MPs will vote tonight at 5pm on whether to ask the EU the permission to delay Brexit. The Article 50 extension could be short, lasting until June 30 to implement Mrs May’s deal if approved at a third vote, or much longer, the motion’s text reads. Tonight’s motion will be voted after MPs decide whether to approve or reject the four amendments selected by the Speaker of the House, John Bercow.
Mr Bercow took everyone by surprise as he chose to put to a vote on the amendment tabled by Sarah Wollaston, one of the 11 members of the Independent Group, demanding an extension of Article 50 to allow a second Brexit referendum to take place.
The amendment is unlikely to find a majority in Parliament, as MPs from the Labour Party will be whipped to vote it down, according to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who said his party may support a new Brexit vote next week but not today.
Labour MP Hilary Benn also tabled an amendment, which asks to set aside next Wednesday to have a debate that would start the process of allowing MPs to hold indicative votes on Brexit alternatives.
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Theresa May is facing a fresh vote in Parliament on a Government motion
A cross-party amendment, bid in the name of “at least 25 MPs”, would allow a series of “indicative votes” by Parliament to help choose a new way forward, which could include another referendum or a softer Brexit.
The four amendment to be voted by MPs seeks to rule out a third meaningful vote on Mrs May’s deal.
Tabled by Labour MPs, this amendment also asks an extension of Article 50 to find another approach to the Brexit talks to find a deal that can win the support of the majority of the House.
The Government was forced to table the motion following yesterday’s vote, which saw Mrs May being defeated once again in the Commons after MPs and some Cabinet ministers ignored the party’s whip and voted in favour of ruling out a no deal scenario.
The vote on the no deal was not legally-binding, which means that until the Government doesn’t change the legislation, the UK is still leaving on March 29, with or without a deal.
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5pm update: Sarah Wollaston’s amendment on the second referendum is the first one to be put to the House
MPs are starting to vote on the first amendment, the one tabled by former Tory MP and current Independent Group Sarah Wollaston.
4.55pm update: Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, urges the House of acting in the ‘national interest’
Mr Barclay urged the MPs to vote tonight bearing in mind the national interest.
He claimed the Labour’s Brexit policy includes proposals that are mutually incompatible and that Jeremy Corbyn is behaving inconsistently when he calls for a cross-party approach to Brexit, as he has previously refused to meet with Theresa May.
4.50pm update: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ERG to vote against all amendments tonight
MPs members of the European Research Group are believed to be voting against all the four amendments tabled today, the Financial Times Whitehall correspondent, Sebastian Payne, wrote.
One of the ERG MPs said “lots of things have been agreed” upon leaving the Committee Room 10 where they were meeting.
But, he added, “less so next week”, suggesting they don’t have yet a clear strategy on how to vote on a possible third meaningful vote taking place next week.
Jacob Rees-Mogg’s group ERG is expected to vote against all the amendment
4.45pm update: Guy Verhofstadt rules out an Article 50 extension ‘in the dark’
Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, said Brussels should not agreed on an extension of Article 50 “in the dark”.
He wrote on Twitter: “Under no circumstances an extension in the dark!
“Unless there is a clear majority in the House of Commons for something precise, there is no reason at all for the European Council to agree on a prolongation.
“Even the motion tabled for this evening by the UK Government recognises this.”
This comes after European Council President Donald Tusk said he will appeal to the EU27 to agree on a long extension if the UK needs one to rethink its Brexit strategy.
He wrote on Twitter: “During my consultations ahead of #EUCO, I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its #Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.”
Leave supporters demonstrating outside Parliament
4.40pm update: There’s no ‘constitutional outrage’ in a second referendum – Sarah Wollaston
Sarah Wollaston said there is no “constitutional outrage” in asking Britons for their opinion on the current state of Brexit.
She told MPs: “What is the constitutional outrage in checking that we have the people’s consent.
“The government front bench will never be forgiven for the consequences of Brexit unless they have paused to ask for explicit consent for their version of Brexit.
“If the prime minister was a surgeon she would be fired for not considering consent.”
4.30pm update: Britain is facing ‘uncertainty’ – Theresa May’s deputy
Cabinet Office minister David Lidington warned the UK will enter a “sustained period of uncertainty” if MPs back a long extension of Article 50.
During the debate ahead of today’s votes, Mr Lidington said MPs would be allowed to vote for their preferred outcome in a two-week period after next week’s European Council meeting if the Government fail to secure a Brexit deal and short extension.
His speech comes as some MPs are seeking to take control of the Brexit process and “find a way forward that can command majority support”.
4.15pm update: Sarah Wollaston says second referendum amendment can be brought back again if it is voted down today
Sarah Wollaston, the Independent Group MP who tabled the second referendum amendment, acknowledged her motion may fail to find the support of the majority of the House today.
But if it does, they can bring it back, she said.
However, she urged MPs wanting a second vote on Brexit to back her amendment today, as the Labour front bench may never get round to supporting it.
She also signalled she will bring it back and put it to a vote again next week.