People’s Vote Background Briefing: Amendments to the Government’s Brexit Motion - People's Vote

People’s Vote Background Briefing: Amendments to the Government’s Brexit Motion

This briefing provides an overview of amendments tabled to the Government’s motion ahead of today’s debate.

None of these amendments would be legally binding on the Government, though they would have significant political weight. However, if Yvette Cooper's amendment (Amendment E) is successful, and her bill then secures sufficient support it will become law and so place an obligation on the Government.

The People’s Vote campaign is urging our supporters to back the amendments tabled by Yvette Cooper (B) Dominic Grieve (G), Caroline Spelman (I) and Rachel Reeves (J). Each of these would strengthen the hand of MPs in preventing a catastrophic no deal Brexit, force the Government to request Article 50 be extended and in doing so help pave the way for a People’s Vote.



Amendment A:

Supporters: Jeremy Corbyn, Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Nicholas Brown & others.

Summary: Instructs the government to rule out no deal and allow Parliament to consider, and vote on, options including: An alternative Brexit deal involving Labour's plan for a permanent customs union with Brussels and a version of the EU's single market; Legislating to hold a public vote on either a deal or a proposition that has MPs' support.

In full: Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add “requires ministers to secure sufficient time for the UK Parliament to consider and vote on options to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a ratified Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, and that those options should include:

(i)                  Negotiating changes to the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration so as to secure a permanent customs union with the EU, a strong relationship with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations, and dynamic alignment on rights and standards, in order to command a majority in the House of Commons;

(ii)                Legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons.”.

 

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • It is a significant step forward that Labour has for the first time tabled an amendment that refers to the policy - agreed at its party conference – of campaigning for a public vote on Brexit.
  • But holding 'indicative votes' is pointless when Labour’s plan has not been negotiated with Brussels and contains measures that are contradictory or very likely to be unachievable. In any case, precedent during this Parliament suggests that any amendment tabled by the Opposition frontbench will not secure sufficient support across the Commons to pass.
  • We believe that MPs need time and space to consider all Brexit options – including Labour’s in detail. If they cannot agree on a specific plan for Brexit, the only way forward is a People’s Vote.

 

Amendment B: 

Supporters: Yvette Cooper, Nicky Morgan, Norman Lamb, Stewart Hosie, Ben Lake, Hilary Benn & others

Summary: This amendment seeks to avoid no deal through an extension of Article 50. If passed, on 5 February normal procedures of the business of the House will be suspended and the House will debate Yvette Cooper’s EU Withdrawal (No 3) Bill, in the name of at least 10 members from 4 different parties. If passed, the bill would mean that if a withdrawal agreement has not been approved by 26 February, the Prime Minister must request an extension of Article 50 until 31 December. The bill accepts that this date could be amended by Parliament.  

In full: At end, add “and is conscious of the serious risks arising for the United Kingdom from exit without a withdrawal agreement and political declaration and orders accordingly that—

(1) On 5 February 2019—

(a) Standing Order No. 14(1) (which provides that government business shall have precedence at every sitting save as provided in that order) shall not apply;

(b) a Business of the House Motion in connection with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 3) Bill in the name of at least 10 Members, including at least four Members elected to the House as members of at least four different parties and at least two backers of that Bill shall stand as the first item of business;

(c) that motion may be proceeded with until any hour though opposed, shall not be interrupted at the motion of interruption, and, if under discussion when business is postponed, under the provisions of any standing order, may be resumed, though opposed, after the interruption of business; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) will not apply;

(d) at the conclusion of debate on that motion, the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on that motion (including for the purposes of Standing Order No. 36(2) (Questions to be put following closure of debate)) shall include the questions on any amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; and

(e) the second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 3) Bill shall stand as the first order of the day; and

(2) In respect of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 3) Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The People’s Vote campaign is urging supporters to write to their MPs asking them to get behind this “take back control” amendment.
  • This measure, if approved on Tuesday, would strengthen the hand of MPs in preventing a catastrophic no deal Brexit and forcing the Government to request Article 50 be extended.
  • It would not, in itself, bring about a People’s Vote but it will gain backing from MPs who currently do not support our campaign. But they would give Parliament the time and space it needs, without the threat of a deadline or no deal, to make an honest assessment of different versions of Brexit.

 

Amendment C:

Supporters: Sir Vince Cable, Tom Brake, Jo Swinson, Alistair Carmichael, Christine Jardine, Norman Lamb.

Summary: This amendment instructs the Government to rule out no deal and commit to holding a People’s Vote.

In full: Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add “instructs the Government to take all necessary steps to rule out a no-deal scenario and prepare for a People’s Vote in which the public will have the option to remain in the European Union on the ballot paper.”.

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • A People’s Vote will probably not secure a majority in the House of Commons until every Brexit option has been exhausted but that there will be multiple opportunities in Parliament to give the public the final say when it has become clear this is the only way forward.
  • The priority for now for the People’s Vote is to make sure that MPs form a consensus around extending Article 50 which will be necessary for a People’s Vote, support measures to stop a catastrophic “no deal” departure from the EU, and show the same rigour in scrutinising revised versions of the Government’s plan and other forms of Brexit as they have demonstrated so far.

 

Amendment D:

Supporters: Tom Brake.

Summary: This amendment proposes the establishment of a cross-party committee to which would have power to decide when parliamentary time should be made available for Brexit debates and legislation.

In full:
At end add “and, in order to resolve the present impasse and bring to a conclusion negotiations with the EU over the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, orders that—

(1) An EU Withdrawal Negotiations Business of the House Committee be established;

(2) The Committee be comprised of no more than seventeen Members appointed on a quota basis based on the proportional vote share of the parties at the last general election and ensuring representation from all parts of the United Kingdom;

(3) The Committee members be nominated by the Selection Committee in accordance with paragraph (2) no later than Wednesday 6 February;

(4) The motion to appoint the members shall stand as an order of business on Monday 11 February and the proviso to Standing Order No. 15(1)(c) shall apply to proceedings on that motion as if it had been opposed at or after the moment of interruption on a preceding day;

The Committee shall have power—

(i)                  To determine the business of the House related to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU;

(ii)                To send for persons, papers and records, to assist in carrying out in functions under sub-paragraph (i);

(iii)               To sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House;

(iv)               To report from time to time;

(v)                 To appoint specialist advisers; and

(vi)               To adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom and to visit Brussels;

(6) On any day on which the Committee determines that business determined in accordance with paragraph (5)(i) shall have precedence, Standing Order No. 14 (Arrangement of public business) shall not apply.”.

 

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The idea of establishing a cross-party committee to help resolve the Brexit crisis is an interesting one. It is absolutely right that this is given proper consideration and that the mechanics of how such a process would work, and how it would relate to a People’s Vote, are discussed by MPs.

 

Amendment E on the Northern Irish backstop has been dropped

 

Amendment F:

Supporters: Hilary Benn, Seema Malhotra, Alex Sobel, Matt Western, Rachel Reeves, Lloyd Russell-Moyle & others

Summary: Calls on the government to hold a series of “indicative votes”, allowing MPs to indicate whether they would support the following options: the Government's deal; leaving with no deal; a renegotiation; a People's Vote.

In full: At end, add “and calls on the Government to hold a series of indicative votes on the options set out in the Exiting the European Union Committee’s Eleventh Report of Session 2017-19 in the order in which they are listed in paragraphs 15 to 19 in that Report.”.

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • There is a great deal to admire in the work of this Committee and its efforts to hold the Government to account on Brexit.
  • But holding 'indicative votes' is pointless when many of the alternative forms of Brexit being discussed have not been negotiated with Brussels or contain measures that are contradictory or are very likely to be unachievable.
  • We believe that MPs need time and space to consider all Brexit options in detail. If they cannot agree on a specific plan for Brexit, the only way forward is a People’s Vote.

 

Amendment G:

Supporters: Dominic Grieve, Chris Bryant, Chris Leslie, Dr Phillip Lee, Anna Soubry, Justine Greening & others

Summary: Calls for the Chairman of Ways and means (currently the Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle) to suspend business as usual on 12 & 26 February as well as 5,12,19 & 26 March in order to allow for an amendable motion to be voted on “That this House has considered the United Kingdom’s departure from, and future relationship with, the European Union”

In full: At end, add “and orders that on 12 and 26 February and 5, 12, 19 and 26 March 2019—

(a) Standing Order No. 14(1) which provides that government business shall have precedence at every sitting save as provided in that order) shall not apply;

(b) a Motion in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means “That this House has considered the United Kingdom’s departure from, and future relationship with, the European Union” shall stand as the first item of business;

(c) Standing Order No. 24B (Amendments to motions to consider specified matters) shall not apply to such motions;

(d) Proceedings on the motion may continue for up to six and a half hours after its commencement, though opposed, and shall not be interrupted at the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) will not apply; and

(e) at the conclusion of those proceedings, the Speaker shall put the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion, which shall include the questions on any amendments selected by the Speaker, which may then be moved.


People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The People’s Vote campaign is urging supporters to write to their MPs asking them to get behind this “take back control” amendment.
  • This measure, if approved on Tuesday, would strengthen the hand of MPs in preventing a catastrophic no deal Brexit and forcing the Government to request Article 50 be extended.
  • It would not, in itself, bring about a People’s Vote but it will gain backing from MPs who currently do not support our campaign. But they would give Parliament the time and space it needs, without the threat of a deadline or no deal, to make an honest assessment of different versions of Brexit.

 

Amendment H:

Supporters: Stella Creasy, Lisa Nandy, Alison McGovern, Liz Kendall, Debbie Abrahams, Kate Green & others.

Summary
: Requires the government to ask the EU to postpone Brexit day for an unspecified period and give the public more say in the Brexit process through a 250-member "Citizens' Assembly", which would make recommendations on the Brexit process after 10 weeks of consideration.

In full: At end, add “requires the Government to request the European Council to extend the period under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union to ensure that a Citizens’ Assembly can be part of a democratic decision-making process; requires the Corporate Officer of the House of Commons to commission a Citizens’ Assembly of 250 members comprising a representative sample of the population to consider the process in connection with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, to make recommendations and to report to the House of Commons; requests the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to provide such assistance to the Citizens’ Assembly that it may request; orders that the Liaison Committee of the House of Commons shall appoint an expert advisory group to assist the work of the Assembly in preparing information and advice; orders that the Citizens’ Assembly shall publish its recommendations within 10 weeks of commencement; and requests the Government to respond in writing to all recommendations made by the Assembly no later than two weeks after they are presented and, if accepting the recommendations, to set out by a report to Parliament how it intends to ensure that those recommendations can be implemented in full, including the timescales for implementation.”

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The idea of establishing a Citizens’ Assembly to help resolve the Brexit crisis is an interesting one which has been gaining traction.
  • It is absolutely right that this is given proper consideration and that the mechanics of how such a process would work or how it would relate to a People’s Vote, are discussed by MPs.
  • But Lord Kerr’s ‘Roadmap to a People’s Vote’ suggested that the principles of speed, simplicity and clarity should be applied at each stage – so we would not want the assembly idea to become another obstacle to securing the public’s right to have the final say on Brexit.



Amendment I:

Supporters: Caroline Spelman, Jack Dromey, Justine Greening, Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry & others

Summary: Would show Parliament’s clear opposition to leaving the EU with no deal.

In full: At end, add “and rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship.”.

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The People’s Vote campaign is urging supporters to write to their MPs asking them to get behind this “take back control” amendment.
  • This measure, if approved on Tuesday, would strengthen the hand of MPs in preventing a catastrophic no deal Brexit and forcing the Government to request Article 50 be extended.
  • It would not, in itself, bring about a People’s Vote but it will gain backing from MPs who currently do not support our campaign. But they would give Parliament the time and space it needs, without the threat of a deadline or no deal, to make an honest assessment of different versions of Brexit.



Amendment J:  

Supporters: Rachel Reeves, Hilary Benn, Dominic Grieve, Emma Reynolds, Norman Lamb, Liz Kendall & others

Summary: If an agreement is not passed by 26 February, the Government would be required to request an extension of article 50 (not specific on the length of the extension)

In full: At end, add “and, in the event that the House of Commons has not passed a resolution approving the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 by 26 February 2019, requires the Prime Minister to seek an extension to the period of two years specified in Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union.”.

 

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The People’s Vote campaign is urging supporters to write to their MPs asking them to get behind this “take back control” amendment.
  • This measure, if approved on Tuesday, would strengthen the hand of MPs in preventing a catastrophic no deal Brexit and forcing the Government to request Article 50 be extended.
  • It would not, in itself, bring about a People’s Vote but it will gain backing from MPs who currently do not support our campaign. But they would give Parliament the time and space it needs, without the threat of a deadline or no deal, to make an honest assessment of different versions of Brexit.



Amendment K on the Northern Irish backstop has been dropped

 

Amendment L:

Supporters: John Baron, Sir David Amess, Giles Watling, Chris Davies, Julian Sturdy, Stephen Metcalfe, Martin Vickers

Summary: This amendment seeks to instruct the Prime Minister to renegotiate the backstop such that it would expire within six months of coming into force.

In full: At end, add “and will not approve a Withdrawal Agreement which includes a Northern Ireland backstop lasting any longer than six months.”.

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • When it has previously been suggested that the backstop should be time-limited, Ireland and the EU have made clear their position that this is not possible. 
  • Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he “can't countenance” the idea of an expiry date and such a deal would not be “worth the paper it's written on”.[1] Michel Barnier has said that the EU is not going to re-open the withdrawal agreement[2], a view which has been echoed by the French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire.[3]  
  • This amendment also ignores the fact that most MPs have concerns that go well beyond the backstop. The vast majority have justified their opposition to the Government’s deal with other concerns: including uncertainty, the divorce bill, the transition period and the fact it doesn’t reflect what was promised.



Amendment M: 

Supporters: John Baron, Sir David Amess, Giles Watling, Chris Davies, Julian Sturdy, Stephen Metcalfe, Martin Vickers.

Summary: This amendment seeks to instruct the Prime Minister to renegotiate the backstop such that the UK would be able to terminate it unilaterally.

In full:
At end, add “and will not approve a Withdrawal Agreement unless it includes the right of the UK to terminate a Northern Ireland backstop without having to secure the agreement of the EU.”



People’s Vote campaign view:

  • If the backstop were time limited it would no longer be a backstop. For this reason the EU has consistently made clear that this would not be negotiable, so there is little point in MPs voting on it.
  • Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he “can't countenance” the idea of an expiry date and such a deal would not be “worth the paper it's written on”.[4] Michel Barnier has said that the EU is not going to re-open the withdrawal agreement[5], a view which has been echoed by the French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire.[6]  
  • This amendment also ignores the fact that most MPs have concerns that go well beyond the backstop. The vast majority have justified their opposition to the Government’s deal with other concerns: including uncertainty, the divorce bill, the transition period and the fact it doesn’t reflect what was promised.

 

 

Amendment N:

Supporters: Sir Graham Brady, Dr Andrew Murrison, Damian Green, Charles Walker, Dame Cheryl Gillan, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown 

Summary: This amendment would seek to replace the backstop with other arrangements in order to avoid a hard border in on the island of Ireland. 

In full: At end, add “and requires the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border; supports leaving the European Union with a deal and would therefore support the Withdrawal Agreement subject to this change.”.

 

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The EU have been very clear that the withdrawal deal cannot be renegotiated and as such this amendment would ask the Government to make a request which would be rejected. As the European Commission has repeatedly said: “The withdrawal agreement... is not open for renegotiation.”[7]
  • Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he “can't countenance” the idea of an expiry date and such a deal would not be “worth the paper it's written on”.[8] Michel Barnier has said that the EU is not going to re-open the withdrawal agreement[9], a view which has been echoed by the French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire.[10]  
  • This amendment also ignores the fact that most MPs have concerns that go well beyond the backstop. The vast majority have justified their opposition to the Government’s deal with other concerns: including uncertainty, the divorce bill, the transition period and the fact it doesn’t reflect what was promised.



Amendment O:

Supporters: Ian Blackford, Liz Saville Roberts, Kirsty Blackman, Stephen Gethins, Peter Grant, Patrick Grady & others

Summary: This amendment notes that the devolved administrations voted against the Brexit deal, calls for an extension of Article 50, a rejection of “no deal” and the Scottish people should not be taken out of the European Union against their will.

In full: Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add “notes that the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and House of Commons all voted overwhelmingly to reject the Prime Minister’s deal; calls for the Government to seek an extension of the period specified under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union; agrees a No Deal outcome should be ruled out; and recognises that if the UK is an equal partnership of nations, the 62 per cent vote to remain at the EU referendum on 23 June 2016 in Scotland should be respected and that the people of Scotland should not be taken out of the EU against their will.”.

 

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The People’s Vote campaign agrees that Article 50 should be extended and agrees that no deal should be ruled-out.
  • UK-wide opinion polls show the most popular option today is to stay in the EU. The UK should not be taken out of the European Union against its will.


Amendment P:

Supporters: Frank Field, Heidi Allen, Mr Kenneth Clarke, Jim Fitzpatrick, John Grogan & Lisa Nandy

Summary: This amendment calls for time to be set aside for a series of votes - but with a greater range of choices than Amendment F (the Hilary Benn amendment), including “a reformed Northern Ireland backstop”. 

In full: Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add “believes the public has a right to know how Members would vote on the different Brexit choices facing the country; believes also that Members should have an opportunity as soon as possible to register their vote on a range of options including a reformed Northern Ireland backstop, leaving the European Union with no deal, extending Article 50, entering into a future Canada-style relationship with the European Union, entering into a future Norwaystyle relationship with the European Union, holding a new referendum, and being in a Customs Union with the European Union; notes that this course of action could act as a powerful guide to the Government during its ongoing discussions with the European Union; and calls for sufficient time to be granted for this course of action to take place.”.

 

People’s Vote Campaign view:

  • Holding ‘indicative votes’ is pointless when many of the alternative forms of Brexit being discussed have not been negotiated with Brussels or contain measures that are contradictory or very likely to be unachievable.
  • We believe that MPs need time and space to consider all Brexit options in detail. If they cannot agree on a specific plan for Brexit, the only way forward is a People’s Vote.

 

 

Amendment Q:

Supporters: Angus Brendan MacNeil & Pete Wishart

Summary: This amendment calls on the Prime Minister to revoke Article 50 prior to 29 March 2019. 

In full: Line 1, leave out from “House” to end, and add “calls on the Government to bring forward urgently the legislation necessary to require the Prime Minister to revoke before 29 March 2019 the UK’s notice of intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.”.

 

People’s Vote campaign view:

  • The most realistic route to staying in the EU is for Parliament to give the decision to the public through a People’s Vote.
  • In 2016, the UK voted narrowly for Brexit and told the Government to negotiate our departure from the EU. A People’s Vote will be the first chance the public gets to vote on the emerging reality of what Brexit will mean for them. 

 

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46096288

[2] https://twitter.com/WeyandSabine/status/1088410756960448512

[3] https://twitter.com/peoplesvote_uk/status/1088748358771138561

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46096288

[5] https://twitter.com/WeyandSabine/status/1088410756960448512

[6] https://twitter.com/peoplesvote_uk/status/1088748358771138561

[7]https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-barnier/eu-open-to-closer-ties-with-britain-but-no-renegotiation-of-withdrawal-deal-idUKKCN1PA0PZ

[8] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46096288

[9] https://twitter.com/WeyandSabine/status/1088410756960448512

[10] https://twitter.com/peoplesvote_uk/status/1088748358771138561