27 March 2019

MPs will take part in “indicative vote” on various Brexit options today, as a result of an amendment passed on Monday which gave priority to a Business Motion tabled by backbenchers. A total of 16 motions were tabled by MPs last night. The Speaker of the House has now whittled this number down to eight. MPs will vote tonight on the options he has selected, although the Business Motion aims to also set aside Monday 1 April for further indicative votes.

Although the indicative votes are not legally binding on the Government, ignoring the will of the House will be difficult in practice. However, as the Prime Minister pointed out, there is a risk that the outcome of the votes could “lead to an outcome that is unnegotiable with the EU.” At this late stage, pursuing a non-negotiable outcome could very easily lead to a No Deal Brexit on 12 April.

The EU has stated clearly and repeatedly that it will not reopen the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, though it is open to changes to the non-binding Political Declaration. In our judgment, the key test for MPs when weeding out non-negotiable options is whether an option is consistent with the Withdrawal Agreement which has already been agreed, and which the EU insists it will not renegotiate. If not, it is very unlikely to be negotiable. However, if it only requires changes to the Political Declaration, it is more likely to be negotiable – though such changes would still be subject to EU agreement.

A secondary consideration is whether any of these options would require a further extension to Article 50, which would also need agreement from the EU.

Below, Open Europe sets out the motions selected by the Speaker – on a spectrum from revoking Article 50, to leaving with No Deal.

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