The House of Commons passed a Brexit amendment on Wednesday designed to force the prime minister to immediately come up with a “Plan B” if her deal with the EU is rejected by MPs.
The “meaningful vote” amendment was heralded as parliament “taking back control” of Brexit.
However, parliamentary procedure experts insist that the amendment leaves the timetable for any second vote on May’s deal essentially unchanged.
While there will be political pressure on May not to run down the clock she is under no legal obligation to do so.
LONDON — Theresa May’s government was furious on Wednesday after the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow upended constitutional convention to let MPs vote on a motion which was designed to prevent the prime minister from “running down the clock” if she loses the vote on her Brexit deal next week.
The motion, brought forward by the former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve, was subsequently backed by a majority of MPs, leading to widespread reports that MPs had “taken back control” of the Brexit process from May’s government.
Had they really?
Well, not quite. While the intention of Grieve’s amendment was to buy MPs an extra fortnight in which to shape the next stage of the process if, as expected, May’s deal is voted down, Downing Street insisted on Thursday that this was a misreading of the amendment.
They pointed to advice they had received suggesting that while the amendment does mean they must bring a new motion forward within three sitting days, it does not oblige them to “move” that motion.
In other words, while Grieve’s amendment will require the the government to set out what it plans to do if and when May’s deal is voted down, it does not oblige them to put those plans immediately to a vote.
This interpretation was confirmed by parliamentary procedure experts Business Insider spoke to on Thursday, who suggested that Grieve’s amendment essentially leaves the original timetabling procedure for any second “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal untouched.
Technically, it changes nothing.
So does Grieve’s amendment actually make any difference?
Under Section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act, the UK government has not 3 days, but 21 days to bring forward a statement on its next move if May’s deal is voted down by MPs on Tuesday. Once that statement has been made, the government has a further seven House of Commons sitting days to move a vote on it.
Importantly, Grieve’s amendment does not change that legally binding timetable.
So does that mean that the prime minister could still run down the clock in a hope to force through her deal?
It’s certainly possible. And in that sense the Grieve amendment technically doesn’t change anything.
However, doing so would go clearly against the spirit and intention of the amendment and be a provocation of the roughly 20 Remainer Conservative rebels MPs who have already demonstrated their willingness to vote against the government.
It would also be a provocation of the Commons Speaker, who has already demonstrated his determination to hand maximum powers to MPs.
And …read more
Source:: Business Insider