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Brexit votes: what do the results mean and what happens next? (The Times)


Oliver Wright, Policy Editor, March 14 2019, The Times

What happened in the Commons today?

By just two votes the government succeeded in defeating an amendment put forward by the chairman of the Brexit select committee, Hilary Benn, that would have handed parliament control of the Brexit process and allow MPs to vote on different Brexit options next week.

What does the result mean?

In the short term at least it strengthens Theresa May’s hand and, to a small extent, increases the chances that the prime minister will eventually get her deal passed by the Commons before March 29.

It means that, for now, the government retains control of the parliamentary timetable and can stop MPs trying to coalesce around an alternative to Mrs May’s deal.

However, the prime minister still faces an uphill struggle: she needs to win over the Democratic Unionist Party and the vast majority of her own Brexiteers if she is to stand any chance of getting her deal passed next week. Even then she would probably need around 20 Labour MPs to switch sides and back the deal.

What else did MPs vote on today?

MPs passed the main government motion by 412 votes to 202 stating that if Mrs May’s deal is passed by next Wednesday night the prime minister will go to Brussels and seek an extension of Article 50 until June 30 to pass the legislation needed to ratify the withdrawal agreement.

The motion “notes” that if no-deal is in place the EU is “likely to require a clear purpose for any extension not least to determine its length”.

It adds that any extension beyond June 30, 2019, would require the UK to hold European parliament elections in May 2019.

The Cabinet Office minister David Lidington told MPs that if there were an extension the government would stage two weeks of debate after the EU summit from March 21-22 for the Commons to try to establish a majority around a different plan.

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