28 Mar

ABCC Brexit Update – 28 March 2019 PM May Offers to Resign to Pass her Brexit Deal while Parliament Fails to Agree Alternative Brexit Plan

  • After failing to pass her Brexit deal through the House of Commons in two separate ‘meaningful votes’ in January and March, PM May has offered to resign in an attempt to persuade her Brexiteer MPs to back her Brexit Plan in a Third Meaningful Vote (MV3).
  • After May’s announcement at a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, leading Brexiteers have indicated their willingness to now back the PM’s Deal.
  • 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 all now indicated their willingness to support the Deal.  According to commentators, 20 Conservative MPs who have previously voted against the Deal have now changed their positions.
  • Speaking on 27 March, Johnson said he was “very, very sorry” to have to change his mind on the Deal, “but in the end the thing I fought for may never happen….I genuinely think the House of Commons is going to steal Brexit.”
  • In order to pass her Deal in an MV3, May must secure the backing of the hard-core of Brexiteers within the ERG and MPs from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).  Earlier this month, May attempted to pass her Deal through Parliament for a second time and lost by a majority of 149 MPs.  The ERG and DUP voted against the deal due to the contentious issue of the Northern Irish backstop – which would force the UK to remain aligned to the EU’s Customs Union until a solution is found to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
  • In a blow to the PM, the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster said her party remains in opposition to the Deal saying the Northern Irish backstop is an “unacceptable threat to the integrity of the UK” and the party “cannot sign up to something that would damage the Union.”
  • The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow also reminded the Government that he would not allow an MV3 on “substantially the same” motion MPs have already twice rejected.
  • The House of Commons held “indicative votes” on March 27 on alternatives to PM May’s Brexit Deal.  The aim of the votes was to identify an alternative that could coalesce enough support in Parliament to move forward.  The votes are not binding on the Government.
  • Eight separate votes were held and none produced a majority.  A breakdown of the votes can be found below:
    • A Confirmatory Referendum on May’s Brexit Deal – For: 268 / Against: 295
    • Remain in the EU’s Customs Union – For: 264 / Against: 272
    • European Free Trade Association / European Economic Area Membership (Norway Option) – For: 65 / Against 377
    • Common Market 2.0 or Norway + with the UK remaining in the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union – For: 188 / Against 283
    • ‘No Deal’ on 12 April – For: 160 / Against 400
    • Labour Party Plan (Remain in the EU Customs Union and aligned to the Single Market) – For: 237 / Against: 307
    • Revoke Article 50 to Avoid Hard Brexit – For: 184 / Against: 293
    • Malthouse Compromise (PM May’s Deal without the Backstop) – For: 139 / Against 422
  • PM May has yet to announce whether she will bring her Withdrawal Deal back to Parliament for an MV3, initially expected later this week.
  • Should PM May be unable to pass her Deal through Parliament in an MV3, the UK Government is obliged to propose a different way forward to the EU by 12 April or leave the EU without a deal.
  • 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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