Explainer | Tonight’s Commons chaos untangled.

Tonight a key bill will be put before the House of Commons that hopes to secure an extension to Article 50 and therefore avoid a No Deal Brexit. The current form of the government’s bill seeks to put May’s deal before the Commons again before March 20th, should it pass at the 3rd time of asking the UK would seek an extension till June 20th.

If the plan is voted down again the UK will need a legitimate reason accepted by the EU to extend Article 50 for a longer period. This will means the UK would need to take part in EU Parliamentary elections.

Without changes to the backstop May’s deal is unlikely to pass and should the bill pass tonight the UK would be left in the EU for the majority of 2019. While Donald Tusk has said he 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,”.. It is clear the UK will need to rethink its strategy suggesting that May would need to drop some of her red lines or head back to the people in one form or the other. Some Brexiteers have suggested they will lobby EU head of state’s to veto such an extension to force no deal.

Whether the bill passes is not a certainity considering the recent ability of the Tory whips but with Labour and the Conservatives expected to whip for the bill it should pass. This would then mean our fate is back with the EU who would decide whether to extend Article 50.

There are a number of key amendments to the bill that could change the substance of the bill should they pass.

Amendment H has grabbed most the headlines as should this pass we will be heading for a 2nd referendum. However critically Labour will whip its MPs to abstain and bizarrely its not backed by the People’s Vote campaign who say the extension should be guaranteed before a 2nd referendum is called. Even with Labour whipping for the amendment it would be unlikely to pass due to the number of Labour MPs who would not support such a move.

This amendment is irrelevant and will easily be defeated.

Amendment E, from Labour, and Amendment J have similar impacts. Both want to make it clear that May’s deal is dead and should not be brought to the house to be voted on again. Labour’s specifies a need for a longer extension to find time for the house to agree on what the deal should look like. Beyond stopping a vote that May will most likely lose these amendments don’t have too much impact.

Amendment I is a unique amendment. Should it pass Commons business on Wednesday 20 March should be taken out of the hands of ministers from 1.30pm until 7pm. The cross-party group behind the amendment hopes to use this time to hold so-called “indicative votes” that would give MPs an idea which deals have the chance of making it through Parliament. However this amendment is less consequential now as the government has announced it will hold “indicative votes” should a long extension be secured.

While the amendments now look to be of little consequence, unless we see a ridiculous shock on amendment H, the bill is vital. Should it fail we will hurtle towards the cliff edge of a No Deal with little chance of rescue.


Iwan Doherty

Editor in Chief and Founder of The People’s News. Democratic Socialist

Iwan Doherty has 57 posts and counting. See all posts by Iwan Doherty

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