to do next instead of simply accepting or rejecting the plan shown to them.

This could be taking measures to avoid no deal, backing a second referendum, calling a general election or setting out new negotiating red lines for further talks in Brussels.

Brexit supporters could also use it to try and tell the Government to pursue no deal.

To have any impact at all, the amendments will have to win a vote of MPs.  

When will the new amendments be debated and voted on? 

The law says the Government must produce its next steps motion within 21 days of a defeat on its deal. This is over the Christmas recess so it is likely to be debated sooner than that, sometime between December 12 and the last day of term on December 20.

Speaker John Bercow will choose which amendments are voted on at the end of the debate.  

Tory rebels took a major step toward giving Parliament control over Brexit by inflicting a huge defeat on the Prime Minister (pictured yesterday in Downing Street) last night

What will it mean if any amendments pass? 

The amendments will not have any legal force but a majority vote by MPs on what to do will have a lot of political power.

Even if the vote is not in favour of current Government policy, Ministers could use it to change course – scrapping the current red lines in the negotiation to adopt a Norway-style Brexit or passing new laws for a second referendum. 

What do Brexit supporters think about it? 

Brexiteer MPs insist because the amendments are not legally binding, they officially change nothing. They say if Mrs May’s deal is defeated, Britain is on course to leave without a deal under current laws.

This is true, legally speaking, but ignores the political power of Parliament taking control with a vote in favour of a new course of action.

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